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Caught in the act: FEC to hobble sales of new Paul Ryan book

Written By | Jul 24, 2014
Dustjacket for Paul Ryan's upcoming book.

Dustjacket for Paul Ryan’s upcoming book. (Screenshot)

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 – Think the IRS is the only politicized Federal agency trying to silence Republican voices? Think again.

Democrats on the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats—managed to get a fourth vote Wednesday in favor of imposing some restrictions on Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) publisher regarding the promotion and sale of Ryan’s upcoming new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American idea” which is being published by Grand Central Publishing.

According to Judson Berger of, Republican FEC Chair Lee Goodman “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.”

“In the case of the Ryan book,” notes The Examiner this morning, “publisher Grand Central Publishing sought the broad media exemption from regulation, but Democrats rejected that and pushed for a different, commercial, exemption that imposes rules over the publisher’s politics and book pricing. Republicans went along and the commission approved that 6-0.”

But, apparently drawing one of the FEC’s Republican members to their side, the panel’s Democrats, led by FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, “also ruled that while Ryan can have his campaign and PAC buy books to give out, the promotion on his websites has to be limited to two sentences. There were concerns raised by Weintraub that Ryan was trying to profit off sales of the book promoted on his websites,” according to the Examiner. Weintraub has raised no similar concerns over Hillary Clinton’s recently published book, however. Nor have Clinton’s online promotional efforts for the book been limited to just “two sentences,” a clearly arbitrary number.

The whole process upset Goodman, who denounced the Democrats on the panel for trying to impose extraneous limitations on book publishers of political books, something that could eventually lead to outright bans on certain politicians, writers, or pundits and their books.

“By failing to affirm this publisher’s constitutional right, statutory right, to disseminate a political book free from FEC conditions and regulations, we have effectively asserted regulatory jurisdiction over a book publisher,” Goodman asserted.

“That failure,” he concluded in a blistering dissent, “reveals a festering legal uncertainty and chill for the free press rights of books and book publishers to publish and disseminate political books free from government regulation.

Goodman further asserted to that with yesterday’s ambiguous vote on Ryan’s book and publisher, the FEC has “wounded the free-press clause of the First Amendment.”

Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub fired back, asserting “No one is banning books.” According to The Examiner, she also went on to refute the notion “that we are motivated by partisan bias, which is really not appreciated and untrue. I want to categorically deny that.” The paper reports that, in typical Democrat fashion, Weintraub and her fellow Democrats refused to attend subsequent FEC meetings, denying the commission a quorum.

Likely alert to the political corruption rampant in the IRS, which almost certainly in 2012 deliberately conspired to throttle campaign funding by Tea Party groups, Goodman is already on record as fearing actions by the FEC and other regulatory agencies to hobble Republican electoral fundraising and communication efforts in 2014 and beyond.

According to The Examiner, Goodman “recently warned that conservative online media, like the Drudge Report, could face regulation as Democrats move to tighten the so-called ‘media exemption’ that lets the press cover politics any way they want.”

Queried later on this flap, spokesmen for Paul Ryan, who is rumored to be readying for the 2016 Republican Presidential primaries, diplomatically declined to characterize the FEC votes one way or another. Ryan is currently preparing to undertake a bus tour to promote his upcoming book.

Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17