Republican attorney James Bopp, the one-man wrecking crew against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance system, is at it again.
Bopp, representing the National Right to Life Committee, recently wrote to the Federal Election Commission asking if the regulatory system will allow the committee to run radio ads critical of Obama. But when an agency gets a letter like that from Bopp, it's usually the prelude to a lawsuit. He has a history of using advocacy ads as test cases to chip away at campaign reform laws he argues are unconstitutional. And he's very good at it.
Bopp, however, tell us his letter isn't leading up to anything. All he wants, he says, is the go-ahead to run the ads. "We want to run these ads — and we don't want to go to jail," he said.
(Not that he loves GOP nominee John McCain, whose name is on the law Bopp lives to destroy. In the Republican primary, Bopp joined forces with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.)
The radio ad recounts a dispute between the anti-abortion organization and Obama over a bill he voted against that would have given legal protection to aborted fetuses showing signs of life. Citing a Factcheck.org analysis that vindicates some of National Right to Life's allegations and calls Obama "wrong," the ad says, "Will Obama now apologize for calling us liars when we were the ones telling the truth? Barack Obama: a candidate whose word you can't believe in."
More after the jump...
National Right to Life is already running the ads through an affiliated political action committee, which can air the ad legally using small, disclosed contributions. Bopp wants to be able to run it through National Right to Life's nonprofit corporation, which can raise unlimited amounts of money and keep donors anonymous. The group wouldn't be able to do that if the ad was deemed "express advocacy" against Obama or if there was "no reasonable interpretation" of the ads other than "an appeal to vote" against Obama.
That "no reasonable interpretation" language comes from a recent Supreme Court case that Bopp largely won last year, invalidating an important part of the McCain-Feingold law. But Bopp wants to go further. He thinks the FEC's rules on this subject are "extremely vague and totally unconstitutional." So he's forcing the commission to make a decision on his ads.
Certainly there are other ads up and running that come just as close to the line — and no one else is asking the FEC for permission. Bopp's perspective on that?
"When your group is funded by a multi-billionaire like George Soros and he could buy the United States...he doesn't worry too much about fines," Bopp says. "But for normal organizations like National Right to Life...they have a legitimate concern. There's real consequences."
Where does a "normal organization" get money? According to the Foundation Center, National Right to Life has received funding from the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, which was started by the late co-founder of Farmers Insurance, and the Ochylski Family Foundation, whose largess comes from the meat-packing industry. National Right to Life's charitable arm has received funds from the foundation of Republican donor John Uhlmann, whose family made its fortune in the grocery business, and the Leptas Foundation Trust, founded by a Colorado physician. That doesn't include any individual contributions.
In any case, Bopp is demanding swift action by the commission, so he can get the ads on the air before the election. Technically the commission doesn't have to act for 60 days — which is another one of Bopp's complaints.
And Jim Bopp doesn't just complain. He sues.