Federal judges have a lot of education and training, and a great deal of legitimate authority and responsibility. However, I am somewhat confused over their training or authority as film critics.
The conservative advocacy group Citizens United has made a film called Hillary: The Movie which is apparently quite critical of the good senator. They expect to have a half dozen theatrical screenings of the film, then a DVD release.
Somehow, someone has dragged the group into federal court insisting that this film should be considered a political advocacy ad subject to disclosure of donors or investors and advertising restrictions per McCain-Feingold and such. I can't tell from the AP report who exactly is the complainant. Apparently, there are specifically at least NO official involvement or briefs from Senator Clinton.
In any case, it appears that this panel of three federal judges are ready to declare a theatrical and commercial DVD release to be subject to campaign finance laws and restrictions on how it can be advertised on television. Apparently, it is assumed that you're only allowed to openly advertise your commercial film project if your literary motives are right. Citizens United now find themselves having to justify that their movie is "issue oriented" rather than specifically advocacy against Hillary's presidential campaign.
Attorney James Bopp argued that they should be considered "issue-oriented" speech because viewers aren't urged to vote for or against the Democrat.
"What's the issue?" asked Judge A. Raymond Randolph, a federal appeals judge sitting on a mixed panel to review the case.
"That Hillary Clinton is a European Socialist," Bopp replied. "That is an issue."
"Which has nothing to do with her campaign?" U.S District Judge Royce C. Lamberth interjected.
"Not specifically, no," Bopp replied.
"Once you say, 'Hillary Clinton is a European Socialist,' aren't you saying vote against her?"
Bopp disagreed because the movie did not use the word "vote."
"Oh, that's ridic. …" Lamberth said, trailing off and ending the line of questioning.
Under campaign finance laws, Citizens United would be required to disclose its funding for the ads. It would also have to disclose donors and pay the costs of airing it on cable television from a political fund.
No one was trying to get Michael Moore's ridiculous Fahrenheit 9/11 movie dragged into court like this. The lefties and even most of us rightwing nutjobs would have hollered blue-bloody murder over such a crass interference with a filmmaker's right to even stupidly criticize and mock public officials. Hey, the little bastards are on OUR payroll. We'll can call them every name in the book if we want.
I dig Roger Ebert. He's probably the world's foremost respected film critic. I might be interested in his thoughts on Hillary: The Movie. But who told these federal judges that they're film critics? Also, even Roger Ebert's biggest fans would not presume that his movie reviews should have the force of law. Do any of these judges have a degree in filmmaking or professional expertise as screenwriters or directors or such? I've got videos I'd like to ban, but I wouldn't presume to use the force of law to do so. It wouldn't pass constitutional muster.
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