Peace Corps News: After Tea Party Defeat over Abortion Lie, Former Congressman Steve Driehaus (RPCV Senegal) to Direct Peace Corps Swaziland AIDS Program
In 2008, it had been 14 years since a Democrat represented the Ohio congressional district that includes most of the City of Cincinnati and Western Hamilton County but Senegal RPCV Steve Driehaus linked incumbent Republican Steve Chabot to President George W. Bush, and managed to defeat him 52 percent to 48 percent in an upset victory.

Driehaus comes from a family that has been likened to the Kennedys - large, deeply ingrained in the Democratic Party, serving in the public arena and headed by a family patriarch who wanted to see his children succeed in politics.

Driehaus came to the job having just finished four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives and his sister, Denise Driehaus, was elected to fill his vacant seat.

In his new job, Driehaus lived a dream that his father, Don, once chased in 1968 when he ran for the same congressional seat and lost. “My father felt very deeply that service through public office was a very honorable thing, that you could achieve real change for people through elected office.”

Driehaus joined RPCVs Mike Honda, Sam Farr, and Tom Petri in the House of Representatives in 2008 and became a member of the Democratic caucus.

However Driehaus’s vote for the Obama Healthcare legislation led to his defeat in the 2010 election after he was targeted by the Tea Party and an anti-abortion group who lied about Driehaus’s pro-life record and now Driehaus has filed a complaint that could serve as a test case for election laws nationwide when he accused a tea party group, the Susan B. Anthony List  of a lie that cost him his job in Congress.

The dispute began last year when the Susan B. Anthony List tried to post billboards in Mr. Driehaus‘ Cincinnati-area district accusing him of supporting “taxpayer funded” abortions when he voted for the Obama administration’s health care initiative and Driehaus filed a complaint with state election officials that the signs were illegal under Ohio’s “false statements” law. The billboard company, not wanting to be added to the complaint, refused to put up the signs.

The Susan B. Anthony List fired back by filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing that the state election law governing false claims is unconstitutional because it violates the group’s right to free speech.

Driehaus responded by filing a counterclaim for defamation, saying the group’s attacks during his 2010 campaign resulted in “loss of livelihood.”

The Susan B. Anthony List says it spent about $200,000 on radio spots, mailers, telephone calls and other methods to oppose the Driehaus campaign. The group also shelled out a total of $11 million nationwide during the 2010 midterm election campaign season to oppose candidates whom it considered sympathetic to abortion, even though some of those candidates — including Mr. Driehaus — identified themselves as “pro-life.”

Mr. Driehaus‘ defense says he is “well known for opposing abortion” and worked to ensure that health care law didn’t provide for taxpayer-funded abortions. “Rather than credit Mr. Driehaus for this accomplishment, the SBA List has falsely characterized him as voting for a bill that includes taxpayer funding for abortions, when the SBA List knows the exact opposite to be true,” the lawsuit says.


Photo Credit: Gannett/Stephen J Boitano
In the meantime, while the case drags on through the courts, Driehaus will leave the U.S. in June to become the Peace Corps’ Country Director in Swaziland directing a group of about 75 Peace Corps volunteers in Swaziland, all of them doing AIDS and HIV prevention education in the country with the worst HIV problem in the world.

“This is something I felt I needed to do,’’ said Driehaus, 44, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa in the late 1980s. “This is a job where I can make a difference.”

Driehaus says that he is not “completely shutting the door” to a run again for office some day, but that he believes it is “time that I do something else. And this is something I believe in.”

References: “Driehaus moving to Africa” March 24, 2011

Washington Times.  “Ex-lawmaker accuses pro-life group of ‘lies’”  March 3, 2011

Kentucky Post.  “Chabot defeats Driehaus in rematch”  November 11, 2010

WKRC.  “A Look at How Driehaus Beat Chabot” November 5, 2008