“Catch and Kill: Can tabloids hide behind the First Amendment?”

Rebecca Beyer for the ABA Journal:

One possible defense to any charge of campaign finance violations in the AMI/McDougal deal would come from the Federal Election Campaign Act’s distinction between campaign expenses and “personal use” expenses. (Edwards went with the personal use defense when he was unsuccessfully prosecuted for alleged in-kind contributions made to the woman with whom he had an affair.) Cohen and AMI both have admitted the McDougal payment’s “principal purpose” was to prevent McDougal’s story from influencing the election.

FECA also includes a built-in carve-out for the media so that the press can report on political stories or candidates and publish opinion pieces or editorials without fear of running afoul of prosecutors. The law exempts “any cost incurred in covering or carrying a news story, commentary, or editorial” unless the entity in question is owned by a political party, committee or candidate.


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