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Federal Legislative Update

From the Spring 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 25.

From the Spring 2002 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 25.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports each spring on legislative proposals considered by the U.S. Congress that would affect the Freedom of Information interests and First Amendment rights of the news media. The report, which is by no means comprehensive, highlights some of the issues raised by lawmakers.

While the early stages of the 107th Congress drew lawmakers to Internet regulation and privacy matters, the events following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon directed attention to law enforcement, antiterrorism measures and government access.

Most notably, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act — formally known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act — a measure that grants government agents considerable power to use wiretaps and other government surveillance. Congress, too, considered a variety of military tribunal bills in response to a military order President Bush signed in November.

But FOI legislation — ranging from reports on the fallout from Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Oct. 12 memorandum to access to presidential records — might affect the press the most, further defining what records are open or closed to the American public.



Liquor advertising

NBC’s initial decision in December 2001 to run liquor ads despite its earlier agreement with other networks not to do so sparked a firestorm of protests from public interest groups and threats from lawmakers to introduce legislation that would ban such advertising. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) wrote the network on Dec. 20 stating that in order to “protect the public interest and the public airwaves” they intended to hold hearings examining the matter. NBC has since decided not to air any liquor ads; no bills have been introduced, and no hearings have been scheduled.

Cameras in courtrooms

While the events of Sept. 11 triggered numerous governmental actions to close off records and information, there has been legislative activity since the terrorist attacks renewing efforts to televise trials in American courts because of the likelihood that a number of accused terrorists will be tried.

A bill re-introduced in June by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that would give federal judges discretion to permit camera coverage passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Nov. 29. The measure, dubbed the “Sunshine in the Courtroom Act,” is the only bill of its kind to go this far. A similar measure introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) in July in the House had not received similar support. (S.986; H.R. 2519)

The “Terrorist Victims Courtroom Access Act,” if passed, proposes a closed-circuit broadcast of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui — the so-called 20th hijacker — for victims of the Sept.11 attacks. Introduced by Sen. George Allen (R.-Va) on Dec. 18, the trial would be broadcast to several cities including New York City, Boston and Los Angeles. It had not received a hearing by mid-April. (S. 1858)



Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act of 2002

Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.) introduced legislation on March 21 that would require anti-piracy technology installed in all kinds of electronic devices, including televisions, personal computers and DVD players.

The technology would prevent copying of copyrighted works except in limited circumstances.

The technology would be required in all “digital media devices,” defined as hardware or software that reproduces copyrighted works in digital form, converts copyrighted works in digital form into a form in which images are visible or sound is audible, or retrieves copyrighted works in digital form and transfers them to hardware or software that can convert them.

The broad definition would include VCRs, cable boxes, personal computers, cell phones, televisions and CD, DVD and MP3 players.

The bill gives manufacturers, consumer groups and copyright owners one year to agree on a copyright-protection system. If they did not agree, government would choose the technology.

Manufacturers could not sell a digital media device unless the device includes the anti-piracy technology, unless the device was made and sold before government regulations are adopted. The bill forbids knowingly removing or altering the technology, or knowingly making available to the public any copyrighted material where the protection has been removed or altered.

Critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and describe the bill as special-interest legislation for powerful media companies, especially the movie industry, that will gut consumers’ rights to make fair use of copyrighted material.

Hollings contends fair uses are protected. In announcing his bill, Hollings said the proposal protects legitimate home use of copyrighted material. The bill forbids a copyright-protection system that would prevent “a lawful recipient from making a personal copy for lawful use in the home of programming at the time it is lawfully performed.” This provision has provoked criticism for being too restrictive — it allows only one personal copy — and unworkable.

Most violations of the bill would carry civil penalties of up to $25,000 and criminal penalties of up to $500,000 and five years in prison for the first offense.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Co-sponsors are Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), John Breaux (D-La.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). (S.B. 2048)

The Music Online Competition Act of 2001

This bill would make it easier for webcasters — the Internet version of brick-and-mortar radio stations — to broadcast music without infringing on copyrights.

Reps. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) introduced the bill on Aug. 3, 2001. The legislation seeks to ease some of the restrictions imposed on online broadcasters of music.

For example, webcasters cannot play more than three selections from a particular CD or more than four selections from a particular artist within three hours without violating copyright law. The bill instructs the U.S. Copyright Office and the Department of Commerce to study how the restrictions affect webcast services, copyright owners and the public interest.

The bill also forbids copyright owners from discriminating in granting licenses to play their songs. Recording companies are forming joint ventures with Internet companies, and Boucher envisioned a monopoly on online broadcast rights. Under the bill, copyright owners who license music to a joint entity would have to make a license available to other webcasters on the same terms.

