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July 19, 2007

Volokh: Yup, Equal Time Provisions Do Apply To Law & Order

No exceptions for an actor playing a role, Volokh says, based on court precedent (and the statute's enumeration of several exceptions which do not include one for entertainment).

I think this rule has been misconstrued -- the law says

If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station...

The question is whether airing a show in which someone is a paid employee is "permitting him to use" the station -- which seems to imply affording a candidate time on the station to air his views which would not otherwise have been provided, save for that express purpose. NBC obviously is not "permitting " Thompson "to use" their stations; quite the opposite. Thompson, by agreeing to appear on an NBC broadcast show, is permitting NBC to use his image and talents.

None of this really makes sense -- if Thompson, appearning not as himself nor making the best case for a Thompson candidacy, shows up for a total of two minutes on a Law & Order, this means that Ron Paul gets to appear as himself and speak words he's written himself to advance his candidacy, rather than repeating words written for him to serve the plot of a tv show? Really? Is Thompson's two minutes as Arthur Branch really equal to Ron Paul's two minutes as Ron Paul? Shouldn't Ron Paul at most get like 10 seconds -- just to show his face, which is, really, all Thompson is being allowed to do to actually advance his campaign rather than advance the plot of police procedural?

I guess this is actually a big reason why Thompson is holding off -- he was paid a lot to co-star in these shows, and now his candidacy would result in all his episodes (most of them, I imagine) being yanked off the air when they're needed the most (i.e., the summer repeat schedule). Can't help but imagine he feels a certain obligation to not screw over a business associate.

Doesn't really make sense, though, and I don't think the Democrats will rush to change this rule.

Meanwhile, of course, it's now confirmed that Thompson did in fact lobby on behalf of a pro-abortion group.

The New York Times piece is fairly detailed, if you're interested. About 20 hours of work, 3.3 hours of lobbying "administration officials" (the first Bush administration), $5000 in fees all told. Apparently trying to get the first Bush to undo the "gag rule" preventing federally-funded family planning centers from bringing up abortion when consulting with clients.

The campaign emphatically denied this; Thompson said he had "no recollection" of ever having lobbied for them. Obviously, he did, and the "no recollection" defense only apparently works for Hillary Clinton.

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posted by Ace at 03:51 PM

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