Ohio has a state law called the ‘false statement law’ that allows a group of politicians and bureaucrats to determine if someone is using false statements in political campaign ads. If that group has the same political agenda, they have the power to silence opponents to their political views.
This was the case back in 2010 when US Rep. Steven Driehaus (D) was running for re-election. A group known as the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) wanted to erect billboards in Driehous’s district telling people that he voted to support taxpaying funding for abortions through the Affordable Care Act.
Driehaus claimed the statements were false and invoked the false statement law to successfully prevent SBA List from erecting the billboards. Additionally, SBA List was threatened with a lawsuit if they engaged in any kind of speech saying that Driehaus or any other candidate voted for taxpayer funded abortions through Obamacare.
SBA List turned to the courts to challenge Ohio’s false statement law, claiming it violated their First Amendment rights. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the SBA List could not challenge the legality of Ohio’s law based upon the First Amendment.
When Driehaus was defeated by Republican Steve Chabot, he filed a defamation of character lawsuit against SBA List, claiming that they cost him his job and livelihood. After two years in court, SBA List was exonerated of any wrong doing and Driehaus lost his case.
In August 2013, SBA List filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to hear their case in challenging the Ohio law. In that petition, they stated:
“In this case, application of the Sixth Circuit’s restrictive rulings has assured perpetuation of a blatantly unlawful regime under which bureaucrats are the supreme fact-checkers for every political campaign – a regime that has, predictably, been routinely abused and will continue to be, absent this Court’s intervention.”
On Friday, the SBA List learned that their petition to be heard before the highest court in the land was granted. Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of SBA List responded to the news, saying:
“We are thrilled at the opportunity to have our arguments heard at the Supreme Court and hope that not only will SBA List’s First Amendment rights be affirmed, but those of all Americans. The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the Constitutional right of citizens to criticize their elected officials.”
“This lawsuit originated with the now ongoing problem of taxpayer funding of abortion in Obamacare. Driehaus was originally opposed to the Affordable Care Act because it did not contain specific language preventing the funding of abortion. That never changed and to this very day, Americans are still fighting the expansion of taxpayer funding of abortion brought about by the overhaul. After Driehaus and other naïve ‘pro-life’ Democrats caved, SBA List sought to inform constituents of their votes for taxpayer funding of abortion.”
I live just south of Cincinnati and all of our local television arises out of Ohio. During the past few election years, I can’t count the number of lies I’ve heard from Democratic candidates ranging from local, to state to nation to presidential. In last year’s presidential election, I got so angry hearing Obama’s and Biden’s lies about Romney outsourcing so many jobs overseas, when Obama’s administration was doing the same thing. I never heard of anyone like Driehaus trying to invoke the false statement law to silence Obama’s ads. If any deserved to be silenced it was Obama’s lies.
This clearly demonstrates the biased nature of the false statement law and those who have been charged with enforcing it. If I were the SBA List, I would collect all of Obama’s ads that were rife with falsehoods and show them to the Supreme Court to show the inconsistency of the enforcement of the false statement law. They could argue that since others are allowed to air political commercials and erect billboards with false claims and SBA List was denied that in fact Driehaus and others are violating SBA List’s First Amendment rights and that the law is arbitrary, thus unconstitutional.