A jury has 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 TV ad which claimed Bertrand’s company had been singled out by the F.D.A. 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 is how it works.” Bertrand, who used to work for a pharmaceutical company, says he never sold the controversial pediatric drug that was mentioned in the ad.
“This was about truth versus lies,” Bertrand said during a phone interview. Bertrand’s attorney argues this case has national significance “because the jury held the political party liable for false personal attacks against a political candidate.” Bertrand says 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