Wisconsin Pro-Life Group Will Appeal Decision on Campaign Finance Law
by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
August 13, 2004
Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — Wisconsin Right to Life has announced it plans to continue to fight the free speech limits of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law–despite a legal setback earlier this week.
The National Right to Life affiliate is appealing a district court decision allowing the law’s broadcast ban to stand.
Wisconsin Right to Life had sought an injunction to suspend the act’s "broadcast blackout period." Under the law, broadcast ads which simply mention the name of a political candidate are banned 30 days prior to a primary election.
"Protecting the integrity of grassroots lobbying rights is so critical that Wisconsin Right to Life will appeal (the) decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia," Barbara Lyons, Executive Director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said.
The three-judge panel denied the group’s request to air its radio and television ads before August 14, 30 days before Wisconsin’s primary.
The ads, which mention the name of U.S. Senator and current primary candidate Russ Feingold, are part of a Wisconsin Right to Life grassroots lobbying campaign on behalf of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.
"Without the injunction, our ads must go off the air on August 15," Lyons said.
Wisconsin Right to Life has filed a notice of appeal and will request an emergency injunction pending appeal in the district court.
"Not only have we lost our right to criticize elected officials due to the McCain-Feingold law, we have also lost our right to lobby them," said pro-life attorney James Bopp, Jr., who is representing Wisconsin Right to Life.
Those who back the campaign law said Wisconsin Right to Life was hoping to retry a case settled eight months ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The members of the three-judge panel agreed, despite the objections raised by Bopp.
"The Supreme Court is occasionally wrong, your honor," Bopp told one of the judges.
"They’re also last," Circuit Judge David Sentelle replied, meaning the High Court has the last word on constitutional cases.
Bopp also noted that the ads represent a lobbying effort — not an effort to attack a candidate.
"The way to settle this is you look at the ad," Bopp told the judges. "These ads say nothing about what the senator has been doing in office."
However, Judge Sentelle suggested that the district court did not have the authority to issue the injunction.
"The Supreme Court has dealt with it," Sentelle said.
Sentelle later added, "It takes a fairly bold three-judge court to say to the Supreme Court . . . ‘We’re going a different way.’ "
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Journal Sentinel newspaper, Feingold lashed out at Wisconsin Right to Life.
"I don’t think anyone in their right mind believes Right to Life is having any trouble getting its message out. I don’t know what they’re talking about," Feingold told the newspaper.
But officials with Wisconsin Right to Life, along with a number of free speech advocates, strongly disagree. They say McCain-Feingold’s broadcast ban clearly infringes on the right to lobby — an issue which, they say, was not settled by the Supreme Court.