Friday, March 6, 2009

Rod Blagojevich Gets A Book Deal; First Amendment Gets A Curveball

If you can't get away with selling a Senate seat, try selling a book. Roddy B. did it, but it might not work out so well for him after all.

In lieu of the former Illinois Governor's book deal the State Legislature has been busy. Alarming supporters of the First Amendment, the Illinois legislature has introduced a bill that would require “any elected official who is convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving a violation of his or her official oath of office to forfeit any monetary rights derived from any media depiction or detailing of the crime for which the person was convicted as a term of their sentence. The forfeiture lasts during the term of the sentence and any period of probation, parole or supervised release.” Despite the full support of State Legislature, opposition to this proposed bill is growing, including the Motion Picture Association of America voicing it's disapproval.

The proposed bill, Illinois House Bill 4078, if passes not only breaks Roddy B.'s six-figure book deal, but carries with it a fallout in the protection of First Amendment Rights. As David Horowitz of Media Coalition argues, “This is obviously a real concern and would potentially inhibit books, movies, magazines and all manner of media in trying to tell a story that has real news or public interest value.” I'm inclined to agree and am in Blagojevich's corner (and the First Amendment's as well) in hoping this bill does not pass. After all, writing a book is a valuable thing, you don't just give it away for nothing.

Wondering if the State is more concerned with what Blagojevich may reveal, or take liberties in disclosing, about Illinois politics, or if it really feels so strongly about the integrity of the bill that it would be willing to curb rights protected by the First Amendment? Please let us know what you think.

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