Meet the New Boss: McCain-Feingold

It is unnecessary for me to tell any of you reading this that the left has a stranglehold over both Hollywood and the mainstream media. It is axiomatic in today's news world dominated by the likes of Keith Olbermann and The New York Times that the "news" is delivered to your doorstep with a leftward slant.

What are less well understood, however, are the lengths to which the government has gone to protect the left's monopoly during the last decade and the complicity of the news media in that endeavor. The recent confrontation between General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt and an O'Reilly Factor producer at GE's shareholder meeting highlighted the nexus between government and the left-leaning media for all to see.



For decades, the major broadcasting corporations and newspapers were the gatekeepers of the national political discourse in this country because the enormous infrastructure costs associated with setting up a news organization and a distribution network were prohibitive. If you were a candidate, incumbent, or someone with a cause, you had to go hat-in-hand to the editors of these organizations asking them to take an interest in you or your cause. If they accepted you, national attention followed, but if you were rejected by the media elites, you languished in anonymity. In the last five or ten years, however, the cost of entry declined precipitously due to the proliferation of the internet, and the old guard found its cherished position atop the hierarchy being threatened by smaller upstart organizations.

The old guard, acting to protect their status as the arbiters of information and ideas, collaborated with their equally entrenched allies in Congress and passed a law that became known as the McCain-Feingold Act. The ostensible goal of McCain-Feingold was to limit the amount of money that flows into political campaigns in this country. Two presidential elections later, I think that we can all agree that it was singularly ineffective in achieving that goal. What McCain-Feingold did very effectively, on the other hand, was to reinforce the monopoly that the traditionally dominant news corporations held over the political discourse in this country.

The McCain-Feingold Act protects the dominance of traditional news organizations through an unblinkingly hypocritical provision of the law called the "media exemption." You see, McCain-Feingold prohibits any corporation from funding any portion of what's called an "electioneering communication," which includes any radio or television broadcast that reaches a certain number of people close to an election and advocates the election or defeat of a federal candidate. For instance, the Federal Election Commission muzzled my organization, Citizens United, during the last election when we wanted to air our documentary, Hillary The Movie, simply because 0.3% of the film's budget came from mom-and-pop "corporations." The "media exemption," on the other hand, allowed Keith Olbermann's 100% corporate financed television program to run an hour of pro-Obama or anti-McCain programming every single night.

Why was Olbermann treated differently? Because the McCain-Feingold "media exemption" specifically carved out a niche for the old guard leftist media corporations like General Electric's MSNBC or the New York Times Company to do and say what they please without ramification, despite the fact that everything they do is financed by a corporate treasury. The only justification for giving these particular corporations a free pass is because they are part of the entrenched media establishment and they were easier to co-opt than to fight when the law was written. The result is that if you or I ran a television ad close to an election using one dollar of corporate funding that merely repeated The New York Times' editorial endorsement of a candidate, we could be put in jail.

This stunning hypocrisy has been going on for years now, and the true ramifications are only now coming to light. For instance, General Electric stands to profit to the tune of billions of dollars if President Obama's cap-and-trade proposal becomes law, as reported on the O'Reilly Factor. What's next, a government bailout of the newspapers? Don't bet against it: an Obama appointee has proposed bailing out the nearly bankrupt newspaper industry.

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