Radley Balko, a left-leaning libertarian, linked
to an article ("False Allegations of Intimidation by Obama Campaign
") purporting to debunk allegations of intimidation by Missouri officials. The article itself needs a debunking. The whole issue started with this letter
sent to Missouri television stations that aired the NRA's ad. Let's examine the important quotes from the letter:
Unlike federal candidates, independent political organizations do not have a "right to command the use of broadcast facilities. See CBS v. DNC, 412 U.S. 94, 113 (1973). Because you need not air this advertisement, your station bears responsibility for its content when you do grant access. See Felix v Westinghouse Radio Stations, 186 F.2d 1, 6 (3rd Cir.), cert. denied, 314 U.S. 909 (1950).
Moreover, you have a duty "to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising." Licensee Responsibility With Respect to the Broadcast of False, Misleading, or Deceptive Advertising, 74 F.C.C.2d 623 (1961). Failure to prevent the airing of "false and misleading advertising" may be "probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility." Cosmopolitan Broad. Corp. v. FCC, 581 F.2d 917, 927 (D.C. Cir. 1978).
This advertisement is false, misleading, and deceptive. We request that you immediately cease airing this advertisement.
The letter is signed by the General Counsel of Obama's campaign. So, let's hit the bullet points:
- Signed by the official legal counsel of the Obama campaign
- Cites legal cases supposedly supporting Obama's position
- Uses pseudo-legal language referencing the cited cases to "request" stations cease airing the NRA's advertisement.
- Broadcasters are licensed by the FCC, which in the past has imposed significant requirements on political content.
- The news report on the "Truth Squad" in Missouri contains the quote, from the anchor, "They plan to respond immediately to any acts that might violate Missouri ethics laws."
- The "Truth Squad" also includes "others, prosecutors and sheriffs", according the Obama campaign.
In defense, the prosecutors who actually give on-air quotes do talk about responding by "getting the truth out". But in the context of the Obama campaign's legal threats, combined with the selective use of "prosecutors and sheriffs" in the Obama's campaign's official statement, tells a tale of intended intimidation that is difficult to deny.
If your business depended on a federal license to operate, would you feel comfortable ignoring legal threats from the possible future president -- especially with local prosecutors appearing on television in support of his claims?
That's how we got the term "chilling effect". Radley, you should be ashamed of yourself for not getting the whole story.