Incumbent Protection Could Come Up At Any Time
The following is a special message from Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt
(Thursday, March 7, 2002) — Riding the wave of fear created by the Enron debacle, Senate Democrats and limp-wristed Republicans are joining forces to pass a bill that would prevent groups like Gun Owners of America from using many forms of communication to mention the name of a candidate within two months of an election!
This bill, which supporters call “campaign reform” and which we call the Incumbent Protection Act, will have the effect of silencing groups like Gun Owners by inhibiting our ability to provide candidate information at the time when voters are looking for facts.
The bill will have two main results, neither of which is campaign reform. The first effect will be to gag groups like GOA so the voters will not know if their Congressman is good or bad on gun rights issues.
But the second consequence is even worse! The bill will make it possible for government regulators to interpret GOA’s lobbying efforts opposing gun control bills as “electioneering” if those legitimate lobbying activities take place near an election.
And that could put GOA, the NRA and every other pro-gun group right out of business!
The Congressmen and Senators who conspired to create this terrible, freedom-robbing bill put lots of traps and snares into it, that clearly have no “campaign reform” purpose.
For instance, GOA would be required to report to the government if it spent more than $10,000 preparing for and participating in TV or radio broadcasts that mention office holders or candidates within two months of an election.
And you can be sure that government regulators, especially anti-gun government regulators, will define virtually all of our activities as “preparation” for a TV or radio interview.
As you probably know, I appear regularly on TV shows such as Nightline, Crossfire and any of a number of network and cable news programs such as Fox Cable News. Will this bill mean that I cannot appear on TV or radio near an election for fear that the commentator may ask me about a candidate?
I thought I lived in America and was entitled to freedom of speech! Apparently, not anymore!
Advocacy groups like Gun Owners of America are the only true “watchdogs” on government abuse of the people’s rights. The media sold out long ago.
Without groups like GOA, you might never find out what is really contained in the so-called “campaign reform” bill.
You might go on thinking that folks like Senators Russ Feingold and John McCain or Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays or Massachusetts Rep. Martin Meehan are just nice people doing their very best to clean up our campaign laws.
But if their bill passes, speaking the words I just wrote could be defined as “electioneering.” As a general rule, groups like GOA are not allowed to engage in partisan politics. But by labeling our actions as “electioneering,” this bill would give the IRS the excuse it needs to effectively shut us down.
GOA’s mission is perfectly clear to me: we are here to defend your right to keep and bear arms.
In order to do that, we need to tell our members and supporters as well as the general public which bills in Congress support our Second Amendment rights and which bills would inflict more gun control on our nation.
We also need to let America know which Congressmen favor gun control and which Congressmen respect our Constitution and our bill of Rights.
This bill gives government bureaucrats the power to shut down any organization, left or right, which dares to talk about any Congressman or Senator in the days leading up to an election. That is why we call it the Incumbent Protection Act.
The Congressmen and Senators who support this legislation do not want to be held accountable for their actions. They want their constituents to be kept in the dark. And that is why they are out to get watchdog organizations like GOA and others whose mission is to keep the people informed.
The people promoting this terrible bill are using the same shameless tactics of the anti-gun lobby… because they are the anti-gun lobby.
The blatantly anti-gun Second Amendment purpose behind this assault on the First Amendment is so clear. The president for the national anti-gun group Common Cause stated, “If we’re looking to have progress on gun issues [i.e., gun control]… we have to get serious about reducing the impact of big money in politics.”
The McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan “campaign reform” bill will eliminate both the First and Second Amendments from the Bill of Rights unless you take the steps necessary to stop it.
Please use the pre-written letter below to contact your Senators and to help us stop this attack on our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
CONTACT INFORMATION: You can call your Senators at 202-224-3121 or toll-free at 1-877-762-8762.
I urge you to vote against the Incumbent Protection Bill and to vote AGAINST any attempt to invoke cloture should the bill be filibustered. This legislation — erroneously known as campaign finance reform — is bad legislation filled with sections that absolutely stifle free expression.
I believe in the right of advocacy groups to help keep the public informed on the issues that concern them. This legislation is nothing less than a gag rule that would silence Second Amendment groups like Gun Owners of America at the exact moment when citizens want and need the information they provide.
This bill is a referendum on freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear arms. Please vote AGAINST this bill. Please vote AGAINST invoking cloture and, thus, shutting off debate during a filibuster. Let freedom ring!