Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry has sent a letter to Federal Election Commission chairman Ellen Weintraub "protesting" what he says is the National Rifle Association’s attempt to "hijack the airwaves and use their special interest millions to fund a steady stream of NRA-TV."
The NRA has said it is exploring buying a radio or TV outlet in hopes of getting a media exemption from campaign finance spending limits. It is already challenging those limits in court, but is also contemplating a separate court case seeking the media exemption, which would effectively allow it to bypass the limits by using corporate money to say what it wants to about candidates. The current limits prevent corporate money to be spent on candidate-specific speech in the run-up to general elections and primaries.
"There is nothing more disturbing than imagining a democracy where the media becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA’s right-wing extremism," Kerry wrote. If the NRA qualified for the exemption, he added, "instead of following campaign finance laws like the rest of America, the NRA would be able to take the millions it receives from the gun lobby and broadcast anything it wants for as long it wants-all under the heading of ‘news.’ "
A member of Weintraub’s staff said it had yet to see the letter, which can be found on the Kerry campaign Web site (www.johnkerry.com/pressroom/releases/pr_2003_1209c.html).