Xoff suggests that Journal Communications is breaking campaign laws by running a tape produced by Charlie Sykes' criticizing Gov. Doyle's refusal to lift the caps on school choice. This seems clearly wrong. State campaign finance law specifically provides, as it must, that it shall not be construed to restrict editiorial comment or endorsement by communications medium. See, e.g., Wis. Stats. sec 11.30(4)
The fact that TMJ put its editorial comment in a specially produced segment that it repeats from time to time would hardly seem to matter. If Xoff were right, the limitations on free speech applicable to those outside the media (which are bad enough) would be applied to the press - which is almost always owned by an incorporated entity. If that doesn't violate the first amendment, then we've lost this country.
Xoff suggests that its not free speech because someone is paying for it, but the "free" in "free speech" means unrestricted, not free of charge. When the media editiorializes or endorses, there are always expenses that some is paying for. He argues that, if it were free speech, they'd give Doyle equal time to respond, but the Supreme Court long ago struck down a requirement that newspapers give candidates equal time to respond to critical editorials. Free speech is unregulated speech.
Update: Of course, in fairness to Xoff, radio stations are a bit different because of the limited nature of the broadcast spectrum. He alludes to that and I didn't mean to suggest that its not relevant. The Supreme Court once upheld the old fairness doctrine which imposed "equal time" requirements (although I wonder how its thinking would be affected by the rise of the new forms of media), but the fairness doctrine no longer exists and I just can't see using the campaign finance laws to silence journalists. The Supreme Court's 2003 decision in McConnell upholding the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Act did contain some language suggesting that a majority of the court thinks that the first amendment would prevent restrictions on contributions to talk show hosts or newspapers editors on the grounds that their speech benefits one candidate over another. Hope so.
Update 2 The notion, though, that one side of a political debate would use campaign finance laws to stifle discussion of an issue underscores the critical importance of the case brought by Wisconsin Right to Life which was argued in the Court this week. The FEC argues that the McCain-Feingold Speech Suppression Act prohibits grassroots organizations from running ads that call on people to influence public officials who are candidates for election within a certain period of time prior to the election. WRTL is contending that the first amendment requires an exception for legitimate lobbying ads (i.e., ads that relate to real issues on which the officials are acting or failing to act). In WRTL's case, it wanted to run ads criticizing Feingold and Dems for holding up Bush's judicial appointments - something that was happening at the very time in question. The idea that people who hold public office get a "free" period in which they cannot be effectively criticized seems to me to be at odds with core first amendment values. Hope the Court agrees and thanks to WRTL for pressing the issue.