Conservative group campaigns against White House ‘abuses'

WASHINGTON: Amid continuing controversy over the Bush administration's firing of eight federal prosecutors and the FBI's handling of US citizens' financial data and phone records, a new advocacy group of conservatives has launched a campaign to "restore check and balances ... under assault by the executive branch."

WASHINGTON: Amid continuing controversy over the Bush administration's firing of eight federal prosecutors and the FBI's handling of US citizens' financial data and phone records, a new advocacy group of conservatives has launched a campaign to "restore check and balances ... under assault by the executive branch."

The American Freedom Agenda, as the group is called, consists of former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who was on the House committee that voted to impeach President Clinton; David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union lobbying organization; Richard Viguerie, a developer of direct marketing for political campaigns; and Bruce Fein, former associate deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration and currently a principal at public affairs firm Lichfield Group.

As detailed in a National Press Club press conference on March 20, the group plans extensive media and grassroots outreach to foster support for legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) that calls for, among other things, repealing the military commissions used to try non-citizens, including those held in Guantanamo; banning funding for electronic surveillance not in compliance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978; and prohibiting prosecution of journalists for publishing national defense information leaked by government officials.

Along with a Web site, at www.americanfreedomagenda.org, where people will be encouraged to contact their congresspeople in support of this campaign, as well as contact presidential candidates to call for their support of it as well, Fein said his group will work to build support for the legislation through direct marketing efforts; partnering with other, as-yet-unnamed conservative organization to assist with outreach; and through grassroots efforts that could even include "teach-ins" at schools, town meetings, rotary clubs, or other venues.

"Just like in the Vietnam War era, you could have local or Washington leaders come in and teach about checks-and-balances and the philosophy of the Constitution," said Fein, who described his group's campaign as the first concerted legislative effort to address all the Bush administration's various judicial maneuverings. "This is a conservative philosophy, [but] it's a non-partisan issue; it transcends party lines."

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