The Supremes will hear arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The plaintiffs are upset that they were not allowed to offer pay-per-view broadcasts of their documentary “Hillary: The Movie” during the 2008 election season, nor were they allowed to advertise it over broadcast facilities without disclosing the identities of their financial backers.
A lower court ruled that the movie counted as electioneering speech and was restricted during the 30 days prior to a primary election and 60 days prior to a general election per the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The plaintiffs hold instead that their First Amendment rights were violated, and that the interpretation of what constitutes electioneering speech is overly broad.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a brief supporting Citizens United, saying that comparing a 90-minute documentary to a campaign attack ad was a stretch. RCFP’s Lucy Dalglish noted that the question cut across ideologies, saying it could affect people like Michael Moore as much as it did CU.
RBR/TVBR observation: This is not the same issue that confronted Sinclair when it was planning to air a documentary widely believed to be critical of 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry – in that case, there was an issue of providing air time to one side and not the other. Still, it will be interesting to see if SCOTUS finds this interpretation of BCRA to be legitimate.