Fahrenheit 9/11: Thumbs Down
Violates Federal Election Campaign Act
President, Citizens United
Friday, June 25, 2004; 12:00 PM
Filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary,
"Fahrenheit 9/11" , is causing quite a stir.
The 112 minute film reflects Moore's take on what happened to the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks and how the Bush administration used the tragic events to push its agenda.
Is Moore using the film as a political campaign to defeat President Bush?
Buzz Around Moore's Movie May Be Able to Shake the Election
David Bossie, president of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, thinks so and has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission and other federal government agencies against the film. The group alleges that paid broadcast advertisements for the film are subject to the restrictions and regulatory requirements of federal campaign law.
"Moore has publicly indicated his goal is to impact this election," Bossie said.
Bossie was online Friday, June 25 at Noon ET, to discuss why he gives a thumbs down to the Michael Moore film.
The movie opens in 900 theaters nationwide on Friday.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
David Bossie, thanks for being with us today on washingtonpost.com. Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore movie ... Your organization, Citizens United, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming that the marketing of the film violates campaign laws. Are you trying to stop the movie from being advertised or seen?
David Bossie: Thanks to washingtonpost.com for having me today. First off, we know Michael Moore's intention, his ultimate goal, in the creation of his so-called movie, is to defeat President George W. Bush for reelection. Secondly, we also know that Michael Moore as a director, never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. He doesn't exactly have a track record of credibility.
We filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Election Commission claiming that the advertisements for the film are "electioneering communications" as defined in "McCain-Feingold" and upheld by the Supreme Court.
These advertisements use the name, likeness, image or photo of a federal candidate for office. That can be President Bush or John Kerry.
All we want is Michael Moore to follow the law. McCain-Feingold limits my free speech as well as Michael Moore's.
Let's be clear. 1. They are not a violation today, but will be on July 31st. 2. He is using corporate money to pay for his ads, which is illegal, and 3. He is using foreign money to pay for these ads, which is illegal.
People can read our actual complaint on our Web site, Citizens United.
What are you so afraid of? If you feel that President Bush has done a great job in office, then why would one movie sway the voters over his record?
David Bossie: President Bush has done an amazing job as our nation's leader in this war on terror. He has had to deal with an inherited recession, corporate scandals and the Sept. 11th attacks.
This small movie will not move voters either way. The antiwar crowd will rally around it and the President's supporters will be energized by it as well. I disagree with Congressman Rangel that Michael Moore is a journalist. Moore has stated his motivation is to remove President Bush from office.
MAYBE you'd have a leg to stand on if the film was being made by John Kerry or the DNC but Michael Moore is not running for office. He's just a citizen showing some facts and adding his opinion. Are citizens not allowed to speak their minds via film? I know conservatives aren't as adamant about the first amendment as they ought to be but isn't this a little over the top? How do you justify a citizen stating his opinions as that much less advertisement time the Dems get?
David Bossie: Michael Moore is not above the law and neither am I. As a matter of fact, I was a plaintiff fighting against McCain-Feingold and went all the way to the Supreme Court arguing your exact point. That all Americans should be able to take part in the election process, but I lost and the Supreme Court restricted all Americans' rights to free speech.
I wish Michael Moore could run these ads because then I would be able to run ads. It is now the law of the land and I don't agree with it but the liberals who fought for campaign finance reform are now sorry that they limited themselves.
Oak Ridge, Tenn.:
You say "they are not in violation today but will be
on July 31st." Isn't it premature for you to
complain about the ads? Ads for movies are
usually the most intense just before the movie is
released, so the frequency of the ads should have
fallen quite a bit by July 31.
David Bossie: The FEC law states anyone can file a complaint if there a current or future violation that is about to take place. Also, the FEC needs time to review and investigate this complaint and usually takes 30 to 60 days to rule.
Silver Spring, Md.:
Firstly, if the FEC rules in your favor, if Moore were to remove images of Bush from the ads post-July 31, would that satisfy the conditions of McCain-Feingold?
Secondly, wouldn't replacing images of Bush from the television advertising surrounding the movie with a simple white-on-black screen stating "This image removed by order of the government," or something similar, have an even more polarizing effect?
David Bossie: Yes, if he simply complies with the law, he can run ads for his movie. Once he takes out all images of all federal candidates he is no longer in violation of the law.
I don't think running blank screens have the same effect, but he can do that if he likes.
So if you don't think the movie will change any minds, why are you trying so hard to keep it from being advertised?
David Bossie: Because it's the law of the land and he's not above the law.
"Moore has stated his motivation is to remove President Bush from office." Aren't you motivated to keep Bush in office?
David Bossie: I totally support President Bush and I wish I could run ads against John Kerry to help him. But, I can't. If the laws and rules limit my speech they should limit Michael Moore's as well because he is running anti-Bush ads. Plain and simple.
I heard Michael Moore state on the radio this morning that he has never voted in an election. Why do you think someone who has never voted is now trying to be so involved in our nation's politics?
David Bossie: I wish that Michael Moore would participate by voting, it's an essential right that our founding fathers fought and died to give us.
However, Michael Moore has never let the facts get in the way of a good story, his movie is nothing more than left wing propaganda.
Does your group run ads on TV at all? And if they do, are any of the ads anti-Kerry or pro-Bush?
David Bossie: Please go to my Web site Citizens United to view all of my ads. Some are pro-Bush and others are anti-Kerry. I am in the public policy business and take the law very seriously. Michael Moore needs to follow the law just as I do.
How do you feel about John and Joan Q. Public? Are they too stupid to be left to their own judgments?
David Bossie: Americans are smart enough to recognize propaganda when they see it. His reputation as a liar are well documented. I don't care if people see the movie. I care that Michael Moore doesn't break the law. His movie is not my problem, his advertising is.
Have you seen the movie?
David Bossie: No, but I am planning to.
David Bossie: Thanks for all of the great questions and thanks to washingtonpost.com for the forum. People can go to my Web site Citizens United to find out more about me and my organization.
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