Sent to RCR Report subscribers on Thursday, September 19, 2002

Operation Free Press

How to beat the government in court — a simple, yet thrilling new tactic

As you know, we're engaged in legal combat with the federal government — fighting in the courts to preserve AND win back your 1st Amendment rights. We filed Paul v FEC back in April and we're in the trenches right now, responding to document requests, interrogatories, and submitting affidavits.

What if I told you we've developed a new battle tactic to . . .

  • Radically improve our case against the federal campaign finance laws,
  • Expose Congressional abuses,
  • And get others to chip in financially,

. . . all in one simple motion?

Now what if I told you we could kill all three of these birds with one inexpensive stone?

Would you be interested?

Imagine hearing the following ad on the radio

If you vote in November, treasure the experience.

After this election, any citizen's group, that dares to broadcast the name of a Congressman seeking re-election (in an ad like this), could be fined or jailed!

Your Congressman, Representative (NAME), voted for this destructive law.

I'm Jim Babka of

Supporters claim they want to reduce the influence of special interests, but what they really want is to protect themselves from their opponents. is fighting this in court. Want to learn more? Grab a pen.

Call 1(800)555-xxxx and listen to our recorded message, or visit We have a free report to send you.

If free elections finally die, it won't be because we didn't do everything we could.

Help us by visiting or call 1(800)555-xxxx today.

That's right — we're going to make a radio ad that'll shake-up Capitol Hill! You might even be able to use it on your Congressman — you'll want to keep reading to learn how.

We're calling the spot "Operation Free Press," because after this election, you and I will enter an Orwellian era where ordinary Americans (read: "political outsiders") will be stripped of their right to use the electronic press (TV and radio) — during the final days of a campaign — to expose a Congressman's voting record.

But we've got only 47 days left in this election season, so we're depending on you to ACT NOW.

Why are we launching Operation Free Press?

  1. This ad will strengthen our case. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) has a provision called "Electioneering Communication." In addition to imposing substantial and burdensome reporting requirements, it provides that practically no one, outside of the campaigns themselves, can broadcast an "issue" ad that mentions an elected Representative or Senator, including his name or image, during the 30 days preceding a primary election and the 60 days preceding a general election. (I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that the corporate media, like the New York Times and Washington Post, have an exemption from this law.)

    The sanctions for violating this provision are harsh, including up to 5 years of possible jail time plus fines — both for the person who paid for the ad and (maybe) the station that runs it. That's five years of jail time for saying the wrong thing too close to Election Day!

    The purpose of this part of the law is clear — insulate incumbents from criticism during the period when undecided voters are paying the most attention.

    Ads, like the one above, are legal this election cycle, but after that the curtain will be drawn FOREVER — unless we can torpedo it in court. By making and airing this ad, could draw attention to our best arguments. With 11 different lawsuits filed, representing more than 90 plaintiffs, that's no small accomplishment! Since our case is the BOLDEST proposal before the courts and could trigger the most sweeping changes to federal election laws, we CAN'T pass up this opportunity!

    More on this point in a bit . . .

  2. Of course, we can't overlook that by airing these ads, even if only a few times and in a few places, we will be exposing the unconstitutional actions of members of Congress. It's also likely that listeners (and maybe the candidates themselves) will be more open to dialogue on this important issue. Many people haven't heard the other side of the case — that campaign finance reform is a bad idea. Some supporters of campaign finance reform are sure to re-think their position, creating doubt where certainty once existed. Others, who weren't committed to campaign finance reform but thought it was probably a good idea, may well change their minds and come to agree with us once they hear our ad.

  3. We've designed this radio spot as a direct response ad. You'll notice . . .

    • We mention the website four times and our phone number twice.

    • We offer a free report — "free" is a magic word.

    • We include a toll-free number — the call won't cost them anything to respond.

    • And we send them to either the website or a recorded message — meaning they won't have to talk to a high-pressure sales person.

