See update below.
DES MOINES, Iowa – The Libertarian Party of Iowa filed suit against State Senator Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, in federal court after she blocked several of their members, including the party chairman, on Twitter.
Libertarians and conservatives noticed earlier this month that they were blocked after highlighting a debate with Celsi over gun control. She said, “The 2nd Amendment also says well regulated, what part of well regulated don’t you understand?”
Jason Rumley, a personal trainer and Krav Maga instructor in Springfield, Ill. replied, “And if it were up to tyrants the likes of you the government would ‘well regulate’ arms right out of the hands of citizens.”
Celsi shot back, “So if I were you, I’d start being nice to me.”
Shortly after this Twitter exchange that Libertarian Party of Iowa Chairman Joseph Howe was a part of he announced Celsi had blocked him.
Howe referenced a recent decision by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment rights of his detractors by blocking them from personal Twitter account.
Thomas Halterman, named as a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a resident of Iowa District 21, Celsi’s district, and a registered voter, he also participated in the discussion on Twitter and was subsequently blocked by Celsi.
Soon after Celsi’s blocking
After blocking the public from seeing her Twitter feed, Celsi continues to advocate gun control measures on her public Facebook page.
The Libertarian Party of Iowa through their attorney, Jules Ofenbakh (the 2018 Libertarian candidate for Iowa Secretary of State), sent Celsi a letter last week encouraging her to cease and desist her “unconstitutional behavior” giving her a deadline on 5:00p on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, to unblock any Iowans she blocked otherwise they would pursue further action. Celsi did not meet the deadline.
“As you may be aware, blocking constituents from commenting in a public forum violates state and federal law,” Ofenbakh wrote. “It also demonstrates character that dishonors the public office you hold.”
Ofenbakh said Celsi’s social media and website, that encourages people to contact her with problems, questions, and opinions about upcoming bills, are considered a public forum.
“It is disingenuous to publicly state that your constituents may contact you to voice their support or opposition only to take away their ability to do so on social media. It would be utterly shameful if the purpose of blocking constituents from your social media accounts or email was simply because they disagreed with you,” she wrote.
“When you were elected, you gained the title of ‘public servant.’ Your job is to be the voice in our state government for your constituents. When you choose not to listen to all of the voices of your constituents, you fail to serve the public. Given your consistent history of silencing your constituents, it appears you are merely serving yourself and those with whom you agree,” Ofenbakh concluded.
“This conduct was recently found to be a violation of the 1st Amendment by a federal court. Specifically, the court held that President Trump could not block individuals on his Twitter account as it was an infringement on their ability to petition their government for redress of grievances. It is unfortunate to see an Iowa Senator engaging in the same conduct,” Howe said in a released statement from the Libertarian Party of Iowa.
“In the past, Senator Celsi has publicly invited Iowans to contact her in order to discuss any issues or concerns. As Iowans frequently use social media to communicate and elected officials use their social media accounts as public forums in which to discuss political issues, the LPIA has no other choice but to protect the 1st Amendment rights of Iowans by pursuing legal action against the Senator,” he said.
“Due to our party’s strong belief in the protection of our constitutionally guaranteed rights, the Plaintiffs, through their counsel Julia A. Ofenbakh, has filed the following suit and expect that through this process, the 1st Amendment rights of all Iowans will be treated with increased respect,” Howe concluded.
Read the initial letter below:
Read the court filing below:
Update: Caffeinated Thoughts has learned that Celsi now has an “official” Twitter account – @SenClaireCelsi (you can read her tweets below).
Howe responded to this development in a comment on Facebook. “She clearly made this account as a decoy to detract from the fact that she used her main account as a public forum to discuss policy as a candidate and then an elected official for years. The damage has already been done. If she uses her main twitter to post pictures of cats, call me,” he said.
This story was updated from the original article on 7/17/19.