For 42 years in Ohio it has been illegal for political campaigns and independent political organizations to lie, according to a 1974 state law, which the Wall Street journa l called "a post-Watergate law aimed at cleaning up the political process" or, more specifically, prohibiting "a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official or distributing information about an opponent that is known to be false or with reckless disregard for the truth," according to The Columbus Dispatch.
But is it unconstitutional to limit free speech?
In 2014, SCOTUS ruled that a case could be tried in the Buckeye State to challenge the 1974 state law, and today The Columbus Dispatch reports that the the lawsuit was successful, after an initial U.S. Circuit Court trial in 2014 and an appeal to the same court in 2016.
In these judges' unanimous decision, it's o.k. to lie in political campaigns. It's "political speech."
But the defendants said that it was too early to issue a definitive statement on the controversy.
"It's a big, big day for speech," said one of the attorneys who fought for the plaintiffs.
It's unlikely that the case will be accepted by SCOTUS in a further appeal. The Dispatch's Jack Torry interpreted the Court's 2014 decision as supporting the plaintiffs.
The two plaintiffs in 2014 and 2016 were the Susan B. Anthony List and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST).The Susan B. Anthony List, according to Wikipedia, is a "non-profit organization that seeks to reduce and ultimately end abortion." COAST, per the same source, "actively opposes tax levies in southwestern Ohio."
The suit originated in 2010, after passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), when the Susan B. Anthony List had wanted to pay for a billboard advertisement accusing then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Cincinnati, "of supporting the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions after he had voted in support of the federal law," according to Tory. Driehaus filed a complaint against the conservative organizations, that they were violating the 1974 law. The billboard owner refused to post the accusation. It was, in fact, never posted. Driehaus dropped the case after being defeated in his 2010 bid for re-election. But the two conservative organizations continued the suit, supported by, among others, the ACLU, which is committed to defending First Amendment rights even in a situation where it opposed the politics of the Susan B. Anthony List.
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