Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ann Ravel - Enemy of Free Speech

FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel, often joined by her colleague Ellen Weintraub, consistently makes statements about expanding the FEC’s role in regulation of both political speech and the internet. This dynamic duo of FEC commissioners has become known as the proverbial Batman and Robin of irrationality, absurdity, and preposterous commentary.  Here are some of the left field quotes and articles discussing the illogical and almost unbelievable comments made by the chair of this crucial federal agency.

While all three GOP-backed members voted against restrictions, they were opposed by the three Democratic-backed members, including FEC Vice Chair Ann M. Ravel, who said she will lead a push next year to try to come up with new rules govern[ing] political speech on the Internet.

In the latest display of FEC Democratic efforts to regulate speech and target Republicans, Commissioners Ann Ravel and Ellen Weintraub backed a complaint against Huckabee, who made the joke during his May 2015 presidential candidacy announcement.
At that event, he said, "I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people across America who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground. If you want to give a million dollars, please do it, but most can't."
“I think we have to examine disclosure for bloggers and other Internet pundits who receive funding for their endorsements,” Ravel said during a conference on campaign funding co-sponsored by USC. “If we made a connection between a funder and somebody’s opinion so that opinion isn’t really that of the blogger, or the perception is that it might not be, people should be able to know about it.”

We hear a lot these days about a “dysfunctional” Federal Election Commission, including from the Agency’s own Chair, Ann Ravel, who, after a promising start, has apparently decided it’s not worth the trouble to work constructively within the Agency she nominally heads, and Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, whose lengthy tenure has coincided with the alleged agency problems against which she rails.
Of course, the claim of a dysfunctional FEC has been a stock trope of the so-called “reform” community for, literally, decades. The claim, as I’ve pointed out in the past, serves as a handy all-purpose excuse for the general failure of campaign finance regulation to achieve its stated objectives. If there is one thing that the “reformers” would hate more than the existing FEC, it would be a new agency headed by someone like Don McGahn (or, come to think of it, Lee Goodman, Caroline Hunter, or Matthew Petersen). Their complaint is not really the FEC, but the law, which, hemmed in by the First Amendment and driven by a real world in which speech costs money and political speech is a good thing, is too often not as they would like it.
In a recent interview with, Federal Election Commission Vice Chair Ann Ravel compared campaign finance disclosure with the nutritional information on a box of cereal, stating that such “information is important for people to know whether they want to buy it or not . . . similarly people should know who’s making large contributions to campaigns so they can get a sense of how to vote.” But is voting really like purchasing cereal? A recent election-related controversy in Montana suggests some flaws in this analogy.

Ann Ravel, the Democratic Chair of the Federal Election Commission, made headlines early this month when she told The New York Times that her agency was “worse than dysfunctional” and that “the likelihood of the [federal campaign finance] laws being enforced is slim.” Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub chimed in, saying “the few rules that are left, people feel free to ignore.” Such statements are, of course, catnip to the so-called “reform” community—groups that want more regulation of political speech—and to news reporters covering “money in politics.”

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” The truth of "what is wrong with Washington" is that we have organizations like the FEC chaired by individuals incapable of bridging the partisan gap because their own beliefs are so radical and because they are unwilling to follow the law as written. Instead of partaking in the debate, Ravel seeks to silence it (both figuratively and literally) by placing blame on others via petty partisan attacks, defeatism, and by threatening the very freedoms upon which our country has been built.

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