“Dishonest”, “crooked” and “criminal” are among labels political candidates are throwing at their opponents as the campaign season heats up and we asked an expert, how far can that legally go? Phil Kronebush, political science professor at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, says Minnesota law states that candidates and their committees cannot knowingly make false statements — but that doesn’t apply to outside money. “The independent organizations and the political action committees, that’s really where there’s kind of no-holds-barred,” he says. “The broad idea is, if they say something false, then the candidate can defend himself or herself during the campaign.”
Kronebush says even though false statements seem to be getting worse, he doesn’t see the Supreme Court taking up the issue anytime soon. “All indications are the Supreme Court would say, well, that’s just… free speech, our nation’s history is built on that, and the response to false speech is then more speech correcting that false speech,” he says.
Even though Minnesota law states that candidates and their committees cannot knowingly make false statements, Kronebush points out a federal appeals court has already questioned whether that law is constitutional.