California Law Professor Rips Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz For Lying When He Said Democrats Are Repealing First Amendment

Stephen D. Foster Jr.
July 3, 2014

In 2010, the conservative wing of the Supreme Court made one of the worst rulings in judicial history. Ever since the ruling came down in the Citizens United case, corporations and wealthy individuals have been able to spend unlimited amounts of money anonymously in election campaigns. Most of this money, of course, has come from right-wing zealots obsessed with making corporations more powerful than the federal government. They also want the unfettered ability to force politicians to do their bidding.

Shortly after, Senate Democrats Michael Bennett and Tom Udall crafted a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling so that political donations can once again be regulated and the power of real people is restored. Currently, that bill is under consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Ted Cruz apparently had no problem flat out lying about the intent of the amendment and Democrats.

Cruz accused Democrats of trying to set fire to the First Amendment and claimed the new bill was all about silencing citizens. In short, he’s whining about the effort to prevent rich people from outspending ordinary Americans in an effort to guarantee their candidate’s victory. Of course, elections and the right to vote belong to everyone and everyone’s vote counts equally. But not everyone can spend the massive amounts of money on campaigns like corporations and the rich can. When a small fraction of Americans can outspend the rest of the country by a staggering amount, it hurts democracy and actually drowns out freedom of speech for everyone else.

But once again, Ted Cruz is being called out for being a liar. And it’s by someone who knows all about the First Amendment.

Erwin Chemerinsky is dean and distinguished professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. That’s right, he’s a certified expert on the First Amendment, something Ted Cruz is apparently not. In a scathing letter published by The Hill on Thursday, Chemerinsky tore apart Cruz for blatantly lying time and time again about the amendment and the Democrats who support it.

Sen. Cruz’s statements about campaign finance fall below even minimal standards of honesty, the law professor wrote.
“The proposed constitutional amendment seeks to restore the power of Congress and the states to enact laws of the sort that the Court declared unconstitutional in these cases. These laws existed without problems for many years until the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. In fact, seven years before Citizens United, the Supreme Court upheld the very provision that it invalidated in that case.

The proposed constitutional amendment, in its key provision, simply would say: “To 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.” Another provision would make clear that the government can limit campaign spending by corporations.

It is impossible to reconcile this language with Cruz’s claims about it. In a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cruz declared: “This amendment here today, if adopted, would repeal the free speech protections of the First Amendment. . . . This amendment, if adopted, would give Congress absolute authority to regulate the political speech of every single American, with no limitations whatsoever.”

Then Chemerinsky brought the hammer down on the Texas Senator and former lawyer who played the central role in shutting down the government and bringing the nation to the brink of economic catastrophe last Fall.

“The amendment does nothing of the sort. It gives no authority to the government to ban or limit anyone’s speech. It provides the government no power to “muzzle” messages the government doesn’t like. 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…should be embarrassed by his false assertions. Ted Cruz is a lawyer who had a very distinguished career in government and private practice. 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.”

Perhaps the next time Senator Cruz makes a claim about Democrats, he should read the bill and talk to someone who actually understands the First Amendment. I’m sure Professor Chemerinsky would be only too happy to take him back to school for a refresher course.