Thursday, June 24, 2004

A public interest group asked the Federal Election Commission yesterday to keep Michael Moore from running ads for his new movie after July, arguing they would violate campaign finance laws by bashing President Bush.

Mr. Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which argues that Mr. Bush ignored warnings leading up to the September 11 attacks and led America into war under false pretenses, opens in theaters today. Mr. Moore says he hopes the movie will encourage citizens to vote Mr. Bush out of office in November.

“My biggest fear is in November, that a lot of Americans, especially African-Americans, especially those in Florida, will not vote, because they’ll say, ‘What’s the use?’” he said at a press conference yesterday outside the Capitol sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus.

Citizens United, a conservative group, asked the FEC to open an investigation into whether advertising for the film violates the campaign finance law that was signed in 2002.

That law prohibits using corporate money to run ads that mention a federal candidate in the 30 days before a primary or convention, and the 60 days before a general election — for Republicans, essentially, from August through the election.

Mr. Moore said he knows the movie isn’t balanced — “I’m not going to try to say I’m being even here; the movie is directed at George W. Bush” — but he said he has a right to do that.

“It’s a violation of my First Amendment rights that I cannot advertise my movie. It’s a movie,” he said, adding that he is a political independent who hasn’t endorsed Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry.

An FEC spokesman said the panel does not comment on complaints filed.

Mr. Moore met with the all-Democrat Black Caucus outside the Cannon House Office Building, where he praised them, saying they had taken courageous stands. They in turn praised him for a telling story they said needs to be told.

“You have said things that we have been saying, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and caucus chairman. “We were the ones that stood up against this Iraq war. We are the ones who addressed issues of people struggling to make it through life.”

Yesterday’s press conference took place in front of two American flags which twice, before the event started, tipped over in the wind and fell to the ground.

Standing before about a dozen TV cameras, Mr. Moore, wearing black pants, a black windbreaker and a Michigan State Spartans baseball cap, said despite the fact that Republicans control Congress and the White House, America is liberal.

“We actually live in a very liberal country. We just don’t have the liberal leadership,” he said, chiding conservatives, who he said are “angry because they know they are the minority now.”

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