Ohio Elections Commission: “We’re all PACs now.” 1851 Center Challenging Constitutionality of Ohio Campaign Finance Law

On June 24, the 1851 Center filed a notice of appeal in the case of Ed Corsi, a political blogger and pamphleteer who distributed materials critical of his local elected officials.  After one of those same officials sought prosecution of Mr. Corsi, the Ohio Elections Commission took up the case.  The OEC concluded that because some friends and allies assisted Corsi in handing out pamphlets, the efforts of these individuals rendered them a “Political Action Committee,” even though they spent no funds in supporting or opposing candidates, and coordinated with no campaigns.  Any Ohioans designated as a PAC must register with the state prior to engaging in political speech, and must comply with onerous reporting requirements.

The 1851 Center argues the law under which Corsi is being charged is not only vague in language, but violates his right to speak anonymously, is an unconstitutional prior restraint on core political speech, and violates freedom of association.  Meanwhile, Ohio’s Constitution contains broad protections for speech and press that afford new media the same protections as the mainstream press.

“The right to criticize one’s government cannot be conditioned on that government’s prior permission,” according to 1851 Center Director Maurice Thompson.  “Under the Ohio Elections Commission’s decision, every tea party group, every protest, and every signature-gathering or pamphleteering effort in the state is a Political Action Committee that must register with the state or face $1,000 fines, and even apolitical associations run this risk, if associating with those engaged in political speech.”  Said Thompson, “This ruling isn’t an aberration – – it represents the outward limit of a corrupt philosophy that prohibits the average Ohioan from fully engaging in political debates.”

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