U.S. Government claims power to ban books and speech. Citizens United v. FEC.
Back in early 2008 a 527 organization attempted to release a movie about Hillary Clinton titled Hillary, The Movie but it never made it to theaters. The battle between Clinton and Obama for the nomination of the Democratic Party was still toe-to-toe and any attacks on Hillary were considered verboten by most journalists. Salon.com’s Carol Lloyd described the documentary about Hillary as follows:
Notorious Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone has launched a 527 political organization called Citizens United Not Timid (aka CUNT) to educate the public about “what Hillary Clinton really is.” The organization’s sole purpose? To sell $25 T-shirts emblazoned with the organization’s charming name and its red, white and blue logo. The logo is supposed to evoke a woman’s crotch, but it looks more like an elephant’s anus (a perfect image for Stone’s role in the Republican Party).
The world of liberal journalists didn’t have to worry long as the Federal Election Commission stepped in and shut down the marketing of the film. The FEC cited BCRA, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which makes it a federal felony to fund any TV or radio broadcast that names a candidate for federal office in the thirty days prior to a primary election or sixty days prior to a general election, called the “blackout” periods.
Hillary would eventually lose the primary but the lawsuit over the ability to release the film just started. By March 24, 2009 the case had made it’s way to the Supreme Court. A recent article by The American Thinker picks up here and notes the following:
Far more important than the specific facts in this case was the enormous scope of power that the Obama Administration was claiming under BCRA, an array so broad that the justices balked at the government’s answers to their questions.
The Obama Administration claimed that BCRA allows the federal government to ban a 600-page book if it mentions a candidate’s name only once, a 90-minute movie if it mentions a candidate’s name once, or even a toy action figure of a candidate. If the organization uses a single dime of its general funds to produce, promote or distribute any such materials during the “blackout” periods, it becomes a federal crime.
Ted Olsen argued on behalf of Citizens United and lashed out against BCRA in his opening statement:
“Participation in the political process is the First Amendment’s most fundamental guarantee. Yet that freedom is being smothered by one of the most complicated, expensive, and incomprehensible regulatory regimes ever invented.”
I’m not sure how the FEC can reconcile their decision to ban this film and their arguments since that time against the Constitution. And what about their lack of actions against those selling pro-Obama or pro-Hillary items?
Was Citizens United the ONLY entity in the United States pitching a product that mentions a candidate’s name or novelty item that looked like a candidate at the time? Did they forget about the tons of pro-Obama gear that was sold all over the country? Did the FEC file suit to stop any of those items? If not – why?
One last thought. If I was to turn this article into PowerPoint presentation and sell it for one dollar 90 days before the next primaries could Obama’s FEC squads knock on my door and send me to jail? No – you can’t just open up a copy of the Bill of Rights and point to the 1st Amendment. You’ll have to wait like the rest of us to hear what the Supreme Court has to say.