Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-19-142 (False Campaign Literature)
This law provides that:
“It is a Class C misdemeanor for any person to publish or distribute or cause to be published or distributed any campaign literature in opposition to any candidate in any election if such person knows that any such statement, charge, allegation, or other matter contained therein with respect to such candidate is false.”
We oppose this law because it has the disturbing potential to be used to threaten protected political speech and criticism of public officials. In fact, as we noted in a recent blog post, sending campaign mail that says one’s opponent “has cauliflower for brains” could result in thousands of dollars in fines and months in jail. During the 2018 legislative session, members of the Tennessee House and Senate introduced a bill that would increase this violation to a Class A misdemeanor, which would impose even harsher penalties for the same conduct. We opposed this effort—thankfully the bill died before ever reaching the floor for debate—and we will continue to oppose any politician or measure that attempts to stifle public debate.