NRA Seeks Stay of Court's Ruling on Campaign Finance Law

The National Rifle Association (search) on Wednesday sought to block part of a federal court's ruling on the new campaign finance law, seeking a stay of its decision to uphold broad restrictions on interest-group political ads.

The NRA says that without a stay, it would be a violation of the law for it to run an ad in Arizona urging Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., to vote for legislation blocking lawsuits against gun dealers whose products are used in crimes. The ad also criticizes Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (search) of New York for opposing the legislation.

Both McCain and Schumer are up for re-election in November 2004. McCain is a sponsor of the campaign finance law.

The NRA and dozens of other groups filed lawsuits last year asking a special three-judge federal court panel to overturn the new law's restrictions on interest-group political ads, arguing they violated free-speech and other constitutional rights.

The court last Friday struck down one broad ban on election-time political ads by a range of interest groups but upheld backup restrictions.

The court ruled unconstitutional a provision barring a number of interest groups, including those financed with corporate and union money, from airing issue ads mentioning federal candidates in those candidates' districts the month before a primary and within two months of a general election.

It upheld fallback rules that bar the same groups from airing ads that promote, support, attack or oppose a candidate at any time. It's unclear how far interest groups can go when featuring candidates in ads because the law doesn't say what it means to promote, support, attack or oppose a candidate.

The NRA asked the court to stay its decision upholding the fallback restrictions. If it succeeds, the rules barring certain ads within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election would kick in; the group says that while it opposes that provision, too, it's preferable to the fallback provision right now because no Senate election is imminent.

The restrictions the court struck down "at least had one -- if only one -- virtue: They would have had little practical impact on free speech until December of this year, when the 2004 election campaign season begins and by which time a resolution by the Supreme Court could reasonably be expected," the NRA told the court.

The NRA has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn all the law's political ad restrictions. It is the first group to ask the lower court to stay its decision.