Long-Suffering Supreme Court Endures Hillary: The Movie

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments today in the case of Citizens United's schlock-fest Hillary: The Movie. It's been a long and winding legal road just to get this load of crap on pay-per-view.

If, unlike me, you have remained blissfully unaware of this court case or the damn movie that will haunt my nightmares evermore, let me recap:

  • In late 2007, before the movie was even finished and while Hillary Clinton was still clad in her cloak of inevitability, right-wing advocacy group Ctizens United wanted to run some commercials for their hit job of a movie.
  • The Federal Election Committee denied them the right to advertise it like any other movie, claiming that it was political speech, not commercial speech, intending to influence the election. This would have meant appending a disclaimer and the end and disclosing which corporations and individuals donated money to Citizens United to make the movie.
  • They sued.
  • In court, their original crap lawyer was laughed at by a trio of Republican judges for his ridiculous argument comparing the movie to 60 Minutes and suggesting that calling Clinton a "European Socialist" was a statement of fact.
  • They lost, leaving them stuck with a limited release, no advertising and no ability to put it on pay-per-view or pay to air it on cable.
  • They continued to appeal.
  • They got former U.S. Solicitor General under George W. Bush Ted Olson to defend them in front of the Supreme Court.

Ok, now you're caught up, except for what an enormous stinking pile of crap this movie is. It's so bad, it really should remain unseen by human eyes. I'd rather watch Batman and Robin again, or Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull or even that Sarah Palin porno than sit through it again.

Anyway, so, are you wondering why this teeny-tiny little advocacy group has pursued this case — at great expense — all the way to the Supreme Court despite the fact that Clinton lost the primary and resigned her Senate seat to become a popular Secretary of State? It has very little to do with Clinton, and a lot to do with those corporate backers of the movie CU didn't want to reveal in the first place — and the campaign finance reform law that Ted Olson successfully defended before the Supreme Court back when we were paying his salary.

The Supreme Court has also said that unlimited and undisclosed corporate and union money can corrupt and distort the system, so the law requires corporations or unions to set up separate political action committees that collect contributions from individuals for use in campaigns. Those contributions are publicly reported.

The Supreme Court has, for decades, upheld this overall scheme, and just six years ago it upheld new and broader restrictions in the McCain-Feingold law. Since then, though, the membership of the court has changed, and with the support of the two new Bush appointees, the court has begun to erode the law's restrictions.

Now this case, involving the Hillary movie, has morphed into a broad attack on McCain-Feingold again. It is also an attack on the notion, first put forth by the Supreme Court more than 100 years ago, that corporate contributions from general treasury funds can be banned.

In other words, the movie is a straw man, and the real target isn't Hillary Clinton, but the laws that keep corporations from spending their profits on campaign donations to try to influence the system. (Please note that corporate PAC contributions are legal, but they cannot be directed by the corporation and the PAC may only take money given voluntarily by salaried employees.)

"What is the matter with corporations? Are they inherently evil? Corporations - just as much as individuals - are entitled to protection under the First Amendment," Olson says.

Citizens United, Olson says, should be even more protected in its right to express its anti-Clinton opinions because it is a small, ideological nonprofit corporation that got only a tiny percentage of its money for this movie from other corporations.

Not that they, um, want to tell you exactly where the money did come from.

Oh, and they're not content to just get corporations the right to spend their profits to influence elections. They are also trying to make sure that corporations don't have to disclose when they are doing it.

Citizens United is also challenging the requirement that the organization disclose its identity in ads, and that it publicly disclose its funders.

"The Federalist Papers, which some people would call political propaganda - those were written under assumed names," Olson says. "People are entitled in this country to put out their views without having to disclose whose views it is."

So the next election may indeed be brought to you by Pepsi, you just won't know it. And all because the FEC thought that a crappy movie lambasting Hillary was just an hour-long political advertisement lambasting Hillary.

'Hillary: The Movie' Opens At The Supreme Court [NPR]

Related: It's Not That Kind of Political, They Swear [Wonkette]
Republican Lawyer Laughed Out of Court by Republican Judges [Wonkette]
"Hillary The Movie" Probably Not Coming to a Theatre Near You [Wonkette]
Hillary: The Movie [Radar]
Will Republicans Still Drink Pepsi? [DCist]