Supreme Court to Revisit Documentary, Dems Divided

By mattdentler | Matt Dentler's Blog August 30, 2009 at 4:45AM

Supreme Court to Revisit Documentary, Dems Divided
1

A documentary film is gonna be at the center of a Supreme Court case, according to the Sunday New York Times. It's not a documentary many of us in the film world have ever seen, because it's more political propaganda than creative independent production. It's called Hillary: The Movie, and apparently offers some unflattering and critical views about the one-time Presidential candidate and current Secretary of State. What's interesting, as the article points out, is that Democrats aren't unified with how to feel about the attempts to make the film disappear. On one hand, there's the argument that it's an unfair use of corporate money to smear a political candidate. On the other hand, there's the argument that banning the documentary has serious implications with regards to the First Amendment. From Adam Liptak's article:

The case involves “Hillary: The Movie,” a mix of advocacy journalism and political commentary that is a relentlessly negative look at Mrs. Clinton’s character and career. The documentary was made by a conservative advocacy group called Citizens United, which lost a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission seeking permission to distribute it on a video-on-demand service. The film is available on the Internet and on DVD. The issue was that the McCain-Feingold law bans corporate money being used for electioneering.

A lower court agreed with the F.E.C.’s position, saying that the sole purpose of the documentary was “to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world and that viewers should vote against her.”

At the first Supreme Court argument in March, a government lawyer, answering a hypothetical question, said the government could also make it a crime to distribute books advocating the election or defeat of political candidates so long as they were paid for by corporations and not their political action committees.