Right to Life Committee Takes On 'Emperor McCain'
By Ruth Marcus and Terry M. Neal
The National Right to Life Committee, furious over campaign finance proposals by Sen. John McCain, is hitting the Arizona Republican where they think it might hurt: in his home state and in New Hampshire and Iowa.
The group plans a radio campaign in those states which just happen to be sites of early presidential contests attacking legislation pushed by McCain, who is considered a possible presidential contender.
McCain's proposal would limit the "issue advocacy" advertising that has become a popular technique with advocacy organizations such as the Right to Life Committee. It would require them to comply with federal election law contribution limits and disclosure requirements if their broadcast ads name individual candidates within 60 days of an election.
One Right to Life Committee 60-second spot, entitled "You have a right to remain silent," envisions "the federal speech police" hauling away in handcuffs a woman who tries to provide information about McCain's vote to ban "partial-birth" abortions. "Do you have a federal license to say that name?" the speech policeman asks.
Another, called "Emperor McCain," seizes on McCain's quip, when asked in August if he wanted to be president, "I prefer to be emperor."
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the Right to Life Committee, said the group had targeted radio ads at other backers of the McCain bill, including his cosponsor, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), and Reps. Scotty Baesler (D-Ky.), Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Charles W. Stenholm (D-Tex.) and Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). Johnson wouldn't say how much the group planned to spend on the anti-McCain campaign, airing on conservative radio programs.
Asked how the committee happened to decide to advertise in Iowa and New Hampshire, Johnson said, "I can say only one thing on that particular point. If Senator McCain says on the record that he doesn't care what the citizens of New Hampshire or Iowa say about the legislation, then we will immediately withdraw those ads from those two states."
McCain said the group was mischaracterizing his legislation. "I have a strong pro-life voting record," he said. "But I must say, I am very disappointed that the National Right to Life's Washington lobbyists apparently don't believe that Americans have a right to fair and honest elections."
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