April 2015 Newsletter

by | Apr 29, 2015 | AVC Newsletter

  • Recently Published Articles of Interest
  • Presidential Candidates Invited to Sign BBA Support Pledge
  • Group in Significant JBS Community Endorses Article V 
  • Article V Campaign News
  • Newspaper Article Generates Flurry of Discussion by Article V Proponents on How to Communicate About the Provision

Natelson Releases Two New A5-Related Articles –
Professor Rob Natelson wrote “Where Chief Justice Burger Likely Got His Anti-Amendment Convention Views” that was published on March 20 in the American Thinker blog.  Natelson attributes Burger’s anti-Article V views primarily to the influence of his friend, a liberal law professor named William F. Swindler.  The article can be viewed HERE.

Natelson has also released a new white paper adding to the history of state conventions.  “Yet Another Multi-State Convention Uncovered” deals with recently discovered records about a convention held in Montgomery, Alabama in 1861.

He reports that, “It included only those southern states that failed to attend the convention in Washington, D.C.  And while the purpose of the Washington meeting was to head off the Civil War, the purpose of the Montgomery meeting was much less desirable: to write a new Confederate Constitution and to serve as a provisional government until elections were held under that Constitution.”

He points out that “However regrettable its purpose, though, there is no denying that the Montgomery Convention is useful precedent.  It demonstrates yet again the consistent understanding throughout our history of the law and rules governing multi-state conventions.  While unionist states were applying the standard protocols at their gathering in Washington, seceding states were applying almost exactly the same set of protocols in Montgomery.”

Read his entire paper HERE.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage Calls for Article V Resolution –
Using a guest editorial in a local newspaper, Maine’s Governor LePage announced that he has asked Senate President Michael Thibodeau to introduce a Joint Resolution for an Article V Convention to propose a BBA-focused amendment to the federal Constitution.

“In short,” he said, “we are asking the legislature to support a balanced federal budget.  Governors across our nation have the responsibility to ensure their state has a balanced budget.  We do not have the luxury of unlimited spending, as does the federal government.  We cannot print money to pay for state government.”

Fellow Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio joined Gov. LePage in the Maine Governor’s offices as LePage announced his support for the measure.  Kasich has been touring the nation since January to push for a BBA-focused convention to be called under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

Read LePage’s entire editorial HERE.

OK Legislator Uses Local Press to Stress Need for Article V Confab –
In a guest editorial on April 3 carried by an Oklahoma newspaper, Oklahoma State Representative Gary Banz said: “Congress will not discipline itself.  With a national debt of $18 trillion, spending is out of control.  Borrowing and requiring subsequent generations to pay it back is hardly a legacy of which we can be proud.  There is a fiscal tsunami coming our way.  It will destroy us without a shot being fired by our enemies.  The American way of life will never be the same.  Congress, drunk with its own power, is having a party on the deck of our ship of state while it sinks under the weight of red ink.  Debt is the greatest threat to our nation.  Now is the time to fix what we know is coming our way.

“Legislatures must use provisions of Article V to address the debt crisis we face today. Future generations are depending on us to do the right thing!  Let your voices in state government know you support House Joint Resolution 1018 and Senate Joint Resolution 4 (the Oklahoma bills calling for a BBA-focused Article V convention).”

Series of Commentaries Seeks to Demystify Article V –
Rita Martin Dunaway, Staff Counsel for The Convention of States Project, has written an excellent series of five articles under the title “The Article Five Solution – Demystifying a Dusty Tool”.  It has been published on The Blaze web site.

She starts her series by pointing out: “Perhaps the most unifying conservative trait is the conviction that our Founding Fathers designed an ingenious federal system that we ought to conserve.  But as federalism lies dying and our society spirals toward socialism, there is dissension among conservatives about using the procedure the Founders left to the states to conserve it.”

Read her work HERE.

