A grassroots movement that began in opposition to Barack Obama's support of a controversial wiretapping law is turning its attention towards Republicans, who are meeting for their convention this week.
From its humble beginnings, Get FISA Right has grown into a full fledged movement, and group members are purchasing air time on Minneapolis/St. Paul-area cable systems for advertisements targeting thousands of Republican delegates and the reporters who have traveled there to cover them. At least nine 30-second advertisements will air Wednesday on Fox, CNN, Headline News and CNBC, Jon Pincus, a Get FISA Right organizer, told RAW STORY.
The group hopes to "use this to highlight that Obama and the Democrats are far better than (John) McCain on FISA and civil liberties in general," Pincus said, using an acronym for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which the Senate updated and expanded earlier this year.
Get FISA Right began on my.barackobama.com, the Democratic presidential candidate's social networking portal, where supporters formed a group protesting Obama's intention to vote for the spy bill. After growing to become the largest group of Obama supporters, organizers branched off to form an independent organization with its own Web site, getFISAright.net.
Some passionate group members created several television ads that Get FISA Right will be airing with the help of SaysMe TV, which acts as a broker to get user-generated television ads on cable networks for relatively low cost. One prime-time spot on Fox News in St. Paul costs $123, Pincus says.
One ad that will be airing Tuesday takes a non-partisan approach, arguing the Constitution is more important than partisan politics.
"For 200 years, the Fourth Amendment protected us from unreasonable searches and seizures," a narrator says. "On July 9, all the Republican Senators voted to allow the government to listen to your phone calls and read your email without a warrant. We’re building a new movement that puts our Constitution above politics. Don’t let American freedom die. Join us at getFISAright.net"
Another ad that will air makes a more explicit argument against the Bush administration's abuse of power and John McCain's support of their spying policies.
"For 200 years, the Bill of Rights has protected our freedoms. During the last eight years, the Bush administration listened to Americans' phone calls and read their e-mails without a warrant. If elected, John McCain would do the same," that ad says. "Don't let our Constitution die. Join us at getFISAright.net."
While Pincus acknowledges there won't be too many sympathetic viewers among the Republican convention attendees, he says he hopes the ad will attract some attention from the thousands of reporters in St. Paul to cover the convention and give them a news peg on which to hang new stories about civil liberties issues in the election.
"There's a lot of people in the media who feel that this story needs to get more attention," Pincus said, pointing to a piece by Slate legal correspondent Dahlia Lithwick lamenting the dearth of Constitution discussion at last week's Democratic convention.
Furthermore, he says, supporters in town for Ron Paul's parallel convention may be attracted to the group's pro-civil liberties message.
Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican congressman, attracted tremendous support for his unsuccessful presidential bid running on an anti-war message that vociferously criticized the Bush administration's expansion of executive power in the wake of 9/11.
Despite breaking with Obama on the FISA issue, Get FISA Right still strongly supports the Democratic candidate and is hoping for his election. Pincus acknowledges, though, that those disaffected Paul Republicans don't have to cast a Democratic ballot to advance that goal.
"I do think it's to Obama's advantage if they simply vote for Bob Barr," he says.
Grassroots group Get FISA Right will be airing the following two ads during the Republican Convention in St. Paul Wednesday:
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported when the ads would run. They will be running Wednesday