Twenty states have “false statement” laws that allow a government agency to adjudicate complaints of “lying” in political campaigns. A prolonged effort by the Susan B. Anthony List in Ohio has concluded with a court ruling today that nullifies a version of the “false statement” act in the Buckeye State, placing judgement about political truths and falsehoods back in the hands of voters, where it belongs. This win will reverberate around the country.
A false statement act sounds great, until you realize that like many of the supposed reform laws, this one is used mainly as a blunt instrument to hurt an opponent in a political race. When one candidate calls on a government agency to investigate a campaign “lie” by his rival many voters will assume that there must be some merit to the complaint or else the government wouldn’t be taking it up. In other words, it a “gotcha” law used cynically and is the hight of Machiavellian politics.
When we elect a government we don’t allow it to decide the truth and falsity of politics. If we do, we cede popular sovereignty for literal “bureaucracy”–rule by unelected bureaucrats.
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