The Supreme Court case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus involves a challenge to an Ohio law that makes it illegal to “[p]ost, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.” A parallel provision proscribes false statements “designed to promote the adoption or defeat of any ballot proposition or issue.” Susan B. Anthony List is a pro-life organization who planned to put up billboards that said “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR tax-payer funded abortions.” They based this statement on Rep. Driehaus voting for the Affordable Care Act. He countered that the ACA did not fund abortions and threatened legal action. The Susan B. Anthony List’s advertiser refused to put up the ads due to the threatened action.
In any event, the CATO Institute with the assistance of P.J. O’Rourke filed a pretty bold amicus brief in opposition to the Ohio law and in support of the Susan B. Anthony List. It contends that truthiness is a time-honored and, more importantly, First Amendment protected part of American political discourse.
After all, where would we be without the knowledge that Democrats are pinko-communist flag-burners who want to tax churches and use the money to fund abortions so they can use the fetal stem cells to create pot-smoking lesbian ATF agents who will steal all the guns and invite the UN to take over America? Voters have to decide whether we’d be better off electing Republicans, those hateful, assault-weapon-wielding maniacs who believe that George Washington and Jesus Christ incorporated the nation after a Gettysburg reenactment and that the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it isn’t administered quickly enough to secular humanist professors of Chicano studies.
I tend to agree with CATO on this one. Even setting aside First Amendment concerns, policing political speech for honesty is an unworkable legal thicket.