|Pregnant Pause Home||Politics||Search this site|
|Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Wins Initial victory in defense of citizen groups.|
But backers of the bill -- led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), and President Clinton -- vowed to push for more votes on the bill.
NRLC strongly opposes the McCain-Feingold bill because it contains multiple provisions that would severely restrict the right of citizen groups, such as NRLC, to communicate with the public about the voting records of members of Congress and the positions of candidates for Congress.
The bill is also opposed by many other organizations, including Christian Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union, because of its multiple speech-restriction provisions.
For example, the bill effectively bans groups, other than political action committees (PACs), from communicating with a politician about a given issue and then communicating with the public in a way that is "of value" to the politician, by defining such speech as a form of "contribution" to a candidate. This wold apply, for example, to groups that send questionnaires to candidates to learn their positions on issues, and then use that information to inform the public.
The bill also effectively bans groups, other than PACs, from publishing complications of congressional voting records if those publications contain explicit or implicit commentary on the votes. Only material that present votes "in an educational manner" would be allowed.
Another provisions would make it unlawful for groups, other than PACs, to even utter the name of a member of Congress or candidate for Congress in a TV or radio ad, within 60 days of a primary or general election.
In a September 9 letter to senators, NRLC said, "Because this legislation would grossly infringe on the right of NRLC, its state affiliates, and its local chapters to communicate with the public regarding the actions and positions of officeholders and office seekers on pro-life issues, NRLC will include roll call votes on this legislation -- including any cloture votes -- in our 1997 'scorecard' of key votes."
On October 1, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent senators a letter stating that the latest version of the bill "still cuts to the core of the First Amendment ... These unprecedented restrictions would effectively silence issue advocacy by the countless hundreds and thousands of groups that add to the political debate in America."
Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) helped to lead
the fight for First Amendment Rights.
The Senate voted three times -- on October 7, 8 and 9 -- on whether to invoke cloture on the bill. On October 7, 53 senators voted for cloture. On October 8 and 9, 52 senators voted for cloture. In each case, therefore, a majority of senators voted to advance the pernicious McCain-Feingold legislation, but fell short of the 60 votes necessary to overcome the opponents.
"Our side has prevailed on the first skirmish, but the war is far from over," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "So long as the news media keep cheering them on, the lawmakers who wish to restrict our right to talk about their positions will keep forcing votes on ‘campaign reform’ this year and next year."
On these three roll calls, all 45 Democratic senators voted for cloture, in favor of advancing the bill. On the Oct. 7 roll call, they were joined by eight Republicans. However, on the Oct.8 and Oct. 9 roll calls, Sen. Tim liutchinson (R-AR) switched sides and voted with the opponents of the bill. Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL), an opponent of the bill, missed the Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 roll calls because of a health problem.
In an Oct. 8 statement on the Senate floor, Sen. Hutchinson said he had voted for cloture on Oct. 7 because he wanted to advance certain changes in current campaign finance laws, but that he would no longer vote for cloture on the current version of the bill, which, he said, "contains provisions that threaten free speech and pose constitutional problems, especially in the area of issue advocacy. These groups, regardless of their affiliation, deserve to be a part of the political process and we cannot in any way place a chill on their right of free expression and their ability to criticize public officials."
Notably, Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), told the Globe, "We are watching very carefully to make sure that prochoice Americans are not silenced, but we have yet to feel terribly threatened by anything that has been discussed so far We think some reform is needed. There is too much money being spent in campaigns."
Some weeks earlier, the National CDA office had sent out copies of a petition to Congress endorsing the McCain-Feingold bill but the Sept. 17 memo effectively rescinded that action, and said that any filled-out petitions sent in to the CDA office will not be submitted to Congress.
Johnson noted that the House and Senate voted on whether to override President Clinton’s veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in September, 1996, fewer than 60 days before the general election, and that pro-life groups would have been prohibited from running ads to support the bill if the McCain-Feingold provisions had been law.
The Campaign for America is funded by wealthy investment banker Jerome Kohlberg, formerly a big donor to Democratic causes. In recent weeks, Kohlberg spent about $100,000 on newspaper ads ion 10 states that named individual senators, according to the Post.
|Pregnant Pause Home||Politics||Search this site|
Posted 14 Sep 2000.
Copyright 1997 by National Right to Life Committee.
Contact Pregnant Pause