September 2016 Newsletter

  • NY Times: BBA Has “a Plausible Chance of Success”
  • New York Sun Supports an Article V Convention
  • CoS Project: More Details about its Simulated Convention
  • CfA Issues a Policy Brief to Rebut Natelson
  • CfA Effort to ‘Unify’ Article V Campaigns Rejected
  • Another Federal Term Limits Effort Launched
  • Countermand Group Hosts Session for Legislators
  • Phyllis Schlafly Passes Away at 92 
  • Natelson Unearths 37th Past Convention of States
  • CATO Institute Report: ‘Very Simple to Balance the Budget’
  • ALEC Hit by ‘Shut Up Politics’ Campaign
  • Dr. Poulson Addresses RedState Gathering About US Debt
  • Indiana Gov. Race Includes Focus on Article V Convention
  • Misc. Article V-related News

NY Times: BBA Has “a Plausible Chance of Success” –
The front page of the August 24 edition of the New York Times carried an extensive story about Article V and current progress toward a state-led convention of states.  Some Article V activists saw the article as detrimental to Article V convention efforts.  But it is noteworthy that the Times saw fit to describe the BBA Article V effort as, “a proposal with a plausible chance of success.”

The article included some inaccurate information about the origins of the US Constitution, misinformation about some of the current Article V efforts, and outrageous quotes from naysayers, like the statements by Harvard professor Michael Klarman that “a convention can do anything they want – re-establish slavery, establish a national church.  I just don’t think there’s any limit.”

Happily, the article ended with a quote by another respected Harvard professor, Lawrence Lessig.  Lessig was quoted as saying said he doubts an amendments convention would run amok, rewriting the nation’s seminal rules.

But even if it did,” he said, “After all, a convention only proposes amendments.”  He noted that, “The very terms of Article 5 state that proposals aren’t valid unless they’re ratified by three-fourths of the states…. There’s no controversial idea on the left or the right that won’t have 13 states against it.

Between the two highly divergent views the story noted that “the basic argument for federal frugality has broad appeal.  Polls generally indicate strong support for a balanced-budget amendment…”  It also included important information about the reasons why a BBA is needed, and the use of Article V to make it happen.

Read the entire Times article HERE.

New York Sun Supports an Article V Convention – 
In response to the Times article, an editorial in the New York Sun challenged one phrase used in the Times.  The Times had suggested that a convention of states “could open a Pandora’s box of constitutional mischief”.

Noting that the Times piece described an Article V convention of states as “unprecedented”, the Sun’s editorial said that is “in our view, precisely one of the convention’s virtues.  It would mark the first time the states asserted their full constitutional authority.”

The Sun editorial went on to say, “The parlousness of our politics derives from the failure of anyone to step up to deal with the deep issues.  This has brought us to what the editor of the New York Sun has called our “constitutional moment.”  The sooner we convene the states to address the deep issues, the sooner we’ll return to a calmer political life.”

The Sun does not seem to support a BBA, but it clearly supports the use of Article V for states to deal with issues Congress fails to address.  The editorial concludes by saying, “Maybe we’d discover that it’s not the states that are so mischievous but that they are, rather, the adults in this great contest and, in any event, the contract partners in our federal system.”

Read the Sun editorial HERE.

CoS Project Offers Details about its Simulated Convention –
As reported in last month’s edition of this Newsletter, the Convention of States Project (CoS) will be hosting a simulated Article V convention on September 22-23 in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

An August 28 news release from the group reported that Legislators from all 50 states, acting as “commissioners”, will participate in their historic convention simulation.  “Elected officials, the general public, members of the media, and other opinion leaders will get their first glimpse on how an Article V convention is conducted.”

Kyle Maichle of the Heartland Institute is quoted as saying of the event, “The simulation will demonstrate to critics and supporters that an Article V convention can be properly conducted while protecting the civil rights of every American citizen.

The two-day CoS event has been variously described as “a dry run” or “a dress rehearsal” for the much-anticipated Article V convention of states.  It is intended to “demonstrate to the nation not just that it can work, but why this is necessary for the country—with the public confidence in Congress dipping below 20%”.

