Patterico's Pontifications

10/25/2007

A Serious Discussion of Whether the People Running Stephen Colbert’s Network Have Any First Amendment Rights

Filed under: Civil Liberties,General — Patterico @ 7:54 pm



Rick Hasen has a post on whether the people running Stephen Colbert’s network would violate the law by letting him “run for President” while also putting him on TV. The post is titled Does Viacom Get the Media Exemption for Stephen Colbert’s Promotion of His Candidacy on the Colbert Report?

In other words, does our government allow Stephen Colbert’s bosses to engage in free speech?

Hasen concludes:

I’m leaning towards no, but the issue is not a slam dunk.

What follows is a very sober discussion — you can almost visualize Hasen furrowing his brow as he taps out the post — of whether someone can exercise his core First Amendment rights without running afoul of the blatantly unconstitutional obstacles that Our Caring Government has put in our way. (Oh, sure: it’s about corporate free speech rights — and this has nothing to do with individuals, because corporations are run by giraffes.)

Savor this passage:

The fact that the show is a satire makes the interpretation question all the more difficult: does schtick count as commentary? I’m not so sure. But consider a case where Jay Leno does his comedy routine wearing a “Vote for Colbert” button. I don’t think that would get the media exemption, and NBC could be in trouble. It is quite a fine line to draw.

Indeed. Why, just imagine the trouble Jay Leno’s bosses would be in with Our Caring Government if he wore a button advocating the candidacy of an actual serious candidate for president.

Why, Our Caring Government would not be very pleased with that.

Back to Hasen:

Given the dearth of caselaw and useful FEC commentary on this question, we might well ask two questions to figure out how this case should come out. First, what is the purpose that the ban on funding from corporate treasury funds is meant to further? Second, given that purpose (or purposes), what is the justification for the media exemption.

Ooh, ooh, call on me! Because I have a third question.

Did someone repeal the First Amendment when I wasn’t looking?

15 Responses to “A Serious Discussion of Whether the People Running Stephen Colbert’s Network Have Any First Amendment Rights”

  1. I’m really not a fan of Colbert, but I would give him props if he succeeds in showing the silliness of current campaign finance laws.

    SPQR (6c18fd)

  2. Considering the idiots who would be vting for Cobert would vote Democrat otherwise, I hope he makes it to the ’08 elections…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  3. I want Colbert, Al Franken, Al Sharpton (what is it with people named Al?), and the rest of the kooks to stay in the race as long as possible.

    JD (e88f7b)

  4. McCain-Feingold should be enough to disqualify McCain from the presidency.

    JD (e88f7b)

  5. McCain-Feingold should be enough to disqualify McCain from the presidency.

    You said it.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  6. What First Amendment?
    Are you a certified journalist?
    No?
    Well then, you don’t qualify for any First Amendment privileges – just ask John McCain or Russ Feingold.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  7. What is a “certified journalist” ?

    Thanks, Patterico.

    JD (e88f7b)

  8. What is a “certified journalist” ?

    You have to wear a fedora with a card in it that says “Press.” Also, you have to vote Democrat 98% of the time but still claim to be an objective reporter of political news.

    JVW (9b1f7b)

  9. An investigation by the FEC (and, hopefully, charges being filed) would be the greatest service Colbert could offer in this race. It might finally convince the campaign finance “reform” crowd just how ludicrous the very concept is, what an affront their laws are to our basic right of free speech.

    You’d think, with one Hsu scandal after another, from candidates of both parties, that these people would start to realize that these laws just don’t work, and greatly infringe on our rights.

    So, I hope that the FEC goes after Colbert, so maybe we’ll get some real reform for a change, and get a few of our rights back.

    PatHMV (0e077d)

  10. I dream of the jury returning a verdict holding the BCRA unconstitutional, and rebuking SCOTUS for holding otherwise. Oh, and rebuking Congress for passing it, and the President for signing it. And maybe fining the FEC for enforcing an unconstitutional law.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  11. When I was in law school, we used to talk about “core political speech.” Ha!

    The First Amendment is now about “core p*rn*graphic speech.” Political speech isn’t covered any more, at least not in campaigns, because you might create the appearance of corruption.

    So, no, the First Amendment wasn’t repealed; it was reinvented.

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (d55cc7)

  12. Actually a good chunk of the First Amendment went away with the passage of the Federal Communications Act of 1934; which only applied to the airwaves, but as they say once the Camel’s tent. . .McCain/Feingold poked the Camel’s tail from the other direction. That’s why this downplaying of the prospects of the Fairness Doctrine is kind of amusing if ti wasn’t naive.

    narciso (d671ab)

  13. Silly, the First Amendment only applies to Pornographers, Nazis, NAMBLA, and MoveOn.org. Didn’t you get the memo?

    Techie (c003f1)

  14. I believe much of this territory has already been covered. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it…

    allan (40a312)

  15. McCain-Feingold should be enough to disqualify McCain from the presidency.

    Should be???

    Paul (f4626d)


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