Stacy McCain catches the GOP (sort of) frontrunner making life easier for the Democratic (sort of) frontrunner, as McCain-Feingold trips up the release of an anti-Hillary documentary.
"Hillary: The Movie" is "a political documentary like Michael Moore or Al Gore has made," said James Bopp, who went to federal court last week to represent the movie's producers. Yet the conservative group Citizens United, which produced the Clinton film, must "go to court to get permission to advertise the film… because of McCain-Feingold," he said.
[T]he 2002 law that regulates campaign advertising could require the film's producers to disclose the names of their donors and to insert a disclaimer in ads for the movie.
The disclaimer provision of the law poses a difficulty because some ads for the film are only 10 seconds long, Mr. Bopp told The Washington Times…
"Our position is we're not going to run a 10-second ad that the government requires 4.2 seconds for a disclaimer," he said.
Stephanie Mencimer argues that the judge who'll cast the swing vote on this is no Clinton ally (Royce C. Lamberth "allowed Judicial Watch bulldog Larry Klayman to depose scores of White House staffers in lawsuits most judges would have quickly dismissed") but that he tried to laugh the Citizens United case out of court.
Attorney James Bopp argued that they should be considered "issue-oriented" speech because viewers aren't urged to vote for or against the Democrat.
"What's the issue?" asked Judge A. Raymond Randolph, a federal appeals judge sitting on a mixed panel to review the case.
"That Hillary Clinton is a European Socialist," Bopp replied. "That is an issue."
"Which has nothing to do with her campaign?" U.S District Judge Royce C. Lamberth interjected.
"Not specifically, no," Bopp replied.
"Once you say, 'Hillary Clinton is a European Socialist,' aren't you saying vote against her?"
Bopp disagreed because the movie did not use the word "vote."
"Oh, that's ridic…" Lamberth said, trailing off and ending the line of questioning.
I don't know that it's so ridic. "X is a European Socialist" isn't the same as "you must vote against X"–lots of people like European Socialists. Most of them live in New England and California. Also, whether or not you say "vote for X" is a big part of campaign finance pedantry, which is why the third-party ads that invest your screen say things like "call Mike Huckabee, tell him tax hikes are for sissies" instead of "vote against Mike Huckabee."
So Citizens United should be allowed to run ads for the movie and get the whole thing screened in whatever theatres want it. The problem is that they didn't always feel this way about political films. In 2004, the group filed a formal complaint with the FEC to stop ads for Fahrenheit 9/11. CU head David Bossie explained himself at the time:
All we want is Michael Moore to follow the law. McCain-Feingold limits my free speech as well as Michael Moore's.
Bossie's work would be a little easier if he'd believed in the First Amendment as strongly then as he does now.