Presidential Candidates Invited to Sign BBA Support Pledge –
The BBA Task Force has developed a pledge statement that it intends to present to prospective candidates for President.  The pledge states: “I (candidate’s name) pledge to the citizens of the United States of America that I will preserve, protect and defend the U.S. Constitution including Article V which, in part, empowers two-thirds of the states to draft and the people in three-quarters of the states to ratify a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Group in Significant JBS Community Endorses Article V – 
The Floyd County (Georgia) Republican Party unanimously adopted a particularly meaningful resolution this past month.  Floyd County is in rural northern Georgia… hallowed ground for the John Birch Society.  It is the location where their namesake, John Birch, grew up and graduated from high school.  His brother, Robert Birch, still calls Rome and Floyd County his home.  Floyd County sits in the heart of the old Seventh Congressional District in Georgia, a conservative bastion most noted for electing to Congress Larry McDonald, the one-time President of the John Birch Society.

During March the Floyd County Republican Party formally endorsed the Article V movement and specifically the BBA.  Thus, from the very birthplace of the JBS, local conservatives are now on board in support of both Article V and the BBA.

The resolution stated that the group endorses “the Article V convention of states process and specifically the movement to bring about an Article V convention for the limited purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment” and that they “believe that the time has now come under Article V for the States to collectively rein in the runaway spending and actions of our federal government.”

For a copy of the full resolution, write to David Guldenschch,

Tax Day Rally Planned at South Carolina Capitol –
At noon on Wednesday, April 15 (Tax Deadline Day) the I Am American group, Tea Party Express and the BBA Task Force will host a rally in the lobby of the South Carolina State Capitol building (1100 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC)… promoting the “Fire the IRS campaign and the BBA campaign.

Keynote speaker will be presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carlson.  SC Senator Larry Grooms, SC Rep. Peter McCoy, Tea Party Express National Director Kay Rivoli and Coastal Carolina Conservatives Chairman Cody Fongemie will also participate.  The event is in support of BBA-related bills S-30 and H-3096 currently under consideration in the SC legislature.

Progress at Compact for America –
On April 1 North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the Compact for a Balanced Budget bill that formally makes North Dakota part of the Compact.  That makes four states that have joined the Compact (AK, GA, MS and ND) to advance, propose and ratify a specific, pre-drafted federal balanced budget amendment.

Compact for America (CfA) leader Nick Dranias points out that the Compact requires gubernatorial signatures because the bill organizes an oversight commission for the process, and consolidates delegate appointments and instructions in the same bill.

Nick also reports that 15 Congressmen from 13 states, led by Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, have introduced in the US House a resolution that is necessary to activate the Compact for a Balanced Budget Amendment.  The resolution requires a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress, and does not require a presidential signature.

Meanwhile, the CfA proposal is active in Alabama, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina (where the proposal has 33 co-sponsors) and Texas.  CfA expects to present its proposal to the Ohio and Michigan legislatures yet this year.

Wolf-PAC Effort Gaining Support –
Kansas State Sen. Jason Holsman has announced that he wants a convention on campaign finance.  Vermont, California, New Jersey and Illinois have already approved resolutions for the convention sought by Wolf PAC.

On April 7 carried a report by Rebecca Lessner entitled “Senate Dems want constitutional convention to control corporate money in politics”.

The report indicates that Maryland Senate Democrats are considering SJ 2, a proposed Wolf-PAC resolution calling for the repeal of the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.

“I dislike the Citizens United Supreme Court opinion, but at the same time as a constitutional lawyer, I do share concerns about being able to limit a convention,” said Senate President Mike Miller. “Once you get three-fourths of the states doing the same thing, I do not think it can be limited.”  However he went on to say, “I go along with this, at this point in time, just to send a message to Congress.”

Read the entire article HERE.

BBA Campaign Moving Forward in OK, ID, SC – Shut Down in WV –
With 27 states having already adopted the BBA Task Force  resolution, the group was hoping West Virginia would be number 28 out of the needed 34 states.  The WV Senate passed SCR 13 only to see the measure die in the House.

