Bert Gall and Robert Frommer of the Institute for Justice have made a compelling case that the Obama administration’s word choice is quite significant. They think that by branding Fox as something other than a “legitimate news organization,” the White House is actually setting up a more brutal attack using campaign finance laws. News media organizations are exempt from campaign-finance laws’ speech regulations. But if Fox is not a “legitimate news organization,” then federal election authorities might be able to argue that its political speech can be regulated like that of any other non-news corporation.
The implications would be far-reaching. Messrs. Gall and Frommer write on PajamasMedia.com: “Of course, if the media’s speech becomes illegitimate—and thus subject to restriction—when it turns critical, then the same is true for everyone else, including ordinary citizens.” Imagine if the administration applied disclosure laws not just to Fox, but to groups like the tea-party protestors. Faced with this restrictive bureaucracy, such groups would probably be paralyzed.