A spate of articles have shown up lately attacking the concept of an Article V Convention being put forth by groups like Convention of States and readers of Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments. As a whole, they attempt to create a body of arguments as to why we should not have such a convention. Unfortunately, what they lack is coherence. The reproductions are popping out like rabbits:
The original source for these is an article in The New American entitled “Correcting Mark Levin’s Repeated Misrepresentation of James Madison“, a companion a few days later “Socialists and Soros Fight for Article V Convention” and then a third piece on the John Birch Society Homepage called Socialists and Soros Fight for Article V Convention. They are arguments that should be stopped cold.
In his three articles, author “Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.” makes a claim that shows at best a complete ignorance of the issues, or at worst an intent to mislead his readership. He writes:
That’s right. George Soros — the financier of global fascism — is pumping millions of dollars into the same Article V campaign that is being promoted by Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other popular conservative spokesmen.
His articles highlight one group called WolfPac, whose homepage states in giant letters above the fold “We must reverse Citizens United, Restore our Democracy, and Save the Republic. Join the Fight for Free and Fair Elections in America!”. He also mentions the Move to Amend Coalition, whose mission states:
Formed in September 2009, Move to Amend is a coalition of hundreds of organizations and hundreds of thousands of individuals committed to social and economic justice, ending corporate rule, and building a vibrant democracy that is genuinely accountable to the people, not corporate interests.
We are calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.
He really doubles down on the inflammatory language:
It will likely surprise these devoted, but deluded, Article V advocates that Wolf-Pac is just the tip of the iceberg. These good people would be wise to take a look at this heavily abbreviated roster of their radical fellow travelers in the con-con movement, each of which is a registered “founding member” of the “Move to Amend” coalition.
There are other organizations, like Free Speech for People, advocating on this issue as well. So what, specifically, are they advocating for? In January, 2010, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision on Citizen’s United v Federal Election Committee which in a nutshell declared that money spent on campaign advertising is protected speech under the First Amendment. At 183 pages it’s a lengthy read, but worth it to understand what these groups are advocating for.
That decision was handed down in 2010, just over five years ago. In that time, these groups have gotten virtually nowhere, regardless of how much money Soros may or may not have donated to them. While I don’t personally agree with their mission, they have every right to advocate for their position. Wolf-Pac advocates for an Article V Convention to resolve the issue, so in that sense they are similar to efforts like Convention of States, but Move to Amend and Free Speech for People – these “fellow travelers” – are advocating for amendments to be passed the old-fashioned way, through Congress, and then ratified by the states. There is not one shred of evidence to suggest that Soros is involved with or has funded Convention of States, and it goes without saying Levin would not avail himself of Soros money.
The next set of arguments surround nullification. America has seen states recently nullify bad laws – the 10th Amendment Center has a nice issues tracking page. The map shows what states have or are trying to nullify bad federal laws like Common Core, the Affordable Care Act, and the NDAA.
Blue – Introduced. Yellow – Passed one or more Houses. Green – Passed both Houses. Purple – Law Passed or Executive Action, Withdrawal Not Taken . Red – Law, Full Withdrawal
Nullification is a good thing and should be used where appropriate. However, I cannot find a way that we can nullify our way to term limits or a balanced budget, so if nothing else we need an Article V Convention just to get those two things done.
Mr. Wolverton’s basic premise on nullification seems to be that if there is a Convention of States, it somehow precludes states from also exerting their right to nullify bad laws. Otherwise, why argue it? In any case, isn’t true. Nullification can still occur for those things that are outside the scope of an Article V Convention. To that extent the nullification argument is a straw man – nobody is saying not to nullify bad laws. We think states should nullify bad laws AND have an Article V Convention.
Atricle V Conventions are set to cover a specific scope. One issue that’s generating petitions for an Article V Convention (with the barest minimum of support) at the state level is a single-issue effort for a balanced budget. The scope of an Article V Convention is that the proposed amendments that comprise the bundle Convention of States hopes we consider have nothing to do with corporate personhood, nor would corporate personhood fall within the scope of an Article V Convention framed to “limit the size and scope of Federal Government”. Limiting the scope of the convention can be a trick, though, in that if the states apply for an Article V Convention using language that’s too dissimilar, the petitions will not qualify. In a memoranda released as he co-sponsored the petition from Pennsylvania, Matt Gabler wrote:
While some people have expressed well-placed reservations about the dangers of a Constitutional Convention, I believe this resolution’s language includes the proper protections against unintended consequences. We certainly do not want to open “Pandora’s Box” to unwanted amendments. For this reason, this resolution only grants the Convention the ability to propose “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.” Any amendment proposed by the convention would need to be ratified by three-quarters of states in order to be adopted.
Plain English. While Soros may be funding groups with an anti-business/anti-first-amendment agenda, that would fall outside the scope of the Convention proposed by Mr. Gabler in Pennsylvania and his colleagues in other states. Another example would be that a convention framed to “limit the power and jurisdiction of Federal Government” could hardly tolerate amendments that would propose to make changes to American’s gun rights, or ban abortion.
Throughout his writings, Wolverton consistently conflates and confuses an Article V Convention and a Constitutional Convention, consistently referring to both as a “con con” and generally using all three terms interchangeably. Nobody, especially the Convention of States teams, is calling for a carte blanche Constitutional Convention. Article V of the US Constitution says in plain English “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments” not “…shall call a Convention for rewriting the Constitution from scratch”. This is a significant difference – THE difference – between the Constitutional Convention that got us the Constitution we have today and the process for amending it. It seems to be crystal clear.
As opposed to the Soros funded groups, Convention of States is actually making significant progress in securing the Convention. In a landscape that’s changing daily as the state legislatures come into session, Convention of States has already secured more than 20 states who’ve got applications being debated or have already passed.
There is no silver bullet to fire or magic wand to wave to give us a quick fix to what’s ailing us today. What we have to aim for is incremental improvement in every area. The Convention of States project and related movements are just one of many individual things that will bring that improvement about. Nullification is another. The Convention of States being proposed will be limited as to the topics that can be covered, which don’t include the Soros-funded agenda, and the Convention of States teams aren’t bought and paid for by Soros, they’re Americans like you and me who want to rein in an out of control Federal Government. If your state hasn’t filed an application, what are you waiting for?