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Complaint Filed with Federal Election Commission

Center charges that CBS and the Kerry campaign violated federal campaign finance laws.

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September 23, 2004

Contact: Jeffrey Mazzella


CFIF Files FEC Complaint Against CBS, Kerry Campaign

Punishment for Illegal Coordination Urged

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Center for Individual Freedom today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that CBS and Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc., illegally coordinated election communications.

The complaint charges that CBS and the Kerry campaign violated federal campaign finance laws when they colluded to attack President Bush based on claims and documents now believed to be fake.

"It’s obvious that CBS and the Kerry campaign acted improperly. That much is clear to anyone with a pulse," said Jeffrey Mazzella, the Center’s Executive Director. "But what’s been lost is that CBS and its executives blatantly violated federal election laws when they overtly ignored basic journalistic ethical standards and coordinated with the Kerry campaign in order to run an attack story in an effort to affect the outcome of the November presidential election. Our complaint makes this very clear," said Mazzella.

The complaint centers on a September 8 segment on the CBS program "60 Minutes II." In the segment, CBS correspondent Dan Rather attacked President Bush’s record of service in the National Guard. CBS’s charges relied on a number of documents which it later admitted were not reliable.

As a condition for handing over the documents, CBS’s source, Bill Burkett, required that CBS arrange for a conversation between him and a senior advisor of the Kerry campaign. On September 4, just four days before the segment aired, a CBS producer spoke with Joe Lockhart, a senior advisor to the Kerry campaign. Lockhart admits that during the conversation he and the CBS employee discussed the upcoming segment attacking President Bush. Lockhart also admits that he later called Burkett at CBS’s urging.

"If there had been no coordination, there would have been no attack story. CBS would not have been able to use the documents it so desperately needed for its assault on President Bush if one of its producers hadn’t coordinated with the Kerry campaign," explained Mazzella. "Mr. Lockhart’s conversations with CBS and Mr. Burkett raise additional questions that must also be answered."

Only two days after CBS aired the segment attacking President Bush, the Democratic National Committee released a nearly 4 minute video entitled "Fortunate Son" which makes many of the same arguments as the CBS story, and even uses footage from the segment. At the same time, the DNC launched a new communications strategy based on the same faulty information and carrying the same message as the video.

Under campaign finance law, media organizations are exempt from provisions barring corporations from engaging in "electioneering communications" within 60 days of a general election. However, in its complaint, the Center argues that CBS forfeited its exemption by illegally coordinating a partisan attack on the President only 55 days before an election.

"Under normal circumstances, the media exemption is in place because it presumes that the press is impartial, and that the public relies on impartial reporting of the ideas and actions of the candidates," Mazzella said. "However, this is no normal circumstance. CBS threw its impartiality out the door, ignored basic journalistic standards and coordinated with the Kerry campaign, all in an effort to run a bogus story in an attempt to affect the outcome of a federal election.

"Our complaint argues that CBS forfeited its exemption when it chose to become an arm of the Kerry campaign," Mazzella concluded.

The Center for Individual Freedom ( is a non-profit, non-partisan constitutional advocacy organization dedicated to protecting individual freedoms and rights. The Center was a plaintiff in the McConnell case which challenged the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.


  • To download a copy of the complaint, please click here.

[Posted September 23, 2004]