SBA List: Billboard Did Not Lie About Former Congressman's Pro-Life Record

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said her pro-life organization did not maliciously seek to malign ousted Democratic Congressman Steve Driehaus’ record on Obamacare during the 2010 mid-term election. Rather, she said, Driehaus got burned trying to play both sides of what she says is an either/or issue.

SBA List is anxiously awaiting a ruling to its appeal of an Aug. 1 verdict allowing Driehaus to pursue a defamation lawsuit.

In a telephone interview with The Christian Post, Dannenfelser denied having lied maliciously or recklessly disregarded the facts despite an August ruling giving Driehaus grounds to pursue a defamation lawsuit against the pro-life agency.

She said that the pro-life movement’s sole objective in the health care reform debate was to secure a statutory prohibition on abortion funding in health care. Driehaus, she said, initially supported that position, but strayed from that objective and voted in favor the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

PPACA ultimately passed without a pro-life provision in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate after President Barack Obama issued an executive order assuring that no federal money would pay for abortions. Driehaus helped pass the health care reform bill in the House. The executive order, Dannenfelser lamented, does not have the same power as a legislative statute.

When Driehaus voted in favor of the health care reform bill, which does not carry the explicit pro-life protections former Congressman Bart Stupak put forth, she said he essentially switched sides.

“He held our position and we held the same position. We stayed where we were; he changed his view and then he decided to call us a liar,” Dannenfelser summed.

During the 2010 mid-term election season, SBA List paid for a billboard proclaiming “Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.” The billboard was supposedly a reflection the Ohio politician’s yes vote to a health care reform bill although it said nothing about the PPACA bill.

Driehaus filed a complaint in October 2010 against Susan B. Anthony List with the Elections Commission, stating the billboard lied about his record. Driehaus did in fact co-sponsor retired Rep. Stupak’s amendment to add pro-life protections to the PPACA.

Dannenfelser responded, “Sometimes you learn you can’t have two things.” On the issue of the health care reform, she said Driehaus should have recognized that he could not vote for both a pro-life amendment and a health care reform bill which does not carry the pro-life amendment.

 “It was trade-off but he didn’t see it that way,” she said.

 SBA List counter sued Driehaus and the commission, claiming the complaint was unconstitutional and should be thrown out. The agency’s lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, as was Driehaus’ re-election bid.

According to his attorney, Paul De Marco, Driehaus countersued in December 2010 for the right to seek defamation claims.

Driehaus, who is currently out of the country serving in the Peace Corps, told Politico at the time of his counterclaim, “I have chosen to proceed against the SBA List in federal court because the issue at stake goes beyond the purview of the Ohio Elections Commission … As more and more interests are able to anonymously spend unlimited sums of money in attempts to defame public servants and influence our elections, it is imperative that groups such as the SBA List be held to account for their behavior. Lies have consequences.”

District Judge Timothy S. Black ruled in Driehaus’ favor, stating, “The express language of the PPACA does not provide for tax-payer funding abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face."

Black also said Driehaus must now prove that, among other things, SBA List made the false statements with “actual malice.”

Dannenfelser noted that the health care reform bill is still being debated on Capitol Hill and said, “This is not a matter of lying; this is our sincere and authentic position that he used to hold.”

She also decried Judge Black as the former president and director of the Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati as a “great ally” for Driehaus.

Attorney De Marco told CP he would not “dignify” talks of the judge’s background with a response.

SBA List has appealed Black’s ruling and is expecting a judgment soon. De Marco said it will wait for the ruling before moving forward with its defamation claim. Driehaus is seeking statutory and punitive damages. The amount of money being sought has not yet been determined.

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