Cincinnati Enquirer: Driehaus wins abortion billboard battles

This article first appeared online at Cincinnati.com on August 1, 2011.

Driehaus wins abortion billboard battles
Written by Dan Horn

Former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus won two court battles Monday against an anti-abortion group that targeted him during his unsuccessful re-election campaign last year.

His first victory came when a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit against Driehaus that had challenged the way Ohio handles disputes over election advertising.

His second came when the same judge ruled that the anti-abortion group, the Susan B. Anthony List, may have misled voters when it accused Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions.

Both decisions are tied to a dispute between Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List over a billboard campaign the group planned to launch last year criticizing Driehaus’ vote on the health-care reform law.

Driehaus said the billboards made “false claims” under Ohio law and sought an order from the Ohio Elections Commission blocking the political ads. Members of the Susan B. Anthony list said Ohio’s law is unconstitutional because it restricts their political speech.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black rejected the group’s claim, saying he has no jurisdiction because the billboards were never erected and the Ohio Election Commission never made a final ruling on whether they may have violated the law.

But the judge refused to throw out Driehaus’ defamation lawsuit against the group, saying the Susan B. Anthony List made untrue statements when other ads it sponsored tied Driehaus’ vote on health care reform to support for taxpayer-funded abortions.

“The express language of (the health care law) does not provide for taxpayer funded abortion,” Black wrote. “That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.”

The judge’s decision does not end the case, but it allows Driehaus’ suit against the group to move forward. Black was appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama.

Driehaus, who now is in the Peace Corps in Africa, said the ruling vindicates a position he took during the heat of his re-election campaign against eventual winner Steve Chabot.

“The Susan B. Anthony List was not being honest with voters,” said Driehaus, who ran as an anti-abortion Democrat. “I have fought this and will continue to fight this. It is not OK to spend thousands of dollars lying about elected officials.

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