By Mary Bottari and David Armiak
Now that GOP state legislators have control over 32 state legislatures (both chambers), thanks in large part to partisan gerrymandering, some extremists are preparing to use their clout to gerrymander the U.S. Senate.
This week in Denver, July 19-21, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will welcome Republican state legislators and its corporate funders, including Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, K12 Inc., Peabody Energy, and PhRMA, to vote on corporate legislative priorities and create cookie cutter “model” bills in task force meetings that are still closed to the press.
ALEC will welcome U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Newt Gingrich and other Trump loyalists to the meeting.
On the agenda for debate and discussion? A model bill to repeal the 17th Amendment, which established the popular election of United States Senators in 1913.
Previously, U.S. Senators were selected by state legislatures and political party bosses beholden to powerful industries. The corruption scandals erupting from the wheeling and dealing fueled some of the great muckraking investigative journalism of the early 20th Century. In 1912, progressive Republican U.S. Senator Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette campaigned for the popular election of U.S. Senators as a means of cracking down on political corruption and corporate control of the democracy. Reformers introduced direct primary elections, ballot initiatives, and recall votes, in the same time period.
Now right-wing extremists want to roll back the clock to enable Republican state houses and Republican governors to hijack at least 10 U.S. Senate Seats held by Democrats in Republican trifecta states, and force an ever more extreme agenda through Congress.
ALEC’s Model Bill to Repeal 17th Amendment
The “Draft Resolution Recommending Constitutional Amendment Restoring Election Of U.S. Senators To The Legislatures Of The Sovereign States” is scheduled to be debated by ALEC’s Federalism and International Relations Task Force in Denver.
The resolution reads in part:
Section 1. The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. Senators shall be elected exclusively by the State legislature, upon a majority vote of legislators present and voting in a joint session. If a vacancy shall exist for more than one hundred-eighty days, then the Governor shall appoint the Senator to serve the remainder of the vacant term. This procedure may not be modified by state initiative or referendum.
One only needs to examine the electoral map to understand why ALEC is pushing for a repeal of the 17th Amendment now.
With the majority of states under GOP control, Republicans could snatch some 17 U.S. Senate seats from Democrats if the state legislatures are given the right to pick Senators.
ALEC politicians know that their extreme agenda of rolling back renewables, busting unions, and privatizing schools is not popular with the American public and doesn’t fly at the ballot box. No state, for instance, has approved school vouchers via the ballot box, education expert Diane Ravitch tell us.
It is not easy to pass a Constitutional Amendment or repeal one. Only Utah has passed a resolution urging the repeal of the 17th Amendment. But a repeal would give the GOP a supermajority in the U.S. Senate and a greatly enhanced ability to advance extremist policies.
Rationales Don’t Hold Water
This bill should be seen as the latest in a long line of ALEC bills to rig the system and rein in popular democracy. ALEC had a model resolution supporting the electoral college; ALEC wanted to limit ballot initiatives and referendums put on the ballot by voters; ALEC stood behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, and ALEC wanted to stomp on traditionally Democratic voters with voter ID requirements and more.
In 2012, the Center for Media and Democracy revealed that ALEC was involved in the Red Map redistricting effort, based on emails obtained through open records requests to Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. ALEC had pushed redistricting approaches spearheaded by the former lawyer for the national Republican Party, Mark Braden, and hosted a special conference call with that partisan lawyer to advise ALEC legislators on redistricting. The result? Wisconsin’s maps were so egregiously gerrymandered to lock down GOP control of seats that a landmark case challenging the hyper-partisan effort is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
ALEC has debated the repeal of the 17th Amendment before at the 2013 States and Nation Policy Summit. In the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act (ESEA),” ALEC required State Legislatures to choose a candidate for U.S. Senator that will be placed on the ballot alongside other candidates for the general public to vote on. The Act did not call for a repeal of the 17th Amendment, but gave a leg up to a favored candidate. That draft did not become a model bill.
This latest iteration, is a virtual copy of a bill on the site of a group called the Equal Justice Coalition, a small 501(c)3 nonprofit based out of Long Beach, California run by a retired real estate developer: J. Jay Feinberg. IRS filings for the group show that it was founded in 2015 and did not report revenue until 2016 when it stated receiving $46,000.
Feinberg held a workshop on EJC’s repeal of the 17th Amendment that included John C. Eastman, Founding Director of the Claremont Institute‘s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and Trent England, Executive VP of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs at ALEC’s States and Nation Policy Meeting in Washington, D.C in November 2016. Earlier, the trio held a “telepanel” on the subject hosted on the Claremont Institute’s site. (View the slideshow here.)
In the Claremont panel and the ALEC workshop, Feinberg, Eastman, and England argue that the power and sovereignty of the states has been eroded by direct election of the Senate and that the costs of U.S. Senate elections have spun out of control.
