Government Report: November 19, 2010

AAF Government Report
November 19, 2010

Clark Rector Jr., Executive Vice President – Government Affairs

Major Changes Coming in Congress

The recent elections have obviously brought major changes to Washington and Congress. In the next Congress, the Republicans will have a substantial majority in the House of Representatives. In addition, the Democratic majority in the Senate will be much smaller. The changes are not just in party control of the branches of Congress. Next year will see seventeen new Senators and nearly 100 new members of the House of Representatives.

The changes will be seen on the committee level as well.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee currently consists of 36 Democrats and 23 Republicans. The exact ratio has not yet been determined, but those numbers will be roughly reversed. Eight committee Democrats will not return, but some of the junior members from that side of the aisle will need to leave the committee. On the Republican side, five members will not return, so it is possible that as many as half of their members will be new to the committee. The next chairman of the committee is uncertain at this time. Former chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, would like to regain the gavel, but he would need to obtain a waiver of Republican caucus term limit rules. Representatives Fred Upton, R-Mich., John Shimkus, R-Ill. and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. have all expressed an interest in becoming chairman of the committee. Former chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. will be the ranking minority member.

The House Ways and Means Committee currently has 26 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Again, these numbers will be approximately reversed. Five Democrat and two Republican members are not returning in the next Congress. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich. will be the next chairman of the committee. Sander Levin, D-Mich. is likely to continue as ranking minority member.

The changes on the Senate side will be less dramatic. The margins on the Commerce, Science and Transportation and Finance Committees will likely be a bit narrower, but neither committee will see a major transformation.

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House Subcommittee May Examine “Do Not Track”

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection is reportedly planning a hearing in early December on Internet privacy. Specifically, the subcommittee may look at the possibility of a “do not track” registry for online behavioral advertising. It would be similar in concept to the telemarketing “do not call” registry.

The AAF recently joined with the Council of Better Business Bureaus and other major advertising and marketing associations to unveil a major new self-regulatory program for online behavioral advertising. The program will give consumers control over much or little companies can anonymously track their interests for the purpose of delivering online behavioral advertising. The announcement of the new program can be found here

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FTC Reviewing Green Guides

The Federal Trade Commission is accepting comments on proposed changes to its “Green Guides” that give marketers guidance when making environmental claims. First issued in 1992, the Guides were last updated in 1998. The Guides do not have the force of law, but insight as to the standards the agency will use when taking enforcement actions.

The Commission is looking to update the Guides in order to address issues not common at the time of the last revision, such as renewable materials, renewable energy and the use of carbon offsets. The revised Guides also caution against the use of broad non-specific claims, such as “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly.”

The proposed revision of the Green Guides can be found here

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Supreme Court May Consider Advertising Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether to consider the case of Educational Media Co. at Va. Tech, Inc. v. Swecker, in which a lower court upheld a ban on the advertisements of alcoholic beverages in any college student publication – even where most readers are of legal drinking age. AAF has urged the Court to hear the case and reverse the decision as a serious infringement of the First Amendment protection of commercial speech. A copy of the AAF’s brief to the Court can be found here

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AAF Files Comments With the FCC

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) recently filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission seeking to block a new cartoon on the Nicktoons cable network claiming the show is a program length commercial. The show, Zevo-3 is based on characters that were developed for comics distributed with Skechers shoes. The shoes play no role in the television show.

Should the Commission take action it could negate years of established, settled and effective policy in this area which insures a separation between programmatic and commercial content, while allowing the use of characters in commercial material. Countless fictional characters over many years have and do appear in television shows (and books and movies) as well as advertising. Should the CCFC prevail they would all be at risk.

Attached are the initial and reply comments that the AAF has filed with the Commission that detail the legal and precedential reasons the CCFC petition should be dismissed.

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