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Constitution Day Set For Sept. 17

Published: September 15, 2014

The Center for First Amendment Studies at CSULB will present its annual celebration of Constitution Day on Wednesday, Sept. 17, from 4-5 p.m., in the Anatol Center.

“This will be the sixth time we’ve held this event,” said Craig Smith, a communication studies’ professor at CSULB and the director of the campus’ Center for First Amendment Studies, which is the only one of its kind in the CSU system. “It started because the (state) legislature said that public educational institutions had to celebrate Constitution Day in some way. The provost asked us to host it and do it. It was a natural. So we do an hour every Constitution Day on some aspect of the constitution.”

Smith, along with communications studies’ assistant professor Kevin Johnson, the center’s research director, will discuss the history of federal political campaign reform and the impact the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case could possibly have on the upcoming mid-term elections.

“There used to be a cap on how much money you could give, but now, as long as you are giving it to a different candidate, you can give to as many candidates as you want,” said Smith, who has been a guest speaker at Constitution Day events at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge. “Now you can give the maximum to each candidate, so we’re going to look at the impact of that on the elections coming up.”

“Recent Supreme Court decisions regarding corporate and union campaign contributions in elections demonstrate the complicated nature of First Amendment law,” added Johnson, “not the least of which are questions regarding the freedom of collective groups to speak, the influence of money on democratic deliberation and the nature of a free press when many press organizations are corporate in nature.”

Smith said the response to the annual event has been good and attendance has steadily increased each year. He expects more than 150 individuals to attend this year.

The event will also promote three relevant books, each involving issues surrounding the First Amendment, including the freedom of speech and religion, suppression of dissent in the United States and rulings on these issues by the Supreme Court.

The first book is titled A First Amendment Profile of the Supreme Court, which is a First Amendment profile of the Supreme Court. It covers each justice who currently serves on the Supreme Court and looks at the basis of their decision making in relation to First Amendment issues like Citizens United. Smith and Johnson wrote some of the book’s chapters, along with some of the research fellows at the center.

“If someone reading this book were a lawyer and they thought they were going to argue in front of the Supreme Court,” said Smith, “then they would have a better shot at getting into the head of the justice by reading this book.”

The second book, called Silencing the Opposition, is about government strategies of suppression in America when free speech is suppressed. Originally written a decade ago by Smith and other professors, this second edition has new chapters on campaign reform and the suppression following 9/11.

The third book is one of Smith’s most recent works, Confessions of a Presidential Speechwriter, in which he covers his time with presidents Gerald R. Ford, with whom he became a personal friend, and George H.W. Bush.

The event is being sponsored by the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, the Department of Political Science and the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

And, as it has done in the past years, Advanced Media Production will record the event and run it on Beach TV, Charter TV and YouTube.

–Shayne Schroeder