CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s well known that a number of Koch supported groups are working to sell a Constitutional Convention or Convention of States to state legislators and voters. They are joined by other groups across the political spectrum rallying support for a convention.

 

Representatives from ALEC lobby legislators to persuade them there is a need for a Constitutional Convention. They provide them with model legislation and will provide testimony at hearings.

 

Advocacy groups offer a number of popular reasons why states must call a Constitutional Convention:

 

  • to reign in an out-of-control federal government

  • to bring the debt-crisis back under control

  • to remove a costly regulatory burden

  • to turn over Citizens United

  • to reform campaign finance laws

  • to make changes to the 2nd Amendment

  • to abolish the Electoral College

  • to make changes to term limits

 

These efforts are enjoying some success in part because they have been working stealthfully to avoid drawing attention to their efforts until relatively recently. And it doesn’t hurt that there are 26 Republican trifectas. It has always been a Republican dream to make changes to the Constitution.  But there are democratic groups that have joined the call for a convention usually for entirely different reasons. They too are misleading their supporters and voters. They are ALL grievously understating the risks to our Constitution and our democracy.

 

Advocacy Groups Supporting a Constitutional Convention

 

  • COSProject

  • WolfPAC

  • Move To Amend

  • American Promise

  • Balanced Budget Convention Taskforce

  • Compact for America

  • US Term Limits

 

The Rules of a Constitutional Convention

 

The first rule of a Constitutional Convention is THERE ARE NO RULES. Article V of the Constitution provides 2 methods to amend the Constitution and the number of states required to ratify the amendments. That number was changed during the 1787 ratification process from 13 states to 9 when 3 states refused to ratify the new Constitution. There are no rules or guidelines that specify how delegates are chosen or how many delegates would participate. There are NO rules. Well, there is one but it was broken in the 1787 ratification process.

The delegates in 1787 had been tasked by Congress with amending the Articles of Confederation, not rewriting it, which they did.

Another reason they may be on the final stretch is because they are telling their prospective buyers what they want to hear and omitting those details that might be a deal-breaker.

Runaway Convention

Proponents claim it is impossible for a Convention of States to turn into an uncontrolled, runaway convention that could result in a rewrite of the Constitution or for delegates to step out of the boundaries set for them. Some advocates claim that it’s a “myth” that the 1787 convention was a runaway convention.  Other advocacy groups claim they have legal research and “proof” that a convention would not turn into a disastrous runaway convention.  The ONLY proof that exists is historic proof that the one and only Constitutional Convention ever called did turn into a runaway convention.

You won’t hear advocates say “The 1787 convention was clearly a “runaway convention” in the sense that every single state delegation that had restrictions imposed on its delegates by their state legislature violated those instructions”

Promotional material from COSProject states“And when the Convention of States convenes, Congress and the Washington bureaucracy will be POWERLESS to stop it!” This is a true statement and one that clearly contradicts any intention to contain or control a convention. No power exists to stop or revoke a convention once it has been called.

 

The states are passing resolutions to put safeguards in place, to limit a convention, to place restrictions on delegates, to recall delegates that step beyond their boundaries, but they are just as disposable as the Constitution itself during a convention. Regardless of the intent, at this politically divisive period in our history, it’s inevitable that a Constitutional Convention would quickly become uncontrollable.

Remember regardless of the intent, there are NO rules.

 

The Founders Put Numerous Safeguards In Place

Not true! Promotional material available from COSProject claims that our Founders put numerous ‘safeguards in place’ to prevent a ‘runaway’ convention including the requirement for 38 states to ratify all proposed amendments. This claim is clearly devised to be misleading. There are no other safeguards other than the requirement for 38 states to ratify proposed amendments.  Missing in the material is that in 1787, when the first and last Constitutional Convention was called, the number of states required to ratify was changed from 13 states to 9 states when 3 of the states refused to ratify the document. AND you won’t find it written anywhere in advocacy groups’ material that the finalized Constitution looked nothing like the original document.

Elsewhere in their promotional material it’s stated “And when the Convention of States convenes, Congress and the Washington bureaucracy will be POWERLESS to stop it!” This is a true statement and one that clearly contradicts any intention to contain or control a convention.

 

Again, remember there are NO rules.

 

Special Interests

 

To calm fears that special interests and the wealthy will rewrite the COSProject's Hand Guide claims that delegates are permitted to narrow but not expand the scope of amendments and that will ensure that special interests will not be able to rewrite the Constitution.

