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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nat'l Right-to-Life Committee Attacks Ohio Law Punishing Political Smears: Riled By Driehaus Complaint Over OH-01 Billboards

Ohio Law Criminalizes Campain Lies
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Ohio Elections Commission plans to hold an initial hearing Thursday (Oct. 14) on Rep. Steve Driehaus' complaint he's been falsely accused of voting for federally subsidized abortions.  But the National Right to Life Committee, a Washington-based group, says the panel has no business examining the truthfulness of political advertising, apparently even false advertising.  Driehaus, a freshman Democrat representing Ohio's 1st district on Cincinnati's west side, faces Steve Chabot, who a Republican who held the seat for 14 years.  Driehaus beat Chabot in 2008.  Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission contending that the Susan B. Anthony List -- a pro-life PAC in DC -- lied when it posted billboards in OH-01 claiming he "voted for tax-payer funded abortion." 

Under Ohio law, the commission determines if a statement is false and made recklessly during a campaign.  Its purpose is to try and keep things clean.  The Ohio Elections Commission has been around for nearly 40 years, and Republicans and Democrats alike have turned to it to combat smears.  If it finds problems, it can issue a reprimand or refer the matter for criminal prosecution.  A conviction carries possible penalties of up to 6 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.  The National Right to Life Committee filed affidavits with the Ohio Elections Commission that contend the messages on the anti-Driehaus billboards are truthful.  It cites provisions of the federal health care law enacted earlier this year.  Driehaus and others say there is nothing in that law permitting tax-payer funded abortions.  Driehaus is a pro-life Catholic Democrat who worked at Xavier University, a Jesuit school in Cincinnati.  Douglas Johnson, federal legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, says the Ohio Elections Commission shouldn't be able to enforce an Ohio law "reminiscent of the methods used to chill criticism in certain countries run by presidents-for-life."  Here's the full text of the National Right to Life Committee's attack on the Ohio Elections Commission:

"NRLC's Johnson offered these additional comments on the subject: 'It is outrageous the Ohio law allows an incumbent politician, like Steve Driehaus, to haul citizens before an appointed government tribunal, under threat of potential criminal prosecution, for expressing an opinion about the public policy implications of a vote that he cast in Congress.   This is an incumbent-protection law that is intended to intimidate critics, reminiscent of the methods used to chill criticism in certain countries run by presidents-for-life.  In America, anyone should be free to express their views on the effects of the bills that Mr. Driehaus voted for, without fear of criminal prosecution or fines.  Mr. Driehaus enjoys full freedom to dispute his critics, with the voters as the ultimate judges about whose claims are most credible.  Mr. Driehaus apparently does not trust the voters to see things his way, and so he attempts to utilize criminal-law strong-arm tactics in a pathetic effort to intimidate and gag his critics.'"

1 comment:

  1. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) believes that certain claims made by Congressman Driehaus, in his complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission and elsewhere, regarding the substantive provisions of the health care bill that he voted for, are objectively false. However, NRLC does not advocate that Mr. Driehaus should be criminally prosecuted for uttering these falsehoods (we differ from Mr. Driehaus in this regard). Rather, we refute his falsehoods in our 23-page sworn affidavit, which is supported by 16 documents ("exhibits"), all of which are posted here:

    Read the material for yourself and draw your own conclusions. But be forewarned -- if you decide that you agree with us and not with Mr. Driehaus, and you dare to assert your opinion publicly in an attempt to persuade others, Mr. Driehaus might decide to have you summoned before the tribunal.

    Douglas Johnson
    Legislative Director
    National Right to Life Committee (NRLC)
    Washington, D.C.
    Legfederal -- at -- a,o,l,dot,com