Sen. Brown raises profile of Stolen Valor, calls on Obama to act
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in late June that a law prohibiting people from lying about receiving military honors was unconstitutional, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has been working hard to push the issue into the spotlight, even getting the president involved.
A 32-year member of the Army National Guard, Brown co-sponsored a more narrow formulation of the Stolen Valor Act last fall after a veterans council in Middleborough, Mass., alerted him to the ongoing problem of phonies claiming imaginary military awards in order to gain power, prestige, or material benefit.
On Wednesday, Brown fired off a letter to President Barack Obama, asking Obama to throw his weight behind the issue.
“Justice (Stephen) Breyer wrote eloquently in the concurring Supreme Court opinion: ‘The nation cannot fully honor those who have sacrificed so much for their country’s honor unless those who claim to have received its military awards tell the truth,’” the letter read. “As our commander in chief, your support for this bill would help sustain its momentum.”
Unlike the original 2005 statute struck down by the court, the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 requires proof that stolen valor lies were used to profit financially or materially in order to prosecute the offense, and contains a de minimis clause exempting those who lie for negligible gain, such as a free drink at the bar. Sponsors believe that the new version will stand up to judicial scrutiny where the broader version failed as a threat to First Amendment rights.
Brown’s letter to the president was the culmination of several days of beating the drum on the issue.
Tuesday morning, Brown published a radio report promoting the bill on Youtube.
“Con artists who claim for themselves distinctions and awards they don’t deserve should be held accountable,” he said in the one-minute spot.
Later Tuesday, Brown joined the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) for an outdoor press conference to promote the legislation. Twenty-four hours later, the Senate bill, idle in committee since October, had picked up 27 new sponsors.
Brown has promoted a series of military and veterans’ bills in recent weeks, introducing a bill authorizing grants for the nonprofit Fisher House on June 27. He sponsored legislation to prohibit housing discrimination against veterans early last month after reading a Boston Herald report about a veteran turned away from a rental property because of his military status.
Locked in a hotly contested re-election race with liberal challenger Elizabeth Warren, Brown sidestepped a Human Events question at Tuesday’s press conference about whether stolen valor and other veterans’ issues were gaining traction with Massachusetts voters.
“The bottom line, it’s just wrong,” he said. “The Supreme Court said it was a First Amendment right, protected speech, but the bottom line is it’s just wrong and we need to address this so it doesn’t happen anymore.”