The Green Zone
FEC Rules Obama's Oprah Appearance Didn't Violate Rules
By Dan Eggen
Oprah is in the clear: Inviting Barack Obama onto her show last year did not amount to a political donation to the candidate, the Federal Election Commission has ruled.
William Lee Stotts of Cordova, Tenn., filed a complaint last October alleging that Obama's appearance on Oprah Winfrey's popular afternoon show during the Democratic primaries amounted to an unlawful campaign contribution that gave him an "an unfair advantage over the other candidates, both Republican and Democrat, who were deprived such an opportunity."
But in a decision posted to its website yesterday, FEC lawyers determined that Winfrey's afternoon show "engages in activities traditionally associated with media entities" and therefore is subject to a "media exemption" that excludes news stories, show appearances and the like from campaign finance laws. FEC attorneys also noted that Winfrey "was not a candidate" and that her show "is not owned or controlled by a political party or candidate."
The commission notified ABC and Harpo Inc., Winfrey's production company, that it was dismissing the complaint. The filing was first noted by Roll Call.
Stotts, a self-described "Reagan Conservative," wrote in his complaint that the appearance on Winfrey's show amounted to a $120,000 contribution to Obama, although it is unclear how he arrived at that estimate. Stotts misspells Winfrey's name as "Ophra" throughout the two-page complaint.
"If we as Americans are to have a free and unfettered election, then Hollywood persona, money, talent and time must be kept out of the mix or at least to a bare minimum, and there [sic] vote should weigh no more than mine," Stotts wrote.
Winfrey's show is actually based in Chicago rather than Hollywood, and is one of the most powerful forces on television. Winfrey was an early and avid supporter of Obama's, and made appearances on his behalf during the campaign.
Posted at 2:54 PM ET on Apr 14, 2009
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