from 16 June, NYTimes on-line edition


PDA






alan
June 16, 2004, 07:28 PM
Gun Group's Radio Show Tests Limits on Advocacy
By JAMES DAO

Published: June 16, 2004


WASHINGTON, June 15 - In a direct challenge to federal limits on political advocacy, the National Rifle Association plans to begin broadcasting a daily radio program on Thursday to provide news and pro-gun commentary to 400,000 listeners.

The group says its jump into broadcasting with its program, "NRANews," means that it should be viewed as a media organization that does not have to abide by provisions of a sweeping campaign finance law from 2002. That law stops organizations from using unregulated "soft" money to buy political advertising that directly attacks or praises federal candidates in the weeks before federal elections and primaries.

The N.R.A. says its three-hour program constitutes news and commentary, not advertising. As a result, when other advocacy groups are required to stop running political commercials, "NRANews" intends to continue broadcasting its reporting and commentary against politicians who favor gun control to Nov. 2.

"The great thing about America is there is no test about the right to provide information to the American public," the executive vice president of the association, Wayne LaPierre, said in an interview this week. "There is no government licensing of journalists. Tom Paine was free to pamphlet. So are we."

The association challenged the new law, but the Supreme Court upheld most of its provisions.

Mr. LaPierre said the program, to be broadcast on Sirius satellite radio, would be a step toward a larger media enterprise. The organization is looking to acquire radio stations in the Midwest, the Rockies and the South, Mr. LaPierre said.

It operates a news-oriented Web site, NRANews.com, and publishes magazines that reach its nearly four million members.

The new move is likely to set off a broad debate over what is a media company. Experts in campaign finance said the plan could open a major loophole in the law, which was intended to reduce the influence of money and special interest groups.

"If the N.R.A. is successful at this, we will definitely see other groups explore going down the same road," said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission.

Building a media enterprise can be expensive, but satellite radio offers the rifle association an instant means of reaching listeners nationally. Sirius, one of two nationwide satellite radio networks, offers 110 channels to its 400,000 subscribers, who pay about $13 a month. Company officials project that it will reach one million listeners by the end of the year. The company declined to comment on Tuesday about the plan.

Advocates of gun control sought to play down the plan, contending that it was simply to impress Republican allies of the group. The opponents questioned whether the association had the money to build a network, noting that its ambitious plans had fizzled in the past. In 2000, the association announced to much fanfare a proposal for a theme store and restaurant on Times Square. Nothing came of that plan.

"I think they are really just trying to show the Republicans that they are going to be able to do something at election time," said Robert A. Ricker, a former lobbyist for the gun industry who is a consultant to a gun-control group, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "It's a lot of hype, but I don't think there will be substantial content."

Under the new campaign finance law, groups are no longer allowed to use soft money to buy radio or television spots that advocate or oppose candidates within 60 days of a general election or within 30 days of a primary or a national political convention.

The law exempts media companies, allowing them to report on, analyze and even endorse federal candidates at any time. Mr. LaPierre said that after an exhaustive analysis, lawyers for his group had concluded that it would become eligible for the exemption after it had begun to broadcast its program.

"What we're doing is no different from what Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern or Air America with Al Franken do," Mr. LaPierre said.

He said the program would probably not endorse a presidential candidate but would examine records on gun issues.

Some experts in campaign finance said if the program was regularly broadcast on a commercial network and if the association did not pay for the time, it would have a strong chance of withstanding legal challenges.

"If they are broadcast by a network, they would be much like a syndicated newspaper columnist," Jan Baran, a Republican campaign finance expert at the law firm of Wiley, Rein & Fielding in Washington, said. "They should be in no different position than George Will or Mark Shields."

Officials of the association said Sirius was providing time free. A spokesman for the network said it did not pay to acquire many programs, but he declined to give details, saying they were in private contracts.

Bob Bauer, a Democratic expert on election law, said the claim to a media exemption would almost certainly be challenged.

"It smells like, and it looks like, a complete circumvention of the law," Mr. Bauer said.

He argued that the real objective might be to goad campaign watchdogs or gun-control groups to challenge N.R.A. actions. Such a challenge could provide a way for the association to attack the campaign finance law itself, Mr. Bauer said.

Mr. LaPierre said the foray into broadcasting would not affect the activities of the association's lobbying unit and political action committee, which spent nearly $17 million in the 2000 elections. The committee endorsed George W. Bush in 2000 and is widely expected to do so again this year.

Its program will be broadcast live from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sirius Channel 126 and rerun the next morning from 6 until 9 on Right Channel 142, the group said.

