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FEC war on Drudge, internet, goes 'underground'


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Democratic efforts on the Federal Election Commission to punish media and stifle voices like the Drudge Report and Fox are going “underground” after failing in public, according to the agency’s outgoing defender of media and digital outlets.

“The debate has gone underground, it has not ceased,” said Lee Goodman, who fought off several attempts to stifle outlets like Fox, Drudge and conservative media including film makers.


“The desire to regulate Americans' political speech on the internet remains alive and well here at the commission and now even in Congress,” added Goodman, whose last day on the FEC is Friday.

Goodman pointed to efforts by FEC Democrats to change long-standing media exemptions to fines and even criminal charges. In two recent cases he cited, the Democrats proposed those changes then waived imposing punishments.

But by moving to change the rules the FEC operates under, the Democrats tried to open the door to future legal sanctions on media, he said.

In a memo about a recent case, for example, Goodman said that Democrats Ellen Weintraub and Steven Walther wanted to upend a long-standing practice of not holding media outlets responsible when political campaigns and advocates fail to include in ads the required disclaimer stating who paid for the ad.

In that case, two anti-Hillary Clinton ads were run in an Ohio newspaper, the Chesterland News, that did not carry the required disclaimer. FEC lawyers recommended no action against the paper, citing precedent that the person placing ads is responsible.

Weintraub, wrote Goodman, proposed changes ending the practice. Instead, the paper would be cleared due to a commission “discretionary dismissal.” His memo is shown below.

Goodman told us, “Too often colleagues here and throughout the government wish to regulate core First Amendment rights through the exercise of ‘discretion,’ or ‘prosecutorial discretion.’ They rely on vague ‘facts and circumstances tests to decide when to punish and when to let a violation slide. Regulation by human discretion means an inherent risk of bias and unequal treatment.”

In the Chesterland News case, he wrote, the effort was killed in a split vote. But, he added, it was a sign of continued efforts to regulate the media. The vote, he wrote, signaled “a renewed effort by some to change current law to impose civil and criminal liability upon traditional press organizations like Chesterland News, or to new media platforms like Facebook and Twitter…”

In his memo, he expressed “strong disagreement with any proposal to impose civil and criminal liability upon press entities, as well as their new media counterparts, when they agree to make their publications available for political advertisements.”


The war on conservative media continues.

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