Pulling back the curtain at Wisconsin Eye
Planned Parenthood recently got itself in trouble for an ad it was running against State Senator Mike Ellis:
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin has slightly altered an ad targeting state Senate President Mike Ellis but has refused to remove it from its website and plans to run it on Green Bay television next week.
Planned Parenthood last week released the ad showing the Neenah Republican angrily banging his gavel and yelling at Democrats to sit down during a contentious Senate debate on a bill requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.
The WisconsinEye Public Affairs Network quickly sent a letter to Planned Parenthood demanding that it take down the ad because it said its footage had been improperly used.
WisconsinEye is a nonprofit group that broadcasts all the proceedings of the Legislature online and on cable. Planned Parenthood purchased the footage and signed a user agreement that said it would not reproduce or modify the material, according to Jon Henkes, WisconsinEye’s president and chief executive officer.
Wisconsin Eye is the state version of C-Span. Viewers can watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of the legislature (or at least the chairman and the legislator speaking). However, when it was set up there was an agreement made with the legislature that Wisconsin Eye’s coverage of the legislature cannot be used for political purposes. This is the relevant part of the license agreement at Wisconsin Eye that Planned Parenthood violated:
2. Explicit Prohibition For Political or Commercial Use
You acknowledge and agree that you will not use our Content for commercial purposes or for political purposes. For this User Agreement, our Content is used for political purposes if any of the following apply:
a. The Content is disseminated in any way for the purpose of influencing the election or nomination for election of any individual to federal, state or local office, for the purpose of influencing the recall from or retention in office of an individual holding a federal, state or local office, for the purpose of payment of expenses incurred as a result of a recount at an election, or for the purpose of influencing a particular vote at a referendum.
b. The Content is disseminated in any way during the period beginning on the 60th day preceding a general election, special, spring or primary election and ending on the date of that election and the dissemination includes a reference to or depiction of a clearly identified candidate whose name is certified to appear on the ballot for election or nomination to an office to be filled at that election.
c. The Content is disseminated in any way that expressly advocates the election, defeat, recall or retention of a clearly identified candidate or a particular vote at a referendum.
d. The Content is disseminated in any way for the purpose of influencing an endorsement or nomination to be made at a convention of political party members or supporters concerning, in whole or in part, any campaign for federal, state or local office. For this User Agreement, our Content is not used for political purposes if the Content is disseminated for the purpose of supporting or defending a person who is being investigated for, charged with or convicted of a criminal violation of state or federal law, or an agent or dependent of such a person.
If you were wondering why you almost never see footage of the legislature in action in political commercials, now you know why. It’s an absolutely ridiculous set of prohibitions designed to protect the legislators from themselves.
I obviously have no love for Planned Parenthood. But if they want to show footage of Ellis breaking his gavel calling the Democrats out of order, they should have the right to do so. And if Americans for Prosperity or Wisconsin Right to Life wants to show footage of Democrats behaving badly, they should have the right to do so.
When Wisconsin Eye was created, then Democratic Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson said filming proceedings will help maintain decorum and respect among legislators, according to the Beloit Daily News. That has not proved to be the case. Probably no level of embarrassment could stop Democrats from throwing things or threatening their colleagues.
Republicans are now in control of both the senate and the assembly. They should have nothing to fear from changing the agreement with Wisconsin Eye. By pulling back the curtain on the legislature, the public will be able to judge both parties by their behavior.