The lead plaintiff in the “Can you lie in politics?” case going before the Supreme Court next week , anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, says Ohio’s law against false campaign assertions will stifle that state’s midterm congressional debates.
The group is apparently not worried about a similarly chilling effect elsewhere – at least not in four races elsewhere in the country where it’s inserted itself in recent days.
Over the weekend, the SBA List said it has arranged to put space on billboards across three Southern states to lambaste a trio of incumbent Democratic senators in some of the closest Senate races of 2014: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Because all of them voted for the 2010 health care overhaul, each of them can fairly be described as supporting federal financing of abortion, the group says, and that will be the central message on the roadside signage. The content of the ads, SBA List says, will be substantively the same as the billboard the group planned to erect in 2010 as part of its campaign to unseat Rep. Steve Driehaus after one term in the House. The group abandoned the plan after the Democratic congressman complained to the Ohio election board that the “vote for taxpayer-funded abortion” language violated the state's false claims statute. Though he lost that fall, SBA List sued to get that law struck down as a violation of the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court, after arguments on April 22, will decide if that lawsuit has enough merit to continue or should be thrown out because Ohio election officials dropped their interest in the Driehaus complaint long ago.
“Since 2010, we have fought for our right to tell the truth about the abortion funding problems in Obamacare and expose the legislators who supported it,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “The U.S. Supreme Court will consider our right to do just that later this month. In the meantime, we cannot be silent. Our founders braved the threat of the gallows so that we would not have to fear speaking our true convictions.”
SBA List says it’s on solid ground in equating a vote for Obamacare with support for taxpayer-paid abortions, but that a state agency has no business adjudicating the accuracy of the claim.
There is no Senate race in Ohio this year, and only two of the 16 House districts are remotely competitive. Both seats are held by Republicans, David Joyce and Bill Johnson, who were not in office when the health law was enacted.
SBA List is investing in this year's next congressional race – a special Republican primary in Florida on April 22 (the same day as the oral arguments at the court) that will almost surely determine who will succeed Trey Radel, who resigned his House seat after admitting to cocaine possession. The group is spending $50,000 to get out the anti-abortion vote in favor of state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto. Her opponents are businessman Curt Clawson and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.