Upholding constitutional principles is not an appropriate role for a member of the Federal Election Commission, Democratic Commissioner Ann Ravel said on Thursday.
The comments came as part of a growing debate over a recent vote by Democrats on the commission to impose a penalty on Fox News for holding a Republican presidential debate. Democrats contended that the network should have been forced to include Mark Everson, a former IRS commissioner who ran for the GOP nomination, in one of the debates.
"We responded ... in our view, in a nonpartisan way, in a way that was consistent with the clear law," said Ravel, who also chaired the agency last year. "My role in the commission is not to apply constitutional principles because I'm not on the Supreme Court. If I were, I'd be happy to do so. We're a regulatory agency and our role is to follow the law and apply the law."
Her comment, which came in an interview with the Washington Post, seemed to contradict a statement Ravel made in May when she qualified her support for more regulations on the Internet. "I feel very strongly about the First Amendment and the rights of the press," she said at the time. "My point is that the Internet has advanced greatly ... and the FEC's rules about it are, potentially, obsolete. Our role is to talk about them."
On Thursday, Ravel issued a statement explaining her support for penalizing Fox, which would have included a $5,000 fine. The network's decision to switch the participation criteria for a debate "from relying upon an objective numerical criteria of recent national polls to instead [requiring] a candidate's name be 'consistently' offered in recent national [polling] ... transformed the debate-eligibility rules and provided no guidance for candidates or the public on the application of the new standards," Ravel wrote, adding that the action amounted to "promoting pre-chosen candidates."