State delegations at the event will focus their efforts on proposing amendments related to the subject matter of the CoS-proposed resolution, to “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits for its officials and for Members of Congress.”  Legislators at the event will be advised by former US Senator Tom Coburn and grassroots leader Mark Meckler, among others.

CoS has annouinced that the final Plenary Session of the simulated Article V convention will be streamed live so non-attendees may watch the proceedings.  The streaming is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 23 from 8:45am to 4:45pm Eastern Time at this site: http://www.conventionofstates.com/livestreamrsvp.

The CoS event has generated a lot of publicity for the Convention of States effort.  Meanwhile, the web site for radio station KTWB in Sioux Falls, SD reports that CoS is preparing another push the get the South Dakota legislature to adopt its convention-applying resolution.

For more information click HERE or HERE.

CfA Issues a Policy Brief to Rebut Natelson –
On August 22 leaders of Compact for America (CfA) distributed their 11th Policy Brief, this time subtitled “A Vindication of the Principle of State Sovereignty Against Natelson’s Attack”.

The May edition of this Newsletter reported on a “Law Review” issued by constitutional attorney Rob Natelson.  In that paper Natelson concluded that the CfA proposal “is, unfortunately, almost wholly unconstitutional.”

When he distributed his paper Natelson said his Article V Information Centerwould not be fulfilling its mission as an information source if it did not report legal issues in particular approaches (to using Article V).  He went on, “If activists solicit money and support for an approach that not even tenably complies with the law, the Center has an obligation to inform.  Initially, we do so privately.  If the campaign is not responsive, we do so publicly.”

The new CfA Policy Brief invests 38 pages in setting forth why CfA leaders believe Natelson’s position is wrong, and why their approach complies with the Constitution.

In part, the CfA document concludes that, “The best interpretation of the application clause of Article V is that it does not confer a power, authority, or duty on state legislatures out of whole constitutional cloth and to the exclusion of state sovereignty. Instead, the application clause of Article V leverages the exercise of the pre-existing sovereign power of the states as states to determine the contents of their application and thereby determine the authority of the proposing convention.

The CfA Policy Brief can be read HERE.

CfA Effort to ‘Unify’ Article V Campaigns Rejected – 
In a related matter, during the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) 43rd Annual Meeting (July 27-29), CfA leaders attempted to get ALEC’s Federalism Task Force to adopt a model convention-applying resolution that tied together all three Article V campaigns that are seeking a balanced budget amendment (BBA Task Force, CfA using the compact approach, and Convention of States which seeks a BBA along with two other topics).  The ALEC Task Force declined to adopt the proposed “unifying” model resolution.

Days later CfA issued a news release entitled “We tried to unify the Article V movement and this happened…”  It said, “We have tried guys.  But it takes at least 3 to tango for the movement to unify.”  Article V insiders believe the approaches of the three campaigns are simply two different to be effectively wrapped together.

Another Federal Term Limits Effort Launched –
During the summer a group known as Americans for Constitutional Liberty announced that it wants to limit Congressional terms through a Constitutional amendment, but rather than using Article V, they seem to believe a petition drive will convince Congress to propose the desired amendment.  Their literature says they aim to collect and deliver 10,000,000 signed Citizen’s Petitions to Congress “from angry and fed up voters”.

The group claims to have more than 695,000 members and supporters and that it is “one of America’s largest and oldest grassroots citizen action lobbies fighting to restore limited, Constitutional government in America.”

Americans for Constitutional Liberty was formerly known as the Conservative Caucus.  There web site is HERE.

Meanwhile US Term Limits has an active Article V campaign (www.TermLimits.org) (so far only Florida has adopted their convention-calling resolution), and federal term limits is a key component of the Convention of States Project (CoS) – www.conventionofstates.com which has 8 states on board thus far.

Countermand Group Hosts Session for Legislators –
The Countermand Amendment proposal by the group known as Citizen Initiatives (CI) has so far been approved in one state (Alaska), and by one house of another state (North Dakota).  But the small group is beginning to see progress.

Charles Kacprowicz, Director of CI, reports that on August 18 the group held a conference call with state legislatures from 13 states.  CI leaders and the legislators discussed strategies for getting CI applications adopted during 2017.  He says he is getting strong bi-partisan support.

