State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Weekly Wrap-Up

Fox News wants to make sure their viewers know they don’t endorse Democrats. The network has sued Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan for copyright violations based on a campaign ad. Fox News wants to ensure that the public knows the network has not endorsed a candidate in the Missouri race and says the ad, which shows Chris Wallace interviewing Carnahan’s opponent about allegations that he acted improperly while in Congress, makes it appear that Wallace is speaking on the side of the campaign. The suit is considered by some experts to be the first case where a media outlet has sued a political campaign over copyright violations. There are also concerns that this is not a true copyright concern because, according to copyright lawyer Ben Sheffner, copyright disputes are about revenue not reputation damage. The ad has been pulled from the web and YouTube, but is still airing on television. The case is currently pending in federal courts.

Dreaming of a Third Party? Libertarians in Georgia are dreaming of a permanent place on the ballot. Their gubernatorial candidate, John Monds, is polling at 9% while the Republican candidate, Nathan Deal, continues to have financial problems. If Monds can capture over 20% of the vote, the Libertarians will be considered a “political party” under state election law, allowing them to hold primary elections and be guaranteed ballot access in future races. In the past, no Libertarian candidate for governor has surpassed 4% of the vote. Read about it here.

Texting to support a candidate may soon be more than simply asking your friends to vote for someone. Cell phone carriers are seeking approval from the Federal Election Commission to allow customers to make campaign donations via text message, similar to the recent campaigns for donations to help victims in Haiti and Pakistan. The carriers are asking whether it is legal to collect and deliver $10 donations from the customer to the specified federal campaign. There are several legal issues with the proposal, however. Because the donations would be anonymous to the campaign, there is a limit of $50 per person. Cell phone carriers would try to address this by sending verification texts that certify that the person knows the rules governing anonymous donations. They also already have limits on the amount a person can donate through such texts, limited to $10 per transaction and $100 per billing cycle, that can be modified for political campaigns. The FEC has 60 days to review the request filed on September 10.

Politically motivated non-profit organizations have been cropping up in order to campaign for parties or candidates without having to reveal where their donor money is coming from.  Groups such as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies are listed as 501(c)(4) non-profit corporations, but spend millions on political advertisements while taking advantage of an exemption that allows non-profits to keep their donor list to themselves.  So far, this practice has most heavily favored the Republican side of the aisle, but a few, such as labor unions, are acting on behalf of Democrats as well.

A couple months ago, Georgia Democrat Gail Buckner was running in the primary for Secretary of State. Currently, she is running for a state House seat as a certified write-in candidate. How is this possible? After Buckner lost the primary, she was eligible under state election law O.C.G.A. 21-2-133 to become a write-in candidate for any office except the one she was a primary candidate for.

UPDATE: Lisa Murkowski has officially announced that she will run as a write-in candidate in the general election.  She says that the campaign leading up to this election will be more aggressive than her primary run was.  In response, it was at first thought that Senate Republicans intended to remove her from her position as the senior Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  Instead, Republicans chose to keep her in a closed-door meeting, though they still do not support her campaign.

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1 Comment

  1. It will be interesting to see where the case regarding Fox News ends up. Just watched the video, and the short clip doesn’t really seem that much like an endorsement from Fox News, as much as it is an argument against the validity of Carnahan’s opponent. As short as it is, I wonder if it would fall under fair use?

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