Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Hillary: The Movie" heading to the Supreme Court

Yes, you read that right, but it's not going to be viewed as some sort of Popcorn Night with the Chief Justice. No, as the WaPo points out it is at the heart of a debate over free speech, political speech, and whether the documentary violates McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform:

"Hillary: The Movie" came and went without much of a splash last year. Reviews were not flattering, Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign waned and one devastating critique made sure that the scalding documentary would never become a blockbuster hit.

It came from a panel of judges in Washington that said "H:TM" was not really a movie at all.

The court sided with the Federal Election Commission and said the film was a 90-minute campaign ad "susceptible of no other interpretation than 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."

As such, the film produced by conservative activists at Citizens United fell under the tangle of broadcast and advertising restrictions in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that dictate how and when the movie can be shown and advertised.

But the ultimate impact of "Hillary: The Movie" may come at the Supreme Court, where this week justices once again will be challenged to decide how congressional intentions to curb the power of special interest groups can coexist with the First Amendment's protection of free speech.

"It seems to me the number one thing the First Amendment protects is communication about who we elect to run our government," said Theodore B. Olson, the Bush administration solicitor general who is representing Citizens United.

Because the movie is partially financed with corporate funds, it fell under restrictions in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 -- as the McCain-Feingold law is formally known -- on "any broadcast, cable or satellite communications" that refers to a candidate for federal office within a certain time frame before an election. The law's requirement that ads clearly state the name of the group paying for them made Citizens United's planned 10-second media ads unworkable, the group said.

The First Amendment reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

First things first, BCRA should have been struck down by the high court because it directly curtails the freedom of speech in an election cycle. Nowhere in the First Amendment does it say that Congress can make a law restricting freedom of speech if there are corporate donations behind it. The only way that sort of speech can be curtailed is if the donations were illegal, which they obviously weren't.

Secondly, there is no difference between free speech and political speech. They are one in the same and the Congress, who established, drafted, and had ratified the Bill of Rights had it in their minds that the First Amendment was to deal specifically with these rights in relation to politics, or the government. (Introduced by James Madison in the First Congress in 1789, to be specific.) How can I say that the amendment dealt with our political rights? Simple. Read how the amendment starts: "Congress shall make no law ..." In it's creation, Madison determined that these five things could not be tampered with by the federal government and that these, above all, had to be protected for the populace to be free.

We have the right to worship as we choose, to speak our minds, to print what we wish, to assemble to protest, and demand the government deal with our grievances ALL without the federal government's interference. (Again, within reason. There is a certain level of regulation involved here. You can't yell "Fire" in a crowded area, you can't print libelous accusations, etc.) But when people start trying to split hairs about what is and isn't free speech, there's a problem. Political speech IS free speech, and if I may say, it is a fundamental, necessary right.

The best recourse the Supreme Court has is to strike down BCRA once and for all. It was a mistake to have been created, and it's one thing that we will never forgive Senator McCain for. He created it not out of some selfless belief that he was doing something good for the country. He did it because of how his campaign imploded in 2000. In short, he created it, in concert with Russ Feingold, as an act of spite. And that mistake has cost us dearly. Instead of cleaning up the election fundraising process it made it worse by allowing the rise of 527 groups, and allowed for even shadier practices to take place; practices that are supposedly on the level. They're not, of course, as we witnessed in this last election. There were plenty of questionable, and possibly illegal donations, made to Barry's campaign.

Will the high court strike down BCRA finally? Probably not. They'll likely limit more of the legislation rather than finally sticking a stake in the heart of the beast once and for all.

Publius II


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