Reportedly CI now has legislators in 33 states who have agreed to sponsor their bill (in most states multiple potential sponsors).  Kacprowicz says he expects the bills to be introduced in January in most of those states.

The Countermand proposal  seeks to give state legislatures (when 60% of them agree) the power to countermand, rescind or overturn “any Congressional Statute, Judicial decision, Executive Order, Treaty, government agency’s regulatory ruling, or any other government or non-government mandate (including excessive spending and credit) imposed on them…

Kacprowicz believes that Article V allows only for proposing amendments that are single-issue, and pre-written by the applying state legislatures.  For that reason, the CI proposal includes specifically written Article V applications, a pre-written text for the proposed amendment, and a recommended “Delegate Resolution” geared to guide a state’s delegation of “ambassadors” to the proposed Article V convention.

He does not envision convention delegates having any deliberative authority beyond issues surrounding organization of the convention.  To see the various CI documents and learn more about the Countermand Amendment effort, click HERE.

Mr. Kacprowicz can be reached at 828-783-0599 (cell) or 828-520-1199 (office), or at Director@Countermands.us.

Phyllis Schlafly Passes Away at 92 – Opposed Article V To The End –
Over the Labor Day weekend Eagle Forum founder and leader Phyllis Schlalfy passed away at age 92.  Schlafley wrote the book A Choice Not An Echo which was widely read by conservative leaders.  She was also recognized as the leader of the campaign which killed the “Equal Rights Amendment”.

Unfortunately she also used her leadership skills and prominence to vigorously oppose use of Article V to obtain Constitutional amendments.  This past month she conducted a Collegians Summit in Washington DC for young supporters of her organization.   Ms. Schlafly used the occasion to renew her oft-expressed opposition to Article V state-led conventions… what she insisted on calling “con-cons”.

Once an admirer of Ms. Schlafly, in recent years Article V expert Rob Natelson often took issue with her stands.  Nonetheless, this week Natelson posted an online tribute to Schlafly.  He noted, “Her successful campaign against the poorly drafted “Equal Rights Amendment” was a classic instance of how a single individual can sweep back a seemingly-irresistible tide.  However, political judgment sometimes failed her, and her mistakes could severely damage the very causes she espoused.” Read his tribute HERE.

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs has long been a Schlafly disciple, repeatedly preventing his state’s Senate from voting on Article V resolutions.  This past spring Biggs decided to run for an open US Senate seat, thus not running for reelection to his State Senate seat.  The late August Arizona primary election saw Biggs narrowly losing to a candidate who openly supported the use of Article V.  The results of that race are being contested, but Biggs is clearly out of the Arizona Senate.

Natelson Unearths 37th Past Convention of States –
During August constitutional scholar Rob Natelson reported that his continuing research has found evidence of one more early American convention of states and colonies.

Prior research had shown that 36 such gatherings took place between colonial days and 1922.  This is important because so many under-informed “experts” claim that an Article V convention is risky… “because we have no basis for knowing how state-led conventions work.

Now information has been unearthed about a 37th previous convention of states/colonies… The Albany Council of 1684.   Read about it in Rob’s new paper entitled “The 37th ‘Convention of States’ Discovered!” by clicking HERE.

During July The Heartland Institute published another Natelson paper that will be of interest to Caucus Newsletter readers… “The States’ Duty to Defend Against Federal Excess: James Madison and the Methods of ‘Interposition’”.  It can be found HERE.

CATO Institute Report: ‘Very Simple to Balance the Budget’ – 
During late August the CATO Institute issued a BBA-related report written by Daniel Mitchell.  Entitled “New CBO Numbers Confirm Simple Task of Balancing the Budget with Modest Spending Restraint”, Mitchell reviews the most recent 10-year forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and looks at how much the burden of government spending will expand if policy is left on auto-pilot.

Mitchel believes “that it’s actually very simple to balance the budget without tax increases.”  He points to the CBO projection that federal tax revenue is projected to grow by an average of 4.3 percent each year, which means receipts will jump from $3.28 trillion this year to $4.99 trillion in 2026.

