NEW YORK – The Federal Election Commission complaint against the free distribution of his 2012 anti-Obama film was a “dangerous development” threatening free speech, filmmaker Joel Gilbert told WND after the three Democrats on the six-member panel were prevented from punishing him.
In a case spotlighting regulation of conservative media, the three Democrats on the FEC alleged Gilbert violated reporting rules when he mailed out DVDs of his movie, “Dreams from My Real Father: A Story of Reds and Deception,” during the 2012 election campaign.
The panel’s three Republican members quashed the move, however, arguing the standard media exemption had been given to liberal filmmakers such as Michael Moore and the Daily Kos, the Washington Examiner reported.
The tie vote was followed by a 6-0 vote to close the file. Had Gilbert lost, the paper noted, he would have been required to report who helped fund his movie.
Gilbert’s film poses the provocative theory that Barack Obama’s real father is the late Communist Party USA propagandist Frank Marshall Davis, who was known to be a mentor during Obama’s teen years.
“This is a dangerous development; free speech is literally hanging in the balance,” Gilbert said of the Democrats’ attempt to punish him. “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.”
Gilbert said the punishments could have included heavy fines, restrictions on his speech and even referral to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.
He predicted a “dire future” for conservatives if a Democrat wins the White House this fall.
“If the make-up of the Federal Election Commission is changed because a Democrat wins the presidency and appoints one more Democrat than Republican to the commission, we face a dire future in which only political speech favorable to far-left agenda will be tolerated in America,” Gilbert said.
“All conservative opinion, whether expressed in documentary films, shown on television or the Internet, or broadcast over radio may be subject to criminal penalties,” he said.
Exemption on for Michael Moore
Gilbert produced for WND the legal briefs filed with the FEC on his behalf that argued his film production company, Highway 61 Entertainment, is a media entity exempt under FEC rules.
“The FEC has already ruled several times in the past to provide the media exemption for film makers like Michael Moore, as well as Citizen’s United, that media entities are allowed to engage in sales, promotion, and speech related to political documentary films, even during election cycles,” Gilbert argued.
“Astonishingly, and despite the clear precedent, the FEC vote was 3-to-3. This means that the three Democrats on the commission ignored the law in order to pursue a political agenda to persecute free speech,” he said.
Gilbert emphasized the FEC was restrained in his case only because the Republican commissioners respected the law, contending the Democrats were pursuing a political agenda.
“We’ve seen Barack Obama politicize the Supreme Court,” he argued. “No doubt a Hillary Clinton administration would appoint a leftist activist to fill Justice Scalia’s spot. So too, Hillary will seek to tip the balance across the legal system, including the FEC, to undermine the First Amendment.”
He said “the Marxist playbook is to use the tools of state to implement a permanent hold on power.”
“We’ve seen them use the IRS, Justice Department, and Homeland Security to pursue a one-party state,” Gilbert said. “Next in the firing line are the Supreme Court and the FEC.”
‘Legitimate press activity’
The complaint was filed by a critic of Gilbert’s film, Loren Collins, who contended that when Gilbert mailed free copies of “Dreams” to voters, no one reported the “cost to run an advertisement.”
The government’s First General Counsel’s Report on the complaint, however, concluded the film appeared to be “legitimate press activity within the scope of the media exemption.”
The counsel’s report had recommended dismissing the case.
The Washington Examiner noted the complaint came amid frustration on the part of Democrats who have been unable to regulate conservative Internet sites, media and right-leaning super PACS.
Former Republican FEC chairman Lee E. Goodman charged that in Washington “people have a way of vilifying anything they disagree with in the most unflattering labels.”
He was responding to Democratic Chair Ann Ravel’s claims the GOP was thwarting her effort to clean up politics, the report said.
“Commissioner Ravel believes that there are too many instances where the commissioners have evenly divided their votes, and that the bipartisan safeguards that prevent one party from politicizing or misusing the agency to punish political enemies stand in the way of meaningful enforcement,” Goodman wrote at the time.
He pointed out that under his direction, the commission “acted in a bipartisan manner 93 percent of the time.”
The Examiner said it was on key issues “like Democratic targeting of conservative media, possibly including conservative websites like the Drudge Report, the sides deadlocked.”
The commission’s counsel report said the distribution of the movie appeared to be in support its further commercial success.
The Examiner reported Goodman has been warning about the FEC’s “assault on conservative media” for three years.
“Freedom of the press isn’t so free when three government commissars vote to punish a filmmaker for distributing a documentary film,” he said.
See trailer of Gilbert’s movie “Dreams”: