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Warnings Against Article V Convention Are Heeded by States

Warnings Against Article V Convention Are Heeded by States

I recently posted about the controversy that exists among anti-corruption groups. In particular, Wolf PAC and Common Cause are at loggerheads. Wolf PAC has been working with state legislatures to call a state convention that would amend the Constitution in order to overturn Citizens United. Common Cause opposes this approach, and in the last month they helped convince several state legislative bodies to rescind their calls for a state convention.

My heart aches for Wolf PAC. Yet Common Cause makes a powerful point.

A Quick Review of Citizens United

Before we go further, let’s quickly review why many seek to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed unrestricted political campaign contributions. As it unfortunately turns out, wealthy special interest groups have a lot of money to contribute to political campaigns. (The Supreme Court must have not realized!) Thereby, Citizens United ushered in a tidal wave of unprecedented “outside spending” into the American election process from large nonprofits, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.

This is devastating to democracy. Whomever has the most money to contribute to campaign funding (and has the power to offer favors at the end of a representative’s term) will greatly influence the legislative decisions of Congressional lawmakers. Instead of every person having one vote, every dollar has a vote.

Two Ways to Amend the Constitution

OK, back to amending the Constitution. All the progressive good guys, like Wolf PAC and Common Cause, are fighting political corruption tooth and nail. So you may wonder, since our country has successfully amended the Constitution several times already, what is the extra fervor about? You see, there are two ways to amend the Constitution. The National Archive explains:

“The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.”

The “constitutional convention” or “convention of the states” method of amendment, also commonly called Article V, has never been used.

The Argument Against Article V

Robert Reich explains in the video below why attempting an Article V amendment, at this time, is a really bad idea. In a nutshell…

  • Many Constitutional scholars warn that a convention cannot be limited to one issue.
  • The current political climate is extremely partisan, with Republicans holding the presidency, Senate, House of Representatives, and 68% of state legislative chambers.
  • Far-right proponents such as the Koch Brothers, hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer (a major Trump backer), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are backing the move for amendment via state convention — for objectives unrelated to Citizens United.

Note: Robert Reich is Chair of the Common Cause National Governing Board.

Would either method of amending the Constitution be a good idea right now, considering the extreme partisan nature of American politics? And considering the blatant corrupting influence that Big Money has on the political elite in Washington? What would prevent the Far-Right or establishment Democrats from hijacking an anti-corruption amendment effort, whether it was initiated by states or by Congress?

Maybe we should focus on creating anti-corruption referendums at the state and local levels — where there’s greater opportunity for citizen involvement and a better chance of bipartisan agreement. Amending the Constitution isn’t the only way to fight political corruption. With that in mind, let’s remember Represent.Us. They do good work around the country helping ordinary citizens and local officials get anti-corruption initiatives onto state and city election ballots.

Meanwhile, because four states just rescinded their call for a constitutional convention, we have a reprieve. 34 state are needed to initiate an Article V Convention. Until a month ago, the number stood at 33.


Be aware. Be fair (that is, objective).

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About The Author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She writes fiction about an alpha Bichon named Chester, and his friends--with a dash of humor and a dab of poli-sci. JoAnn worked professionally in the Psychology and Information Science fields. Retired now, she enjoys the creative life.

11 Comments

  1. Aquileana

    This is so interesting… As you say: “This is devastating to democracy , as every dollar has a vote”.
    Plus, what repeats the cycle is power itself… once in the government, that particular elected cadidate will have to return favors, so to speak…. Democracy acts in mischievous, secret ways. Most times we don´t even learn about that chain of reciprocity. But concessions are never free, right?!….
    Excellent, enlightening post dear Joan!. Best wishes, always. 😉

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Thanks for you kind words, Aquileana. Misuse of power is in the myths, right? It’s nothing new. Yet in a nation of law, the extent of this blatant arrogance surrounding conflict-of-interests and “chain[s] of reciprocity” should be unthinkable.

  2. usfman

    In my opinion,there are too many one-issue people in this country that paralyze the possibility of compromise between the left and the right. We need to find leaders who represent all people not just the vested few.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      People like Ralph Nader, Robert Reich, and Bernie Sanders are always working with people from the other side. And there must be good conservatives talking with them! See Nader’s 2015 book: “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.”

      However, we are railroaded by Big Corporate Money. Productive political debate and compromise, to find real solutions in the actual interest of the country, cannot happen until we get money out of politics. Until then, our democratic government is corrupted (i.e., rotten, dying) and simply cannot perform as intended.

  3. paulbern77

    Reblogged this on The 99% Blog and commented:
    Robert Reich’s “Resistance Report”, recommended viewing!

  4. Robert A. Vella

    Fascinating. I never thought I’d ever see the day when the political left would fear the exercising of democracy, but I do understand their concern. As far as I know, conservatives have never held so much political power in the U.S.; perhaps during the 1920s, but even then the Progressive Movement was very solid. In the late 19th century, business interests ruled supreme; although, socially, the country was still headed in a good direction. What a sad state of affairs there is now…

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Helpful historical political recap.

      You point out “conservatives have never held so much political power in the U.S.” On top of that, it seems to me, conservatives are not even normal conservatives anymore – but extremists.

      The pendulum is having an awfully hard time swinging back to the other direction.

      • Robert A. Vella

        Extremists, indeed. So much so that one of their own, satirist P. J. O’Rourke, said this at the Commonwealth Club after the election:

        “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692.”

      • JoAnn Chateau

        We have a very dysfunctional society. The intelligent and good should be in charge. But we end up with the opposite as leaders. Seems like we should be able to outsmart them… 🙁

      • Robert A. Vella

        One would think so. The warning signs were evident decades ago, from Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” to the Lewis Powell corporate domination memo, to the political rise of the Religious Right (which Chris Hedges appropriately described as “fascist”), and finally to the authoritarian administrations of Reagan/Bush/Bush.

        So, why didn’t we outsmart them? It’s a complex question, but perhaps the answer lays in the problematic definition of “we.” When Bill Clinton took the Democratic Party on the road to corporatism, we lost our political unity as well as the basic principles which had held us together.

      • JoAnn Chateau

        Got it… we lost our identity/purpose, and became divided. The antidote to this, of course, is Bernie Sanders.

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