Feds Threatened Citizens United President with Criminal Prosecution Prior to Court Challenge

November 30th, 2010 11:44 PM

If you want to bring up something that makes the left crazy, mention the Citizens United-Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision.

And, while the punditry on MSNBC and other liberal haunts would have you believe that big corporations were out front fighting campaign finance reform so they could sabotage American democracy, that's not the case at all.

According to Citizens United President David Bossie, he went to the Federal Election Commission to ask for their guidance as to what was allowed under the law in the release and promotion of 'Hillary The Movie,' which led to the original court battle.

"We also do short videos that go online and we do a lot of 30-second ads," Bossie said at the Heritage Foundation's bloggers briefing in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30. "And that's how the Supreme Court case came to be. I went to the Federal Election Commission and I asked their permission, because we're a political group, for the right to be able to make a movie and advertise the film - putting 30-second spots on."

Bossie explained that the FEC told him he wasn't allowed to do so, despite his protests about working within his First Amendment rights.

"And they came back to me and said, 'No, you can't do that,'" Bossie continued. "'You're a political group and you're not within your rights to be able to do that.' And I said, 'I'm pretty sure I have a First Amendment right. You can call me crazy and maybe I'm wrong, but I think I have a First Amendment issue here.'"

The FEC's response to that assertion that was a little over the top, according to Bossie. He said the agency threatened him with criminal prosecution - punishable with a prison sentence of five years for each count - should he move ahead with his plans

"So we went to them again and they said, 'Listen little man, go away because you don't have the right. You do not have that right. And if you do it after we've told you not to do it, we're not just going to come after you civilly. We're going to come after you criminally. And it is five years in prison - every count.'"

Bossie decided not to be the victim, which is where the legal battle began.

"Instead of doing it and having the Federal Election Commission come after me, I decided I'll take the fight to them," he continued. "That's why the case is Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission and not the other way around. I took the fight to them and said I'm not going to stand here and let you dictate to me what we can and cannot do."

Bossie also explained it wasn't his intention to win a court case that would give ExxonMobil the ability to participate in the political process. However, he said he didn't mind seeing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce use this legal precedent to flex its muscle in the prior election cycle.

"Certainly I'm tickled pink that the United States Chamber of Commerce was fully able to participate in a way to repave and reshape an administration that is completely anti-business," Bossie said.