Clinton appeared for three minutes and 12 seconds on the Oct. 3 season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” and, after NBC gave notice to its affiliates, it triggered a seven-day period in which rival candidates could request equal time, which Lessig did.
But candidates also have to prove that they are legally qualified presidential candidates, which the network asked for of Lessig. NBC also asked for proof that Clinton is a qualified candidate.
In a letter to NBC on Wednesday, Lessig’s attorney, Adam Bonin, wrote that Lessig has passed the test of making a “substantial showing of bona fide candidacy.” He cited a series of factors, including news reports; the $1 million the campaign has raised so far for his candidacy, with nearly 10,000 individual donors; and more than 1,300 volunteers, among other things. They even cited his appearance on MSNBC shows, such as “Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell,” and coverage of his campaign on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Bonin also wrote that the campaign “has already met and will soon be seeking certification under the Federal Election Commission’s own test for broad-based public support concerning eligibility for its presidential public financing program, having raised in excess of $5,000 in at least 23 states. It stands to reason that if this campaign is deemed serious enough under FEC standards to warrant equal access to public matching funds, it should also receive equal access to the public airwaves under any fair interpretation of the FCC ‘substantial showing’ test.”
He also cited Lessig campaign appearances in New Hampshire and his inclusion in polling.
As for proof of Clinton’s candidacy, Bonin wrote, “Our first response to that is as follows: surely you can’t be serious.”
Among other things, he cited Clinton’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” “not because of her talents as an actress but because she is running for President of the United States.”
In 2003, Al Sharpton hosted “Saturday Night Live” when he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. A rival, Joseph Lieberman, requested equal time for the 28 minutes Sharpton was on the air. A deal was reached where reruns of a Lieberman town hall were aired in some media markets.