Special Edition: Two Victories for the American People

BREAKING NEWS: Support for Bush-Kennedy-McCain Immigration Bill Collapses

An 18-Vote Swing Away From Washington Power, Toward the American People

All members of the Winning the Future movement and Americans everywhere who called or wrote their senators to express opposition to the disastrous immigration bill deserve thanks today.

In a soaring victory for the American people, just hours ago the Senate voted 46 to 53 to kill the bill — a full 14 votes short of what the bill’s supporters needed to stop a filibuster. This represents an historic 18-vote loss of support for the Bush-Kennedy-McCain bill from the vote held last Tuesday.

A Major Step Toward Defining What 2008 Will be About

What’s telling about today’s vote is that Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) both continued to vote for the Washington establishment and against the American people. Their support for the unworkable and impossible-to-implement Bush-Kennedy-McCain immigration bill marks a very distinct divide between their views and those of the major Republican presidential candidates. The vast majority of the “yes” votes today were Democrats and the vast majority of the “no” votes — the winning votes — were Republicans. This is a major step toward defining what 2008 will really be about.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

When I wrote to you earlier this week, I asked you to keep up hope, even if the movement to stop the immigration disaster suffered a defeat in the vote Tuesday.

Well, we did have a defeat, but you didn’t give up hope and you didn’t stop trying. It was the vocal opposition of millions of Americans — crashing e-mail servers, jamming Senate office phone lines, calling into talk radio — that was responsible for today’s victory. It was the American people versus the Washington power elite, and as Ronald Reagan would say, “We won, they lost.”

So, congratulations! This is exactly what this newsletter, this movement and this country are all about — citizens leading Washington, not the other way around.

McCain-Feingold Suffers a Body Blow: What It Means for You

The second victory for the American people this week was the landmark Supreme Court decision significantly limiting the scope of political censorship under McCain-Feingold.

All Americans who are struggling for a voice in how we govern ourselves — or are part of a group that seeks an active role in our democratic process — want to know what this decision means.

Here’s my take: It’s far short of a complete victory. McCain-Feingold still exists and still restricts free political speech. But it is a significant victory, one that substantially limits the power of the government to stifle our speech. So if you’re a citizen or a member of a group that wants to see real change in Washington, know this: This important ruling will enhance your ability to engage in grassroots activities before federal elections.

In other words, the fight for free political speech isn’t over, but score one big battlefield victory for democracy and free speech.

The Criminalization of Political Speech

Here’s what the decision actually did.

As you know, McCain-Feingold made it a crime for any incorporated group — be it a for-profit business or a nonprofit group like Wisconsin Right to Life — to use its general treasury funds to pay for “electioneering communications.”

“Electioneering communications” is a fancy term for any broadcast communication that refers to a candidate for federal office and that is aired in the candidate’s area within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election.

In 2004, Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) challenged the constitutionality of this prohibition. WRTL had planned to run ads shortly before the 2004 federal elections asking Wisconsin residents to call their two senators, Democrats Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl, to urge them to oppose the filibustering of federal judicial nominees. Each ad included the following language: “Contact Senators Feingold and Kohl to tell them to oppose the filibuster.” The ads also referred viewers to a website which listed the Senators’ positions on the filibusters.

The Court ‘Significantly Scaled Back’ Limits on Political Ads

But Wisconsin Right to Life was prohibited from exercising this political speech by McCain-Feingold. So the group filed a lawsuit, arguing that, to the extent McCain-Feingold applied to these ads, McCain-Feingold unconstitutionally limited freedom of speech.

This week, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Wisconsin Right to Life. And the result is that the court significantly scaled back the limits on these types of ads, stating that an ad is only prohibited by McCain Feingold “if the particular ad is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.”

In other words, even if a group intended for the ad to have an effect on a pending election, or if the ad does have such an effect, it is unconstitutional to preclude the ad unless the text of the ad expressly advocates the election or defeat of a federal candidate.

(McKenna-Long and Aldridge, the firm of our general counsel, have graciously offered their more complete analysis to Winning the Future readers. Click here to download.)

The Next Step: Repeal McCain-Feingold

Like I said, there are more battles to come, but the significant result of this decision is that free political speech is gaining on government censorship.

The court’s ruling will enhance the ability of groups such as Wisconsin Right to Life and others to engage in grassroots activities shortly before federal elections without risking a violation of federal campaign finance laws.

For those of us who want to continue this trend, the next step is an outright repeal of McCain-Feingold.

Let’s get rid of government censorship and replace it with freedom and transparency: Americans should be able to make unlimited contributions to candidates in their districts, and then these contributions should be posted immediately on the Internet for everyone to see.

Thank you to everyone who called and wrote their senator to remind him or her that we lend power to them, they don’t own the power.

So far, it’s been a good week for the American people.

Newt Gingrich

P.S. — To listen to a message I recorded on the road today when heard about the results of the immigration vote, click here.