Federal judge: Ohio won't bust lying politicians

From The Cincinnati Enquirer A federal judge has struck down Ohio's law forbidding lies in political campaigns, saying voters -- not the government -- should decide whether a campaign is telling the truth.

The 19-year-old Ohio law had banned falsehoods in campaigns and empowered the Ohio Elections Commission to determine whether disputed statements were true or false. But critics said the law prevented them from freely criticizing political candidates because they feared prosecution under Ohio's law against false claims.

"The answer to false statements in politics is not to force silence (by forbidding lies) but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the Government, decide what the political truth is," Judge Timothy Black said Thursday in his ruling.

Quoting the TV drama "House of Cards," he said, "There's no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth."

The case came back to Black after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that an anti-abortion organization and a Cincinnati anti-tax group could challenge the law's constitutionality.

The conflict that led to the suit dates back to 2010.

The national anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List planned to buy a billboard accusing then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortions. Their logic? He voted in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Driehaus said the allegation was a lie – he, in fact, ran as an anti-abortion Democrat – and filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission. With the threat of legal action looming, the billboard owner decided not to run the ad. Driehaus dropped his complaint after he lost his re-election bid, but not before the commission found "probable cause" in a preliminary review that Susan B. Anthony List had violated the state law.