Thursday, March 24, 2011

Could the FCC Go Around Congress to Strengthen Election Spending Disclosure Rules?

17 comments:

TJE said...

Allison Hayward, who is quoted in the article, will be a panelist at AHI Colloquium along with Marc Elias.

Patrick_Landers said...

I have no problem with disclosure- Speech absolutely deserves to be protected. But when money is spent for speech through impersonal means that can make it difficult to evaluate not only the content but also the source of said speech, it's important to empower citizens to have more information and knowledge to make the informed decisions so essential to our democracy. I'd suspect the FCC rules are an imperfect solution, but since the FEC is grid-locked by conservatives who reject disclosure (why?), then the FCC should feel free to move ahead and perform an essential aspect of their designated regulatory function. Everyone should disclose (though I understand their are practical limits to how much we can expect to be disclosed). Speech is not just about people spouting out content into the nebulous air- it's a two-way, simultaneous relationship between speaker and recipient about content.

TJE said...

There are two issues here:

1. Does the policy properly respect freedom of speech?

http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/aclu-urges-no-vote-disclose-act

2. Should such a policy be a matter of legislative action or administrative fiat?

PBM said...

But what do you do when Congress doesn't work at responding to the will of the people?

Patrick_Landers said...

The ACLU's problem was with the specific bill, not the concept itself.
"The American Civil Liberties Union is urging senators to vote against the bill because those disclosure requirements are overly broad and inconsistent and will likely infringe upon the free speech and privacy rights of Americans." - note the use of overly broad- that's why I said there should be limitations to how much disclosure we require. However, some disclosure is essential and would not infring upon free speech and privacy rights.

Also, the ACLU said "By exempting larger organizations that might tend to be more mainstream from certain disclosure requirements, the bill inequitably suppresses only the speech of smaller organizations that might be more controversial, and compromises the anonymity of small donors." I think disclosure requirements should be equally applied to everyone, not exempt certain groups like the NRA for political convenience.

Finally, don't forget that inaction is choosing not to do somethign. It's essentially washing one's hands of an issue- there is rarely any distinction between that and taking action.

Without government action (government being the nation's public collectively organized), there will be no widespread disclosure. We've already seen a race to the bottom here, with some liberal Democrats following the Republican example of trying to hide all information about donors.

If you are willing to promote an issue heavily, if you truly believe in it, then you should be willing to stand behind that position and acknowledge it.

TJE said...

Bradley Smith will also be participating in AHI Colloquium:

http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_1_political-anonymity.html

So will Zephyr Teachout, Professor of Law at Fordham, an expert on technology who directed internet outreach for 2004 campaign.

Fair, balanced, and unafraid.

TJE said...

PBM, How does one know "the will of the people"? By ceding power to bureaucrats?

PBM said...

The DISCLOSE Act, which would have created similar rules had overwhelming support by Dems and Republicans in a number of different polls, yet, like so many other popular proposals, it was blocked by the Senate GOP.

I'm more arguing for filibuster reform than the FCC doing this, but if Congress can't or won't do something that is both important to the country and popular with the public then I don't see why the President shouldn't be able to channel the will of the people through bureaucratic rule-making. I know that it's a slipper slope, but with a divided Congress that is not accomplishing anything, someone needs to move our country forward.

PBM said...

And Congress has the Congressional Review Act if it really wants to challenge popular rules.

TJE said...

Revenge of the Technocrats? I'm worried about you Patrick.

Would you really want to rely on polls about a bill about which the vast majority of people had never heard?

Now that GOP controls House, has the "will of the people" changed?

PBM said...

I believe the polls described the basics of the bill, which would force the largest donors of groups to appear in ads put out by the group.

On "the will of the people" question, I really don't think many Americans' mindset has changed to take the GOP position on many issues. I think a lot of their victory had to do with the stalled economic recovery and their vague promise to cut spending. Approval has declined as the GOP has shown their true agenda (cuts for womens' health, cuts to NPR, cuts to programs for the poor, reinstating styrofoam in the cafeteria, etc.) But that's not even my main point. EPA regulation of GHG is actually pretty popular among Dems, Republicans, and independents, yet the GOP is crusading against it. The GOP won because the economy was bad and because their vague, deceptive promises were more appealing to the public than Dems flailing around without a coherent message.

TJE said...

And PAL is the Diviner in Chief of the Will of the People?

PS. CRA, which has been used successfully *once*, requires approval by President, hardly likely in this case. You're not an advocate of the imperial executive, are you?

PBM said...

No, but some times things need to get done and Congress is increasingly unable or unwilling to do them.

TJE said...

By benevolent despot?

Ryan Karerat said...

I would have thought a conservative like yourself would be in favor of transparency in government, TJE.

TJE said...

TJE is not a conservative. He is a skeptical fair and balanced benevolent despot.

TJE said...

From the rock star of the legal left:

http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency

We'll be discussing this essay at AHI colloquium.