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FEC dismisses 'Fahrenheit 9/11' complaint

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  1. Prior Restraint

    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Prior Restraints    

FEC dismisses ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ complaint

  • The Federal Election Commission dismissed a complaint alleging partisan television advertisements for ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ would violate federal campaign finance laws.

Aug. 10, 2004 — The Federal Election Commission dismissed a petition July 28 that sought to prevent further television advertisements for Michael Moore’s political documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, had argued that the commercials constituted “electioneering communication” that would violate the new federal campaign finance laws if allowed to continue.

The six commissioners unanimously agreed with the advice of the commission’s general counsel to dismiss the complaint because current advertisements complied with federal law. The Campaign Reform Act of 2002 prohibits companies and unions from funding advertisements for or against political candidates 60 days before an election and 30 days before a political convention.

Citizens United filed the petition in June, claiming that ads for the movie at that time included images and sound bites of President Bush that were severely critical of his administration.

In their response to the complaint, the movie’s distributors argued that ads airing after July 30 — 30 days before the Republican National Convention in New York City — and 60 days before election day, Nov. 3, would exclude clearly identified presidential or vice presidential candidates. The ads would largely focus on audience and critical reaction to the film, they said.

In a press release announcing the commission’s decision, FEC Chairman Bradley A. Smith and Commissioner Michael E. Toner said they “cannot entertain complaints based upon mere speculation that someone might violate the law.” They stressed the agency’s responsibility to “preserve the integrity of the enforcement process and focus its limited resources on actual violations of law.”

The distributors of the film, Lions Gate Films, IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group, founded by Miramax Films co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein, issued a joint statement applauding the commission for its “timely and appropriate decision.”


© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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