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By Eric Stirgus August 27, 2010

Congressman sides with "sexual deviants" with no vote, opponent says

Does a Georgia congressman approve of the sale of sexually deviant videos?

Democrat Russell Edwards leveled the attack on his website against U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican from Athens and his opponent in the Nov. 2 election. Edwards' claim is based on Broun's vote against a resolution to prohibit the sale of "crush videos." The videos typically show women wearing high heels stomping on kittens, rabbits or rodents. For some, it is a sexual fetish. To most, it's animal cruelty.

"Paul Broun Jr. sides with sexual deviants to support sale of 'crush videos,' " Edwards said.

The resolution passed 416-3. Broun, a former physician, voted against the resolution, along with Reps. Tom Graves, R-Ga., and Ron Paul, R-Texas. 

The accusation is an eye-opener, so we decided to check it out. Is Edwards right about the congressman?

No, said Broun, who called the videos "morally reprehensible."

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For those unfamiliar with them, crush videos surfaced in the 1990s. In 1999, federal legislation was signed into law banning the videos and they "vanished overnight," said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of the Humane Society of the United States. The videos seemed to disappear, although there were no federal prosecutions of such cases, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker reported.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law in April, saying it violated constitutional guarantees of free speech. Congress worked on a more focused law more specifically targeting animal crush videos. House Resolution 5566 calls for punishing anyone who sells or distributes such videos with five years in prison. The resolution passed July 21.

Broun said he voted against the bill for two reasons. One, he believes the federal government has limited criminal justice powers, aside from those outlined in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Broun said in a statement his office e-mailed to AJC PolitiFact Georgia that the bill is another example of the federal government encroaching upon the rights afforded each state under the Constitution.

The other reason Broun said he voted against the bill is because each state has laws against animal cruelty.

"If states feel that they need to toughen their laws, they can do so," Broun said. "There is no need to create federal laws that are duplicative and unconstitutional."

Broun is known for taking a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He believes Social Security is unconstitutional and has said he supports repealing the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to collect taxes. He believes his ideas would resurrect the Founding Fathers' vision of the Constitution, saying they would be disturbed by the size and scope of today's federal government.
In fact, Broun, who carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution, caught flak in 2008 for calling then President-elect Barack Obama a "Marxist." He later apologized to anyone who took offense.

The American Conservative Union, which describes itself as the nation's oldest grass-roots conservative organization, gave Broun its Defender of Liberty Award.
Jason Pye, a former chairman of the Georgia Libertarian Party and close observer of state politicians, said he's not surprised that Broun voted against the amendment. "Paul Broun has always cast himself as a constitutional conservative," Pye said.

Pye called Edwards' comments about Broun's vote "demagoguery."
Edwards, making his first run for political office, doesn't believe he went too far in criticizing Broun, a two-term incumbent. "[Broun] is picking and choosing which parts of the Constitution he wants to uphold and which ones he wants to dismiss."

Not surprisingly, the Humane Society's Markarian also disagrees with Broun's vote. He said the measure is necessary because it is difficult for states to track down crush video traffickers. The payments for videos are often made via Western Union, he said. Many are sold from other countries.

Bob Barr a former congressman and U.S. attorney from Georgia, agreed that federal officials have advantages over state officials in investigating and prosecuting "crush video" type cases. He cited the investigative tools of the FBI and statutes to prosecute mail and wire fraud, which carry longer prison sentences.

Still, Barr is not a supporter of HR 5566 and cited many of the same reasons cited by Broun. Barr, then a Republican House member, voted against the 1999 law. And Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito noted in his dissent to the April ruling that "the videos record the commission of violent criminal acts," alluding to state animal cruelty laws.

To say a congressman sides with "sexual deviants" is a hefty claim. Broun did vote against the resolution, but he articulated reasons that fall well within his political ideals and record. Whether those reasons trump pragmatic concerns about how best to crack down on distribution of the videos is another question. We had a problem with Edwards saying that Broun "supports" the sale of the videos, particularly since Broun condemned them. Voting against the resolution on constitutional grounds is not the same as supporting the sale of deviant material. We rate Edwards' statement about Broun's vote on HR 5566 as False.

Our Sources

Associated Press, "Republicans hot, cold on Constitution," Aug. 23, 2010

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Barr Code, "Crush video vote in Congress shows silliness runs deep"

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Lawmaker sorry about Obama slam," Nov. 12, 2008

E-mail from Bob Barr, Aug. 25, 2010

Georgia Politico, "GA Rep Paul Broun Jr. wants to repeal 16th and 17th amendment," July 8, 2010

Paul Broun statement e-mailed to PolitiFact Georgia, Aug. 24, 2010

Russell Edwards for Congress statement, July 22, 2010

Telephone interview with Russell Edwards, Aug. 25, 2010

Telephone interview with Humane Society of the United States official Michael Markarian, Aug. 24, 2010

Telephone interview with Jason Pye, Aug. 26, 2010

Washington Post, "Supreme Court overturns anti-animal cruelty law in First Amendment case," April 21, 2010

Washington Post, "Congress should quickly counter court's animal abuse ruling," April 25 2010

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Congressman sides with "sexual deviants" with no vote, opponent says

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