This article originally appeared on WeeklyStandard.com on November 16, 2010.
Driehaus Withdraws Abortion Ad Complaint
By John McCormack
Congressman Steve Driehaus (D, Ohio) has withdrawn a complaint he filed in October with the Ohio Elections Commission that challenged the truthfulness of a Susan B. Anthony List ad, which claimed Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion in the health care bill. (Fact: Obamacare does fund elective abortion coverage.) Driehaus’s complaint scared a billboard company into not running the ad, thereby constraining the SBA List’s free speech. The ACLU weighed in on the SBA List’s behalf.
No word yet on Driehaus’s stated motive for withdrawing the complaint, but here’s a statement from the Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser:
“Rep. Driehaus’ decision to withdraw his complaint is a victory for the SBA List and for truth. The Susan B. Anthony List will not object to Rep. Driehaus withdrawing his complaint as we do not want to spend additional time and resources defending what the public already knows to be true – that the health care bill funds abortions with taxpayer dollars. Rep. Driehaus used an Ohio criminal statute to ensure that billboards stating the truth about his vote in favor of the pro-abortion health care bill were never erected. Despite his efforts, Rep. Driehaus could not avoid facing the consequences of his health care vote at the ballot box. On Election Day, Driehaus’ constituents sent a clear message by siding with the SBA List and voting him out of office.
“The SBA List remains gravely concerned that the statute allowing Rep. Driehaus to launch his complaint – and which cost the SBA List tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees – remains law and can be used to silence free speech again. The ACLU of Ohio’s amicus brief called the law ‘vague and overbroad,’ and said ‘it cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.’ The ACLU of Ohio went on to argue that ‘the people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech and, in any event, the best answer for bad speech is more speech.’ The SBA List will continue to pursue its federal case to declare the law unconstitutional in an effort to protect future speech.”
If Ohio is going to have a law criminalizing campaign ads deemed inaccurate, perhaps at the very least the state should hold the individual or group that made the ad–rather than the company hosting the ad–responsible, so as to not restrict free speech during a campaign.