Supreme Court Takes SBA, Driehaus Case
Supreme Court will hear petition against Ohio false speech law
The Supreme Court of the United States announced yesterday that it would hear a petition by the national Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) and the Cincinnati-based Coalition Against Spending and Additional Taxes (COAST) in a case involving former Rep. Steve Driehaus, who claims the pro-life organization cost him reelection, causing him to lose his livelihood.
During the 2010 election, the SBA List, a political watchdog group concerned with helping to elect pro-life candidates, tried to buy billboards that claimed Driehaus had broken his promise not to vote for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if it contained any public funding for abortion. Billboard companies refused to carry the SBA List’s message about Driehaus or any candidates, because Driehaus threatened to prosecute them using an Ohio law against false political speech.
The SBA List maintains that its claims are true, because Driehaus voted for the ACA after President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting that public funds be used for abortion, even though the law itself contains no such prohibitions and a presidential order can be rescinded at any time. It also claims that its free speech was infringed by its not being able to put up the billboards.
The SBA List and COAST lost their case and a subsequent appeal. Both courts said that the organizations had no grounds to sue because they had not been fined and could not prove that they would have been prosecuted or fined if their billboards had been erected.
The Supreme Court will not rule on whether or not Ohio’s false speech laws are unconstitutional, but on whether the groups have the right to sue. Oral arguments will be heard in April.
“We are thrilled at the opportunity to have our arguments heard at the Supreme Court ,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfesler said Friday. “The Ohio Election Commission statute demonstrates complete disregard for the Constitutional right of citizens to criticize their elected officials.”
The case is especially unusual because Driehaus, a lifelong Cincinnati resident, Catholic, and Democrat, also sued the SBA List over the same election. He claimed false speech, defamation, and loss of livelihood. He lost that case a year ago, but appealed in February 2013 from Swaziland, where he has been serving with the Peace Corps.
For our coverage of Driehaus’s appeal, click here.
For our coverage of Driehaus’s loss, click here.
Photo courtesy the Susan B. Anthony List.
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