Ohio AG Sides with Ohio Elections Commission in Project Veritas Lawsuit

 

Last month, Project Veritas, Project Veritas Action Fund and James O’Keefe sued the Ohio Elections Commission. They claim the Commission is enforcing an unconstitutional violation of their 1st and 14th Amendment rights by prohibiting them “from reporting unapproved information that is acquired through investigating a political campaign while undercover.”

Project Veritas specializes in undercover investigative journalism.

This week Attorney General Dave Yost filed his response.

O’Keefe is asking for declaratory judgement, preliminary and permanent injunction and some damages.

The Attorney General states in his response to the motion for a preliminary injunction that “Plaintiffs have not met their burden to obtain a preliminary injunction on any of their claims.” The AG also states that Project Veritas was unable to establish their constitutional challenges to the Ohio law.

“Plaintiffs mischaracterize the statute as being an unconstitutional restriction on reporting. In fact, Ohio’s anti-infiltration statue prohibits lying to gain employment or an agency relationship on a campaign does not implicate constitutionally-protected speech.”

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is representing O’Keefe and Project Veritas. As reported in The Ohio Star, 1851’s Executive Director Maurice Thompson said that “state and federal constitutions were written to limit government and protect citizens from it. Ohio’s reporting restriction turns these constitutional guarantees upside down. While elected officials claim the authority to violate our privacy at an unprecedented level, Ohio’s political class simultaneously insists upon protection from the scrutiny of investigative journalism.”

The law being challenged is Ohio Revised Code Section 3517.21. It states, in part,

(A) No person, during the course of any campaign for nomination or election to public office or office of a political party, shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such campaign do any of the following:

(1) Serve, or place another person to serve, as an agent or employee in the election campaign organization of a candidate for the purpose of acting to impede the conduct of the candidate’s campaign for nomination or election or of reporting information to the employee’s employer or the agent’s principal without the knowledge of the candidate or the candidate’s organization;”

Project Veritas’ suit claims the organization is not political but journalistic in nature. It “spends its time, energy, and resources engaged in newsgathering and reporting. Because PVA focuses on public corruption, government wrongdoing, and the inner workings of political campaigns, it often reports on public servants and candidates for public office. In doing so, PVA’s intent is to uncover facts and report them, not sway voters for or against particular candidates or issues.”

When contacted by The Ohio Star and asked if he had any comments on the filing made on August 19 in support of the Ohio Elections Commission vs. Project Veritas, Yost replied, “No comment until we file our Answer.”

The next move is for Project Veritas and their counsel, the 1851 Center, to file their own response on or before September 3.

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to bethlearreports@gmail.com.
Photo “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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