Court Allows Pro-Life Group’s Issue Ads as Campaign Finance Law Exception

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 21, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Court Allows Pro-Life Group’s Issue Ads as Campaign Finance Law Exception Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 21
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — When Congress approved the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, pro-life organizations were concerned with a provision in it prohibiting running issue ads in the days leading up to an election. On Thursday, a federal judicial panel said a Wisconsin pro-life group can do that.

The law prohibits groups like Wisconsin Right to Life from airing commercials 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election that mention the name of a candidate in the election.

The pro-life group wanted to run commercials in September 2004 urging people to contact Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and urge him to support President Bush’s pro-life judicial nominations.

While Feingold is running for re-election, Wisconsin Right to Life’s legal counsel notes that the ads are not a commentary on Feingold’s record in office.

A three judge panel upheld the right of WRTL to run the commercials and determined the group was genuinely trying to address public policy without affecting the vote on Sen. Feingold. As a result, the commercials were constitutionally protected free speech and should not have been prohibited.

“Free speech and grassroots lobbying are huge winners following today’s decision by the District Court for the District of Columbia to allow grassroots lobbying ads to air in blackout periods created by the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Law,” Barbara Lyons, Executive Director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said in a statement obtained.

“One of the most basic rights enjoyed by our democracy is one which allows citizen groups to petition the government on issues of public interest," she added.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David B. Sentelle voted to uphold the airing of the commercials while U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts dissented.

The case now heads to an automatic appeal at the Supreme Court.

Wisconsin Right to Life is not the only national organization opposed to the broadcast ban. Groups ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the AFL-CIO to the American Civil Liberties Union also oppose it.

The pro-life organization, however, is the first group in the nation to legally challenge the ban on grassroots advertising.

The McCain-Feingold law is named in part after sponsor Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is considering a presidential bid.

Related web sites:
Wisconsin Right to Life –