    The free report will educate the reader, but it will also make the case for why the reader should join you in supporting this landmark legal action. And even if the numbers of people responding are small (as they're likely to be), you can never rule out serendipity. One listener could become a major supporter.

How important this ad can be to our case?

BCRA is designed to stop so-called "electioneering" by non-profits — running ads that are designed to attack (or support) a particular candidate.

Frankly, I'm just like you; I don't care whether the Republican or the Democrat wins. It's not our aim to score a partisan victory or defeat. Besides, we won't have the resources to influence the election anyway. But it's important that our true rationale not be obscured. So just what is our purpose?

  • The point is that non-profit advocacy groups, like, exist to educate the public on their focal issues. We're not running the ad to help or hurt a candidate, but instead to achieve the objectives we set forth above — specifically, educate the public, expose voting records, encourage dialogues, secure some new supporters, and fund our lawsuit.

  • But there's an even greater point, and an even bigger opportunity here. If there were no restrictions on the 1st Amendment, namely, the restrictions imposed by BCRA's parent the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) — which first went into effect 30 years ago — none of this would be an issue.

    We are arguing that the only solution to the problems BCRA creates is to pull FECA up by its roots and let it die in the sun. There's only one set of plaintiffs that seek this outcome — the case brought by and our co-plaintiffs.

We want to make that argument as effectively as we can. This radio ad could be a terrific weapon. Can you help us by contributing today? Please read on a bit further, because I want to show you how you can expose a particular Congressman that voted for BCRA — perhaps your Congressman!

The best part

Now here's the best part — the budget for Operation Free Press is affordable and realistic! But we have no reserves to fall back on and we can't begin this project without adequate support. We need to raise at least the cost of ad production right now, which will be roughly $5,000 when you take into account the different versions we'll have to make to cover individual Senators and Representatives.

But that's not all we'll have to do. I want to share our full plan so that you can see where we're headed. You'll find our proposal has an exciting twist you may want to seize.

Operation Free Press is divided into two parts.

Phase I: Produce the radio commercial.
Phase II: Broadcast the ads.

Phase I

The script you see above is the script we'll most likely use for our recording (though one can never predict what will happen in the studio!).

To record, edit, produce, and distribute the ads, we need to raise $3,000, plus $200 for every individual member of Congress we name — hence our figure of $5,000.

We want to keep a careful eye on our budget. If we covered every incumbent politician who voted for this bill we'd need to make ads about the 218 Representatives who voted for Shays-Meehan in the House and who are up for re-election this year, plus the 17 Senators who voted for McCain-Feingold and who are also up for re-election this year. If we just planned to do an ad for each of them, our production budget could exceed $40,000!

We've decided to take the libertarian approach — we'll let the market decide how many Senators and Representatives our ads will cover.


  • When you contribute $250 or more, you can designate the name of an offending Representative or Senator. AND we'll send you a broadcast quality CD of the radio ad, PLUS a license that gives you the right to take it to a local radio station for broadcast. Click here to make a donation.

  • And if you want to contribute $500, $750 or more, you can single out as many offending Representatives or Senators as you want. We didn't spend a fortune coding and programming our contribution page, but you can still make as many $250 contributions as you want. Just keep clicking the link above and designate your next selection each time you contribute $250 or more.

But even if you cannot afford to contribute at this level, we have something for you.

  • If you contribute $50 or more to this effort, we'll send you a cassette copy of the ads.

  • If you contribute $100 or more to this effort, not only will we send you the cassette copy, but we'll also memorialize you by name on a special production page on our website as one of the Producers of this ad. That page will feature the ads so that anyone can listen to them online — especially the local media where the ads end up airing.

But donations of every level count, even if only for $40, $30, $20, or even $10. Phase II of Operation Free Press explains why . . .

Phase II

We also need to get these ads on the air. The reporting threshold for the new BCRA law is $10,000. We've set that amount as a total goal for this project — production costs and broadcast time.

We have a challenge. The cost for buying advertising time varies from location to location, making precise planning logistically time-consuming and strategically difficult.

