October 22, 2014

Jury awards $231,000 in damages to state senator in libel, slander case

A jury late this afternoon awarded a state senator from Sioux City $231,000 in damages after finding his 2010 opponent and the Iowa Democratic Party committed libel and slander against him.

Republican Senator Rick Bertrand of Sioux City objected to a 2010 TV ad which claimed Bertrand’s company had been singled out by the FDA for the “marketing of dangerous drugs to children.”

“This is how you change the face of American politics, it’s by standing up to the political party machine,” Bertrand said this evening during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa. “This is how it works.”

Bertrand, who used to work for a pharmaceutical company, said he never sold the controversial pediatric drug that was mentioned in the ad.

“This was about truth versus lies,” Bertrand said.

Jeana Goosmann, Bertrand’s attorney, issued a written statement, arguing this case has national significance “because the jury held the political party liable for false personal attacks against a political candidate.”

Bertrand said he hopes the case does something to reduce the “slime” that’s spread in some campaign ads “no matter what party” is doing it.

“This wasn’t about, you know, stretching the truth or angles,” Bertrand said this evening. “It was basically saying lies to assassinate a character to win votes.”

A top official with the Iowa Democratic Party declined to comment on the case.

The jury ordered Bertrand’s 2010 Democratic opponent to pay Bertrand $31,000 and the Iowa Democratic Party to pay $200,000 in damages.