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Congressman for Yucaipa Touts House Passage of 'Stolen Valor Act'

Paul Cook at Sun Lakes in Banning, Calif., in 2011. Banning-Beaumont Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.
Paul Cook at Sun Lakes in Banning, Calif., in 2011. Banning-Beaumont Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.
The congressman for Yucaipa on Monday touted passage of a federal "Stolen Valor Act" that, if it becomes law, will hold accountable anyone who tries to benefit from falsely claiming to be a recipient of military awards including the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and Purple Heart.

Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, said the House of Representatives voted May 20 to pass H.R. 258 by a 390–3 vote.

Cook's staff said the U.S. Supreme Court struck down " the original Stolen Valor Act of 2005" in June 2012, declaring the law was in violation of the First Amendment.

The law made it a federal misdemeanor to "represent oneself falsely as having received U.S. military decorations or medals," Cook's staff said in a statement. "The Court determined that simply lying about one's military service and accomplishments qualifies as protected speech under the constitution." 

The new legislation, introduced by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, resolves Constitutional issues by requiring a so-called "intent to defraud" provision – meaning an alleged violator has the intention of obtaining money, property, or other benefits from making a false claim of military heroism or injury, according to Cook's staff.

As a state assemblyman, Cook authored California's state Stolen Valor Act, which was signed into law, Cook's staff said. The state law includes an "intent to defraud" provision and has not been challenged in court.

Cook's former 65th Assembly District included Banning, Beaumont, Big Bear Lake, Calimesa, Cherry Valley, Hemet, Moreno Valley, Perris, San Jacinto, Sun City, Twentynine Palms, Yucaipa, Yucca Valley and unincorporated areas of Riverside County and San Bernardino County.

"This law is long overdue," Cook, a co-author of the new act. "It's a continuation of the important work we did at the state level when I was Chairman of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee.

"The new law ensures that we protect and honor veterans and the sacrifices they've made. When people make false claims of military rank and heroism, it does a tremendous disservice not only to our vets, but to the public. I'm extremely glad the bill passed the House and am optimistic that it is on the path to becoming law."

Cook served 26 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including time as an infantry officer and he retired as a colonel. He was awarded the Bronze Star medal for valor and two Purple Hearts for actions in combat.

In Congress he is member of the House Armed Services, Veterans' Affairs, and Foreign Affairs committees.

Cook was elected in November 2012 to represent the 8th Congressional District, which includes mountain communities north of Redlands and Loma Linda, Death Valley, the Owens River Valley and the eastside Sierra Nevada to Mono Lake and beyond. A map of the 8th District is attached to this report.

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