Other features of the bill include:

• Online webcasters would be allowed to make multiple copies of a recording as long as they met licensing requirements.

• Webcasters could offer music samples of 30 or 60 seconds to promote sales of the recordings.

• Royalty payments would be paid directly to artists instead of being funneled through recording companies.

The bill has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. (H.R. 2724)



The farm bill

Congressional agriculture committees worked nights and weekends in mid-April trying to pass a $171 billion farm bill before the growing season, at times exploring ways to make the names of farm subsidy recipients confidential.

Spurred by public interest and press groups demanding openness, lawmakers struck those provisions, although they another secrecy mandate in the bill.

House and Senate conferees were talked out of making secret the subsidy payments doled out by the Department of Agriculture, but they moved ahead with plans to keep secret information on farming or ranching operations provided by a producer applying for conservation program benefits.

Rep. Larry Combest (D-Texas) assured a colleague in April that the confidentiality provisions would not affect the ability of requesters to get information from the department on conservation or commodity payments. Neither the House nor Senate bills would keep farm subsidy recipients and information about their subsidies secret, he said.

But, he said, “we are working to ensure that any information provided by a producer to USDA regarding the producer’s farming or ranching operation, for the purpose of applying for conservation program benefits, will remain confidential.”

The conferees planned to keep proprietary information accompanying an application for conservation benefits confidential from records requesters and from regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency as well.

According to one Senate staffer, the department hopes to encourage farmers to participate in the conservation program. It reasoned that they would be reluctant if they believed proprietary information would be revealed or that they might become vulnerable to regulatory action because of information in their applications.

Although proprietary information would likely be protected under an existing Freedom of Information Act exemption, the farmers needed better assurance of confidentiality, the staffer said.

Anne Keys of the Environmental Working Group criticized the confidentiality provision. No government official should be in the position of hiding a violation, she said, suggesting that participants in the conservation program might be encouraged by lesser penalties or even a first-time waiver of penalties if they have violated such laws as the Clean Water Act or the Endangered Species Act.

In 1996, The Washington Post brought a FOI Act lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture for the names of cotton subsidy recipients after the agency said release would intrude upon their privacy. A federal district court in Washington, D.C., ruled for the newspaper. The information concerned the business interests of the recipients, not their personal lives, the court said. (Washington Post v. Department of Agriculture)

After that decision, the agency routinely granted FOI Act requests about farm subsidy recipients.

In 2001, the Environmental Working Group, a public interest organization in Washington, D.C., posted all farm subsidy recipients on its Web site giving the public, as well as reporters, a chance to see where the monies were going.

Among the subsidized farmers posted on the group’s site were Portland Trailblazers forward Scottie Pippen, CNN mogul Ted Turner and Enron executive Kenneth Lay.

Local interest in the list among farming communities was extremely high. Keys said the environmental group’s list created vigorous discussion of subsidies at the local level where it matters. Keys said the list showed that larger farms, many of which were corporate entities, received disproportionately large subsidies. Small farmers in greater need of the monies were less likely to receive them. Reporters around the country had drawn the same conclusions.

Many individual farmers complained that their subsidies were nobody’s business but their own and urged their representatives to shut access to that information down. However, protection of subsidy information in the Senate bill was removed early on. Rep. Combest said that there is not now any protection for subsidy information in the House measure. (H.R. 2646; S.1731)

Critical infrastructure measures

Congress is seriously considering passage of legislation to protect some information about vulnerabilities of “the critical infrastructure” which it hopes industry will share with the government, so that the government can take steps to protect major or critical industries and services and the physical assets that support them.

Industry lobbyists have insisted that they would like to share information about risks and problems they identify that could lead to disaster, or to destruction of telecommunications systems or major services that keep the country running. But the lobbyists said industry would not offer the information absent absolute assurance that the information they share with the government will be held in confidence.

Public interest groups opposing the measure argue that current exemptions to the federal FOI Act provide adequate protection to proprietary information. Industry spokesmen, in turn, say they do not trust that the information they provide the government will stay secret without a specific law requiring confidentiality.

Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) introduced critical infrastructure legislation in the 106th Congress and were quick to introduce a similar bill in the 107th. In late September, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) introduced a measure. (H.R. 2345; S. 1456)

Numerous public interest groups representing both open-government interests and environmental interests have protested the measures. They argue that security is threatened when vulnerabilities exist, and that the public will demand change if it understands the dangers posed, for instance, by inadequately protected chemical hazards.

