Get FISA Right gets partisan!

Get FISA Right logoThe new ad stars the Constitution as the main player, with the visual featuring a pan over founding documents. One version of the ad takes aim at the Republican Senators, who voted unanimously to extend the powers of government to listen to Americans’ phone calls and read their emails without a warrant; another highlights John McCain’s strong endorsement of the Bush Administration’s wiretapping policies over the last eight years.

— from Get FISA Right Directs Fire at McCain, GOP

Even though I push back on the media’s framing of civil liberties as a partisan issue — libertarians, greens, and “classic” conservatives value the Constitution just as highly as progressives — there’s no denying the Republican party’s party-line vote on FISA and McCain’s enthusiastic support for the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping efforts. With the conventions signalling a shift into high gear in the campaign, it seemed like a great time for Get FISA Right to complement our earlier non-partisan Don’t let our Constitution die ad.

As the discussion threads on the wiki page show, there were a lot of different ideas for what we might do. There was a tight deadline in order to get things ready to air by the RNC, so we wound up going with a very simple visual; and after some discussion, chose a couple of different voiceovers. We got the usual stellar help from, and I’m really happy with how the ads came out. Here’s one of them:

John McCain would do the same

Our goal is to get the ad on all the cable news channels in St. Paul to catch the attention of delegates, bloggers and reporters. Ad rates are relatively cheap there — $38 for Fox News, $20 for CNN Headline News — but alas Comcast has a $100 minimum purchase, and doesn’t yet allow multiple people to sponsor an ad. So various people are experimenting with using “pledges” on to pool resources. The first one quickly hit is $206 goal; others will follow.

Of course the ads were designed to be runnable post-convention as well — as was our initial ad. One of the things I really like about is that it allows for a range of ads, so we can have a mix of partisan and non-partisan ads and let individuals choose which they prefer. As Thomas Nephew says in his Call to Action on

The group is at it again, offering a new way for regular citizens — for instance, people who don’t need staff help to count their homes — to have a direct impact on the politics of civil liberties ..


Since Obama and other Democratic Senators also voted in favor of the FISA Amendments Act, we expect to get some pushback on our partisan stance here. That’s fine with from the perspective of a civil liberties activist: the more discussion we get of these issues, the better. As an Obama supporter, I’m also okay with it: even though he’s far from perfect on this issue, he’s much better on FISA — and civil liberties in general — than McCain, and the more we can highlight that the better. Here’s an excerpt of some mail I sent a reporter who asked whether our position was “disingenuous”:

Senate Republicans voted unanimously for the FISA Amendments Act — and (except for Specter) in favor of telecom immunity as well. A majority of Democrats voted against FAA, and only five supported telecom immunity. So there are clearly significant differences between the parties.

In terms of McCain, he emphatically backs the Bush Administration’s policies; see Doug Holtz-Eakin’s letter in National Review Online in the aftermath of the discussions at CFP (and Ryan Singel’s analysis in Wired’s Threat Level). Obama, by contrast, has said that he’ll review Bush Adminstration executive orders for constitutionality. He’s far from perfect on this issue — and we’ve criticized him as well — but once again, we see a big difference.

Is this too nuanced a position for people to understand? Call me an optimist, but I don’t think so …

Don’t let our Constitution die was viewed by about 4000 people on YouTube, resulted in 28 paid placements — and got coverage in Wired, Slashdot, Third Pipe, dslreports, d-day, the Huffington Post, and National Journal Online. Since then, saysme’s been on the front page of the New York Times business section. It’ll be hard to get above the noise of the conventions … then again, hopefully people are also looking for another angle to cover. We shall see.

In any event, it’s a great opportunity to be refining our processes for developing and publicizing the ads, message-testing, and continuing to get the word out.

If you’d like to help air the ads, please visit