A conservative group challenging the nation’s campaign finance laws will have to identify itself in ads for a movie flogging Sen. Hillary Clinton’s record, a panel of federal judges ruled today.
Citizens United had asked the court to block the Federal Elections Commission from forcing the group to disclose donors or name itself in the ads. The group's attorney, James Bopp Jr., argued last week that the ads were protected speech because they promoted a 90-minute documentary Hillary: The Movie about issues, not presidential politics. The ads do not explicitly call for viewers to vote against Clinton, though one refers to her as “the closest thing we have in America to a European socialist.”
“The Movie is susceptible of no other interpretation than 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,” wrote the panel, which included Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and U.S. District Judges Royce Lamberth and Richard Roberts.
Citizens United had intended to run the ads in key states at the peak of the primaries. It’s not immediately clear whether the group will pull the ads altogether or air them in compliance with the law. The movie is available on DVD on the group's Web site, and the judges alluded to a deal Citizens United was considering with new nationwide VOD channel, “Elections ’08,” but the broadcast would still require disclosure under federal law.