Image: Hillary Clinton
Charles Dharapak  /  AP
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., greets supporters during a campaign rally in Evansville, Ind., Thursday, March 20, 2008.
updated 3/24/2008 12:51:49 PM ET 2008-03-24T16:51:49

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a conservative group that wants to promote its anti-Hillary Clinton movie without complying with campaign finance laws.

The court's decision leaves in place a lower court ruling that says the group, Citizens United, must attach a disclaimer and disclose its donors in order to run the ads.

The group said the issue will be important whether or not Clinton wins the Democratic presidential nomination. It plans a movie critical of Sen. Barack Obama if he should be the nominee.

The issue still could come back to the court. The justices said Citizens United must pursue its case in federal appeals court in Washington before seeking Supreme Court review.

Citizens United initially hoped to run the television advertisements in key election states during peak primary season.

Its lawyers had argued that the 90-minute "Hillary: The Movie" was no different from documentaries seen on television news shows "60 Minutes" and "Nova."

Campaign regulations prohibit corporations and unions from paying for ads that run close to elections and identify candidates. Citizens United argued that the advertisements should be treated as commercial speech because they are intended to promote a movie, not oppose Clinton's candidacy.

A panel of three federal judges disagreed. The film does not address legislative issues and was produced solely "to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her," the judges said in a unanimous ruling.

A similar issue surfaced in 2004, when Citizens United sought to keep filmmaker Michael Moore from advertising "Fahrenheit 9/11" in the run-up to the presidential election. The Federal Election Commission dismissed the complaint after Moore said he had no plans to run the ads during election season.

The movie is being sold on DVD and is scheduled for nine screenings in theaters. Campaign regulations do not apply to DVDs, theaters or the Internet, where the group has posted its ads.

The case is Citizens United v. FEC, 07-953.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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