Even TV shows may run afoul of campaign finance laws

Well, I am only surprised that this problem hasn't happened previously.

The show, called “Independent,” aims to launch next year in time for the real presidential election, though it’s still network shopping.

The concept -- as presented in a hyperbolic press release predicting the show “will help reshape the face of American politics, including the next presidential election” -- is clever. Contestants will deal with issues proposed by MySpace users and the show’s viewers that will require interactions with supporters, protesters and activists.

“Over the course of the series, through a combination of Internet-powered direct democracy and the broad reach of TV, viewers will be empowered to put a genuine stamp on which issues they care about most and identify the one who truly represents them,” says the release, which predicts the winner will become “the nation’s next great politician.”

That person will get a $1 million prize, but not to keep. Instead, the release says, the winner must choose how to spend it from “a list of options, all political in nature.” . . . .

Here’s where the reality “candidate” might run into real problems with the really complex real laws governing how much real candidates, committees and parties can raise and spend for real elections.

Federal candidates can give as much of their own money as they want to their campaigns. (That’s why political parties recruit millionaires to run for Congress and why the possibility of a Michael Bloomberg independent presidential run is so intriguing.) But the issue here is whether the $1 million would truly belong to the winner, with no strings attached.

If “the winnings becomes the personal property of the winner,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer for the firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, “he or she can do with it as they wish, including running for federal office.” . . . . . . . .



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