Federal Judge Allows Congressman to Shut Down Pro-Life Group’s Election Effort

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 25, 2010   |   7:00PM   |   Cincinnati, OH

A federal judge has issued a ruling essentially allowing a “pro-life Democratic” congressman to shut down a pro-life group’s election effort.

The Susan B. Anthony List purchased a set of billboards in southwest Ohio to notify voters that Congressman Steven Driehaus voted for taxpayer funding of abortions under the ObamaCare bill.

Driehaus filed a criminal complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission saying that billboards the SBA List intended to purchase saying he voted for taxpayer funding of abortions was inaccurate.

If the Ohio agency sides with Driehaus, as initially appears to be the case, the agency could fine the organization or hold its president or staff accountable for supposedly breaking a state campaign finance law against misleading voters and punish SBA List officials with jail time.

SBA responded to the complaint with a lawsuit filed with a U.S. District Court asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Black to strike down the election law on which Driehaus based his complain. Judge Black, who supports abortion, rejected its request to issue a temporary restraining order against the Ohio Elections Commission proceedings.

Black said he could not intervene because the case is pending before the Ohio Elections Commission.

Black did not address the merits of Susan B. Anthony List’s claims, because federal judges may not intervene in the proceedings of state courts or agencies.

“The commission is simply exercising its statutory duty to determine whether a certain political advertisement … violates Ohio’s false statement law,” Black wrote.

The group, he said, was still free to try to purchase billboards until the agency rules.

“Nothing in today’s ruling changes the fact that Rep. Steve Driehaus voted for a health care bill that provides for taxpayer funding of abortion,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser told LifeNews.com in response.

“We agree with the Ohio ACLU that the Ohio law allowing Driehaus’ case to proceed effectively gives a state agency the ability to police free speech,” she said, referring to the legal papers the pro-abortion group filed supporting SBA.

“Driehaus does not want his constituents to hear that he voted for a bill that provides for tax dollars to pay for abortions, but the fact that he did is a position held by the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ohio Right to Life and numerous other organizations and policy experts,” Dannenfelser added.

She promised the SBA List would “pursue this case to the end and are confident the truth will prevail.”

Tim Mulvey, a Driehaus spokesman, responded to the decision to the Cincinnati newspaper.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision,” he said. “The Susan B. Anthony List has made a desperate attempt to not only continue spreading a lie, but to hide from the public the people they’ve been working with.”

The Election Commission’s staff attorney recommended that Driehaus’ complaint be dismissed, but a probable cause panel of the Commission voted 2 to 1 to hold a full hearing to decide if SBA List broke Ohio law by putting supposedly false statements on its billboards.

The billboards are still not up as Driehaus’ campaign was able to convince the Lamar advertising company not to install them.

On Tuesday, he SBA List announced a $50,000 radio ad buy across Rep. Driehaus’ district to continue to spread its message.

Driehaus is running in a tight re-election campaign against pro-life former Rep. Steve Chabot, the sponsor of the partial-birth abortion ban in the U.S. House.