Thoughts on McCutcheon v FEC

April 2, 2014
Today, the Supreme Court ruled in McCutheon v FEC that wealthy individuals may donate unlimited funds to candidates, political parties, and political action groups. Where does most of that money go?  Into local TV stations for political ads.
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I have written about a remedy before. When will we hold our broadcasters who are supposed to serve the public interest accountable for lying political ads?  
courtesy freedigitalphotos.net
















 
Excerpted from the BradBlog,
originally published June 8, 2012
Truth in Advertising
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Back to Citizens United: there is another obscure legal concept which could provide the citizenry with a tool for change --- without a Constitutional Amendment --- before the 2012 general election.
It turns out that if a candidate wants to buy airtime from a TV or radio station, the station must sell the time, and it may not vet or censor the ad in any way. (So, legally, candidates may lie to public as much as they want.)
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But third party ads, the ones which have been loosed by the Citizens United decision, are treated differently. Stations do not have to take those ads. If they do, and if those ads lie to the public, the stations may be held liable.
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Pause and think about holding your local TV station liable for lying third party ads. I can feel the shudder running through the halls of broadcast management right about now.
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Typically, it is a candidate who is being defamed in an ad that would file such a suit. That person, attorneys tell me, has the standing to file, as they are the ones being harmed by the ad.
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But when ads lie to public, over our publicly owned airwaves, aren't we the people also being damaged? Isn't our very democracy being damaged when local broadcasters, who are licensed to broadcast only if they serve the public interest, putting giant profits ahead of making certain that the ads are factual? We should have the standing to develop a class action suit asserting our right to factual campaign information over our public airwaves. Our First Amendment rights are paramount in broadcasting, after all, at least according to the United States Supreme Court.
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So stand up and exercise your rights! Set up meetings with your local radio and TV stations and demand fact checking of ads by local management. Sometimes they will respond positively. But realize that local licensees are owned by giant corporations, which often care little about service to the local community. So if they will not serve your needs, exercise your rights in any way you legally can. Send people in to do daily file inspections (which causes stations to hire extra staff), boycott their advertisers (which sends a financial chill through any station), challenge their licenses.
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Bringing about parity over our public airwaves is about finding narrow targets, aiming high and true, and educating the public for their support. Our motto at Media Action Center: "Know your rights. Be empowered. Put boots on the ground. And publicize."
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What the Scott Walker recall in Wisconsin teaches us is that broadcasting is the number one benefactor of the money in politics. But broadcasters are legally supposed to be benefiting their owners, We the People. It's time to stand up for the rights of the real owners of broadcasting - us.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Roberts court’s next step may be to abolish donation caps. SCOTUS already killed public campaign funding in Arizona, saying giving matching public funds to the rival of a self-funded candidate “burdens” the self-funder’s free speech. (Roberts never said how boosting one candidate’s speech can burden another’s. The wealthy candidate’s speech is not limited or made difficult in any way, just because an opponent can match it. And the wealthy guy could always take the public funding too. The only “right” this system burdened was a self-funder’s “right” to drown out others.) But the court could not strike down a second self-funding candidate’s right to “match” the expenditures of a first. Nor, presumably, the right of any citizen or organization to contribute funds that effectively “match” and level the field. Roberts’ opinion only says the government can’t do it.

So once caps are gone, could the citizens of Arizona create a private, non-government group to provide matching campaign funding along the exact same lines as their public system that the Roberts court killed? Like a huge public-interest PAC that’s basically neutral, funded by low-dollar public donations and giving theoretically unlimited funds to any candidate of any party who follows its rules? Surely Roberts and his cronies would hate it, since it would again foil the ability of their wealthy friends to drown out everyone else, but could they find legal basis to kill it?