An American law professor told senators on Tuesday that outlawing prostitution was a violation of the First Amendment if spending money was a form of free speech.
“Your other point though about money not equaling speech is a critical point for people to understand,” American University professor Jamie Raskin said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “There are lots of forms of purchase and exchange that we criminalize, for example, buying sex. We don’t say if someone wants to purchase the services of a prostitute, well that is just an expression of their speech.”
In its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court ruled that limits on political spending violated the First Amendment. The court held that spending money to influence elections was a form of constitutionally protected speech.
The decision was later followed by similar rulings in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, further eroding limits on political spending and contributions. The Supreme Court rulings have led to an unprecedented amount of money being spent to influence the outcome of elections.
Raskin noted that even defenders of the Supreme Court rulings have agreed that laws to prohibit outright bribery are constitutional and necessary.
“And it’s not clear in their position why,” he remarked. “After all, if I just feel very strongly about an issue and I want to give you a thousand dollars or a million dollars to go my way, why shouldn’t you be able to accept it?
“I think it is because we believe that within the governmental process and electoral process there are right reasons for those who hold public office to make decisions and there are wrong reasons — and a wrong reason is the money you are either going to put into your pocket or huge amounts of money that you’re going to put into your campaign.”
Democrats have proposed a longshot constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s rulings. The amendment would grant Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system, but would not dictate any specific policies or regulations.
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