The Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission warned Wednesday that his agency colleagues could try to regulate book publishers, during a heated session over a forthcoming book by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan. During the meeting, the FEC declined to definitively spare book publishers from the reach of campaign finance rules. This triggered a clash between Republican and Democratic members, with Chairman Lee Goodman warning that the deadlock could represent a “chill” for constitutional free-press rights. “That is a shame. … We have wounded the free-press clause of the First Amendment,” Goodman told FoxNews.com after the tense meeting. Goodman previously has warned that the commission wants to start regulating media.
At issue during the meeting was a book by Rep. Ryan, R-Wis., being published by Grand Central Publishing. Goodman and other GOP members of the commission wanted the FEC to affirm that the book and its publisher are exempt from FEC regulation under what’s known as the “media exemption” — the same exemption that typically lets newspaper editorials, television channels and other outlets say what they want about political figures without worrying about campaign finance laws. Goodman argues that book publishers are entitled to the same rights.
The commission did clear the Ryan book under a separate, more limited exemption. But they could not muster the four votes necessary to do what Goodman and other Republican members wanted. “I think that’s unfortunate,” Goodman said during the meeting, even raising the specter of book-banning. “We have effectively asserted regulatory jurisdiction over a book publisher.”