Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A series of billboard ads critical of Obamacare and those who support it has been rejected by a billboard company because a former congressman is claiming similar ads cost him re-election and his income.
The 2012 election dispute has developed for the Susan B. Anthony List, which wanted to post billboards in Indiana to “educate constituents on Rep. Joe Donnelly’s, D-Ind., record of voting for taxpayer funding of abortion by supporting the 2010 health care legislation.”
The legislation’s expansion of abortion funding and programs is the reason why dozens of Christian-owned companies and faith organizations have sued the Obama administration. The “mandate” being imposed as part of the implementation of Obamacare requires that employers fund abortifacients and procedures Christians find objectionable.
Universities, manufacturers and retailers all have launched legal challenges to what they describe as government-required violations of their principles of faith.
But Lamar Companies, which runs billboard operations across the nation, refused to post the ads, SBA said.
A spokesman for Lamar told WND that the company had been threatened with criminal citations by Ohio officials and was currently involved in a civil dispute over the Ohio campaign billboards from 2010.
He said for that reason, the company was refusing to post the billboards in Indiana.
“We chose not to run it on that basis,” he said.
He said he assumed it was a nonpartisan agency in Ohio that determined the “copy was misleading,” so the “same facts” would present themselves in Indiana.
However, the dispute from 2010 between SBA and former Ohio Congressman Steve Driehaus remains undecided in court.
Driehaus, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit after the 2010 election, which he lost in the massive GOP sweep of U.S. House races that year.
He claims when SBA tried to erect a similar criticism of him for his support for Obamacare he was falsely accused of supporting taxpayer funded abortion.
The former congressman claimed “the organization injured his reputation and caused him ‘loss of livelihood,’ presumably because he was voted out of Congress by the people of his district, after it called attention to his vote for the healthcare reform bill.”
It was then that a Driehaus attorney ordered Lamar Companies not to put up billboards or else he would add the company to the complaint.
SBA List officials told WND today they’ve been engaged in a battle over discovery, as Driehaus is seeking to force them to “disclose thousands of pages of documents containing confidential communications between SBA List officers and staff and between SBA List and its coalition allies.”
“He has also attempted to force [SBA executives] Marjorie Dannenfelser and Emily Buchanan to disclose similar information,” the group reported.
Court decisions on some of the motions are expected as early as next month.
However, in the meantime, the billboard company has declined, citing the Driehaus dispute, to post messages from SBA List regarding a candidate in another state.
“This continued assault on our free speech hits at the basic freedoms groups and individuals in this country enjoy to criticize their elected officials and to demand better representation,” said Dannenfelser, the president of SBA List.
“As time goes by there is greater and greater acknowledgment of the fact that under Obamacare, taxpayers are forced to fund abortion. Yet despite this growing consensus, the free speech of the SBA List continues to be chilled – first in Ohio, now in Indiana.”
The organization explained that an executive order by Obama, purporting to confine abortion funding, was “used to secure the votes of the so-called ‘pro-life’ Democrats including Steve Driehaus and Joe Donnelly.”
But the organization said it is now understand that executive order was “meaningless.”
“As Obamacare is gradually implemented, some former members of Congress are publicly lamenting their votes. Bart Stupak and Kathy Dahlkemper, for example, have decried the fact that with the HHS mandate, President Obama violated the abortion funding ‘compromise’ they thought they had secured. They realized much too late what those of us in the pro-life movement knew long ago: that Obamacare was the largest expansion of abortion since Roe. Now, we are continuing to pay the price of speaking the truth,” the group said.
The SBA List said during the 2010 elections that it helped defeat 15 of 20 of the Democrats who failed to hold firm on their pro-life principles during the Obamacare vote.
While the district court declined to grant SBA List a summary judgment, the appellate level decision on that request hasn’t been released.
The Obamacare demand for abortion services and funding has been opposed by dozens of religious organizations and groups, business owners and schools.
Tyndale House, one of the world’s largest privately held Christian publishers of books and Bibles is among the opponents. The Obamacare mandate requires the Christian publisher to purchase the abortion services because it is classified as “categorically non-religious.” That’s even though it is owned by the nonprofit Tyndale House Foundation, through which profits are funneled to various charities.
“Bible publishers should be free to do business according to the book that they publish,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “To say that a Bible publisher is not religious is patently absurd. Tyndale House is a prime example of how ridiculous and arbitrary the Obama administration’s mandate is. Americans today clearly agree with America’s founders: the federal government’s bureaucrats are not qualified to decide what faith is, who the faithful are, and where and how that faith may be lived out.”
The mandate forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties, ADF said.
Driehaus lost to former U.S. Congressman Steve Chabot in 2010. During the campaign, the Democratic Party pulled its financial support for television ads when Driehaus fell behind.
According to the SBA List, Driehaus filed a criminal complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission first, under a statute that carried a penalty of jail time. He later decided to advance the defamation case instead.
“The SBA List’s speech was true, or at the very least it was its protected opinion about the meaning of Obamacare,” James Bopp Jr., the counsel for SBA List, said earlier. “Yet the court found that the SBA List’s speech about Driehaus might be defamatory and ordered a trial to determine whether it is or not.”
He said if the result stands, it would mean “anybody criticizing a candidate is in danger of a defamation claim.”
Driehaus’ complaint against the SBA List was opposed by even the ACLU of Ohio, which, in a friend-of-the-court brief, said, “The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech, and the best answer for bad speech is more speech.”