A Free-Speech Case Creates Unusual Allies

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, January 5, 2006

Coalitions often gather up strange bedfellows when lobbying Congress on this tax or that public policy. But perhaps there are no stranger bedfellows than the antiabortion Wisconsin Right to Life group and the liberal Alliance for Justice, which are teaming up to try to persuade the Supreme Court to rule against a provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

The Wisconsin group is appealing a lower court ruling that its grass-roots lobbying ads in 2004 violated the law. The ads urged voters to ask Wisconsin's Democratic Sens. Russell Feingold and Herb Kohl to oppose any possible filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. Feingold was a candidate for reelection at the time, so the Federal Election Commission said the ads could not mention his name from Aug. 15 through Nov. 2, 2004.

Wisconsin Right to Life, a nonprofit, says the law gags its constitutional right of freedom of speech. The Alliance, a nonprofit organization of environmental, civil rights, women's and other groups that was running ads supporting the filibuster, agrees.

In a show of solidarity on the First Amendment -- if not on Bush judicial nominees -- the Alliance filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Wisconsin Right to Life's case before the Supreme Court. The high court will hear oral argument Jan. 17.

But before then, Wisconsin Right to Life and the Alliance are going to find themselves on opposite sides next week when the Senate opens its hearings on the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court.

"At a time when we're going up against Wisconsin Right to Life and other antiabortion groups on the Alito nomination, we've joined forces to protect all our freedoms," Alliance president Nan Aron said.

Barbara Lyons , executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, noted that her group is also getting support from the abortion rights group NARAL. "We're fine with it. It's a free-speech issue that affects all citizens," Lyons said.

Wisconsin Right to Life's lead counsel James Bopp Jr. , who specializes in representing conservative and Republican clients, says the support of liberal groups will show the Supreme Court that the case against the campaign finance law provision is not conservative or liberal, Republican or Democratic.

"There's an unfortunate tendency for groups in Washington to want to use campaign finance laws for partisan advantage. . . . One of the messages to the court is this is not a partisan issue," Bopp said.

Lobbyist Enlists in Homeland Security

Only a couple of months after merging his lobby boutique Hill Solutions with Buchanan Ingersoll and co-chairing the law firm's national security practice, Jack Thomas Tomarchio will be leaving to do national security work in the government.

Tomarchio is resigning from the firm Monday to take a newly created job as principal deputy assistant secretary of homeland security for information analysis -- basically deputy director of intelligence for the Department of Homeland Security.

Tomarchio, who said he has worked "in and around" the intelligence community for some time, is a colonel in the Army Reserve and has commanded a reserve Special Operations battalion; he is currently assigned as the staff judge advocate of the Military Intelligence Readiness Command. He has also worked for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict.

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