During March the Oklahoma House adopted HJR 1018, an application for an Article V Convention to exclusively consider a balanced budget amendment.  It passed by a vote of 53 to 42 (due to a technicality, the bill will have to return to the House if the Senate approves it).  O April 8 the resolution passed out of the Senate Rules Committee by a vote of 7 to 5.  A full Senate vote is expected soon.

In Idaho HJR 18 was introduced with 35 of the 70 member House as co-sponsors.  The Senate awaits the bill.  In South Carolina the proposal passed out of a Judiciary subcommittee 5-0, with both Democrats aboard.  Subcommittee Chairman Bright led the drive.

Convention of States Drive Lags –
While the Oklahoma Senate has passed the Convention of States (CoS) bill (not yet dealt with in the OK House), their bill was defeated in West Virginia.  CoS started this legislative year with active campaigns in 30 states.  Reportedly during these three months their proposal has been shot down in a dozen of these states.  Undaunted, CoS continues to add to the three states that adopted their resolution prior to 2015.

Reminder:  The “Article V Convention Progress Report”, updated every Friday by David Guldenschch, lists 9 current Article V campaigns and their progress through state legislatures.  It can be found HERE.

Newspaper Article Generates Flurry
Of Discussion by Article V Proponents
On How to Communicate About the Provision
An article in the April 4 Washington Post by Reid Wilson immediately got Article V proponents e-mailing each other with varying views on how to communicate with state legislators and thought leaders about the wisdom of using the provisions of Article V.

The article, typical of many written by ill-informed journalists (and those with anti-Article V agendas) suggested that an Article V convention “could… lead to complete political chaos.”  The piece was filled with lots of misinformation and disinformation.

The author claimed: “There’s no indication that a convention could be limited to just one topic.  Hypothetically, delegates could take up any issue they wanted, from reinstating Prohibition to eliminating the direct election of senators.  More extreme scenarios envision delegates revisiting the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery, or inserting corporate giveaways into the Constitution.”

Typical of the tenor of the article was this quote by Fred Wertheimer, who heads the campaign finance advocacy group Democracy 21: “This is by far the most dangerous thing in the country today… If we ever got [to a convention], this would create a constitutional crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”

Some four dozen A5 advocates were involved in the chain of e-mail comments on the Washington Post article.  They included two prominent state legislators, respected Constitutional scholars, and numerous other Article V advocates.

To read the complete Washington Post article, click HERE.

The words of two of the writers are shown below… presented to give a flavor of the frustration and perspectives of those who seek to win understanding of the simple Article V processes.

From Professor Rob Natelson –
(Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, Independence Institute & Montana Policy Institute; Director, Article V Information Center)

I was disappointed with how this article came out.  It is frustrating to see Prof. Paulsen make statements like the one he did without, apparently, having done (or read) the necessary research.

Following is the note I sent to the author.  But it seems like we are always playing catch-up with these reporters, who insist on calling people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Dear Mr. Wilson:

Regarding your article on the calling of an amendments convention: I admit it is a little frustrating to have researched this subject for nearly five years and to have published more on it than anyone else, both in the scholarly journals and in other venues, and then have people who have not done that kind of work mislead a reporter.

The statement made to you that there are no precedents or little to go on is wildly inaccurate.  We have the records of over 30 conventions among states (or, before them, colonies) dating back over 300 years.  We have discussion of this subject during the Constitution’s ratification.  We have over 200 years of judicial case law on Article V, as well as extensive practical history.

I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice to say that (1) the name given the conclave by the Constitution is “convention for proposing amendments.”  It is assuredly not a “constitutional convention.” (This mislabeling dates from the early 20th century.)  (2) Every convention among states in history has been applied for and based on a limited agenda.  The claim that the convention cannot be limited is ahistorical and, quite frankly, legally bizarre.

