Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in another election law case. This one concerns an ad run by Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-birth organization, against Rep. Steven Driehaus. In the ad, SBA List accuses Driehaus of voting to allow taxpayer funds to be used to fund abortions, despite the last-minute protections built in to ensure that didn't happen.
The antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List launched a campaign to unseat Driehaus, preparing to run billboard ads saying, "Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion."
The statement was false, Driehaus said, since under the law no federal funds can be spent to pay for abortions. He threatened to sue the billboard company, which decided against running the ad. Then he complained to the Ohio Elections Commission, which found "probable cause" that the statement was false.
Driehaus dropped the suit after he lost, but SBA List insisted it live on in order to challenge the issue at the Supreme Court level. They really want the United States Supreme Court to rule that lies are protected speech under the First Amendment.
This could possibly be the understatement of the year:
"That is not a true statement," said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. "I hope the Supreme Court will not say that free speech protects your right to lie. At some point, you should not able to consciously lie about your opponent."
Hey, it's fine with me if people want to lie to their spouses, friends, lovers, or children. I figure at some point they'll get caught. But lying to influence elections is not fine with me, because being swept into office on a river of lies will simply corrupt our election process more than it already is.
I would assume that if the Supreme Court were to rule that lying is fine in campaign ads, it's also fine for corporations, so truth in advertising laws would be as dead as our democracy. But never underestimate the Roberts court. I'm sure they can come up with some way to corrupt elections even more than they already are.