Springfield, IL. (ECWd) –
When a politician names something the “Truth In Politics Act” you can bet its actual meaning is the opposite of its title.
Illinois State Representative Denyse Wang Stoneback has introduced HB5850 which would criminalize certain speech directed at political campaigns. The bill prescribes criminal and civil penalties for certain election speech and adds speech requirements for political campaigns.
Let’s hope this bill goes nowhere.
Some of the problems with this bill:
- who defines what is or is not a false or misleading statement?
- why do we need another law providing for civil action in defamation cases? Hasn’t the SCOTUS already provided enough direction on that subject?
- why would anyone want to criminalize free speech?
- who defines what “unfriendly or bitter” words are?
- why do we need to place political actors and candidates in an elevated place (compared to the average citizen) to attack those, both criminally and civilly, who speak out against them or a political question?
- why the attack on the First Amendment?
Synopsis As Introduced
Authorizes the amendatory Act to be cited as the Truth in Politics Act. Includes legislative findings. Amends the Prohibitions and Penalties Article of the Election Code. Creates prohibitions against (i) false or misleading statements to affect a vote, (ii) unlawful attempts to affect the outcome of a campaign, (iii) distribution of materials intending to mislead people on a candidate’s incumbency status, and (iv) libel and defamation in political advertising. Provides that, if a person violates the provisions, the person can be enjoined civilly. Provides that a violation of the provisions is a Class A misdemeanor. Amends the Fair Campaign Practices Article of the Election Code. Requires (rather than allows) candidates and the chairs of political committees to sign and file the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. Requires a candidate to include in all of the candidate’s campaign literature and advertising the following statement: “I am a candidate for (specify office), and I support the accuracy of this message.” Provides penalties for failure to timely file a signed Code of Fair Campaign Practices and for violations of the Code of Fair Campaign Practices or other provisions of the Article. Defines terms.