This is VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION that has the potential to SAVE AMERICA! Our Founders gave us an “Escape Clause” in Article V of the Constitution. Being the wise men that they were and knowing human nature, they foresaw a day when our federal government would become very powerful and try to take dictatorial control of our United States. This is happening NOW! The “Escape Clause” is known as “The Convention of States”.
THE CONVENTION OF STATES
We see four major abuses perpetrated by the federal government.
These abuses are not mere instances of bad policy. They are driving us towards an age of “soft tyranny” in which the government does not shatter men’s wills but “softens, bends, and guides” them. If we do nothing to halt these abuses, we run the risk of becoming, as Alexis de Tocquevill warned in 1840, nothing more than “a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1840)
1. The Spending and Debt Crisis
The $17 trillion national debt is staggering, but it only tells a part of the story. If we apply the normal rules of accounting, the federal government owes trillions more in vested Social Security benefits and other programs. This is why the government cannot tax its way out of debt. Even if they confiscated everything, it would not cover the debt.
2. The Regulatory Crisis
The federal bureaucracy has placed a regulatory burden upon businesses that is complex, conflicted, and crushing. Little accountability exists when agencies—rather than Congress—enact the real substance of the law. Research from the American Enterprise Institute, shows that since 1949 federal regulations have lowered the real GDP growth by 2% and made America 72% poorer.
3. Congressional Attacks on State Sovereignty
For years, Congress has been using federal grants to keep the states under its control. Using these grants accompanied by mandates (which are rarely fully funded), Congress has turned state legislatures into their regional agencies rather than truly independent republican governments.
A radical social agenda and an erosion of the rights of the people accompany all of this. While substantial efforts have been made to combat the social engineering and to protect peoples’ rights, we have missed one of the most important principles of the American founding.
4. Federal Takeover of the Decision-Making Process
The Founders believed that the structures of a limited government would provide the greatest protection of liberty. There were to be checks and balances at the federal level. And everything not specifically granted to Congress for legislative control was to be left to the states.
Collusion among decision-makers in Washington, D.C., has replaced these checks and balances. The federal judiciary supports Congress and the White House in its ever-escalating attack upon the jurisdiction of the fifty states.
We need to realize that the structure of decision-making matters. Who decides what the law shall be is even more important than what is decided. The protection of liberty requires a strict adherence to the principle that power is limited and delegated.
Washington, D.C., does not believe this principle, as evidenced by an unbroken practice of expanding the boundaries of federal power. In a remarkably frank admission, the Supreme Court rebuffed another challenge to the federal spending power by acknowledging their approval of programs that violate the will of the Founders:
This framework has been sufficiently flexible over the past two centuries to allow for enormous changes in the nature of government. The Federal Government undertakes activities today that would have been unimaginable to the Framers in two senses; first, because the Framers would not have conceived that any government would conduct such activities; and second, because the Framers would not have believed that the Federal Government, rather than the States, would assume such responsibilities. Yet the powers conferred upon the Federal Government by the Constitution were phrased in language broad enough to allow for the expansion of the Federal Government’s role.
New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 157 (1992).
What Does this Mean?
This is not a partisan issue. Washington, D.C., will never voluntarily relinquish meaningful power—no matter who is elected. The only rational conclusion is this: unless some political force outside of Washington, D.C., intervenes, the federal government will continue to bankrupt this nation, embezzle the legitimate authority of the states, and destroy the liberty of the people. Rather than securing the blessings of liberty for future generations, Washington, D.C., is on a path that will enslave our children and grandchildren to the debts of the past.
We are approaching a crossroads.
One path leads to the escalating power of an irresponsible centralized government, ultimately resulting in the financial ruin of generations of Americans. The other path leads to the restoration of liberty and an American renaissance.
The correct path can be found within Article V of the United States Constitution.
Many people don’t know that there are two methods to propose amendments to the Constitution, both found under Article V.
- Congress can amend the Constitution at any time if 2/3 of both houses of Congress agree.
- A convention of states can be called if 2/3 of states submit applications. These applications must all deal with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government).
The Founders knew the federal government might one day become drunk with the abuses of power. The most important check to this power is Article V. Article V gives states the power to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution.