Federal law requires broadcasters to provide opposing candidates equal opportunity to buy advertising time. Those rules would not apply to the rifle association unless it actually acquired a radio station, experts in election law said.

The radio program, identical to the association's Internet program, is produced by eight employees working out of a modern studio in Alexandria, Va. The host is a former radio talk show personality from Oklahoma City, Cam Edwards.

A recent program featured the association's senior correspondent, Jeff Johnson, reading reports on a car bombing in Iraq and a gun-control law in Ohio. That was followed by an interview with Mr. LaPierre in which he described Senator John Kerry as "the quintessential two-faced candidate."

After the program, Mr. LaPierre dismissed critics who contend that the program will be nothing more than propaganda.

"There are 90 million gun owners in America," he said. "And a lot of them don't believe they are getting accurate news from the media."

Posters question:

If it's O.K. for media outlets such as the NY Times to trumpet that which they seemingly love, GUN CONTROL and EVER BROADENING RESTRICTIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF THE LAW ABIDING, freedom of speech you know, then how come it's bad for a PROPONENT of the above mentioned rights, an OPPONENT OF GUN CONTROL, to speak out, as do media outlets. I submit that such restrictions do not come even close to passing THE SMELL TEST.

If you enjoyed reading about "from 16 June, NYTimes on-line edition" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
Standing Wolf
June 16, 2004, 11:19 PM
Experts in campaign finance said the plan could open a major loophole in the law...

If only leftist extremists were half as good at closing their oversized mouths as trying to close imaginary "loopholes"!

nico
June 17, 2004, 12:42 AM
typical. If you follow the law, but still do something they don't like, you're going through a loophole. Yet, air america is a completely bipartisan and legitimate news station and has nothing to do with politics:rolleyes:

PATH
June 17, 2004, 12:48 AM
What are the Dems saying about moveon.org? I guess their loopholes are legal and anyone elses is not!:barf:

Treylis
June 17, 2004, 12:53 AM
Keep in mind the man who opined that this law was probably unconstitutional, and then signed it anyways, thus making all this ridiculousness come to pass when you go to the polls in November.

nico
June 17, 2004, 01:58 AM
that's the worst part. lesser of two evils.

dischord
June 17, 2004, 10:07 AM
Of course it's propaganda. So what? By "the press," the Founders meant propaganda outlets. Our never-achieved modern fantasy of an unbiased press(*) would have seemed foreign and naive to them.

Of course it's an attempt to use the dreaded "free-press loophole." So what?

I try to have an open mind, but I don't see myself ever accepting the idea behind campaign finance laws -- that limiting advocacy ads (propaganda)helps people be better voters.

(*)This absurd fantasy of an unbiased press has been one of the worst dangers to our Republic. It's done nothing but make voters detached, lazy and pliable: "Tell me what to think, Mr. Reporter." We'd be better off with nothng but the type of over-the-top propaganda that existed in 1776.

ReadyontheRight
June 17, 2004, 10:44 AM
Um...isn't this EXACTLY what the liberal radio quagmire "Air America" is doing? Funny that they weren't mentioned in the article. Hmmmm.

Waitone
June 17, 2004, 11:31 AM
Ain't it a bitch which congress bigfoots a constitutional right and some of the subects fight it lawfully. Imagine that. Only NE elitist propagandist rags are the only ones to have the "right" to criticize congress 60 days before the next federal election.

Dubya, you are a seriously deluded fool for not vetoing the Campaign Finance Control Bill. You sir have just weaved the rope which will be used to hang you. No sympathy from me.

garrettwc
June 17, 2004, 12:59 PM
If it's O.K. for media outlets such as the NY Times to trumpet that which they seemingly love, GUN CONTROL and EVER BROADENING RESTRICTIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF THE LAW ABIDING, freedom of speech you know, then how come it's bad for a PROPONENT of the above mentioned rights, an OPPONENT OF GUN CONTROL, to speak out, as do media outlets. I submit that such restrictions do not come even close to passing THE SMELL TEST.

In a way Alan, you have answered your own question. This was precisely what Campaign Finance Reform was about. Preventing you from speaking out against those who oppose you.

Freedom of speech, as referred to in the Constitution, is about political speech. That's why the media got exempted. If they had been included:

1. It would have been so obvious what they were up to it wouldn't have stood up to the challenge.

2. They knew the media was on their side, so with that being the only "government approved" communication, you hear what they want you to.

If you enjoyed reading about "from 16 June, NYTimes on-line edition" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!