Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

February 21, 2014

Grassley believes FCC policy violates First Amendment

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — Last may, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a program in which it would bring people into America's newsrooms. A field test for this program is scheduled to launch in South Carolina in the spring, but Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley believes this is a violation of the First Amendment. 

Grassley made the comments on Thursday, Feb. 20, during his weekly "Capitol Hill Report," an unrehearsed question and answer exchange among Grassley, the Journal-Express and a radio reporter in another part of Iowa. 

The FCC proposed in May a Multi Market Study of Critical Information Needs. This process includes sending agents to grill editors, reporters, and electronic media representatives about how they choose which stories to run. According to a Wall Street Journal editorial, the FCC has eight categories of topics which it believes are critical information needs. Journalists and media representatives will be asked about their "news philosophy" and how they report news the community needs. 

Participation in the FCC's program is "voluntary." However, television and radio stations which operate using the public airwaves are licensed to do so by the FCC. These licenses must be renewed every eight years. Grassley believes that news outlets should not participate in the program as a means of legal opposition to potential encroachment on the First Amendment. 

"This is an opportunity for a private citizen to say, 'I've had enough of this big government,'" Grassley said. He believes that if more average Americans stand against this, it will have a greater impact on any opposition movement than a letter from himself would. 

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Marijuana

Though the states of Washington and Colorado have passed referendums to decriminalize marijuana in their states, there are still federal laws that make the substance illegal. Grassley responded to a question about marijuana by saying that the US Attorney General's Office has allowed these referendums stand as long as the marijuana stays there and is not transferred or sold to other states. 

Grassley has proposed changes to banking laws, due to the changes in Colorado and Washington, as it is currently a crime to profit from illegal substances. 

"These may be legal businesses," Grassley said, "but the regulation is under federal law." He believes that no action to address the discrepancy opens the door to money laundering.

"We're helping to facilitate that sort of crime," Grassley said. 

Keystone Pipeline

At the time of the interview, Grassley said that President Obama was meeting with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. While there, Canada is pressuring Obama to sign off on the pipeline, intended to pump oil from Canada to the United States and Mexico. Grassley believes that if Obama waits too long ot make a decision, Canada will find another buyer for its oil; China. 

Meanwhile, environmental concerns sometimes hinder America's own energy production. The State Department, however, has ruled that the Keystone Pipeline will not have an adverse affect on the environment. 

"Canada is not as stupid as the United States," Grassley said. "They're going to harvest as much of their energy as they can." 

Immigration

Grassley is convinced that, even though the Senate has passed immigration reform, nothing will be signed into law this year. The House Republicans do not want to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but would prefer to make changes in pieces, if at all. 

Homeland Security buying 700M rounds of ammunition

According to CNSnews.com, the Department of Homeland Security has contracted to purchase 704 million rounds of ammunition, or 2,500 rounds per DHS officer, over the next four years. This is in addition to millions of rounds already purchased by DHS. Grassley was asked why DHS needs so much ammunition. 

Grassley has previously sought answers to that question, but said he never received a substantial answer. He does know that the law enforcement aspect of DHS does use a lot of ammunition for target practice. 

"A lot of rounds are used up that way," Grassley said. "Maybe it's for a good purpose." He went on to say that he has not learned what that good purpose is. 

The audio from Grassley's interview can be heard here: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/audio/CHR%20Audio,%202-20-14.mp3