Supreme Court considers anti-Hillary Clinton movie

Tue Mar 24, 2009 4:32pm EDT
 
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By James Vicini

WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided on Tuesday over a challenge to a campaign finance law by a conservative group in a case that could open the door to fewer restrictions on political advertising.

The group, Citizens United, released a 90-minute documentary film "Hillary: The Movie" in January 2008 when Hillary Clinton, then a New York senator, was running for president. She now is secretary of state in President Barack Obama's administration.

Citizens United released the movie to theaters and for store sales on DVD. The group also wanted to broadcast the movie on cable television video-on-demand but that was rejected by a federal court.

The court ruled the movie clearly was intended to influence people to vote against Clinton and thus was covered by the campaign finance law's ban on the airing of ads or "electioneering communications" right before an election.

The Supreme Court, with a 5-4 conservative majority, appeared divided while hearing arguments in the case.

A ruling in the case is expected by the end of June. The impact could depend on how broadly or narrowly the court rules on the question of political advertising.

CRITICISM, FREE SPEECH

Liberal justices said the movie was a form of advocacy designed to sway voters and thus was covered by the law while conservatives questioned whether the government regulation went too far in violation of constitutional free-speech rights.   Continued...

 
<p>Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a question from a reporter in Washington March 16, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley</p>