STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Closer to home, some lawmakers face trouble for a vote they cast. It involved American intelligence agencies and their surveillance of communications. Now anybody monitoring Web communications could easily find a lot of fundraising activity by that bill's opponents. Here's NPR's Martin Kaste.
MARTIN KASTE: Earlier this month, Congress rewrote the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. Opponents say the new law gives spy agencies too much power to tap private communications without court order, a point made none too subtly by this TV ad.
(Soundbite of television advertisement)
Unidentified Man #1: Chris Carney is surrendering to Bush and Cheney the same un-American spying powers they have in Russia and communist China.
KASTE: The ad ran in the home district of Congressman Chris Carney, a Pennsylvania Democrat who supported the new FISA law.
Apparently, the ad hit a nerve. A Carney spokeswoman calls the ad a smear campaign and she says NPR shouldn't even do a story about it. The thing is, the ad was paid for by Carney's fellow Democrats.
(Soundbite of television advertisement)
Unidentified Man #1: Call Chris Carney now and tell him to stand up and fight. Blue America Pact is responsible for the content of this ad.
KASTE: Blue America is a political action committee promoted by Democratic bloggers. One of them is Jane Hamsher. She's been disappointed with Congress since it went Democratic in 2006.
Ms. JANE HAMSHER (Blogger, Blue America): I'm very upset with my party right now. They were given the majority, and they've got a 9 percent approval rating right now for a reason.
KASTE: Hamsher is especially peeved about FISA. Proponents say the changes actually strengthen privacy rules on certain phone calls, but it also streamlines the government's ability to sweep up a lot of communications without court warrant. But what really gets Hamsher's goat is the fact that congressional Democrats agreed to give immunity to phone companies that may have cooperated with illegal spying in the past.
Ms. HAMSHER: They gave George Bush everything he wanted on the FISA bill and more. He said so himself. And that's why there's so much energy online right now for change.
KASTE: Blue America raised more than $300,000 on this issue in just a few days. In the process, Hamsher made some new friends.
Mr. RICK WILLIAMS (Blogger): We love Jane. I just wrote a piece saying how much we love Jane yesterday on my blog.
KASTE: Rick Williams is a lifelong Republican, but on FISA he sees eye-to-eye with left-leaning Democrats. He was a Ron Paul supporter, and he and other libertarian-minded Republicans have joined forces with leftist bloggers in a new group called Strange Bedfellows. Williams says the group is planning a Ron Paul-style online fundraiser for August 8th.
Mr. WILLIAMS: That's the day that Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. We feel that the Nixon example - his resignation - needs to be reinforced. No one is above the rule of law - not President Bush and certainly not a group of law-breaking telecoms.
KASTE: Ron Paul's supporters call these online fundraisers money bombs. And if past performance is any indication, Strange Bedfellows may soon find itself with millions of dollars to spend. Besides the TV ads, they've already been targeting FISA-supporting members of Congress with full-page newspaper ads and robo-calls.
(Soundbite of robo-call)
Unidentified Man #2: For a long time we have supported Congressman Steny Hoyer. But last week, Hoyer just negotiated a deal with George Bush that let the big telecom companies off the hook.
KASTE: But it remains to be seen whether any members of Congress need to worry about fallout from FISA. Congressman Hoyer...
Representative STENY HOYER (Democrat, Maryland): I have not received a lot of discussion in my district on these issues.
KASTE: Hoyer, the Democratic Majority Leaders in the House, seems pretty confident that no elections are gong to be swayed this year by FISA.
Rep. HOYER: No, I think that the economy is the major issue. Changing our policy in Iraq, housing, the environment, global warming - I think those are going to be the major issues that the American people are concerned about and are going to address.
KASTE: Still, the FISA issue looms large online. It's come to dominate the discussion forums on Barack Obama's Web site. More than 20,000 of his supporters begged him to vote against the bill. He voted for it, but he made a point of sending them an explanation. But they're not satisfied. Now they're focused on producing a FISA TV ad of their own.
Martin Kaste, NPR News.
INSKEEP: For more on the bloggers who are funding the anti-FISA ads, check out npr.org's political coverage.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.