Judicial Panel Will Hear Wisconsin Pro-Life Challenge to Campaign Ad Ban
by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
August 3, 2004
Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — A three-judge panel will decide whether a controversial campaign finance law violates Wisconsin Right to Life’s freedom of speech.
The legal dispute centers on the McCain-Feingold law, which bans grassroots advertising mentioning a candidate’s name during the weeks leading up to an election.
A status conference on Wisconsin Right to Life’s legal challenge is set for Thursday.
Senator Russ Feingold’s campaign manager ridiculed the Wisconsin Right to Life lawsuit in comments to the Associated Press. But the head of the pro-life organization says the Feingold campaign’s complaints are groundless.
"By granting Wisconsin Right to Life’s application for a three-judge panel and setting a status conference on August 5, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is taking seriously what the Feingold campaign believes is ridiculous," stated Barbara L. Lyons, Executive Director of Wisconsin Right to Life.
Last week, Wisconsin Right to Life filed suit in district court seeking an injunction on the McCain-Feingold broadcast ban on grassroots lobbying. The National Right to Life affiliate also asked the court to allow the pro-life organization to continue broadcasting radio and
television ads into the blackout period which begins August 15.
Under McCain-Feingold, Wisconsin Right to Life is prohibited from mentioning the name of U.S. Senator Feingold in ads 30 days before a primary since he is a candidate running for re-election.
Feingold is competing in Wisconsin’s September 14th Senate primary.
"It is incomprehensible that Wisconsin Right to Life, in a country that values free speech, would be guilty of a crime for simply mentioning Senator Feingold’s name in an ad which provides information for citizens on the filibuster of judicial nominees, and asks those citizens to contact Senators Feingold and Kohl, urging them to stop filibustering," Lyons said.
Pro-life attorney James Bopp, who is representing Wisconsin Right to Life in its lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission, said, "Senator Feingold earlier supported a limited grassroots lobbying exception to McCain-Feingold in a letter to the FEC. So, his ridicule of the lawsuit must mean that he really just doesn’t want anyone talking about his upcoming votes in the United States Senate."
The district court has ordered two additional judges to join District Court Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer in evaluating the case. Thursday’s status conference will allow lawyers for Wisconsin Right to Life and the FEC to discuss the case.
Wisconsin Right to Life is not alone in its opposition to the broadcast ban. The AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also oppose the ban. The pro-life organization is the first group in the nation to legally challenge the ban on grassroots advertising.