Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The Clarion Fund DVD: A Good Case Study on Improper Campaign Intervention (Not involving a house of worship)
How many readers have received in the mail the DVD entitled, "Obsession: Radical Islam's Attack on the West"? Since I live in Florida I received a copy. The DVD was produced by a 501(c)(3) called the Clarion Fund. I threw it away without even watching it because it seemed so obviously like political propoganda. According to an NPR report, the DVD was distributed by mail and as a free insert to 70 different Sunday papers in 14 battleground states (like Florida) crucial to the presidential election outcome:
It's called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. The DVD was made in 2006, before this presidential contest began, and it doesn't even allude to electoral politics. But, filled with dire warnings about Islamic terrorists, it hit doorsteps seven weeks before Election Day. And critics say it fuels the false whisper campaign that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim. "It's to influence people. Sent out now. Whenever it was made, 2006, it's really to influence people in the election and scare people," Madaline Muir of Montgomer County, Pa. said. Obsession was produced by the Clarion Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity, which cannot get involved in campaign politics.
Now I wish I had not thrown it out. I should have saved it for use in my tax exempt class. The DVD was produced for the 501(c)(3) and distributed by a "Republican campaign consultant whose clients include two anti-Obama groups" according to an NPR Blog entry. I'm pretty sure there are revenue rulings and the like explaining that the timing and selective distribution of political issue material are to be taken into account in distinguishing between "educational" materials and "campaign intervention" stuff. On the other hand, the DVD never mentions a candidate by name. If nothing else, it makes for a nice discussion tool by which to bring life to the improper campaign intervention issue. The DVD can be ordered for $12 bucks from the Clarion Fund website.