Wall’s Column a “Headache?”

A letter from Democrat Mike Tate:

Dear Editor,

I read with puzzlement the October 2009 column by developer and columnist Terrence Wall and his assertion that President Roosevelt caused the Great Depression despite the fact that he didn’t take office until three years after it actually began. What’s the old saying: Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts?

However, this isn’t the first time Wall has played fast and loose with history — specifically relating to FDR. In an April column, Wall claimed that by FDR continuing certain policies of the Republican Hoover administration, those policies and FDR ended up “eventually leading to World War II.” My read of history — and I think most others’ — tells me that Hitler and the Nazis had a little more to do with that than FDR.

Now that Wall has joined Dave Westlake in a run for the Republican nomination to take on Senator Russ Feingold next year, I hope — and have left numerous messages with the editors at this magazine on this issue but have not heard back — that In Business decides to also include a more balanced, and truthful, view on business and history in future additions.”

Sincerely, Mike Tate, Chairman, Democratic Party of Wisconsin

For the record, IB editors have no record or recall of messages from Mr. Tate. I responded with an opportunity for Mr. Russ Feingold to contribute a monthly column, too. Tate responded with an e-mail that contained the “headache” message in the quote above. So, here is a clear, public response:

Dear Mr. Tate,

As I suspect you are aware, Mr. Wall has contributed columns — “Open Forum” and “Up Against The Wall,” for In Business since December 2006. He has never used his regular column to promote (or even mention) his campaign.

Over a decade ago, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) rejected your argument that the magazine’s continued publication of Mr. Wall’s column is a “corporate campaign contribution.” In 1999, after several years of investigation and litigation, the FEC dropped its case against Steve Forbes, who had continued to publish a monthly column in Forbes magazine after he became a presidential candidate.

We are advised by counsel that Mr. Wall’s column is perfectly legal. As the Commissioners explained: In 1995, Mr. Forbes became a declared candidate for President of the United States. During the period of his candidacy, Mr. Forbes continued to write his “Fact and Comment” column, and Forbes magazine continued to carry it. Some of the issues he wrote about during that period were also some of the issues he discussed in this campaign. At least some of those same issues, however, were issues that Mr. Forbes had discussed over the previous years in his columns.

None of the columns mentioned directly or indirectly that Mr. Forbes was a candidate for President, mentioned any other candidate for President, referred in any way to the presidential campaign, or solicited any contributions in connection with the presidential campaign. Neither the exposure given to Mr. Forbes’ columns in the magazine, nor the distribution of the magazine, changed in any way following Mr. Forbes’ declaration of this candidacy.

The very same could be said of Mr. Wall, and the same legal conclusions apply as well. Specifically, Mr. Wall’s column is not “for the purpose of influencing an election,” and is specifically protected from FEC regulation by the media/press exemption.

A very cursory search shows that your party’s candidate has, just this year, published columns in the Wall Street Journal, Politico, Chicago Tribune, Roll Call, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Eau-Claire Leader-Telegram, La Crosse Tribune, and the Appleton Post-Crescent, among others. I assume you have similarly warned them about their possible corporate campaign contributions, should it continue into the campaign.

However, I must respectfully decline your offer to censor and control the content of this publication, asserting our Constitutional (and FEC) right to protected speech. — JGP.

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