The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is holding a hearing today to receive public feedback on whether it should create new rules regulating political speech, including political speech on the Internet that one commissioner warned could affect blogs, YouTube videos and even websites like the Drudge Report.
The hearing is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC last year, which struck down the FEC’s previous cap on aggregate campaign contributions from a single donor in an election cycle.
Before the decision, individuals were limited to a combined total of $46,200 in contributions to all federal candidates, and $70,800 to federal political action committees and parties.
Individuals are no longer restricted by aggregate limits, which Chief Justice John Roberts said "intrude without justification on a citizen's ability to exercise 'the most fundamental First Amendment activities'."
Last October, FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel issued a statement in which she complained that the agency was not doing enough to monitor activity on the Internet.
However, the commission’s three Republican members – Lee Goodman, Caroline Hunter, and Matthew Petersen – responded to Ravel’s comments in a joint statement.
“Despite the Internet’s growing importance as a tool for all citizens to engage in political debate, and notwithstanding this Commission’s promise to take a ‘restrained regulatory approach’ with respect to online political activity, [Ravel] apparently believes the time has come to impose greater regulation on political speech over the Internet,” the group wrote.
According to Commissioner Goodman, who served as chairman of the FEC last year, regulation of content placed on the Internet is a very real possibility.