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Constitutionality of Ohio Campaign Law Heard By Supreme Court

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSPD) -- Campaign lies or free speech? The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on an Ohio case that deals with a state law that allows a panel to determine fact from fiction when it comes to campaign ads and speech.

The justices expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the law. They appeared to be okay with letting an anti-abortion group move forward with a challenge to the law as a violation of free-speech.

The issue began in 2010 with the Susan B. Anthony List's billboards that accused then-Congressman Steve Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion because he voted for the Affordable Care Act.

Maurice Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, argued that the issue is bigger than whether or not campaign lies should be allowed.

"We see the other end of the coin which is: does government have the power to arbitrate truth from falsity, particularly in the political context where things are often blurry," he said.

Under the Ohio law, a candidate could file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, a seven member-panel, to determine whether or not the claim was true or false.

"If you are mistaken, if you are wrong, or if the government disagrees that your statement is true you can have a hefty fine slapped on you or it could even be a crime," said Thompson.

He believes the law is a tool for powerful political figures to attack the politically weak. That's because for some small groups or individuals it is much cheaper to end their campaigns than it is to try and fight their case before the panel in Columbus.

A decision could come down in July, according to Thompson.

 

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