You probably already figured out that we're giving supporters who contribute at least $250 the ability to broadcast these ads on their own.

But to completely fulfill our objectives in this case, we want to buy ad time in at least two races — one Republican and one Democrat.

We won't use a polling firm — or even a political consultant — to pick these races. And since we're swamped with other responsibilities, we don't have the time to strategically pick these races ourselves. And it wouldn't help our case to invest your money in campaign services anyway, because we're not trying to influence the outcome of any particular election. To spend money on strategic placement would suck up dollars that could be spent broadcasting this important message.

Once again, we'll let the market decide. We're not doing any professional targeting. If you're like me, you don't care whether the big-government Republican or the big-government Democrat wins anyway.

Put another way, it's up to you, as a supporter, where these ads run.

Every dollar you give to this effort counts because every dollar will equal a vote. We will run as many ads as we can afford mentioning the Republican incumbent and the Democrat incumbent that receive the highest vote totals based on your contributions.

When you contribute, regardless of your level, please designate the member of Congress of your choice. If your choice receives the most dollar-votes, we'll use the money we raise above and beyond our production budget to buy advertising in the "winning" congressional candidate's market.

That means even if you can only contribute $40, $30, $20, or $10, you get a say in where these ads are going to run.

I'm excited that we have a chance to expose incumbent voting records, educate our fellow citizens, and enhance our case in court — all for such a minimal amount of money. But we can't go forward without your help.

Deadlines Happen

On Monday, we face a hard deadline. We have to submit whatever documents we intend to introduce as evidence in this case, and we want to include as much information about this ad project as we can. We don't have time to turn to others for help or get a letter out the door. I can only turn to you to get this project off the ground, and I can only do so now.

Besides, there are only 47 days left in the election season. We want to get these ads distributed to individuals around the country who will help us broadcast them — buying time in their own local market.

Based on past experience with email appeals, and given the size of this list, we can only reasonably expect to hear from 100 or so people.

  • If 100 people gave $50 each ($5,000), most likely (depending on how many members of Congress require their own ad) we'd be able to move forward with production now. (We must meet this minimal goal right now.)

  • If 100 people would give at least $100 each, this program would be fully-funded.

Honestly, 100 contributors just won't be enough for this project. We'll probably need double that number because not everyone can afford to contribute $100 or more. If just 7% of this list would respond with $10, we'd exceed the $10,000 goal. As you can see, you can't depend on your neighbors to make sure this project happens. We really need help from you specifically, and we need it today. Click here to help.

Jim Babka, President, Inc.

P.S. The need is urgent. We have a legal filing on Monday. Election day is looming. Success requires rapid action. If your Representative or Senator is up for re-election this year, wouldn't you like to have their voting record exposed for what it truly is — a vote against the 1st Amendment? With this ad, you have a chance to counteract the law and potentially open up fellow citizens (even candidates) to dialogue. $250 guarantees your offending congressman has an ad made about him or her AND that you'll receive a broadcast quality copy. But, as we covered in this email, any amount is beneficial because it helps determine whom we'll target and where the ads will broadcast. Please give generously today.

P.P.S. Please feel free to pass this message on to friends. Many members of Congress who voted for these bills claimed they were fighting corruption or "the appearance of corruption." That's high-sounding rhetoric. Let's be honest here; these incumbent Representatives and Senators merely want to make getting re-elected easier.

Both pro-life and pro-choice groups, union and right-to-work organizations, civil libertarians and constitutionalists — the Hatfields and McCoys of modern politics — lobbied against this bill. John McCain called these groups of citizens "special interests." I take his name-calling personally. I hope you do too, and that you'll share this message with friends who treasure the 1st Amendment. Tell them you've made a contribution and you hope they will also consider doing so.

RCR Report is the email advisory service of — a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational and lobbying organization dedicated to promoting free and open elections and a robust, participatory democracy for all Americans. To subscribe, click here.