A Republican member of the Federal Election Commission accused his fellow Democrats at the agency of sending a chilling message to the media via their recent vote to punish the maker of a movie critical of President Obama – a message that said, in short, freedom of the press is a limited right.
As WND reported, the three Democratic members of the six-panel board didn’t possess the majority needed to actually impose penalties with their votes. But the message they pressed was enough to cause concern for Lee Goodman, one of the panel’s three Republican members who also served as chairman in 2014.
He said, in a letter to the FEC after the vote: The Democrats’ votes “signal an active regulatory effort within the agency [causing] press organizations to look over their shoulders and chill[ing] the free exercise of press activity.”
The FEC matter began in 2012, when filmmaker Joel Gilbert, owner of Highway 61 films, distributed for free his “Dreams of My Real Father: A Story of Reds and Deception,” right before the election. An individual named Loren Collins alleged Gilbert, by distributing a movie that was critical of Obama, was acting as a political entity and not an independent filmmaker, and therefore broke reporting rules.
Gilbert responded by claiming a media exemption, in much the same way as Michael Moore, who frequently creates and distributes politically charged videos without worrying of FEC reporting requirements, does.
But the three Democrats on the FEC didn’t see it that way, and voted to penalize Gilbert.
Goodman, in his letter, smacked down their actions and said they were tantamount to curtailing freedom of the press.
“The regulatory result of this attempt to narrow the press exemption would be illusory press freedom reminiscent of the Greek myth of Tantalus,” he wrote. “The Gods punished Tantalus by forcing him to stand in a pool of water with a fruit tree above his head. Whenever he reached for fruit, the branches would rise beyond his reach. Whenever he bent down to drink, the water receded. Meanwhile, a large stone hung over his head threatening to fall upon him.”
And the correlation of the myth to the actions of the three FEC Democrats?
They were behaving like the “Gods,” teasing with the fruit of the First Amendment.
“In sum,” Goodman went on, “the efforts by a bloc of Commissioners to regulate the press in this case calls for a reminder that Congress expressly forbade the Commission from violating the Constitutional rights of the press, a mandate that Congress determined should be inserted into the Act itself to buttress the independent superior authority of the Free Press Clause of the Constitution. Perhaps Congress foresaw the danger of a Commission that would not heed the limits of its power. Chairman Petersen, Commissioner Hunter, and I respect this mandate. Yet the chill cast by [non-unanimous] votes, unclear and inconsistent standards, and unabated regulatory ambitions countermands the clear jurisdictional limit set by Congress and threatens the free press rights of all press entities everywhere, not just the small, independent filmmaker innovating a way to market and exhibit one film.”
Goodman also warned there didn’t seem to be any end to the Democrats’ claim on oversight of the media – that they could ostensibly monitor and control all press, particularly those on the other side of the political aisle.
“There is no ambiguity … [that] all otherwise bona fide press entities are subject to investigation by the federal government through either the commission (or the Department of Justice) based on nothing more than the means they pursue to market and exhibit their otherwise fully protected content,” he wrote.
Gilbert, in a previous interview with WND, said the whole FEC investigation into his film distribution was a farce.
“[It’s a dangerous development,” he said, in the early April interview. “Free speech is literally hanging in the balance. It’s a harbinger of the intolerant suppression of First Amendment rights we should fear if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders should win the White House.”
See trailer of Gilbert’s movie “Dreams”: