In a move that could have far-reaching effects, a federal judge ruled that an Ohio law banning lies in political ads is un-Constitutional on Thursday.
District Court Judge Timothy Black issued a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by the Susan B. Anthony List after a complaint filed by Representative Steve Driehaus (D-OH), when the group attempted to erect billboards accusing him of supporting abortion because he had voted in favor of Obamacare.
Driehaus, who opposes abortion, cited the Ohio law in his complaint which resulted in the owner of the billboards backing out of the agreement to rent Susan B. Anthony List the space on his billboards.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the group, praised the ruling calling it a “victory for free speech” and claiming support from groups “across the political spectrum.”
In his ruling Black said:
“Lies have no place in the political arena and serve no purpose other than to undermine the integrity of the democratic process. The problem is that, at times, there is no clear way to determine whether a political statement is a lie or the truth. What is certain, however, is that we do not want the Government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth — for fear that the Government might persecute those who criticize it.”
Black’s statement shows exactly why we need laws such as this. When he points out that it is sometimes difficult to discern truth from falsehood, he illustrates the weakness of his argument. If he thinks that it is difficult for the elections commission to find out if statements made in an ad are truthful, how does the voter know what is true?
It is generally accepted that what a politician says should be taken with a grain of salt, but when the courts say that to create a statute which outlaws lying in political campaigns is an infringement on free speech, it is unfathomable how the court reached that conclusion. It is illegal to lie or hide defects when one sells a home, and the pursuit of public office should at least be required to meet a similar standard.
h/t: Huffington Post