Supreme Court Says “Let the Wild Rumpus Begin”

Well, technically the Supreme Court didn’t quote Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.” But its recent decision in the Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus case, kind of has that effect.

I blogged about this case back in April, when it was argued to the United States Supreme Court. I won’t bore you with the details, but the case essentially raises the question whether a political interest group (in this the case, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List*) could be sanctioned under an Ohio statute for publishing lies about Steve Driehaus, a former Ohio Congressman. The SBA disseminated materials that falsely accused Driehaus of voting in favor of tax payer funded abortions.

Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, but dismissed it after he lost the election. SBA and another conservative interest group (“COAST” – Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) each had filed cases in federal court challenging the Ohio law on First Amendment grounds. When Driehaus dismissed his action, the federal district court ruled that SBA and COAST lacked standing to pursue their cases.  The Sixth Circuit affirmed.

In its recent ruling, The Supreme Court decided that the two groups had demonstrated a “credible threat of enforcement” sufficient to allow them to proceed. The Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the Ohio law or on the general question whether the First Amendment permits lying in the name of “conservative values.” The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings. And so, as noted, the wild rumpus will soon begin.

Of course, this is my new favorite attack ad.

* Susan B. Anthony, pictured below, was a leading figure in the women’s suffrage movement. I’m not sure how she would feel about lending her name to this endeavor.