ON-Lion Letter
In a major victory for the free-speech rights of grassroots groups in America, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law's prohibition on what it called "electioneering communications" that simply mention the name of a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election violated the First Amendment rights of those groups sponsoring such advertisements.

In the Federal Election Commission (FEC) v. Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that an ad can only be prohibited during the McCain-Feingold blackout periods if it "is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate."  The presumption should always be in favor of free expression, according to the opinion, and the WRTL ads at issue in the case met the test because, "[f]irst, their content is consistent with that of a genuine issue ad" and, "[s]econd, their content lacks indicia of express advocacy."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee has long tried to promote the desires of citizens to group themselves together in cooperation toward an end, whether it be running a school, day-care center, alcohol-treatment facility, alternative student group, or whatever.  Given that all grassroots groups' free-speech rights would have been so seriously jeopardized by an adverse ruling in FEC v. WRTL, the Bradley Foundation supported the James Madison Center for Free Speech in Terre Haute, Ind., in for its work on the case.

"The Supreme Court has given meaning to its [previous] recognition ... that there are 'genuine issue ads,' which incumbent politicians could not silence," according to James Madison Center general counsel James Bopp, Jr.  "Grassroots lobbying is important to citizen involvement in their own government and it has nothing to do with elections.  The Court has now restored to the people the most effective means, broadcast ads, for efforts to influence incumbent politicians when they pass laws to tax and regulate us."
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