The dean of the University of California, Irvine’s law school wrote that Texas Senator Ted Cruz should be “ashamed” of his repeated claim that a Senate bill designed to regulate campaign spending would “repeal the free speech protections of the First Amendment.”
Writing at The Hill, Erwin Chemerinsky argued that Sen. Cruz has “lied about what the amendment would do.” The amendment in question, currently being debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would undo the damage to campaign finance law inflicted by the Supreme Court in its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.
In that decision, the Court claimed that it was unconstitutional to prohibit corporations from contributing unlimited amounts of money to election campaigns because donations are a form of protected speech. The proposed amendment before the Senate Judiciary Committee would merely allow federal and state governments to regulate campaign contributions.
According to Chemerinsky, the amendment would merely state that, “[t]o advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
Cruz has portrayed the proposed amendment differently, telling the crowd at the Watchmen on the Wall conference that “I’m sorry to tell you, but this year, the United States Senate is going to be voting on a constitutional amendment to repeal the First Amendment.”
“Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has announced the Senate Democrats are scheduling a vote on a constitutional amendment to give Congress the authority to regulate political speech,” Cruz continued, “because elected officials have decided they don’t like it when the citizenry has the temerity to criticize what they’ve done.”
Chemerinsky noted that the amendment “does nothing of the sort.”
“It gives no authority to the government to ban or limit anyone’s speech,” he wrote. “It does not change in any way the long-standing First Amendment principle that the government cannot restrict speech based on the content of the message or the views expressed. The amendment would do no more than allow the government to regulate spending in election campaigns.”
Cruz’s attempt to portray it otherwise, Chemerinsky wrote, is “intended to scare people into opposing the proposed constitutional amendment.”
“Ted Cruz is a lawyer who had a very distinguished career in government and private practice,” he concluded. “I have debated him on several occasions and know that he is a person of great intelligence. He knows exactly what the proposed amendment would do and yet has chosen to vilify it by misrepresenting it.”
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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