A letter from public interest groups, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, urged senators last December to reject critical infrastructure measures, claiming that they could bar the federal government from disclosing information on spills, fires, explosions and other accidents absent permission from the company that had the accident.

The Pipeline Infrastructure Protection Act, for example, focuses narrowly on keeping problems with pipelines confidential but gives broad protection to that information, making secret any “systemic vulnerability of a pipeline system” at all. (H.R. 3609)

Electronic Freedom of Information

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, was talking to agencies and public interest groups in April about agency compliance with the Electronic Freedom of Information Act at the request of Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Efficiency. The GAO reported during the 106th Congress on agency compliance with the E-FOI Act and Horn hoped to see how its recommendations had been carried out.

In late February, several months after Attorney General John Ashcroft offered in an Oct. 12 memorandum to support legal denials of federal FOI Act requests, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) requested that the GAO assess the impact of the new FOI Act policy.

“In short, the new policy appears to favor withholding agency records not only when an exemption clearly applies and disclosure would harm a protected interest, but also when there is doubt about its application and no foreseeable harm from disclosure,” Leahy wrote David Walker, the comptroller general.

Leahy said the new policy is a contrast to the policy used under former Attorney General Janet Reno that “favored openness in government operations and encouraged a presumption of disclosure.”

Leahy asked the GAO to assess the impact of the new policy based on agency responses to FOI Act requests, agency backlogs of FOI Act requests, litigation involving federal agencies for withholding records and fee waivers for media requests following the effective date of the policy.

Classified information protection

Concerns about the damage that leaks within the government might cause has resulted in a review of the intelligence community’s capacity to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

President Bush signed into law last December the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, which requires the attorney general to review current protections against the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. (Pub. L. No. 107-108)

The provision requires Attorney General John Ashcroft to review any mechanisms or sanctions under civil and criminal law that would help detect leaks and allow punishment for or deter leaks of classified information.

Ashcroft is supposed to determine whether the intelligence community’s practices and regulations regarding the unauthorized disclosure of classified information are adequate and whether developments in technology necessitate changing current protections against leaking classified information.

The measure required Ashcroft to report his findings to Congress by May 1. Congress asked for a comprehensive description of the review, an assessment of the “efficacy and adequacy” of current laws against the unauthorized disclosure of information, and legislative or administrative recommendations on constitutional and legal actions that can be taken to thwart leaks of classified information.

The provision in the current law follows strong efforts by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to enact a provision initially attached to an Intelligence Authorization bill in the 106th Congress that critics dubbed the “Official Secrets Act.” It would have criminalized leaks of classified information to the public. The bill passed through both the House and Senate in the 106th Congress, but President Clinton vetoed the measure. (H.R. 4392)

Last August, Shelby and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Bob Graham (D-Fla.) attempted to revive the bill and to add it to this year’s Intelligence Authorization Act. Ashcroft requested the bill be withdrawn, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence removed the rewritten provisions on Sept. 5. (S.2507)

The Classified Information Protection Act, a House bill sponsored by Rep. David Vitter (R-La.) and introduced on Sept. 21, is almost identical to the “Official Secrets Act,” proposed to punish those that leak classified information with a fine up to $10,000 and three years in jail.

Currently, releasing information that might compromise national security is prohibited. Ashcroft’s review of protections against the unauthorized disclosure of classified information and the passing of Vitter’s or Shelby’s bills could result in felonies for those that leak virtually anything the government has deemed classified. (H.R. 2943)

Human Rights Information Act

A bill to speed the declassification of documents revealing human rights abuses in countries other than the United States has been inactive for more than a year.

The Human Rights Information Act would “promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law” by expediting declassification and providing disclosure of records relating to human rights abuses in other countries when a foreign entity running a credible investigation with an official mandate requests information.

The bill is not a tool for the media to obtain information; however, Hans Hogrefe, a spokesman for Rep. Tom Lantos (D- Calif.) said ultimately information would become public after it was requested and received by a foreign entity.

The bill states that foreign authorities need information held by executive branch agencies in order to “document, investigate and subsequently prosecute instances of continued and systematic gross human rights violations.”

The bill calls on the president to determine whether a request for a human rights record from an individual or entity that is investigating a pattern of internationally recognized human rights violations is an “international bona fide request.” The president would have 60 days to determine whether the request is bona fide and, if it is, to refer it to appropriate agencies for declassification review over the next 120 days. (H.R. 1152)

Federal Advisory Committee Transparency

The Federal Advisory Committee Transparency (FACT) Act of 2001, which would require secret Social Security meetings to be open to the public, was introduced in November 2001 by Reps. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires government advisory committees to be open to the public, but the President’s Committee on Social Security holds its meetings and committee meetings in private. The FACT measure was intended to change that.

