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Stifling Susan’s Speech


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has walked away from Buckeye Democrat Steve Driehaus’s reelection effort, but the Ohio Elections Commission hasn’t. Yesterday, a panel of three ruled on a Driehaus complaint against the Susan B. Anthony List, finding that there is “probable cause” that the Susan B. Anthony List is misleading voters by accusing Driehaus of voting for taxpayer-funded abortions in billboards that they are trying to place in the state.

Driehaus filed his complaint earlier this month, and his campaign succeeded in convincing the Lamar Companies billboard company to wait until the elections commission had its say. A full commission hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the SBA List, says in a statement:

The Ohio Elections Commission has allowed Steve Driehaus to achieve his strategic objective of preventing constituents from learning the truth about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion in the health care reform bill. We are disappointed and surprised that the complaint was not immediately dismissed. The fact that the health care reform bill allows for taxpayer funding of abortion has been agreed upon by every major pro-life group in the country, including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, Focus on the Family, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The larger problem here is a public official’s attempt to use a criminal statue to silence legitimate debate on his record. The proper place for public policy debate is in the public square, not in an Elections Commission or criminal court. The SBA List will see this process through to the end and vigorously defend our position that the health care reform bill, supported by Steve Driehaus, allows for taxpayer funding of abortion. Moreover, we will use every vehicle possible within our First Amendment rights to communicate this message to the people of Congressman Steve Driehaus’ district between now and the hearing.

(Missing from her litany of pro-life groups is Democrats for Life, which has insisted that the health-care legislation is no compromise of principles, in staunch defense of Bart Stupak and his “pro-life Democrat” gang, most of which voted for the legislation on March 22.)

This is what the billboard would look like:

Douglas Johnson, one of the most careful and diligent people in politics, wrote the affidavit for the Susan B. Anthony list in defense of the billboard. Johnson e-mails about the ruling:

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) believes that certain claims made by Congressman Driehaus, in his complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission, regarding the substantive provisions of the health care bill that he voted for, are objectively false.  Yes, Congressman Driehaus uttered falsehoods.  However, NRLC tales a different approach from Mr. Driehaus, in that NRLC does not advocate that Mr. Driehaus should be criminally prosecuted for uttering those falsehoods.  That’s not the American way.  Rather, we dispute, refute, and debate his claims.  In our 23-page affidavit, we cite specific provisions of the bill, we cite analyses by disinterested parties such as the Congressional Research Service, and so forth.

We would hope that voters who care about this issue would evaluate the conflicting claims and reach their own conclusions.  However, every interested citizen should be forewarned — if you decide that you agree with our analysis and not with Mr. Driehaus, and you dare to assert that opinion publicly in an attempt to persuade others — for example, by renting a billboard — Mr. Driehaus might decide to have you summoned before the tribunal of political appointees, who will determine whether your opinion is “false” and whether you should be punished for uttering “false” opinions about the incumbent’s voting record. 

The people of Ohio should be embarrassed to have such a law on the books.  And Congressman Driehaus should be ashamed to try to hide behind a panel of speech commissars, rather than relying on the force of his arguments.

Considering that Nancy Pelosi didn’t know what was in it when she voted for it, and the Department of Health and Human Services has had to take action since passage to concede that the legislation did not fully prohibit taxpayer money being used for abortion coverage, I’m not sure what makes the Ohio Elections Commission so expert in the matter. If I were an Ohio resident, I’d be uncomfortable with — if not outraged by — the role of the Ohio Elections Commission here.

Of course, practically speaking, more people may be seeing this billboard because the flailing incumbent is making such a defensive issue of it in trying to silence the Susan B. Anthony List.


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