We are especially pleased to have Commissioner Petersen speaking given his long track record of success in advancing honest elections, maintaining voting integrity, and protecting the First Amendment rights of political speakers. Not only was Mr. Petersen confirmed unanimously with bipartisan support from the United States Senate, he played an integral role in passing key voting legislation including the 2002 Help America Vote Act. He then was one of the most important attorneys in the nation in dealing with issues of campaign finance.
From 2005 until his appointment to the Commission, Mr. Petersen served as Republican chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. In this capacity, Mr. Petersen provided counsel on issues relating to federal campaign finance and election administration laws as well as the Standing Rules of the Senate.
Commissioner Petersen has played a crucial role since being appointed as a commissioner at the FEC, including handling some of the most important campaign finance issues and cases in history. He recently stated:
Over the past two decades, the internet has transformed our political process. Federal candidates, parties, and independent actors increasingly rely upon online platforms to communicate with voters and raise campaign funds, while American citizens use internet resources to obtain election-related information and organize. The use of the internet as a tool for political engagement has had a democratizing effect: Low-cost platforms enable speakers with few resources to communicate to large audiences, while a seemingly infinite array of publicly available resources aid the citizenry in casting informed votes. Overall, this development has been a positive one.
The internet’s expanding influence on the electoral system has created regulatory challenges, however, as the Commission has grappled with how to apply a law written to address communications transmitted primarily through “our parents and grandparents’” television, radio, and print media to speech conducted on computers, tablets, smart phones, and other emerging technologies. For instance, the Commission has previously considered advisory opinions regarding how federal disclaimer requirements apply to character-limited texts, small ads posted on Facebook and Google, and small banner ads on mobile devices. Our current rulemaking on internet communication disclaimers represents the most recent and ambitious effort in this ongoing process.
As we move forward with this rulemaking, its twin goals should be (1) vindicating the informational interest of the American people to know who is sponsoring political ads, and (2) ensuring that online technologies continue to flourish as tools for political speech. To meet these goals, any final rule must be flexible enough to accommodate the numerous devices and platforms by which political speech is delivered, the ways voters consume information online, and the rapid pace of technological innovation. Today’s hearing represents an important step towards adapting the Commission’s disclaimer regulations to the realities of internet political communications, and I am optimistic that the Commission will be able to successfully complete this task.
Click on the link provided for more information on how to purchase tickets to hear Commissioner Petersen and the rest of the highly-qualified speakers at the RNLA’s National Election Seminar.