- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected without comment an appeal from a District-based advocacy group that promotional ads for its 90-minute political documentary critical of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are protected by First Amendment rights and, therefore, exempt from campaign-finance laws.

As a result, Citizens United must include a disclaimer and disclose its donors in commercials for “Hillary: The Movie.” The film includes interviews with many high-profile conservatives, including political commentator Ann Coulter, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

The cast is billed as “experts, opinion makers, and many of the people who personally locked horns with the Clintons.”

“We are back at square one, essentially,” said Jim Bopp, an Indiana-based lawyer who represented Citizens United in their case. “We plan to continue in the District Court to resolve the case based on its merits.”

In recent years, the group has produced films examining the United Nations, illegal immigration, faith in America and Michael Moore’s 2004 film “Fahrenheit 911,” which was critical of the Bush administration’s actions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Citizens United became interested last year in the finer points of movie promotion after the Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin Right to Life could not be prohibited from broadcasting “genuine issue ads” at certain critical times — specifically, blackout periods before elections, as required by the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), however, still requires such groups to include a list of donors and a disclaimer with the ad itself.

In December, Citizens United filed suit against the FEC in U.S. District Court arguing that its ads did not constitute proper “electioneering communications” and should not be subject to campaign-finance law restrictions. The suit claimed that the spots — which included a description of Mrs. Clinton as a “European socialist” — are meant to promote the film rather than detract from the New York senator’s presidential campaign.

Three federal judges thought otherwise, stating in a unanimous ruling that the film was produced solely “to inform the electorate that Sen. Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her.”

By not accepting the case, the Supreme Court left the appellate court decision in place.

In other court action yesterday, justices:

• Agreed to consider a Utah case concerning the rights of police to enter a residence without a search warrant when an informant is inside and observes crime evidence.

• Left in place a court ruling requiring an Arizona sheriff to take inmates to abortion clinics.

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