No action has been taken on this bill since it was introduced. (H.R. 3371)

Whistleblower legislation

Federal law protects federal government employees who disclose waste and fraud from vendetta treatment by their employers. However, for the 40,000 people who will be working as federal airport baggage screeners, the law will not apply. A separate law passed in November gave the Transportation Security Administration director broad powers to hire, fire and otherwise deal with the employment practices of the baggage screeners. The bill was passed in light of the Sept. 11 attacks to encourage good workers to apply for the positions. Complaints made by whistleblowers could potentially be dangerous to security plans, proponents argue. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.). (Public Law No: 107-71)

Presidential Records Act amendments

A Republican congressman offered a bill designed to nullify an executive order from President Bush that effectively stifles the release of White House records of former presidents.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) said his bill, the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2002, would “fix a serious, but readily solvable, problem in the implementation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978.”

Horn called the Presidential Records Act “a landmark law” and faulted the Bush administration for causing excessive delays in releasing records from the Reagan years by crafting Executive Order 13233.

The Presidential Records Act, passed after the Watergate scandals, opened most records of a former president to the public 12 years after the end of his administration. The National Archives prepared more than 68,000 pages of Reagan White House papers for release in January 2001 but was stopped by the Bush administration.

The Bush order, released on Nov. 1, allows both a sitting president and a former president to halt the release of a past president’s records even after 12 years by simply exerting any privilege, legitimate or not. Under the order, the burden of the records’ openness lays with the requester.

Horn’s bill, if passed, would nullify the Bush order, and allow the former or incumbent president to exert any claim of privilege over the records in writing, stating the specific nature and grounds of such a claim.

If a former president makes the claim, the National Archives would hold the record for 20 working days to allow him to seek judicial recourse. The Archives would release the records after 20 days unless a court directed the records to be withheld. If an incumbent president makes such a claim, the Archives would hold the records until the president or a court allows them to be disclosed.

To date, the National Archives has released all but about 150 advisory records from the Reagan White House years. Thousands of former Vice President George H.W. Bush’s records remain sealed. (H.R. 4187)

Bioterrorism legislation

A bill that would require anyone who possesses, uses or transfers biological agents or toxins to register with the Department of Defense became law on Jan. 10. It provides that the registry would not be subject to disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act. However, the law does not prevent any federal agency from making disclosures to protect public health or safety or from making disclosures to Congress. Any violations of this measure would result in fines up to $250,000 for any individual and $500,000 for corporations or businesses. The bill was originally sponsored by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.). ( Public Law No: 107-117).

A bill called the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2001, which contains similar biological agents registry requirements and similarly prevents disclosures of the registry was sent to conference for discussion and modification in February. No action has been made on the bill since. It was sponsored by Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.). (H.B. 3448)


A host of new bills intended to protect against identity theft and preserve personal privacy has been proposed in this Congress. Most center on limiting access and use of Social Security numbers but a few are designed to keep other information, such as medical records, from public scrutiny. Only one bill has received a hearing thus far. Kevin Goldberg, an attorney with Cohn & Marks in Washington, D.C., identified several bills that propose to alter the availability and status of Social Security numbers.

In the House, Rep. Gerald Kleczka (D-Wis.) introduced the Personal Privacy Information Act of 2001 in April 2001 to protect the privacy of people’s Social Security numbers and other personal information. (H.R. 1478) A bill constructed to protect consumer privacy was introduced on June 12, 2001, by Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Ohio). (H.R. 2135)

In the Senate, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) introduced an amendment to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act entitled the Social Security Privacy Act of 2001 that would extend the prohibition against the sale and purchase of personal information by financial institutions to include Social Security numbers. Under the bill, they would be considered non-public information and, thus, inaccessible to businesses such as credit card companies and banks. (S. 324)

Another amendment to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in March 2001. The Financial Institution Privacy Protection Act of 2001 would further provide for the protection of health information and other non-public personal information. (S. 450)

In June, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) introduced an amendment to the Social Security Act that would restrict the use of Social Security numbers in the public and private sectors as a means of protecting individuals against fraud.

