The Federal Election Commission is considering new rules that could have widespread implications for Fox News and other foreign-owned media outlets. The FEC is currently debating a new rule that would limit the impact foreign-owned companies could have on the election process.
This isn’t a new rule by any means. The current debate is more a matter of interpretation than anything else, but it’s still important. The current rule was decided in the case Blumen v. FEC which ruled that the government has a legitimate interest in limiting the role foreign companies can play in elections.
‘In Blumen v. FEC, a decision affirmed by the Supreme Court, a special three-judge D.C. district court held that “the United States has a compelling interest for purposes of First Amendment analysis of limiting the participation of foreign citizens in activities of American democratic self-government, and in thereby preventing foreign influence over the U.S. political process.”
‘The law prevents foreign nationals from directly or indirectly making contributions or donations in connection with any federal, state, or local elections; from making contributions or donations to any political party; or from funding expenditure, independent expenditures, or electioneering communications.’
It’s fairly reasonable rule. After all, it makes sense that the government wouldn’t want foreign-owned companies to be able to interfere in the U.S. elections. It isn’t just media companies that could be facing stricter regulations. Any company that participates in the election, including simply funding super PACs, could face more strenuous regulations.
Under current law, any company that is incorporated in the United States is considered to be an American company even if the ownership is completely made up of foreign nationals. This law quickly become important in the wake of the Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on election ads.
The new rule, proposed by FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub, is re-tooled version of a rule he had originally proposed, but was rejected for being too broad.
‘I was pretty pleased to see that [the GOP commissioners] received my specifics pretty warmly. Even if you don’t believe the entire system needs reform, it’s hard to argue that, for example, it would be OK for U.S. corporations totally owned by foreign governments to make unlimited expenditures in U.S. elections.’
It’s important to note that the FEC didn’t vote to endorse this new rule, but merely agreed to open it for discussion, which is still a step in the right direction. The main way in which this rule differs from Weintraub’s previous proposal is that this rule is more specific. It specifically addresses foreign-owned companies, such as Fox News, and seeks to limit the amount of influence they have on the election.
If this rule is passed then it could bar companies with as little as 5 percent of foreign ownership from participating in elections. There are several major media companies that have foreign ownership including Fox News and other News Corp companies and even the New York Times.
This rule is still up for discussion and, even if it passes, it would take about a year for the new regulations to go into effect.
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