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Iowa Supreme Court Rules on Defamation

John Pemble
Iowa Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines, May 17, 2013.

While he didn't win the Sioux City senate seat, at least 2010 candidate Rick Mullin and the Iowa Democratic Party won’t have to pay $231,000 to State Senator Rick Bertrand.

Today the Iowa Supreme Court today found that an ad run by Mullin’s campaign did not meet the definition of defamation. 

Senator Bertrand sued Mullin and his party saying the campaign ad purposely misled voters into thinking Bertrand was the owner of the pharmaceutical company Takeda, when in reality he was an employee.

The ad highlighted the fact Takeda sold a dangerous pediatric sleep aid and accused Bertrand of “profiting at the expense of children.”   The ad also referred to Takeda as “Bertrand’s company.”

Bertrand said the ad was misleading since he is not the owner of Takeda, but merely worked for a division of the company that sold diabetes medication.

Though the court sided in favor of Mullin and the Democrats, Chief Justice Cady did write in his opinion that greater civility in public discourse would, "better serve democracy."

As a first-term senator, Bertrand faces a potentially tough re-election fight this year. He resigned from a top leadership position as Minority Whip with Senate Republicans last December, so he could concentrate on his campaign.