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June 24, 2004
McCain-Feingold's First (Really) Big Victim?

The DC newspaper The Hill reports that the FEC may decide that Michael Moore's new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, qualifies as a political advertisement on behalf of John Kerry and is therefore subject to the same restrictions on advertising as any political commercial (via Drudge):

In a draft advisory opinion placed on the FECs agenda for todays meeting, the agencys general counsel states that political documentary filmmakers may not air television or radio ads referring to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

The opinion is generated under the new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which prohibits corporate-funded ads that identify a federal candidate before a primary or general election.

The proscription is broadly defined. Section 100.29 of the federal election regulations defines restricted corporate-funded ads as those that identify a candidate by his name, nickname, photograph or drawing or make it otherwise apparent through an unambiguous reference.

The new campaign-finance regulation now allows the FEC to act as a censor board, at least in terms of advertising for films, and they may just be getting started. F-9/11 is not the only film to fall under the FEC's increased scrutiny, either, and all of the other documentaries mentioned in the article target George Bush. (Well, there's a shocker.) Upcoming films such as Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, The Corporation (an anti-capitalist screed), and even a John Sayles film called Silver City which criticizes the Bush administration may be prevented from advertising its films on television and radio after July 30.

Conservatives and libertarians predicted exactly this kind of mischief when McCain-Feingold was being debated. In fact, we assumed the Supreme Court would have predicted this outcome, among many deleterious possibilities, when it reviewed the constitutionality of the measure. Instead, SCOTUS and Congress cut a substantial portion of our freedom away for the dubious goal of removing money from politics -- and what benefit have we seen? Massive check-writing by billionaires like George Soros who publicly state their desire to buy the election and massive growth in unaccountable 527s like Americans Coming Together, who plan on spending $100 million to send sex offenders and thieves to your door.

Quite frankly, although I may chortle with glee to see Moore run into the FEC buzzsaw, I'm not delerious enough to agree with the process just on the basis of that outcome. McCain-Feingold suppresses free speech, it's designed to suppress free speech, and if the first victims lack sympathy, it doesn't mean that the next ones will. Moore and Sayles should be allowed to advertise their films, just as Americans should be allowed to exercise their unfettered rights to political speech and political action. The FEC needs to enforce the law as written in order to see it destroyed.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 24, 2004 6:07 AM

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» Oh, this is tempting ... from Right Side of the Rainbow
“Michael Moore may be prevented from advertising his controversial new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, on television or radio after July 30 if the Federal Election Commission (FEC) today accepts the legal advice of its general counsel. In a draft advisor... [Read More]

Tracked on June 24, 2004 7:54 PM

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