Tags: florida | electioneering

Florida Electioneering Law Challenged

Wednesday, 03 Dec 2008 04:57 PM

Ax the Tax Chairman Doug Guetzloe has taken his First Amendment free speech battle to the United States Supreme Court.

In a 80 page motion filed today with the United States Supreme Court, Guetzloe's attorneys Frederic B. O’Neal; William J. Sheaffer and newly appointed Co-Counsel - Washington, D.C. attorney Stephen M. Hoersting - filed a motion asking the US Supreme Court to throw out the Florida statute limiting free speech and declare the Florida Electioneering Communications (ECO) law to be an unconstitutional restriction on free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Guetzloe vs. State of Florida

Guetzloe was prosecuted under the existing ECO statute by State Attorney Lawson Lamar in 2006 as the first and only individual in Florida criminally prosecuted for expressing free speech in a campaign flyer.

Guetzloe’s case received a huge boost last month when United States Federal District Judge Stephen P. Mickle issued a restraining order against the State of Florida, its agents and prosecutors from enforcing the ECO law in Florida. In a 33 page ruling, Judge Mickle quoted the same case law that Guetzloe attorneys have cited in seeking to have the prosecution thrown out. "All of the case law that Mr. O'Neal has presented to the courts was cited by Judge Mickle as clear evidence that this statute is unconstitutional," Guetzloe stated.

State Attorney Lamar had initially sought 14 years in prison for Guetzloe based on a 14 count misdemeanor complaint for a campaign flyer that was missing the words "paid political advertisement." Guetzloe received a 60 day jail term; $8,500 in fines and three years probation for the first time misdemeanor conviction. Earlier this year Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal threw out the sentence and 13 of the 14 counts and sent the case back to lower court for a more reasonable sentence. Lamar is still seeking jail time for the single misdemeanor count. Lamar has now been enjoined from moving forward by the Federal court order.

Former Counsel to Federal Elections Commission Vice Chairman Joins Appeal as Co-Counsel

Two national organizations have now joined Guetzloe’s free speech battle. The Washington-based think tank, Center for Competitive Politics has assisted in underwriting the appeal and the CCP Chief Legal Counsel, Stephen M. Hoersting has joined the appeal as co-counsel. Hoersting is a prominent Washington D.C. attorney who has served as Counsel to the Vice Chairman of the Federal Elections Commission as well as General Counsel to the Republican National Committee.

In addition to CCP, Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance has endorsed the appeal and has joined the battle.

“We are thankful to the Center for Competitive Politics for assisting financially and legally with this appeal. Without their prestigious support and the addition of their General Counsel Stephen Hoersting, we would not have been able to file this appeal to the US Supreme Court,” Guetzloe stated. “Additionally, with the support of another major pro-free speech group, the Sam Adams Alliance, we will be able to re-establish free speech here in Florida and nationally,” Guetzloe concluded.

The appeal is estimated to cost over $50,000 in legal fees and costs. Guetzloe has already spent over $100,000 of his own money defending himself against this unconstitutional attack on free speech.

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