He advocates a federal spending cap at no more than the rate of inflation (about 2%).  His charts show that the difference between projected revenue growth and spending limited to 2% soon slims down the national debt.

Mitchell advocated emphasis on spending caps rather than a “conventional” balanced budget amendment.  He says, “The bottom line is that modest spending restraint is all that’s needed to balance the budget.”

That’s why I keep promoting my Golden Rule.  If government grows slower than the private sector, that means the burden of spending (measured as a share of GDP) will decline over time.”

Daniel Mitchell is listed as a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy at the Cato Institute.  His report was also covered by CBS News.  The CATO report can be read HERE.

ALEC Hit by ‘Shut Up Politics’ Campaign –
Recently AARP, the non-profit seniors organization that exists to promote the interests of those over 50, joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  It even openly served as a sponsor for the recent ALEC annual convention.

Within two weeks after the July event the U.S. News and World Report was already reporting that AARP had succumbed to intimidation, announcing it was terminating its relationship with ALEC.

The report said, “It was a shameful moment for AARP, mostly because they buckled so easily under pressure, proving that they are perhaps not governed by their roughly 40 million members but rather by the half-dozen left-wing groups and one labor union who signed a ranty, whiny letter about how much they really, really don’t like ALEC.  Wah.”

Over the past couple years ALEC has lost several member businesses and organizations because of similar intimidation.  ALEC has been a strong supporter of state legislative use of the powers provided in Article V of the US Constitution.

The article writer suggested that, “Leaving a group like ALEC means leaving a conversation.  It means retreating from a situation where everyone might not agree, and where ideas are discussed and debated.  (This is something state legislators actually still engage in, unlike so many members of Congress.)”

Read the U. S. News and World Report article HERE.

Dr. Poulson Addresses RedState Gathering About US Debt –
During an August event in Denver known as The RedState Gathering, University of Colorado Boulder’s Dr. Barry Poulson (retired) spoke to a panel during the event about the federal government’s growth in spending and American stagnation of incomes.

Poulson, a co-founder of the BBA Task Force, is reported to have said, “Right now, our total debt is over 100 percent of GDP.  Debt growth, coupled with economic torpor, spells disaster… we have roughly two decades (maybe sooner) to turn this around.  Baby boomers aren’t going to be the generation that solves this problem.  They’ve failed.  It’s now up to Millennials.”

Read about Poulson’s presentation HERE.

Indiana Gov. Race Includes Focus on Article V Convention –
In July when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence gave up his post to become the GOP VP nominee, his Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb entered the race to replace him… joining two other candidates (Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rex Bell).  The race between Holcomb and Gregg is now considered a dead heat.

One of the issues separating the two top candidates is their views on a state-led convention to propose constitutional amendments.  Holcomb supports the idea, saying he believes in the powers delegated to the states.  Gregg does not.

Misc. Article V-related News –
–           In a commentary entitled “The Real Existential Threats of 2016” (August 16 Rasmussen Report), Patrick J. Buchanan said “National bankruptcy… is among the existential threats to the republic, the prospect that we will find ourselves in the not-too-distant future in the same boat with Greece, Puerto Rico and Illinois.”  Read the full piece HERE.

–           On August 19 the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a paper by Center for Tenth Amendment Action Director Dr. Thomas Lindsay on an Article V convention of states to propose constitutional amendments. The paper, ‘Who’s Afraid of an Article V Convention of States? Answering Opponent’s Concerns ‘ reviews the arguments of both the defenders and the critics of the Article V movement.  Find it HERE.

–           Mississippi Treasurer Lynn Fitch has announced that she will lead a ballot initiative to amend the Mississippi Constitution to include a requirement to balance the state budget.  There are several laws on the books in the Mississippi Code that require a balanced budget, though the phrasing of those laws is ambiguous. No one section of the Mississippi Code explicitly mandates that the budget be balanced.   “We are one of few states that don’t have a Constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget,” Fitch said. “We need to change that. It’s important to say that we want, we deserve and we need a Constitutional requirement to balance our budget.”  Read about her plans HERE.

Who said it?

“… the convention is a safety valve
giving the people a chance to act
when Congress refuses to.”
Ronald Reagan
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