Writing for The Center for Public Integrity, Ashley Balczerak wrote a blog post on January 25th in opposition to the movement for an Article V convention currently sweeping the nation. Slate has reprinted the article using a misleading subheading that suggests Democrats and Republicans are teaming up on a convention. The Heartland Institute’s Center for Constitutional Reform would like to point out some inaccuracies made in this story.
Balczerak is incorrect to claim the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is leading the movement for an Article V convention. The Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, Compact for America, and Convention of States are leading efforts of their own to call a convention for the purpose of creating a balanced budget amendment. The organization U.S. Term Limits is leading a separate effort to call a convention that would establish term limits on members of Congress. ALEC’s website clearly states the organization does not conduct any lobbying efforts of any kind.
The Center for Public Integrity is incorrect to claim additional amendments can be brought up during a convention after it is called. All delegates appointed to a convention must follow the official instructions prescribed by their state. Legislative instructions are a joint resolution issued by a legislature requiring a state’s delegation to only vote for specified amendments at a convention. Violations of the legislative instructions are grounds for a state to revoke a delegate’s convention credentials.
Indiana state Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) authored legislation called the Delegate Selection and Limitation Act to address concerns of a “runaway convention” and violations of legislative instructions. The act provides a criminal penalty for delegates who violate their instructions, and it bans registered lobbyists from being appointed. Other states, including Georgia, have passed similar legislation.
Slate’s reprint of the story also used misleading talking points from The John Birch Society in the story’s subheading to get readers to believe conservatives and liberals are teaming up to call a convention, but this is not true. Balcerzak speculates some liberals would use an Article V convention to attempt to pass a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which allows additional for additional campaign-related spending by third-party groups not directly affiliated with a candidate.
However, the Article V process is only one of two methods to amend the Constitution of the United States. Two-thirds of state legislatures (34) must submit applications to Congress only for the purpose of an amendment. Republicans currently control 68 out of 98 state legislative chambers in the United States, so the current political dynamics make it impossible for Democrats to pass resolutions calling for an end to Citizens United. Contrary to Balcerzak’s claim, there has been very little evidence of a collaboration between conservatives and liberals on this issue.
Twenty-seven states have already passed single-subject resolutions for a balanced budget amendment without any mention to a resolution that would overturn the decision in Citizens United.
I encourage Ms. Balczerak to read a recent Heartland Policy Brief authored by Policy Adviser David Guldenschuh called The Article V Movement: A Comprehensive Assessment to Date and Suggested Approach for State Legislators and Advocacy Groups Moving Forward. Guldenschuh’s brief provides a significant amount of accurate information about the state of the Article V movement. It is my hope Ms. Balczerak will refer to this document before writing any additional stories relating to the Article V movement.