Free Speech and Blogging in Ohio
I absolutely can’t stand bloggers who make themselves out to be self-important martyrs, but battling heavy fines for speaking out against local politicians is worthy fight:
COLUMBUS – In an apparent retaliatory action against an outspoken critic, the Geauga County Board of Elections charged independent blogger Ed Corsi with violating campaign finance laws. The elections board forwarded a complaint to the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), where Corsi faces fines of up to $1,000 a day.
Corsi’s blog, http://www.geaugaconstitutionalcouncil.org, is critical of local government and political officials, including Geauga County Board of Elections Member Edward Ryder. Specifically, Corsi publishes a politically “most unwanted list” critical of several officials he refers to as “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only). Ryder is chairman of the Geauga County Republican Party.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and the Rutherford Institute, non-profit legal advocacy firms, today filed arguments with the OEC on behalf of Corsi. The legal organizations argue the elections board improperly and unconstitutional applied campaign finance law to Corsi’s activities. Further, the board’s complaint infringes upon Corsi’s First Amendment right to criticize his government.
“This case has the potential to severally limit free speech in Ohio,” said 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Should independent bloggers in Ohio be subject to registration, political disclosure laws, and fines simply because they discuss Ohio politics, and are critical of certain politicians? The Constitution says otherwise.”
The elections board based the complaint on O.R.C. 3517.20(A)(2). Thompson believes its action overreaches the application of the law and violates the freedom of alternative media, such as independent political bloggers.
“When applied to Corsi’s activities, the law violates the First Amendment right to anonymous political speech,” said Thompson. “It places an impermissible prior restraint on core political speech. And, it applies an overbroad regulation and/or prohibition on political speech that is not express advocacy.”
Corsi’s website and his blogger pseudonym Geauga Constitutional Council (GCC) are not registered political organizations. They do not coordinate with political campaigns. And, Corsi personally pays for all costs associated with the website and subsequent printed material.
A copy of the filing is available here.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, voting rights, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures. More information about the 1851 Center is available at http://www.ohioconstitution.org.
The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated. More on the Institute can be found at http://www.rutherford.org.
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