WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Election Commission has rejected a political candidate’s complaint that a CBS news report about his opponent amounted to an illegal campaign contribution.
Juan M. Soliz, a candidate in March for the Democratic nomination in the 4th Congressional District of Illinois, alleged that a February “60 Minutes” segment on Luis Gutierrez was essentially a campaign contribution and violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Soliz claimed that the Feb. 6 broadcast gave his opponent an unfair advantage in the March 15 primary. Gutierrez won the primary election with 64 percent of the vote.
“Mr. Soliz alleged that the report amounted to campaign advertising because it was 100 percent positive, with no alternative views of Representative Gutierrez despite existing unfavorable evidence,” the FEC ruling stated.
CBS said the report was a newsworthy description of freshman Congressman Gutierrez’ efforts at congressional reform.
The FEC held 6-0 in mid-May “that the “60 Minutes” broadcast at issue fits squarely within the press exemption” of the Federal Election Campaign Act. The act prohibits a corporation from directly contributing to or making expenditures related to a federal election. The act exempts costs associated with the production and dissemination of news unless the news publication or facility is owned or controlled by a political party, political committee, or candidate.
Soliz also asked for equal on-air time to respond to the “60 Minutes” segment, but the FEC held that the Federal Communications Commission would have jurisdiction over that issue.
(In the Matter of CBS, Media Counsel: Howard F. Jaeckel, New York)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.