Although the trio appears to quote a MapLight analysis stating that it now costs $10.5 million to win a U.S. Senate seat on average, they fail to note that MapLight President Daniel Newman attributes the high cost to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the door to an unlimited flow of corporate money into campaigns and elections.
Perhaps the Equal Justice Coalition should be promoting a Constitutional Amendment to roll back Citizens United instead.
Stay tuned and follow @ALECexposed for updates on ALEC.
BTW, it doesn’t matter about “school choice” . As long as the funding is tied to federal money, it’s really the elites who are calling the shots. And you are right about DeVos. She is in league with Business Roundtable, some Jeb Bush education groups, and Great Lakes Education Project, all of them pro-Common Core and pro-crony capitalism (well, I’m not sure if GLEP is pro-crony capitalism). Also, her family gives a couple hundred grand to the Republican Senatorial Committee, which is Mitch McConnell’s attack fund.
This is another reason to bypass DC with Article V. It gets the cronies out of education.
Mary Kaye Waterson
What was the result of the debate on the repeal of the 17th amendment?
O, I think not. We as the ordinary population of these United states will not allow this to happen. Makes me wonder if this is another ploy to divide our attention off of Trump and Russia, climate change, healthcare, Planned Parenthood, and so many other issues there isn’t enough time to type them all. My Senate represents me not the governor of my state. They should always be independent even if they are Republican or Democrat or an independent. They must stand for the people – not one person, or company, or party.
The string-pullers that put Don in office–no, not merely “the Russian mafia”… the RNC was not hoodwinked–it is frustrating in that the string-pullers have been grooming and funding party “players” all the while invading our own national psychological conditioning: churches. Not all churches, but the big ones. I know as Christians we are called to be ushers, not bouncers, but we need to address the twisted message of current era Pharisees: The creators of Citizens United. Of ALEC. Yes, the John Birch folks, but now in many different faces.
I mean an expansive network of 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations that undermine democracy by promoting litigation that seems to be evangelical Christian values, whereas IN REALITY many of their primary PLAYERS have had serial affairs/spouses, drug problems, and more importantly, political funding.
The names include McConnell/Chao, Limbaugh, Ted Haggard, Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian, John Hagee– (his congregation supports his ‘affair’ while his wife was dying). Scratch the surface and you’ll be astounded at the volume of evangelical groups who are in the same circle of piracy funded by Kochs:
Liberty Counsel founded in 1989 by Anita and Mathew Staver
Family Research Council, president Anthony Richard Perkins.
Heritage Foundation and its hundreds of “faces” which includes the Values Voter Summit support of Trump, Cruz, Romney, Priebus, Tom Price, Bachmann–a sickening list of extortionists.
Family Heritage Alliance (read the kind of propaganda they’ve been hawking for the past 10 years) http://www.americanclarion.com/2014/11/12/behavior-family-heritage-alliance-open-letter-34532/
The names are extensive–and Cornerstone Church (Hagee) doesn’t even show up on the list! http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865608058/15-biggest-megachurches-in-America.html
Feeding off each other, these snake oil salesmen are all about…self and money.
You are not up to date on what is happening regarding vouchers in education. See H. R. 610 now pending in the Department of Education and the Workforce. CONGRESS.GOV
Arizona passed a modified version of this pending Congressional legislation and it is pending in at least 20 other states now. Citizens are now trying to place a referendum on the ballot for the next election to do away with it, but the sponsor who heads ALEC in Arizona is proposing resending it if the citizens gather enough signatures by next Thursday. Also see the recent Governors Conference in NJ on apprentices “child labor” proposal to change the laws to allow younger children to be placed on site. I sent you previous emails on this subject. All the legislation is in place except H. R. 610 to implement the old Russian/German, corporate/private partnerships to privatize all education and destroy public schools. In order to place younger children on site, the laws will need to be changed. This is why the unions are being attack in my opinion.
You are not up to date on what is happening regarding vouchers in education. See H. R. 610 now pending in the Committee of Education and the Workforce. CONGRESS.GOV
Arizona passed a modified version of the pending Congressional legislation, and it is pending in at least 20 other states now. Citizens are trying to gather enough signatures by next Thursday. Also see the recent Governor’s Conference in NJ on apprentices “child labor” necessary to change the child labor laws to allow younger children to be placed on site. I sent you previous emails on this critical subject. All the legislation is in place except H. R. 610 to implement the old Russian/German, corporate/private partnerships to privatize all education and destroy public schools. Unions are being attacked trying to eliminate them because they put child labor laws in place. See School-to-Work Act and SCANS.
Koch bros., and their entire family, are a sick, sick family. Now they want to bring back, The John Birch Society. A defunct fascist organization, vilified, rejected in the late 60s.
Created by the Koch bros., father. Another nut case.
One thing they did. Delayed going to the metric system, until now.
They said, go metric, and America will be a Communist Nation….ugh!.