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January 15, 2014

Lying Is Free Speech...Finally!

Patrick W. Allen

Distorting facts and creating myths has become commonplace with right-wingers. In other words, lying to right-wingers is the new truth.


Two right-wing groups are challenging a law in the State of Ohio, which is meant to keep people from giving false statements in political ads. You know, the kind of stuff that would never pass the proof-in-advertising threshold for commercial products.


The right-wing groups are challenging the Ohio law that is meant to keep people from lying in political ads. The two groups – the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) and the tea party group, Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) – claim that Ohio’s False Statement Law violates their First Amendment right to free speech. When someone goes to court to secure their right to lie, they are lunatics!


After the case was tossed out in the Ohio courts, the groups filed suit in federal court. On January 11, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case, a decision which could bring an end to the Ohio False Statement Law…or, the high court might experience a moment of clarity and strike down such an absurd attempt to distort the First Amendment.


Ohio’s False Statement Law protects the state’s voters from the kinds of dishonest tactics that the right wing uses all the time. The law currently makes it illegal to “post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.”


Okay, that makes sense. You would think that everyone across the political spectrum would support such a notion.


SBA List Billboards Got Shut Down: During the 2010 elections, SBA List wanted to advertise a false statement about Democratic Party candidate Steven Driehaus. The statement, which the group wanted to place on billboards, claimed that Mr. Driehaus voted in favor of taxpayer funded abortions, when he voted for the Affordable Care Act.


This was an obvious lie, since the ACA does not use taxpayer money and federal law clearly prohibits the use of public funds for abortion.


Mr. Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Committee (OEC). OMG, ethics commissions are pretty busy these days!!


The OEC has limited powers. Under Ohio law they are allowed to investigate complaints and rule on false statements. They may also refer cases for prosecution, if warranted. In this case, not only was there no referral for prosecution, but the OEC never ruled on the statement, except to say that the complaint warranted further investigation.


SBA List did not run their false political ads in Ohio because the company that was going to rent billboard space to the group backed out. This had nothing to do with the OEC or the False Statement Law, but happened because Mr. Driehaus contacted the company, personally.


COAST Is Afraid To Lie Because The OEC Might Catch Them: The second group that joined the federal suit, COAST, has never had any dealings with the OEC. The group jumped on board the SBA List’s suit, claiming that the fear of having to prove their statements true before a government agency kept them making similar untrue statements.


So, this group is basically saying that they were afraid to lie because another group got caught lying, and so that’s just not fair to them.


The Right-Wing Roberts Supreme Court Is Ready To Act: Maybe not surprising, even though lower courts dismissed the case as baseless, the Supreme Court agreed to hear it. Given the courts track record on decisions of this nature, Ohio’s False Statement Law will probably be found unconstitutional.


Reading through the documents filed with the Supreme Court, it’s hard to find any real justification for the federal lawsuit.


It seems the case is being used by these right wing groups as an excuse to attack the OEC, which basically does little more than report to the voters on the truth about political statements.


Of course, if they were forced to tell the truth, Republicans would never win another election. Since lying is all they have left, it makes sense that they want to get rid of this law.


The question is: will the Supreme Court help them do it?


Oh, BTW, did you know this was an election year?


References and Sources : Randa Morris


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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