There’s nothing quite like a politician scorned.
When voters in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District threw Democrat Steve Driehaus out of office after only one term, he did not bow out gracefully. No, he decided to get even. So he did what anyone does in today’s culture: he sued somebody.
Charging that its activities contributed to his defeat and thus to his “loss of livelihood,” Driehaus is suing the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports pro-life candidates for Congress and which has been one of the leading and most effective organizations involved in the fight to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
During the 2010 elections the Susan B. Anthony List engaged in a campaign to identify and call out a group of allegedly anti-abortion-rights members of Congress who provided the margin that allowed President Barack Obama’s reform of the nation’s healthcare system to get through the U.S. House of Representatives. The Susan B. Anthony List said their vote in favor of the law, which did not include any pro-life protections, amounted to a betrayal of their pro-life principles.
According to Driehaus, who was one of that group, what the Susan B. Anthony List said in its public communications amounted to a malicious lie that contributed to his defeat. Amazingly, rather than laugh the suit out of court U.S. District Court judge Timothy S. Black, an Obama appointee, is allowing it to go forward.
Now there are lots of things said by outside interest groups during the heat of political campaigns that turn out to be untrue. What the Susan B. Anthony List said about the so-called pro-life Democrats who gave Obama the votes he needed to pass healthcare just doesn’t happen to be one of them. The accompanying executive order the president signed regarding abortion was designed to provide political cover to a group of House Democrats whom he needed to win. It was no substitute for the so-called “Stupak Amendment” that would have written pro life protections into the healthcare bill but was defeated on the House floor.
Driehaus’s suit is breaking new legal ground and may already be having a very chilling effect on political speech. It goes directly at the heart of our First Amendment protections and criminalizes what is at least a difference of opinion. And it’s curious that the case has not received more attention from the national press.
What is equally curious, however, is why Judge Black has allowed the case to move forward and why he did not recuse himself from it since, as Barbara Hollingsworth reported Friday in The Washington Examiner, he apparently is the former president and director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati. As seeming conflicts of interest go this one is a real humdinger.
Is it fair to question Black’s ability to be impartial if he used to head up the local affiliate of a national organization one of the parties in the case is trying to defund? Absolutely—and it’s something everyone should see clearly, as they would if the former head of a local gun owners group was given the responsibility for hearing a case testing the constitutionality of a concealed carry law. Never mind the considerable constitutional issues involved; Judge Black needs to step aside and let a different jurist take over the case. And someone, maybe the House Judiciary Committee, needs to take a look at how he was assigned the case in the first place because, right now, the whole thing smells like day-old fish left out in the hot sun.