Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Angered by Obama-Ayers Ad, the Obama Campaign Raises the Specter of Legal Challenge: In addition to rallying Obama's supporters to write letters of protest to stations that air the "Know Enough?" ad, which connects Obama to 60s radical and bomber Bill Ayers, the Obama campaign now threatens legal challenges against both the group that finances the ad, the American Issues Project (AIP), and television stations that air the ad. The Politico has a roundup of some of the threats the Obama campaign has issued. The campaign's general counsel, Robert Bauer, has written to the Department of Justice, demanding an investigation of the group, its officers, and its donors. Bauer argues that the AIP is in violation of election laws and argues that, though it is registered as a 501(c)(4), it is doing acts outside the realm of 501(c)(4) rules.
The AIP has responded in their own letter to the Department of Justice, written by their counsel, Clita Mitchell. Mitchell's letter counters Bauer's charges that about the way it is organized and compares its operations to those of NARAL. NARAL is also registered as a 501(c)(4), and Bauer once served as counsel for that organization.
Bauer has sent two letters to station managers. One aims to refute some of the specific charges of the AIP ad. The other warns that airing this as would be "inconsistent with your station's obligations under the Federal Communications Commission regulations." Could this be a threat--that stations which air the ad could face some difficulty under an FCC appointed by a President Obama? Some see this as another example of Obama playing "Chicago hardball." Though Obama (or at least his press secretary) says that he does not support the return of the "fairness doctrine," many of his fellow Democrats do, including high-ranking Democrats in the House and Senate. Those kinds of increases in the regulatory power of the FCC could increase an administration's ability to use the instruments of regulation for political retaliation.

UPDATE: Bauer sends another letter to the DOJ, reiterating his request for an investigation of those associated with the American Issues Project and requesting the prosecution of AIP donor Harold Simmons. The AIP responds, calling the Obama campaign's letter "reminiscent of the kind of censorship one would see in a Stalinist dictatorship." The Politico has more.