110512_fec_building_westcott_328The 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’.” They may now “contribute up to $2,600 per election to a federal candidate, $10,000 per calendar year to a state party committee, $32,400 per calendar year to a national party committee, and $5,000 per calendar year to a PAC [political action committee],” according to the FEC. The commission, which consists of three Republican and three Democratic members, last considered such regulations in 2005. However, intense opposition from First Amendment groups resulted in rules that were limited to paid advertisements from political campaigns, parties, and PACs. This time around, organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned that some Democrats on the commission would like to impose much more burdensome regulations that could serve as the equivalent of spending caps in restricting political speech. 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. “Some of my colleagues seem to believe that the same political message that would require disclosure if run on television should be categorically exempt from the same requirements when placed on the Internet alone. As a matter of policy, this simply does not make sense,” Ravel said. MORE