By calling a convention of the states, we can stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power. The current situation is precisely what the Founders feared, and they gave us a solution we have a duty to use.
After the states propose, debate, and vote upon the proposed amendments, they will be sent to the 50 state legislatures for ratification. Three-quarters of the states must agree for any of the proposed amendments to be ratified.
Congress has no authority to stop such a process. The Founders made sure of that.
We are approaching a crossroads.
Which will we choose?
Article V, U.S. Constitution
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
The most common objection to an Article V convention is called the “runaway convention” objection.
It envisions a doomsday scenario in which delegates disregard the original issue, rewrite the Constitution, and change the entire American system of government. While this initial response is understandable, it is based on fear and misinformation.
Here are the facts:
1. There is a clear, strong single-subject precedent that would almost certainly be declared binding in the event of a court challenge. There have been over 400 applications from state legislatures for an Article V convention in the history of the Republic. No such convention has ever been called because there has never been an application from two-thirds of the states for a single subject. In addition to this, there is a huge amount of historical precedent that limits interstate conventions to a particular subject. (See Dr. Robert Natelson’s handbook here: http://www.alec.org/publications/article-v-handbook/).
2. Ratification of any proposed amendment requires the approval of 38 states. It only takes 13 states to vote “no” to defeat any proposed amendment, and the chances of 38 state legislatures approving a rogue amendment are effectively zero.
3. Improper changes to the process can be legally challenged by state legislators. The Supreme Court has held that Congress acted unconstitutionally when it changed the rules of the process in midstream. See, Idaho v. Freeman, 529 F.Supp. 1107 (D.C. Idaho 1981) (vacated on the ground of mootness.) CSG’s Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies, Michael Farris, was lead counsel for Washington state legislators in that litigation—the last major Article V case in U.S. history.
4. There is absolutely no historical precedent for a runaway convention. Many opponents of a convention of the states make the historically false allegation that our Constitution was adopted as the result of an illegal runaway convention. Such an argument was invented by the enemies of the Constitution and is unsupported by historical fact. (See “Was the Constitution Illegally Adopted?” by Michael Farris at http://www.hslda.org/courtreport/v21n4/V21N401.asp).
American citizens must evaluate the relative safety of two choices. We can allow Washington, D.C., to continue abusing the Constitution and the rights of the people with the vague hope that someday Washington will see the light and relinquish power. Or we call a convention of the states, trusting it will behave properly and one of the many lines of defense will stop any misuse of power.
We believe the choice is clear. A convention of states is the safest means by which we can preserve our liberty.
We believe our strategy gives us an almost-certain chance of success.
Want to help? Keep reading.
Two goals separate our plan from all other Article V organizations:
1. We want to call a convention for a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. Instead of calling a convention for a balanced budget amendment (though we are entirely supportive of such an amendment), we want to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.
2. We believe the grassroots is the key to calling a successful convention. The goal is to build a political operation in a minimum of 40 states, getting 100 people to volunteer in at least 75% of the state legislative district (that’s 3,000 districts). We believe this is very doable. Only through the support of the American people will this project have a chance to succeed.
Our Solution is Big Enough to Solve the Problem
Rather than calling a convention for a specific amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article V to call a convention for a particular subject—reducing the power of Washington, D.C. It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.
A convention of states needs to be called to ensure that we are able to debate and impose a complete package of restraints on the misuse of power by all branches of the federal government.
What Sorts of Amendments Could be Passed?
The following are examples of amendment topics that could be discussed at a convention of states:
- A balanced budget amendment
- A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
- A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)
- A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
- A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
- Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court
- Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
- Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes
Of course, these are merely examples of what would be up for discussion. The convention of states itself would determine which ideas deserve serious consideration, and it will take a majority of votes from the states to formally propose any amendments.
The Founders gave us a legitimate path to save our liberty by using our state governments to impose binding restraints on the federal government. We must use the power granted to the states in the Constitution.
The leadership of the COS Project believes the success of a convention of states depends to a large extent on the American citizens. Our plan is as follows:
1. We seek to have a viable political operation that is active in at least 40 states.
2. Initially, we will focus on those 40 states, which have approximately 4000 state house districts. Our goal is to have a viable political operation in at least 3000 of these districts.
