From: The Left Coast Report, A Political Look at Hollywood
By James Hirsen
Hillary Movie Makes Its Supreme Court Debut
A U.S. Supreme Court case is about to be heard, and with any luck it may finally get the campaign finance reform albatross off the back of the First Amendment.
The question for the High Court is whether a feature-length documentary, in this case “Hillary: the Movie” and the television ads designed to promote it, can be suppressed by campaign finance laws without violating the First Amendment.
The Citizens United (C.U.) movie was released when Hillary Clinton, then a New York senator, was competing with Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
It was distributed to eight theaters. The C.U. group wanted to run ads on television in key election states during the peak primary season and air the movie on cable television’s video-on-demand.
Federal courts claimed that ads promoting the film violated the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws.
Judges decided that “Hillary: The Movie” was a 90-minute attack ad. Courts also ruled that if the film were broadcast on cable television, financial backers would have to be disclosed and the cost of the broadcast paid for by C.U.
I was involved in filing a brief for this case on behalf of a public interest law organization and am familiar with the legal issues it raises.
The High Court’s ultimate decision is going to be of vital importance particularly for documentary filmmakers and producers of narrative movies that have political themes.
The film in question didn’t request that its audience vote for or against a certain candidate. It is simply a feature-length movie that presents information about Clinton’s background, experience, and character.
This is the essence of political speech that the First Amendment is exquisitely designed to protect.
Ironically, the Federal Election Commission dismissed a similar complaint against Michael Moore based on his ads for a movie that may sound familiar “Fahrenheit 9/11.”