NASHVILLE, TN (THE CITY PAPER) BY J.R.LIND – A controversial campaign ad will be allowed to continue running after a Thursday afternoon ruling in Nashville.
Aegis Sciences filed a lawsuit against Lou Ann Zelenik, a Republican candidate for Congress in the 6th District, claiming one of her campaign ads defames the company. Aegis, which is partially owned by David Black — husband of state Sen. Diane Black, also seeking the GOP nomination in the 6th, provides drug-testing services and has a state contract.
The company claims the ad harms Aegis’ corporate reputation with its insinuation that Black’s votes for the state budget and other appropriations items direct funds to her husband’s company and sought to have a restraining order placed on the commercial until a final decision was reached in the case.
“This is beyond the bounds of political speech,” attorney Joel Galanter said. “This is commercial speech.”
Zelenik’s attorneys, however, disputed that there was any damage done to Aegis, especially since an ad run by Black’s 2008 Democratic opponent, Jim Hawkins, made similar allegations.
“It is disingenuous to claim harm now and not then,” defense attorney Brian Manookian argued. “Their argument is they don’t like how it sounds. The only place where how it sounds counts is American Idol.”
Judge Hamilton Gayden said with election day “just 175 hours” away, he was cool to the idea of limiting campaign speech.
“The right to the freedom of speech is one of our most protected rights and the limits are very narrow. It’s impractical and impossible to make definite findings of fact [in a short time frame],” he said.
Gayden emphasized that his ruling on the restraining order was not the end of the matter and that Aegis was free to pursue the lawsuit to its conclusion, which Galanter said the company would do, though the attorney indicated an appeal of today’s ruling would not be sought.