3. We will have 3000 district captains who will organize at least 100 people in each district to contact their legislator to support a convention of the states, and turn out at least 25 people per district at legislative hearings.
Legislators must know that our grassroots team will have their backs if they support a convention of the states. A widespread grassroots organization has been missing from the Article V movement. CSG’s President, Mark Meckler, was the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots—one of the largest tea party groups in the country. Michael Farris is the founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association. As such, he brings with him over 30 years of grassroots leadership and activism in all 50 states. We are rapidly building not only a staff for this project, but networking with like-minded coalition members who will support this project once they see it up and running.
We believe that our unique application strategy combined with strong grassroots support will guarantee the success of this Project.
Only one question remains. Will you help us?
Why Do We Want to Call a Convention of States?
Washington, D.C., is broken. The federal government is spending this country into the ground, seizing power from the states and taking liberty from the people. It’s time American citizens took a stand and made a legitimate effort to curb the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason insisted that the States be given the power to amend the Constitution to curb abuses by Washington, D.C. The Founders gave us the solution for today. It is time to use their solution.
What is a Convention of States?
A convention of states is a convention called by the state legislatures for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. They are given power to do this under Article V of the Constitution. It is not a constitutional convention. It cannot throw out the Constitution because its authority is derived from the Constitution.
How Do the State Legislatures Call a Convention of States?
Thirty-four state legislatures must pass a bill called an “application” calling for a convention of states. The applications must request a Convention of the States for the same subject matter. The applications are delivered to Congress.
Can Congress Block a Convention of States?
No. As long as each states applies for a convention that deals with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government), Congress must call the convention. Congress can name the place and the time for the convention to begin. If it fails to exercise this power reasonably, either the courts or the states themselves can override Congressional inaction.
How Do States Choose Their Delegates?
States are free to develop their own selection process for choosing their delegates—properly called “commissioners.” Historically, the most common method used was an election by a joint session of both houses of the state legislature.
What Happens at a Convention of States?
Commissioners from each state propose, discuss, and vote on amendments to the Constitution. All amendments the convention passes by a simple majority of the states will be sent back to the states for ratification. Each state has one vote at the Convention. If North Carolina sends seven commissioners and Nebraska sends nine, each state must caucus on each vote. North Carolina’s one vote would be cast when at least four of its commissioners agreed. Nebraska’s vote would be cast by the agreement of at least five of its commissioners.
How are Proposed Amendments Ratified?
Thirty-eight states must ratify any proposed amendments. Once states ratify, the amendments become part of the Constitution. Normally, Congress designates the state legislatures as the ratifying body—but it may choose to have the states call ratifying conventions. If so, an election by the people would be held in each state to choose delegates to the ratifying conventions.
How Do We Know How a Convention of States Will Work?
Interstate conventions were common during the Founding era, and the procedures and rules for such conventions were widely accepted. Thus, we can know how a Convention of States would operate by studying the historical record. Dr. Rob Natelson has done extensive research on this topic, and more details can be found here and here.
Is a Convention of the States Safe?
Yes. The ratification process ensures no amendments will be passed that do not reflect the desires of the American people. In addition to this, there are numerous other safeguards against a “runaway convention,” all of which can be found in the Handbook.
If the Federal Government Ignores the Current Constitution, Why Would They Adhere to an Amended Constitution?
When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they did not anticipate modern-day politicians who take advantage of loopholes and vague phraseology. Even though it is obvious to all reasonable Americans, that the federal government is violating the original meaning of the Constitution—Washington pretends that it is following the Constitution claiming that it contains broad and flexible language. Amendments at a convention of states today will be written with such politicians in mind. The language they use for these amendments will be unequivocal. There will be no doubt as to their meaning, no possibility of alternate interpretations, and no way for them to be legitimately broken. For example, the General Welfare Clause could be amended to add this phrase: “If the States have the jurisdiction to spend money on a subject matter, Congress may not tax or spend for this same subject matter.” This provision would have made it clear that Obamacare was unconstitutional.
In addition to this, it should be noted that the federal government has not violated the amendments passed in recent years. Women’s suffrage, for example, has been 100% upheld.
What is the Plan?
