Simon Davis-Cohen of In These Times magazine authored an article last week claiming that “corporate America” is the source of the ongoing push for an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. The article was written days before West Virginia became the 28th state to enact a resolution calling for a convention that would require the national government to live under a balanced budget requirement.
Mr. Davis-Cohen says the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the real mastermind behind the movement in favor of an Article V convention, but this is not the case. ALEC is not responsible for much of the lobbying efforts for an Article V convention. These endeavors have been taken on numerous organizations, including the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force (BBATF), Compact for America (CFA), and Convention of States. These three organizations conduct completely separate lobbying efforts, although all are members of ALEC.
Mr. Davis-Cohen further accused ALEC of attempting to devastate the economy and preventing the national government from using Keynesian stimulus programs that he believes would improve the U.S. economy, despite a wealth of evidence that clearly shows these kinds of programs cost a great deal and produce very little.
The truth is many labor organizations, such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, have long been opposed to a balanced budget amendment. The BBATF’s recent victory in West Virginia has given AFSCME and its big-labor allies more reasons to fear an Article V convention. Congress can call a convention when they receive applications from at least 34 state legislatures on a particular amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The recent victory in West Virginia has given new hope to states such as Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin that are considering applications for a convention.
Another false assertion reported in the story is that a convention cannot be limited, a claim made by groups on both the right and left. While the thought of a “runaway convention” may make for a good novel, the reality is states can limit the conduct and scope of a constitutional convention through “faithful delegate” laws.
One example of such a law was recently offered in Indiana. State Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) authored legislation that details delegate selection procedures, along with placing checks and balances on appointees to a convention. Seven states have already enacted the legislation, and an additional five states are considering the law this year. Some of the key limitations are that federal office holders and lobbyists are banned from being selected as delegates. Violators risk facing criminal penalties on any appointee who violates convention rules.
Despite much rhetoric, an Article V convention offers a powerful opportunity for the American people to rein in the out-of-control spending practices of the federal government, brining fiscal sanity back to the United States.