The Privacy Act of 2001, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in June is the only piece of privacy-related legislation to receive a hearing thus far. The bill proposes that before the sale and marketing of personally identifiable information, an individual must give permission.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) introduced legislation on April 24 that would protect Americans from unintended and unjustified invasions of privacy by the federal government. The proposed bill would require a privacy impact analysis on all regulations posted for public notice and comment. The measure also proposes to require that after the public notice and comment period, the agencies would be required to show the steps they took to minimize the privacy impact on the citizens and justify the alternative methods they chose. (H.R. 4561)



Military tribunal bills

President Bush signed a military order on Nov. 13, 2001, that allows suspected terrorists to be tried in military tribunals rather than regular courts, raising concerns about fair trial rights for suspects and First Amendment restrictions on the press.

Congress has since drawn up six bills outlining military tribunal regulations, two of which specifically refer to the public’s right to access the tribunals.

A bill introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) sets forth certain requirements for trials and sentencing by military commissions. It requires a record of each trial by a military tribunal and a verbatim written transcript to all sessions of the trial except those closed for deliberation and voting by the military commission. It also allows for a military commission to admit and consider classified information. (S. 1937)

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill requiring open trials by military tribunals of persons accused of terrorism in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. His Military Tribunal Authorization Act also would make transcripts of the trials and pronouncement of judgment public. Evidence could only be kept confidential or secret when disclosure would cause identifiable harm to military objectives or interfere with the capture of members of al-Qaeda anywhere; when significant, identifiable harm to intelligence sources or methods exists; or when there is substantial risk that such evidence could be used for planning future terrorist attacks. (S. 1941)

The Foreign Terrorist Military Tribunal Authorization Act, introduced by Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), would authorize the president to convene military tribunals for the trials outside the United States of persons other than U.S. citizens and lawful resident aliens who are apprehended in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

It requires the president to give Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court a semiannual report on the use of military tribunals, submitted, to the extent possible, in unclassified form. (H.R. 3468)

The Terrorism Tribunal Act sponsored by Rep. Bob Barr (D-Ga.) would authorize the limited use of military tribunals absent a war declared by Congress in cases arising out of acts of international terrorism committed in the United States. It orders the president to prescribe the regulations, rules and procedures for conduct of a trial by military tribunal through an unclassified executive order, to the maximum extent possible. (H.R. 3564)

The Military Tribunal Regulations Review Act introduced by Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D-Pa.) calls for congressional review of regulations relating to military tribunals. Under the Act, the president would submit periodic reports on the activities of each military tribunal to Congress within six months of its convening. The report would identify the accused and the offense charged. It would be submitted in classified form.(H.R. 4046)

The Military Tribunal Authorization Act introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) would authorize the president to establish military tribunals to try the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and for other purposes, provided such trials be open to the public. It says permitting classified evidence may be necessary in order to protect the public, those involved with the investigation and prosecution and national security interests. (H.R. 4035)


President Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law on Oct. 26, 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The law gives government agents broad new powers to investigate terrorism through wiretaps and other electronic surveillance. Government investigators now have greater authority to track e-mail and telephone communications and to eavesdrop on those conversations.

The act adds several terrorism offenses to the list of crimes for which a court may grant the government’s request for a wiretap.

The act also allows “roving” wiretaps for foreign intelligence, such as clandestine activities of agents of a foreign power. Previously, wiretaps could be issued only for a particular phone or specific communication device, such as a computer. Roving wiretaps allow U.S. authorities to intercept phone conversations and e-mail on any phone or computer that a target of the surveillance uses.

The law also allows more extensive tracking of a person’s electronic communications. Previously, law enforcement officials could track incoming and outgoing calls to a person’s telephone using devices that memorize the phone numbers of the incoming and outgoing calls.

The USA PATRIOT Act allows surveillance devices to be installed on cell phones, Internet accounts and e-mail to gather dialing, routing, addressing and signaling information — but not content.

Also, the law expands the government’s subpoena power for foreign intelligence. Previously, only records from certain businesses — common carriers, public accommodation providers, storage facilities and vehicle-rental agencies — could be obtained with a court order.

Now, a court order can extend to production of any tangible object held by anyone. The items must be sought as part of an investigation concerning international terrorism, although the items cannot be sought for investigation of a U.S. citizen based solely on that person’s First Amendment-protected activities. (Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272)

Campaign finance

President Bush signed a campaign finance reform bill that limits the receipt of unreported funds, known as soft money, by any division of a political party. The measure also prohibits the use of unregulated funds to buy advertising that contains “electioneering communications,” which are election-time or campaign messages about an identified candidate, within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. It also prohibits most election-time messages within 60 days of Election Day. An exception was carved out that allows for any communications in a news article, commentary or editorial. The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and in the House by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.). (Pub. L. No. 107-155).