Congressman Drops Elections Complaint to Jail Pro-Life Women’s Group’s Leader

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 16, 2010   |   1:26PM   |   Cincinnati, OH

Congressman Steve Driehaus, who lost his bid for re-election earlier this month, has withdrawn his complaint he filed that could have resulted in jail time for the leader of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.

Driehaus, who claims he is fully pro-life, upset pro-life advocates when he voted for the ObamaCare bill that doesn’t sufficiently prevent abortion funding.

SBA hoped to run billboard ads in his Cincinnati, Ohio congressional district letting his constituents know he voted to support abortion funding, but Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission seeking to have a little-known law preventing false comments about political candidates enforced.

He also pressured Lamar Advertising, a national firm that sells billboard advertising space, to prevent SBA from taking out the ads holding him accountable for his ObamaCare vote.

The state agency delayed in making a decision and, today, Driehaus, withdrew his complaint. The OEC had slated December 2 for a hearing on the complaint.

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser told in response that “Driehaus’ decision to withdraw his complaint is a victory for the SBA List and for truth.”

“The Susan B. Anthony List will not object to Rep. Driehaus withdrawing his complaint as we do not want to spend additional time and resources defending what the public already knows to be true – that the health care bill funds abortions with taxpayer dollars,” she added. “Driehaus used an Ohio criminal statute to ensure that billboards stating the truth about his vote in favor of the pro-abortion health care bill were never erected.”

“Despite his efforts, Rep. Driehaus could not avoid facing the consequences of his health care vote at the ballot box,” Dannenfelser said. “On Election Day, Driehaus’ constituents sent a clear message by siding with the SBA List and voting him out of office.”

The Ohio congressman lost his bid to pro-life former Congressman Steve Chabot, the man he defeated in the 2008 elections who earned the praise of pro-life advocates for his sponsorship of the federal partial-birth abortion ban.

“The SBA List remains gravely concerned that the statute allowing Rep. Driehaus to launch his complaint – and which cost the SBA List tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees – remains law and can be used to silence free speech again,” Dannenfelser continued.

The complaint was so egregious that the Ohio chapter of the ACLU filed an amicus brief calling the state law ‘vague and overbroad,’ and said ‘it cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.’

The ACLU of Ohio went on to argue that ‘the people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech and, in any event, the best answer for bad speech is more speech.’  [related]

Dannenfelser said the Susan B. Anthony List will continue to pursue its federal case to declare the law unconstitutional in an effort to protect future speech.

A 2-1 panel of the state Elections Commission found probable cause to investigate the complaint further an scheduled the hearing.