Anti-Free Speech Wellstone Amendment Passes

(Tuesday, March 27, 2001) — Last night, the Senate passed a Wellstone (D-MN) amendment which would outlaw many forms of pro-gun advocacy within 60 days of an election. The provision passed by a vote of 51-46 and amends the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Bill which the Senate is currently considering.

On one hand, the Wellstone amendment has been labeled a “bill killer” because it may invite the Supreme Court to strike down the whole bill if it is contested after becoming law. Given the repressive nature of this bill, this would be good news.

The problem is that, unless and until this provision is struck down by the courts, the Wellstone amendment would be a “free speech killer” for gun activists who rely on groups like Gun Owners of America to inform them on how their legislators are behaving in Washington, D.C.

The Wellstone amendment would prohibit groups like GOA from running TV or radio ads that mention a candidate’s name in the 60 days prior to an election. This Senate amendment outlaws free speech two months before an election for everyone but the media and federal candidates.

Not only would this create a “speech monopoly” for the media and incumbents, it would serve as a true Incumbent Protection Plan.

Further complicating the vote yesterday is the fact that many conservative opponents of the McCain bill voted IN FAVOR of the amendment. They argue that by poisoning the bill with an obviously unconstitutional amendment, they will force the Supreme Court to strike down the entire bill. Regardless, they are putting the free speech rights of all Americans in a precarious situation.

After the Wellstone amendment passed yesterday with support from very conservative senators, GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt remarked:

The Senate has embarked upon a dangerous strategy. I’ve been in this fight long enough that I remember folks giving up on Congressional attempts to repeal the DC gun ban in the late 1970s because we would supposedly “beat it in the courts.” Well, a quarter of a century later, we’re still waiting for the courts to strike down the DC ban.

The lesson learned is clear: it is very dangerous to rely on the courts to do the right thing.

Gun Owners of America would urge activists all over the country to ask their Senators once again to oppose the McCain-Feingold Incumbent Protection Bill. The Wellstone amendment which passed yesterday makes this bill a campaign finance “deform” bill — now even more than before — by silencing Americans who are not in the media or who are not federal incumbents in office.


Note Regarding E-mail to Congress:

Recent news stories about a study purporting to show a “crisis” in the handling of Congressional e-mail have given rise to Internet rumors and misconceptions. One such rumor is that e-mail to Congress is largely ignored.

The kernel of truth causing the problem is that NON-CONSTITUENT e-mail is often ignored. Very few, if any, legislators disregard legitimate e-mail from their constituents. It is for this reason that the auto-mailer in the GOA Legislative Action Center requires a street address to identify you as a constituent.

However, Congressional mail servers (especially in the Senate) are notoriously unreliable. Several Congressional e-mail addresses are currently “bouncing” back to senders with error messages. Should that happen to you, it is suggested that you try again on another day, or make a phone call instead.


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