Monday, April 25, 2005

Suit Filed in Federal Court Seeks Government by the "Elected" Rather Than the "Chosen"

Today Rhett Smith refiled paperwork for his lawsuit in Federal District Court. He is suing WOAI, KLRN and the Greater Chamber of Commerce for violating his civil rights and the terms of their broadcast licenses by excluding him, as well as other candidates, from the televised debates.

Rhet says that he is getting legal advice and is currently looking nationwide to find a qualified attorney to take up his case. Apparently there is not a lot of pre-existing case law dealing with such matters, but Rhet is seeking a litigator who is willing to help him make some. If he succeeds, this could have widespread consequences for inclusion in the public sphere. Perot and Nader fans may not share Rhett’s politics, but they should keep and eye on his case, as it may set precedent for future case law that affects them as well.

KLRN is partially funded directly by your tax dollars and they have a legal obligation not to take sides in an election. Rhet says that the exclusion of his campaign as well as Oldham’s, Idrogo’s and Caldwell’s from the debates constitutes doing that very thing. WOAI is a broadcast channel and is as such subject to the Fairness Doctrine if it wants to keep its broadcast license and its free access to a High Deff channel at your expense. It is hard to imagine how excluding legally registered candidates from the debates constitutes “fairness.” Unlike WOAI, KLRN and the Greater Chamber, the judge apparently agrees that Rhet deserves a hearing on the matter.

Keep an eye out for more news on this front. Rhet, Julie, Michael and Everet are not the only marginalized candidates running this season. If Rhet gets support from some of these other disenfranchised folks, there may be a photo op with more participants than the debates. This will give San Antonians the real picture of local politics in which it is the majority that is excluded.

Rhet Smith is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the case. While he is unlikely to get satisfaction in time for this election, if he wins in Federal Court, the next round of elections in San Antonio may include televised debates with all the candidates, instead of only the “chosen ones.”

I suspect I am not the only San Antonian that wishes him luck in his suit. It would be nice to finally be governed by the elected rather than the chosen.


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