DC Intern Diaries

I'm a female 24 year old DC permanent intern. You name it and I've probably interned it. I'm also a graduate student in DC.

Friday, July 02, 2004

anyone for politicalporn.com?

So basically, one can get around the First Amendment issues and campaign finance regs by showing pornagraphic campaign ads...

From the Wall Street Journal today:

Does it strike anyone else as odd that the Supreme Court seems to be providing more First Amendment protection to pornography than to political speech?

This seems to be a fair question following the Court's decision this week to frown upon, for the third time in eight years, a Congressional law attempting to protect minors from sexually explicit material on the Internet. In contrast, the same Court was only too happy last year to endorse the substantial limits on political speech that were part of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform. Somehow we doubt this is what the Founders had in mind in passing the Bill of Rights.

The Supremes have yet to rule on the merits of the Child Online Protection Act, so it's too soon to say whether the Court will break with legal precedent and carve out new protections for pornographers. This week's decision dealt instead with the more narrow question of whether a lower court was correct to issue an injunction against the law, and it ordered the court to commence a trial.

Yet that didn't stop the 5-4 majority in Ashcroft v. ACLU from delivering a sermon on the perils of curtailing free speech. "Content-based prohibitions, enforced by severe criminal penalties, have the constant potential to be a repressive force in the lives and thoughts of a free people," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. He also noted it is important to guard against such threats even when Congress was determined to pass a law. What a relief that Larry Flynt can keep pretending he's Thomas Paine.

Alas, such high-minded sentiments were not on display last December when many of the same Justices decided to let Congress ban political speech as long as it is financed by the wrong people, or in the wrong way. The perverse consequences of that decision are already showing up in the multiple and inventive ways that political activists are trying to evade McCain-Feingold's Rube Goldberg legal framework during this election year.
For instance, the National Rifle Association has created a satellite radio program ("NRANews") that reaches some 400,000 listeners. If the advocacy group runs old-fashioned political ads about candidates within 60 days of an election, it will violate McCain-Feingold. But as long as it is producing news or commentary, the NRA can speak to its heart's content, much as the New York Times or this newspaper does every day. Sincere congratulations to the NRA for its creativity, but this is the kind of absurd hoop-jumping that the Court's First Amendment dereliction now requires.

Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission has landed the duty of deciding who else can speak, or not. Last week it delayed a decision on whether Michael Moore, creator of "Fahrenheit 9/11," must stop airing ads about his anti-Bush film, since those ads contain unflattering references to the President seeking re-election.

Mr. Moore is an "artist" whose expression ought to be protected by the First Amendment. Yet if he can freely advertise his propaganda condemning a political candidate during an election season, why can't that same political candidate make a movie extolling his own record and advertise that? But, no, that might violate McCain-Feingold.

On the other hand, if a right-wing pornographer made a pro-Bush film featuring erotic scenes and put it on the Internet within 60 days of an election, would the Supreme Court call it protected speech? Just asking.


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