Today, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) responded to Rep. Steve Driehaus’ (OH-01) request for withdrawal of his Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) complaint against the SBA List. The OEC has been scheduled a hearing for Thursday, December 2 to consider Driehaus’ request. SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser offered the following statement:
“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.”
Rep. Steve Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission on Tuesday, October 6, 2010 alleging that the Susan B. Anthony List falsely accused him of voting for taxpayer funding of abortion as a result of his vote in support of health care legislation. The complaint was spurred by the Susan B. Anthony List’s intention to put up four billboards in his congressional district. Rep. Driehaus’ attorney convinced Lamar Companies to not to put up the billboards in order to avoid being added to the complaint. The Ohio Election Commission’s staff attorney recommended that Driehaus’ complaint be dismissed, but a probable cause panel of the Commission voted 2 to 1 to hold a full hearing to decide if SBA List broke Ohio law by putting false statements on its billboards. On Wednesday, October 20, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio filed an Amicus Brief in support of the SBA List’s case. The billboards were never erected.
On Tuesday, October 19, the SBA List announced a $50,000 radio ad buy across Rep. Driehaus’ district to spread its message and, on November 2, Steve Driehaus lost his re-election bid. The OEC must now formally accept Driehaus’ request in order for the complaint to be officially dismissed. A hearing has been set for Thursday, December 2.