Monday, July 23, 2012

So, Sue Me: Lawyers Oblige

As everyone must know by now, the lean and hungry Susan Bysiewicz made an oopsy daisy in one of her campaign ads.
She said that her Democratic primary opponent for the U.S. Senate, current U.S. Representative from Connecticut’s 5th District Chris Murphy, was numero uno among congressman in accepting campaign donations from hedge fund operators, the newest devil in the progressive lexicon of those who will go to the wall just as soon as progressives seize power in the Beltway.
In fact, Mr. Murphy is number four among congresspersons receiving campaign benefits from finance groups in the United States and falls considerably behind his colleague. U.S. Representative Jim Himes, who brushed noses with the malefactors of great wealth when he was employed by Goldman Sachs.

According to the authoritative CTNewsJunkie, “Chris Murphy has received significant financial support from Wall Street donors—to the tune of $700,000 since 2006— and voted for their interests.” AndCTMirror reports the amount received “is about half the nearly $1.5 million donated to U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, in less time, since 2008.”
Even so, nearly half a million dollars in campaign cash is not chump change among progressives, some of whom would rather choke on a hypocrisy hairball than rely upon the one percenters for sustenance.
It is said that when St. Francis appeared before his bishop to implore him for assistance in creating an order dedicated to poverty, he was stark naked. The Franciscans were willing to throw themselves on the kindness of strangers for succor, and it would hardly have been appropriate for St. Francis to appear before his bishop wrapped in ermines studded with pearls. Then and now, appearances are important.
In the grand scale of things, it matters hardly at all that Mr. Murphy was number four rather than number one in accepting campaign contributions from the political equivalent of the devil: This, apparently, was Mrs. Bysiewicz’s thought when she refused to withdraw her ad. What’s a few million bucks among politicians dedicated to lashing the rich, eh?
Mr. Murphy’s humorless lawyers thought otherwise and dashed off a letter to all the media outlets in Connecticut that ran the ad:
Dear Sirs:
This law firm represents Friends of Chris Murphy. I am writing with regard to a recent television advertisement of Susan Bysiewicz, in which she falsely accuses Mr. Murphy of receiving “more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress.” As Ms. Bysiewicz’s campaign publicly acknowledged, the ad is false and unsupported by the data cited. See July 19, 2012 Stamford Advocate; July 19, 2012 Hartford Courant; and July 19, 2012 CT Mirror. According to Ms. Bysiewicz’s campaign, the ad was due to a “research error”. July 19, 2012 Stamford Advocate. Indeed, , the source Ms. Bysiewicz’s campaign relies upon, has never listed Mr. Murphy as the top recipient of hedge fund donations in any year since Mr. Murphy was elected to Congress. Regardless of whether the error was due to negligence or was intentional, the Bysiewicz campaign has admitted that the central factual claim in the ad is false, and for the sake of FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, this advertisement must not be aired now that it is known to contain false statements. As you are aware, the station has a duty under Federal Communication Commission regulations “to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.” Licensee Responsibility With Respect to the Broadcast of False, Misleading or Deceptive Advertising, 74 F.C.C.2d 623 (1961). Failure to prevent the airing of “false and misleading advertising” may be “probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility” that can be cause for the loss of a station’s license. Cosmopolitan Broad. Corp. v. FCC, 581 F.2d 917,927 (D.C. Cir. 1978). Because this advertisement is known to be false, misleading, and deceptive, we ask that you immediately discontinue airing this advertisement. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact me. Your cooperation in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely yours,
Michael C. Harrington
A short time ago – it seems only yesterday – a lawyer from World Wide Entertainment (WWE) wrote a similar missive to a political commentator who mentioned in a column that the content of WWE performances seemed to him pornographic. A great hue and cry was raised against Linda McMahon on that occasion, although the former CEO of WWE had disassociated herself from the offending company shortly before she ran against the now sainted Senator from Connecticut, Dick Blumenthal, and the WWE lawyer sending the letter was not at all connected with her campaign. Connecticut Commentary was proud on this occasion to run the flag up the pole in honor of the First Amendment. It should be noted that Mr. Harrington’s letter, bristling with legal pikes and halberds, was sent by the lawyer representing Mr. Murphy’s campaign to media outlets that ran Mrs. Bysiewicz’s ad without producing a similar hubbub.
The lawyers for Mr. Murphy might have been pressed by the state's media to holster their legal pistol. Mr. Harrington was latter advised by general manager for WVIT Channel 30 David Doebler that the United Statescode prohibits broadcasters from removing or altering an ad for a federalcandidate, a provision designed to prevent stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from censoring political broadcasts.
Mr. Harrington’s threat to sue letter to Connecticut’s media outlets produced very little pushback. Is it possible that in Connecticut politics some letters announcing threats to sue are more equal than others?  In George Orwell’s Animal Farm the pigs were more equal than the lesser animals. It would be disappointing to think that such is the calculus of equality in Connecticut’s very Democratic one party state.
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