Advocates claim a carefully worded application specifying limits would be strictly adhered to. Again, how the application is worded or legislation to restrict or recall delegates cannot guarantee a limited scope or prevent a rewrite of the Constitution. 

For example, this model legislation is being used by states adopting the COSProject plan.

Section 1. The legislature of the State of ___________ hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a Convention of the States limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for Members of Congress.

Which according to their ‘hand guide’ could translate to any one or all of the following amendments and more:

 

• Require Members of Congress to live under the same laws they pass for the rest of us

• Impose term limits on Members of Congress

• Pass a federal balanced budget amendment

• Require a photo ID to vote

• Get the federal government out of our healthcare system

• Get the federal government out of our education system

• Stop unelected federal bureaucrats from imposing regulations

• Set term limits for Supreme Court Justices

• Set term limits for federal bureaucrats, ending the dominance of the “deep state”

• Remove the authority of the federal government over state energy policy

• Remove the authority of the federal government over land use issues within state borders.

• Force the federal government to honor its commitment to return federal lands to the states.

 

When you consider the following bold statements taken from their promotional material, one has to wonder just how far the rewrite is going to go.

 

  • ‘Radical’ groups opposing their movement “are dedicated to radical environmentalism and abortion on demand”

  • “Everything from abortion, to same-sex marriage, to ObamaCare, and more are now ‘the law of the land.’ “

  • An Article V Convention, which the Framers provided, is the only way to reign in our activist judiciary, reduce the federal government, and restore our Constitution—back to its original pocket size and its original intent.”

 

An argument also exists that a convention cannot be called simply by meeting the 34 state requirement to call one; the wording must be closely or identically matched. Remember, there are NO rules.

 

Arn Pearson at the Center for Media and Democracy, a watchdog group based in Madison, Wisc., is closely tracking the movement. He describes the campaign for a constitutional convention as “a very live threat.” “If between the groups they get to 34 states,” he says, “there is really nothing preventing them from aggregating those calls even if they’re not identical, and pushing for a convention.” [3]

 

An Article V Balanced Budget Amendment Is Especially Dangerous To Our Economy.

 

Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment Poses Serious Risks

Would Likely Make Recessions Longer and Deeper, Could Harm Social Security and Other Trust Funds

(Updated - March 16, 2018 - By Richard Kogan)

 

The economic problems with such an amendment are the most serious. By requiring a balanced budget every year, no matter the state of the economy, such an amendment would raise serious risks of tipping weak economies into recession and making recessions longer and deeper, causing very large job losses.

 

The amendment would force policymakers to cut federal programs, raise taxes, or both when the economy is weak or already in recession — the exact opposite of what good economic policy would advise. That’s because the amendment would force policymakers to cut federal programs, raise taxes, or both when the economy is weak or already in
recession — the exact opposite of what good economic policy would advise. [4]

 

Press Release: Nobel Laureates and Leading Economists Oppose Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment

“A group of leading economists, including five Nobel Laureates in economics, publicly released a letter to President Obama and Congress opposing a constitutional balanced budget amendment. The letter outlines the reasons why writing a balanced budget requirement into the Constitution would be "very unsound policy" that would adversely affect the economy.”

"A balanced budget amendment would mandate perverse actions in the face of recessions," the letter notes. By requiring large budget cuts when the economy is weakest, the amendment "would aggravate recessions." [5]

 

More about the Convention of States Project (COSProject)

 

The COSProject has received major funding including at least $500,000 from the Mercer family and numerous large contributions from the Koch-connected Donors Trust. The well-funded Convention of States campaign is led by Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler and former U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-OK, and Jim DeMint, R-SC; DeMint also is a former Heritage Foundation president.  The campaign has garnered major endorsements from other major conservative media personalities, elected officials, and special interest groups, including Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and others.

  

In just the last three years, the Convention of States resolution has passed in 12 states: Georgia, Alaska, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas, and Missouri, and has been introduced in over 37 states.

Other Advocacy Groups Rallying Support For A Constitutional Convention Supporting Democratic Causes

 

Looking now, across the aisle at democratic groups advocating for a Constitutional Convention we find 3 noteworthy groups:

 

  • WolfPAC

  • American Promise

  • Move To Amend

 

We am disheartened to say they all use dishonest tactics, and frequently repeat the same lies. In at least two states, WolfPAC appears to have coordinated their efforts with COSProject. WolfPAC also coordinates with American Promise to propose an ‘Amendments Convention’.

