Today Democrat George Sinner’s campaign proposed “Truth In Politics” legislation which would essentially have the government regulate political speech to decide what is and is not true.
Because that’s not Orwellian at all, right? A government truth commission?
“People deserve to know exactly who they are voting for,” Sinner said in a press release. “That becomes more difficult if candidates and those in office are not being truthful in their political advertising. Commercial ads are already regulated based on this standard, so why not political ads? The stakes are high, and we should ensure our political process honored, respected, and is as transparent and honest as possible. In Congress, I promise to propose Truth in Politics legislation that would help ensure just that–honesty and integrity.”
Sinner goes on to list a bunch of campaign ads he thinks proves that Cramer is a lying liar who lies. I suspect your mileage with those claims may vary.
Which is sort of the problem. Truth, especially when it comes to politics, tends to be in the eye of the beholder.
In the world of politics, who gets to decide what the truth is? Right now, outside of laws against things like slander and libel, Americans are generally left to decide for themselves what the truth is. If Sinner got his way, we’d have a bunch of government bureaucrats deciding what the truth is.
And the Supreme Court has already sided with the opponents of this sort of policy.
In July SCOTUS sided with the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List in a dispute over an election law in Ohio which makes it illegal to “post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate…if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.”
The SBA List ran a billboard in 2010 accusing incumbent Democrat congressman Steve Driehaus of voting for “taxpayer funded abortions,” a claim they based on his support of Obamacare. Driehaus complained to the Ohio Elections Commission which took his side against the group. The SBA sued over the ruling.
A lower court had dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that SBA List didn’t have standing. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, overturned that dismissal and will allow the lawsuit to go forward.
“Denying prompt judicial review would impose a substantial hardship on petitioners, forcing them to choose between refraining from core political speech on the one hand, or engaging in that speech and risking costly Commission proceedings and criminal prosecution on the other,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the decision.
In September, a lower federal court struck down Ohio’s law. “We do not want the government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth — for fear that the government might persecute those who criticize it. Instead, in a democracy, the voters should decide,” U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black wrote in his opinion.
This was the right decision. As frustrating as the double-speak and mistruths and politics can be, the last thing we want is the government deciding for us what is and is not true.
For Democrats who might be inclined to support Sinner’s idea, I’d ask this: How would you like your political speech regulated by a bunch of Republican appointees?