Wisconsin Pro-Life Group Appeals Decision on Political Advertising Ban

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 18, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Wisconsin Pro-Life Group Appeals Decision on Political Advertising Ban Email this article
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by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Editor
August 18, 2004

Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — Wisconsin Right to Life is going to court again in another effort to challenge aspects of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The pro-life group has filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Last week, the U.S. District Court denied a preliminary injunction which would have allowed the WRTL to air radio and television ads which mention the name of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.

Under McCain-Feingold — which the Senator co-authored — commercials mentioning the name of a candidate are banned 30 days before a primary.

Feingold is running for re-election in Wisconsin’s September primary election.

Wisconsin Right to Life’s ads urged listeners and viewers to call Feingold and ask him to support President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. However, because of the district court ruling, the ads stopped running August 14.

"The appeal we are filing…is essential in order to protect the integrity of grassroots lobbying," said James Bopp, a pro-life attorney representing Wisconsin Right to Life.

"Due to the McCain-Feingold law, we have not only lost our right to freely engage in political discourse regarding the actions of our elected officials but we have lost our right to lobby them," Bopp added.

Wisconsin Right to Life officials say their lobbying ads are considered "criminal activity" by the Federal Elections Commission, which means they could be subject to heavy fines and even prison sentences.

As a result, the organization has now begun running a new ad which points out "the outrageous assault on the organization’s freedom of speech and the right of citizens to be informed regarding the actions of their elected officials," according to a WRTL news release.

The new ad says: "Due to recent legislative restrictions and government red tape, our regularly scheduled freedom of speech cannot be aired at this time."

The ad goes on to ask, "Does that seem fair to you? More restrictions on free speech. Less information. Was that really the intent of campaign finance reform?"

The ad then encourages listeners to visit the website https://www.befair.org "to find out more about what Washington says we can’t say here."

According to McCain-Feingold, while Feingold’s name cannot be mentioned in ads during the blackout period before an election, Senator Herb Kohl’s name can be, since he is not running at this time.

In an interview last week with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feingold called Wisconsin Right to Life’s ads "politically motivated," even though they do not mention the Senator’s record and are not campaign ads. Feingold told the Journal Sentinel, "I am happy to talk about it (the issue) at any time and at any place."

As a result, Wisconsin Right to Life is now calling for the Senator to take part in a debate on the broadcast ban contained in the McCain-Feingold law.

"We want to take Senator Feingold up on his offer to debate this issue," said Barbara Lyons, Executive Director of Wisconsin Right to Life. "We will debate him on any date and time he chooses. Senator Feingold needs to explain to the people of Wisconsin why he is afraid of ads that tell Wisconsinites about the filibustering of judicial nominees and that urge Senator Feingold’s constituents to contact him regarding that issue."

"Why should the citizens of this state be denied that information? Why should Senator Feingold be afraid of his constituents knowing what is going on in Congress," Lyons asked.

Lyons added, "We call on Sen. Feingold to pick a date, place and time to debate this extremely important issue."

A number of political observers have pointed out that, rather than improving the election process, McCain-Feingold is impeding political discourse.

In a recent column published in Newsweek magazine, columnist George Will observed, "The political class hates having independent groups of citizens butting into the country’s political conversation. The premise of McCain-Feingold is that elections are the private property of the political class, whose members should be empowered to control the topics of discussion during any election season."

Related web sites:
Wisconsin Right to Life – https://www.wrtl.org