 

WolfPAC

 

WolfPAC was founded by Cenk Uygur, the founder of The Young Turks and is a Bernie Sanders supporter.  According to Wikipedia Wolf PAC is an American non-partisan political action committee formed in 2011 with the goal of "ending corporate personhood” or in other words, ending Citizens United. Interestingly, Congress introduced resolutions SJR8 and HJR31 on January 24th 2017 to remedy Citizens United. Clearly, there are other motives.

 

WolfPAC members have joined Democratic Committees and are persuading their committees to make a Constitutional Convention part of their platform.

 

One WolfPAC member and Democratic committee member proposed support for three Constitutional amendments. Overturning Citizens United wasn’t even the first suggestion for an amendment, but was the only one of the three proposals to pass and the third was to eliminate superdelegates. “In 2016, the superdelegates favored Hillary Clinton, leaving Bernie Sanders slighted” according to one article. [6]

Two members from the same Democratic Committee asked a city council to join the effort to force a constitutional amendment adding “There’s no risk to you…” That may be true, but there is great risk to the country and to the Constitution. [7]

Here is another example of the twisting of truths all of these groups rely on to garner support for a Constitutional Convention:

WolfPAC: We've never had an Article V convention but history has shown it to be a very effective tool to put pressure on Congress.

Well, OK it was Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation, the equivalent of Article V. We have only had one Constitutional Convention when the Articles of Confederation were rewritten to produce our Constitution and that was in 1787. On that basis I would question its ‘effectiveness’. The Constitution has been amended 27 times safely using the Congressional method demonstrating that it is in fact a very effective tool to amend the Constitution.

 

American Promise

American Promise has a strong grassroots presence and is holding a National Citizen Leadership Conference this summer. When we looked deeper we found a connection to WolfPAC who we know is openly advocating for a Constitutional Convention.  If their primary objective is to end Citizens United, are they not aware that Congress introduced legislation in January of 2017 to remedy it.

American Promise outwardly advocates for a 28th Amendment to reverse Citizens United.  After much prodding to determine if they supported a Constitutional Convention, we finally received an answer. "We're supporting all Americans advocating for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Whether that's through Congress or by way of convention, we're focused on #peoplepower!"

We're stymied by these notable personalities that have agreed to speak at their conference.

 

Bill Moyers

Journalist; best-selling author; former White House Press Secretary for President Johnson

 

Nina Turner

President, Our Revolution; former Ohio State Senator; American Promise National Advisory Council

 

Richard Painter

Chief Ethics Counsel, President George W. Bush; S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law,
University of Minnesota Law School

 

Ellen Weintraub

Commissioner, Federal Election Commission

 

Ben Cohen

Co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Head Stamper at Stamp Stampede;
American Promise National Advisory Council

 

Cenk Uygur

Host and founder, The Young Turks; Founder of WolfPAC

 

Viki Harrison

Executive Director, Common Cause New Mexico

Note: Common Cause has been a staunch opponent of the call for a Constitutional Convention

 

Move To Amend

Similarly to American Promise, their focus is to reverse Citizens United through a 28th Amendment but will not rule out a Constitutional Convention. They are holding a National Leadership Summit this summit this summer. 

Recommended Reading:

 

We highly recommend reading an article written by Common Cause titled "U.S. Constitution Threatened as Article V Convention Movement Nears Success" with the following subheadings. Be sure to click the link in the first paragraph to read the updated 2018 version. [26]

  • Current Article V Convention Campaigns

  • Why the Article V Convention Process is a Threat

  • Threat Of A Runaway Convention

  • Influence Of Special Interests

  • Lack Of Convention Rules

  • Uncertain Ratification Process

  • Threat Of Legal Disputes

  • Application Process Uncertainty

  • Possibility Of Unequal Representation

  • Bipartisan Group of Legislators & Organizations Oppose an Article V Convention

  • Legal Scholars Warn of the Dangers of an Article V Convention

  • Newspaper Editorial Boards Oppose Calls for a Constitutional Convention

  • Key Media Coverage of the Article V Convention Threat

"We, the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution.  ---  Abraham Lincoln

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