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Supreme Court to Decide: Conservative Documentary or Anti-Hillary Infomercial?

Is Hillary: The Movie a documentary with newsworthy information, like Nova or Frontline, as the producers claim? Or is it  a 90-minute attack ad, which is what Federal judges previously decided?

The Supreme Court of the United States will be hearing arguments on both sides Tuesday  in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (08-205).

Financed by longtime critics of  State Hillary Rodham Clinton and produced by former Republican congressional aide David Bossie–Chairman of the Board and President, Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation– Hillary: The Movie was originally released in a whooping eight theatres in 2008.  Producers had plans to air ads for the movie on on network and cable television channels in key election states during peak primary season, plus show the movie via video-on-demand.

But Federal court ruling stated that the ads for the movie during the primary season would violate campaign finance laws, and that in order for the movie ads to run, Citizens United would have to identify the financial backers. The court also said that if Bossie’s group showed the movie on cable television, financial backers would have to be named and the group would have to pay the cost of airing the movie.

The Federal judges called the the movie a 90-minute attack ad, and in their argument to the Supreme Court, the FEC and the Justice Department claim that using corporate dollars to pay for an “unmistakable” appeal for voters to reject Sen. Clinton is

no different from buying an ‘infomercial’ on a broadcast network, as political candidates have done for years.  Like any other television advertisement, Hillary uses the power of the visual medium to promote a message.” 

They added that offering Hillary on video on demand only increases audience interest.

 Meanwhile Citizens United argues that since the ads for the movie are not “electioneering communications”  (*spit take* watch part one of Hillary: The Movie here), the government lacks a compelling interest in forcing revelations about their financing.  They say their movie is more of a documentary comparable to critical television news programs such as Frontline, Nova and 60 Minutes. (But, like, minus the liberal media elite bias). And also, when if came to airing the video on demand, only peopel interested in it would watch it, so how is that campaigning?

Citizen United is also using the free speech argument to win over hearts and minds. Says Bossie

The outcome of this case will dictate how we’re able to make films and educate people about them.

He’s supported by Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press  who filed an amici brief stating in part:

By criminalizing the distribution of a long-form documentary film, as if it was nothing more than a very long advertisement, the district court has created uncertainty about where the line between traditional news commentary and felonious advocacy lies.

 Theodore Olson, Citizens United’s lawyer argues:

The fact that Hillary presents a critical assessment of Sen. Clinton’s political background, character, and fitness for office does not convert the movie … into an appeal to vote against Sen. Clinton. Indeed, a critical exposition of the political background and policy views of a former first lady and sitting U.S. senator is precisely the type of uninhibited, robust, and wide open debate and discussion that the First Amendment protects and encourages.

The movie features such conservative icons as Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Michael Medved and Dick Morris who claims that Hillary is

the closest thing we have in America to a European socialist.

And I’ll say the ad above is the closest thing to an anti-Hillary attack ad I’ve seen. Oh it’s for the movie… BS! That’s so disingenous and coprophagic.

Meanwhile SOCTUSblog wonders if perhaps Citizens United is looking  for deregulation of campaign spending by corporations–which would also mean by labor unions, those boogeymen of conservatives– and maybe a complete overthrow of McCain Feingold.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.

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