House Dems, Ron Paul targeted over surveillance votes
Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday April 22, 2008

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New radio ads are running in districts of several Democratic members of Congress, as well as Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, targeting the lawmakers for their opposition to a White House-backed surveillance bill. The ads play on national security fears in an attempt to spur these lawmakers to give in to the administration's demands.

Critics of the administration-backed bill say it does not guarantee enough civil liberties protections and would eliminate oversight of President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Democrats, Republicans and administration officials have met to discuss the stalled bill in question. It's the first time since February parties on all sides of the issue have met.

The ads come from the ostensibly nonpartisan group Defense of Democracies, following up on an earlier campaign from the group targeting many of the same lawmakers. The organization is urging the House to pass a Bush-approved update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would provide legal immunity to phone companies that may have violated the law in facilitating the warrantless wiretapping of Americans after 9/11. Civil libertarians and privacy advocates say the White House version of the bill, which already has been approved in the Senate, also does not provide enough judicial and congressional oversight for the administration's proposed surveillance program.

Defense of Democracies is running ads in a dozen districts across the country, targeting 11 Democrats and Paul who voted for an alternative FISA bill that passed the House last month.

"This refusal to oppose the bogus House bill ensures that vital intelligence is being lost and that America’s intelligence community does not have the tools needed to detect and prevent terrorist attacks," the group's president Clifford May, said in a news release posted to its Web site.

The group claims to be bipartisan, but its earlier effort caused several Democrats to jump ship, and May told the Washington Post he has discussed conservatives' lagging fundraising efforts with former Bush strategist Karl Rove.

Defense of Democracies' campaign targets mostly "Blue Dog" Democrats who initially indicated they would support the White House-approved FISA bill. It accuses them of not heeding the "courage of their convictions" and bowing to pressure from Democratic leadership.

Writing at Bluestem Prarie, which covers one of the lawmakers targeted by the campaign, Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), Ollie Ox writes that those who changed their mind about the FISA bill did so "after they actually saw the legislation brought before them." Walz, however, is not a "Blue Dog" Democrat, and according to Roll Call, turned down the group's invitation to join.

The Defense of Democracies ad also claims that vital intelligence was lost because of the delay in passing a new law, citing claims from administration officials. The Los Angeles Times reported the administration backtracked form this claim soon after it was made.