How Hillary Clinton Movies Might Work in Republicans' Favor

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Hillary Clinton movies can move mountains.

Remember that Citizens United case before the Supreme Court? You know, the one that allowed for the creation of the super PAC, which changed how races across the country are financed by outside interests, dumping massive amounts of what amounts to anonymous money without "collaborating" with the candidates?

That was brought about by a Hillary Rodham Clinton movie. Citizens United — the advocacy group that made it in an effort to criticize the former (and perhaps future) presidential candidate — didn't think the movie should be subject to campaign rules, such as disclosing who paid for it. That complaint made its way up to the highest court, paving the legal basis for the super PAC.

So if a Hillary Clinton movie can spur that, it could help serve conservative interests again, right?

Here's the background. In production right now are two separate, unrelated movies about the former secretary of State. One is a miniseries for NBC starring Diane Lane that NBC has said will air before the 2016 campaign season gets under way. The other is a documentary, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Charles Ferguson, in the works for CNN.

On Monday, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote to the networks, claiming the movies are indicative of bias heading into the 2016 election. Never mind that Clinton is not yet a candidate and it's currently 2013. Priebus writes in the letter to NBC:

This special treatment is unfair to the candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2016 who might compete against Secretary Clinton ... and to the Republican nominee, should Clinton compete in the general election.

He continues that the series "would be most accurately described as an in-kind donation." If the series is not pulled, he warns, if the movie is to be aired, no Republican primary debate will air on NBC.

According to Variety, NBC News released a statement saying, "NBC News is completely independent of NBC Entertainment and has no involvement in this project."

Priebus used similar language in the letter to CNN. The network responded with a response questioning why the GOP would want this:

...Should they decide not to participate in debates on CNN, we would find it curious, as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters.

But here's the thing: It may be the case that Priebus doesn't care about the movies, but just wants a way to limit the number of primary debates.

In the 2012 election cycle, there were 20 GOP primary debates, and many — including the RNC — thought that was a bit of overkill. According to a GOP post-mortem, the number of debates should be reduced "to a still robust number of approximately 10 to 12, with the first occurring no earlier than September 1, 2015, and the last ending just after the first several primaries."

But doing so is kind of tricky, since many of the local arms of the Republican parties gain money from the debates, explains Zeke Miller at Time:

But the effort to cut back on the number of debates has run into headwinds from Republican state parties in early states, who in many instances see revenue from co-hosting the debates and associated events. The autopsy recommends changing the RNC rules to include penalties for Republican state parties or candidates if they participate in debates unsanctioned by the RNC.

To date that provision has not caught on.

It's just a theory, of course, but maybe one way to reduce the number of debates without ruffling any Republican feathers is to blame it on the Clinton miniseries. An anonymous RNC insider relays to Miller that the letter is designed to make limiting the number of debates a bit easier.

The conservative website HotAir also suspects this may be Priebus's gambit:

But how can the RNC call for fewer debates without antagonizing the grassroots (and the state parties looking to make a buck from them)? Simple: Frame it as a war on media bias. Although, again, that raises the question of why the RNC even gave NBC and CNN a chance to retain their debate rights.