The law and rules governing amendments convention has been collected in a legal treatise on the Article V convention process. You can access it at

Rob Natelson

From Utah State Senator Curtis Bramble –
(Senator Bramble is also the President-Elect of National Conference of State Legislatures)

As a strong supporter of the movement to convene a convention for proposing amendments (which some call “a constitutional convention”), and as the Senate sponsor of Utah’s HJR7, a Joint Resolution calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, I agree with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser.  There may be a “mass of precedent” that implies how we may proceed, but since one has never occurred, there are arguably significant issues that will remain uncertain until such an event actually occurs.

As one who was in the trenches securing sufficient votes to actually pass a resolution, as opposed to those in Utah sitting in the cheap seats taking their cheap shots about endangering gun rights, and all of the other FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) that swirls around this initiative, I might respectfully share a few observations.  There are certain aspects to this movement that may be wise to concede rather than fight.

In the court of public opinion, a “convention for proposing amendments” is to them synonymous with the term “constitutional convention”.  To attempt to fight a losing battle on this front does not seem productive.

It seems to me that we should concede that since 1787, the United States has never seen a “convention of the states for the purpose of proposing amendments to the constitution”, or “constitutional convention” (regardless of the terms used to reference the event) and that no direct, specific precedent exists, regardless of records of over 300 years and over 200 years of judicial case law, none of which appear to be either established or decided relative such a convention.

As the President-Elect of NCSL, I have had the opportunity to meet with several legislators and legislative leadership in many different states over the last year.  It seems to be far less productive to fight against the public tide on the name of the event, or the issue of precedent, rather than focus on the goal.

This political reality may not set well with some in academia, but it is the reality that we must recognize as we advocate for this convention.  We gained traction in Utah based on not losing sight of the goal, to require Congress to balance the budget… NOT what we call the convention or whether 300 years of records apply.

This initiative is the ultimate expression of Federalism.  The founders gave us a tool to be used to balance the power of States against the Federal Government.  That concept resonates with state legislators.  At the state level, we understand and live under the requirement of balancing our budget.  This principle must not be lost in the arcane arguments of precedent and titles.

Curt Bramble

Follow-up Thoughts by Professor Natelson –      

One of the political realities is that a name can be very important.  In this context, some people who will vote for an “amendments convention” will not vote for a “constitutional convention.”

In fact, based on the experience of the preceding five years, I’m pretty optimistic on this front.  In 2010 EVERYONE was calling this a “constitutional convention.”  There has truly been a sea change in that regard.  It’s just not complete yet.

I certainly agree that there are significant issues that we have to deal with.  There is loads of directly applicable precedent; it just does not answer every possible question.  We can’t fall into the trap of thinking that because we don’t have the answer to EVERY question that we therefore don’t have answers to MANY questions.

Rob Natelson

Follow-up Thoughts from Senator Bramble –

It may be a matter of semantics.  We are attempting to set suggested rules and procedures that would limit an amendment convention.  However, the real answer to a runaway convention rests not only with this effort, but also with the requirement that it takes the vote of 38 states to ratify any convention-proposed amendment.

To get bogged down on this seems non-productive.  For some, like Senator Davis in Idaho, the arguments of limiting the convention simply do not win the day.  This is only one of our arguments.  State’s rights, reining in Washington DC, fiscal Armageddon, constitutional checks and balances, and a host of other approaches are available to make the case, depending on the entrenched nature of the target audience.

For some in Utah that were simply not persuaded that limiting the agenda was possible, I used Federalism and the 38 state ratification requirement (to demonstrate the wisdom of using the provisions in Article V).  For others, it was uncontrolled debt that was a greater threat than the possible specter of a runaway convention.  The point is that all of the above are available to persuade folks to join us.  It is not “they” or “them,” it is really “us” that limit the agenda.

Curt Bramble

NOTE:  Professor Natelson reports that “following the email exchange, Sen. Bramble called me by telephone, and we had a fairly lengthy conversation on this subject that led to some mutual clarification and a great deal of agreement.”