The COS Project’s plan is twofold:
1) We want to call a convention for a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. Instead of calling a convention for a balanced budget amendment (though we are entirely supportive of such an amendment), we want to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. Our approach is similar to the adoption of the Bill of Rights. We seek a package of amendments to rein in the abuses of power by all branches of the federal government.
2) We believe the grassroots is the key to calling a successful convention. The goal is to build a political operation in a minimum of 40 states, getting 100 people to volunteer in at least 75% of the state legislative districts—3000 districts. We believe this is very doable. The most important task is to find our 3000 District Captains. The support of the American people will ensure the success of this project.
Answering the Most Important Questions
The following is from an email exchange between Michael Farris and a state representative:
Thanks so much for your kind letter. I am happy to answer your questions.
Your first question:
1. “My greatest concern is that so few public officials seem to know the
importance of the existing U.S. Constitution, and our society is so
disconnected from the history and principles that delivered this nation to
greatness. By opening the Constitution to such an ignorant population do we
risk much more than we stand to gain?”
The short answer is that there is no realistic risk anything bad will happen as a result of a Convention of States. We will either do something good (or even very good), or we will accomplish nothing at all.
The reason I say this arises from the following chain of reasoning:
1. Washington, DC, is utterly broken.
2. Washington, DC, will never voluntarily relinquish power.
3. If we allow Washington, DC, to continue on its current course of big government, it will utterly destroy American liberty. Debt is the most tangible method of destruction. But big government complete with spying on the American public, the improper use of executive orders, over-regulation, etc., etc., will most certainly destroy American liberty relatively soon.
4. We must save liberty before it is too late.
5. Trying to elect more conservatives to Washington, DC, as a method of fixing this problem hasn’t worked. Even when we have had our best leaders there, they have been unable or unwilling to make the kind of structural changes necessary to save American liberty. Even Ronald Reagan could not deliver on his promise to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education.
6. The Founders gave us Article V for the very purpose of creating structural changes when the federal government abuses its power.
7. Even the anti-federalists of that generation who had opposed the adoption of the Constitution were not afraid to use Article V. The Virginia General Assembly, which was controlled by the anti-federalists, voted to apply for an Article V Convention, which they called a Convention of States, in the very first session of Congress under the Constitution. They wanted the Bill of Rights and other amendments suggested in the Virginia convention to ratify the Constitution.
8. The argument that we would be “opening up” the Constitution in a Convention of States under Article V is not correct. This argument is normally premised on an inaccurate understanding of the Constitutional Convention itself. People claim that the delegates were sent there merely to amend the Articles of Confederation, but once the subject was “opened up” they rewrote the Constitution. (As an aside, those who contend that the Constitution was illegally adopted usually call themselves “constitutionalists.” It is utterly inconsistent to claim to be a constitutionalist and to believe it was illegal from the get-go. It is like saying that George Washington was a great hero but he was also a British spy.) This argument is based on a misrepresentation of history, as I explain here. The 1787 Covention was not a “runaway,” and, therefore, there is no reason to fear it will “happen again.”
9. Every state legislature in the union, other than Hawaii, has at one time or another applied for a Convention of States. There have been over 400 such applications, yet we have never had a convention. Why not? Because there is a “unified subject rule.” The applications must aggregate to 2/3rds of the states (currently 34 states) and MUST BE called for the same purpose. We have never had 2/3rds of the states apply for the same purpose. The purpose the states outline in their applications is limiting and controlling for all stages of the process. We know as a historical fact that it controls the CALLING of the convention, and we know from the litigation I did that it is unconstitutional to change the process midstream. Thus, the subject matter limitation imposed by the states in their applications is binding at all stages of the process.
10. State legislatures control this process from beginning to end. Governors are irrelevant. Congress can only name the time and place. State legislatures name the delegates and give them their instructions.
11. All voting at a Convention of States is done on the basis of one state, one vote. Thus, it requires 26 states to approve anything as a “proposed constitutional amendment.” The convention has no more power than Congress. It can only propose amendments.
12. Thirty-eight states must ratify any proposed amendment.
13. The idea that anything crazy could make it through that process is simply untenable. We will either get good amendments or we will get nothing. If the Convention were appointed in some other manner, then there would be a lot more to worry about. But the people who must approve the work product–state legislatures–are the ones who name the delegates. They are also the ones who give the convention its subject matter.
