November 15, 2008

The Supreme Court has taken 2 cases challenging the constraints of election law.

Adam Liptak reports:
... Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, arises from “Hillary: The Movie,” a film by a conservative advocacy group released early this year, when Mrs. Clinton was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. The question for the court is whether the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2002 applies to the broadcast of a feature-length film and to television advertisements for it.

In January, a three-judge panel of the Federal District Court here said the film was an “electioneering communication” with only one point: “to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world and that viewers should vote against her.”

The panel added that advertisements for the film must include spoken and written disclosures, among them that “Citizens United is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

Citizens United said those requirements were unconstitutionally burdensome. The spoken disclosure, the group told the Supreme Court, “takes about four seconds to narrate, making 10-second ads virtually impossible and 30-second ads difficult to do.”

The McCain-Feingold law prohibits the use of corporate treasury money, including that of nonprofit issue advocacy groups, to pay for much electioneering communication in a window of 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election. James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for Citizens United, said in a statement issued Friday that “the notion that a feature-length movie can be banned is a return to the days of government censorship and book-burnings.”
Before you leap to a conclusion about what the answer ought to be, watch this trailer for the movie:



Doesn't that work as an anti-Hillary ad more than as an ad for the movie? A movie could be made just as a device to immunize ads from the usual requirements.

11 comments:

Bob R said...

Since I believe that "the usual requirements" are the most blatantly unconstitutional, self-serving, and disingenuous grab for power by the political class in my lifetime I don't have to "jump" to a conclusion. I'm sitting right on it. I'm old enough that I should never be shocked by anyone's hypocrisy or self-rationalizations, but but the idea that anyone could believe that the first amendment protects every kind of speech except political speech takes my breath away.

peter hoh said...

Oh goody. There is an alternative to the "Call Congressman Blowhard to tell him you don't want blah blah blah blah" ads.

UWS guy said...

can't talk to your fellow citizens 60 days before an election....hahahahaha fuck McCain.

mcg said...

Doesn't that work as an anti-Hillary ad more than as an ad for the movie? A movie could be made just as a device to immunize ads from the usual requirements.

I suppose so.

But so what? If it still gets produced and distributed, with all of the expense and effort that goes into it, so what?

Seven Machos said...

Proposition: the stupider the law, the more people will try to find ways to get around it.

Conversely, the better the law, the more people will respect it and follow it, even if doing so exacts a price.

If those propositions are true, how stupid is campaign finance law?

Walter said...

I agree with Bob r and the others that point out that the law is wrong (it is one of reasons that I didn't want McCain to get the GOP nomination).

While the ad does work as an anti-Hilary ad, at 2 1/2 minutes, it may be a fair & accurate trailer with respect to the movie's content. An ad of this length is the common size of a movie trailer.

For people that already distrust/dislike Hilary, it looks like an ad for a movie about why Hilary is a poor choice. If I wasn't cheap, I'd be interested in seeing it.

For people that like/wanted Hilary, it looks like one long attack piece (nee ad).

I think that the understated method of having a mix of Dems and GOP speakers comment is effective enough that people are trying to shot the messenger to kill the message.

blake said...

Bob R's yer uncle.

Revenant said...

How did Fahrenheit 9/11 avoid running afoul of this law, I wonder.

Simon said...

"Doesn't that work as an anti-Hillary ad more than as an ad for the movie? A movie could be made just as a device to immunize ads from the usual requirements."

I think it works as an ad for an anti-Hillary movie. If we worry that the movie could be a vehicle for getting around restrictions on political speech, the better conclusion is that the restrictions are problematic. We should be spared the sight of the court performing a doctrinal dance that would make a contortionist blush in an effort to avoid the obvious conclusion that a law, made by Congress, abridging the freedom of speech and the press -- and not just any old speech, but the political speech that lies at the core of the amendment's protections -- is valid. It is not.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

The fact that it concludes with a strong attack and affirmation for debate by Senator Clinton suggests that it is a movie about Hilary Clinton as a controversial public figure. The McCain-Feingold law exemplifies McCain as the leader of the Republican party as analogous to the English hypothetically having asked TE Lawrence to lead the British Empire. You might have expected never to know when Lawrence of Arabia might pause things to have the opponents flog him etc. It may be that McCain's POW experience gave him too much of a masochistic aspect.

Red XIV said...

"the idea that anyone could believe that the first amendment protects every kind of speech except political speech takes my breath away."

Money is not speech.


"How did Fahrenheit 9/11 avoid running afoul of this law, I wonder."

Guess what, Revenant? Citizens United filed a complaint with the FCC about Fahrenheit 9/11. They argued that it was a violation of McCain/Feingold, then turned around and made their own movie like it to play during a campaign. The hypocrisy is staggering.