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Republicans file FEC complaint against talk show over endorsement

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Broadcasting    

Republicans file FEC complaint against talk show over endorsement

  • A complaint to the Federal Elections Commission by the National Republican Campaign Committee follows an earlier complaint made by the Democratic Party to the Federal Communications Commission.

Nov. 5, 2004 — The political committee working to get Republicans elected to the U.S. House filed a complaint to the Federal Elections Commission accusing California radio station KFI-AM co-hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of “criminal behavior” for attacking Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) and endorsing his Democratic opponent, Cynthia Matthews.

Campaign finance experts, however, say election law explicitly allows the media to make editorial comments — whether it’s Rush Limbaugh endorsing President George W. Bush, Al Franken backing Sen. John Kerry, or Kobylt and Chiampou pushing for Matthews.

Kobylt and Chiampou criticized Dreier’s positions on immigration, promoting a “Fire Dreier” campaign and making on-air appeals for voters to elect Matthews. In its complaint to federal elections officials, the National Republican Congressional Committee said the hosts gave Matthews an unlawful corporate, in-kind contribution of more than $25,000.

“This behavior is illegal and must be appropriately punished” the NRCC said in its complaint, first reported by the Los Angeles Daily News. Making unlawful corporate in-kind contributions can be punished with fines and jail time.

Kobylt and Chiampou mocked the NRCC accusation.

“I think I’m going to jail,” Kobylt said in a telephone interview with the Daily News . “If they really believe it, I think they’re nuts,” Kobylt said of the FEC.

Kobylt said he thinks the NRCC wanted to “spook” KFI’s owner, Clear Channel Communications, into “shutting us up” before Election Day. “Clear Channel is perceived as a Republican company,” Kobylt said in the Daily News interview. “They [NRCC] might have thought between the corporate bias and the lawyer factor they’d get us to shut up.”

The complaint comes after the Democratic Party in October complained to the Federal Communications Commission after Sinclair Broadcasting Group Inc. prepared to pre-empt regular programming before Election Day to show a documentary critical of Kerry.

In that case, the FCC said it would not censor the film because doing so would have been “an absolute disservice to the First Amendment.”

KC

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