The Postman Returns

Posted February 13, 2004 at 6:06pm

The Postman Returns. Mail delivery to Senate offices may resume this week on a reduced schedule, but the Sergeant-at-Arms reports it will take four to six weeks to return to normal delivery.

In addition to delivering a backlog of mail — delivery was suspended following the discovery of ricin in Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) office Feb. 2 — new mail procedures will also likely take time “to ramp up,” according to officials.

The Legislative Mail Task Force, a bicameral commission led by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms and House Chief Administrative Officer, is reviewing current mail-handling and delivery policies and is expected to issue new recommendations.

Appeal to Repeal. Despite the Supreme Court’s recent affirmation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) introduced legislation last week to repeal new restrictions on candidate-oriented issue advertising created by the 2002 law.

“It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment to restrict organized group communications (including informational and issue advocacy radio of TV broadcast communications) and limit what people can say about a candidate and when they may choose to speak out,” Bartlett said.

Under BCRA, broadcast ads that contain images or references to federal candidates that are aired within 30 or 60 days of a primary or general election, respectively, are subject to certain limitations and disclosure requirements.

In supporting Bartlett, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that while BCRA was “ostensibly designed to stop attack ads funded by bogus front organizations,” it has had the “practical effect of muzzling groups like the ACLU and the [National Rifle Association] from running advertisement highlighting candidates’ positions on issues like civil liberties and gun control.”

Choose or Lose 2004. Mindful of the effects of BCRA, lawyers for MTV have asked the Federal Election Commission if, as part of the cable music channel’s quadrennial “Choose or Lose” voter registration campaign, they can conduct a mock presidential election culminating in a national online vote that would be announced no later than Nov. 2.

“Millions of young people will be able to participate in the MTV Preelection and cast their vote for who they think should be President of the United States,” MTV explained in a letter to the FEC. “Voting will occur over an extended period of time, probably more than several days, sometime around the end of September and early October.”

Before MTV can conduct its mock “Preelection,” it wants to make sure that it won’t be violating any portion of the new campaign finance law, particularly the electioneering communications provision.

The network argues that while it plans to mention specific candidates in its broadcasts within the windows of primaries and general elections, it qualifies for the exemption granted to media entities.

— Jennifer Yachnin and Amy Keller