14. At this point in our history, our country’s most conservative institutions are our state legislatures. We must act soon while conservatives still control this process. Otherwise big cities, big government, and big media will use their influence over Washington, DC, to ruin this nation and destroy our liberty.
I promise you, my other answers will be much shorter.
Your second question:
2. Would the legislatures’ efforts be more effectively directed toward holding
office holders accountable to their oaths before changing the document that
is the subject of the oath? For example, can the states effect impeachment
of those key authorities who have been so derelict in their duties?
State legislatures currently have no power to impeach federal officials from their states. This is not a viable option.
This would, however, be a proper amendment to suggest at the Convention of States we are proposing. I like the idea of giving the state governments the power to impeach Congressmen and Senators from their states.
One of the amendments I had previously contemplated has a similar impact. The federal courts regularly refuse to rule on constitutional issues they want to avoid by calling them “political questions” or by claiming that no one has standing to sue to challenge these matters. (For example, legal challenges to a President taking us to war without a declaration of war is avoided by the political question/standing method). One of my ideas for an amendment would be to automatically grant state legislators standing to challenge any action of the federal government as violating its constitutional limitations.
We need better enforcement mechanisms, and we can get them through a Convention of States.
Your third question:
3. If we could and would first enforce the Constitution, then I expect we would
see stronger support for amending it. But if we cannot enforce it, why go to
the trouble and risk of attempting to amend it? Is it simply for the
publicity/educational value? Obviously the discussion has caused a deep
divide amongst conservatives who support the Constitution. This divide could
end up costing us key seats on Election Day, as half of the conservatives
may feel disenfranchised if this is pursued.
The big answer is this: Washington, DC, pretends to obey the Constitution, and the Supreme Court gives them cover. The vast majority of damage to our country has been done to us as the result of the misuse of two provisions in the Constitution–the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause. You and I (and every sensible American) knows those in Washington have abused these Clauses. They can still pretend to obey the Constitution, however, because of how the Supreme Court has misinterpreted it. We have not gone so far down the road that people admit Washington disobeys the Constitution and it doesn’t matter.
If the American public believed Washington, DC, purposefully disobeys the Constitution, there would be huge political backlash.
We need proper amendments to effectively limit the power of the federal government—especially the courts. If I am a delegate to the Convention of States I will propose reconfiguring the Supreme Court after the model of the European Court of Human Rights. There are 46 nations in that court’s jurisdiction, and every nation appoints one judge. We should expand the Supreme Court to 50 justices and have the states appoint the justices for a specific term (6 or 8 years) with no right of reappointment. That one change would do more to ensure a constitutional government than anything I know of.
It is true that we are dividing conservatives today. That is sad, but it is also diminishing. The growing number of conservative leaders who are supporting a Convention of States (Mark Levin, David Barton, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and dare I add Mike Farris) is gaining momentum, and soon those opposing the Convention of States will be on the margins of our political movement.
But I cannot promise every state legislator that there will be no political price to pay for this. Right now, state legislatures control less than half of the issues they would be considering if the Constitution’s original plan was being followed. Congress has stolen the majority of your jurisdiction. We can continue to fight and scrap over a decreasing scope of state jurisdiction in conservative states like Montana, Idaho, and Mississippi, while Congressmen from Illinois, California, New York and Massachusetts make the actual decisions for the majority of issues that impact your state.
In any fight worth having there are political risks. I am walking away from the opportunity to run for Congress to lead this effort. My own district’s seat has just come open after 34 years. I would be the most likely GOP candidate to win the nomination in a seat held by a GOP member for 34 years. I am taking a risk for a position I long planned to seek. But I believe that my own election would be meaningless compared to the good I can do to help save the nation through a Convention of States.
If we want to save liberty, if we want to preserve the legitimate jurisdiction of the states (which is essential to liberty as well), then we have only one realistic alternative. The Founders gave us a Convention of States for just such a time as this. We had better use it before it is too late.
I am more than willing to talk with you at any point about any of this.
Michael Farris, JD, LLM
Convention of States Project