Federal Court Favors Gephardt Challenger in TV Ad Dispute

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A Federal Court in St Louis, Missouri late Thursday overturned a lower court ruling that had blocked the Republican challenger to House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt from airing a controversial political ad on television.

The ad for GOP candidate Bill Federer had shown C-Span footage of Gephardt speaking to an annual dinner of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington last year. Thursday's U.S. District Court ruling now allows Federer to use the ad again.

"This is a great victory for free speech," according to Stephen Crampton of the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy, which represented Federer in the case. Another attorney representing Federer, Bryan Brown said, "C-Span wanted special treatment exempting its videos from any political use whatsoever. This would have effectively made C-Span not a mere reporter of the news, but the owner of the news."

C-Span's lawyer, Bruce Collins, said in Washington that C-Span will closely watch the new ad. "C-Span does not want to be associated in any way with partisan politics," Collins said in a statement.

Federer's campaign spokesperson John Diehl was happy about the court's ruling.

"We are delighted, but not surprised, that the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld our obvious rights under the First Amendment. The Court provided an important check against abuse of power by Dick Gephardt, who would deny us free speech to hide his 100 percent pro-gay voting record from the voters of his conservative, St Louis district," Diehl said.

Ed Rhode, a spokesman for Gephardt's campaign said in St Louis that the Federer ad is inaccurate and a "distortion" of Gephardt's votes against same-sex marriages and revocation of the Boy Scouts' federal charter.

In the ad, Gephardt is seen addressing items on the homosexual group's agenda, including the legalizing of same sex marriages and allowing homosexuals to serve as Boy Scout leaders. "If the majority changes in the year 2000 and I have anything to say about it, I can assure you that these measures, that make good sense and represent the right values for America, will be on the agenda and will be passed."