…that needs to be eliminated and its work force returned to the private sector. The Federal Election Commission believes that the 1st Amendment and inconvenient parts of the Federal Election Campaign Act don’t apply to it.
A Boston TV station [emphasis added]
had invited two congressional candidates (a Democrat and a Republican) into its studio to appear on “On the Record” in the weeks leading up to the 2012 election and formatted the joint appearance as a 30-minute debate.
Another candidate (a Libertarian) who was not invited filed a complaint alleging that the value of WCVB’s production costs and airtime constituted unlawful corporate contributions to the two candidates who were invited. Corporate contributions to federal candidates are illegal and people who make them face stiff fines, injunctions, and can even go to prison.
The Federal Election Campaign Act, which established the FEC, regulates money in federal campaigns to protect American citizens from corrupt politicians. It also expressly forbids the agency from regulating the press. Congress enacted this “press exemption” to protect the profoundly important First Amendment right of the press to inform the public about campaigns and candidates without government interference.
WCVB invoked the First Amendment and the campaign act’s press exemption. When the FEC considered the matter in November 2013, the staff recommended that the agency disregard both.
That the FEC ultimately—and officially—accepted the legitimacy of WCVB’s decision-making process for selecting those candidates simply emphasizes the arrogant mendacity of the agency. As the WSJ so correctly notes,
A decision to approve implies the power to disapprove.
Neither are within the scope of FEC authority, and the FEC knows that.
Remember, too, that this is the same FEC that insisted that it had the authority to ban books.* Such an agency has no place in the lives of Americans, much less in our government.
*This exchange involving Justice Samuel Alito and Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, arguing for the FEC in Citizens United:
Alito: Do you think the Constitution required Congress to draw the line where it did, limiting [the “electioneering communications” ban] to broadcast and cable and so forth? What’s your answer to [the] point that there isn’t any constitutional difference between the distribution of this movie on video [on] demand and providing access on the Internet, providing DVDs, either through a commercial service or maybe in a public library, providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all of those as well?
Stewart: I think the Constitution would have permitted Congress to apply the electioneering communication[s] restrictions…to additional media as well.
Alito: That’s pretty incredible. You think that if a book was published, a campaign biography that was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, that could be banned. … The government’s position is that the 1st Amendment allows the banning of a book if it’s published by a corporation?
Stewart [In answer to a related follow-up question from Justice Anthony Kennedy]: [A] corporation could be barred from using its general treasury funds to publish the book….