During a private workshop at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) recent policy summit, speakers discussed a right-wing movement to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to “balance the budget,” limit the powers of the federal government, and enact term limits on political office holders.
The group leading the “Leftist Plot or Plan to Save America” workshop, Convention of States Action (COSA), has been working for years to enlist states into a plan to hold an constitutional convention, where state delegates hand-picked by politicians can vote to amend the Constitution. Fifteen state legislatures have voted to convene the broad convention it envisions, nine states have passed a convention bill in one chamber, and 18 additional states have active legislation regarding a convention, according to COSA.
Two-thirds of the states, 34, must pass a convention call for it to occur, and amendments adopted at a convention must be approved by three-quarters of state legislatures to become part of the Constitution.
In audio obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), featured speaker Rick Santorum, a former GOP senator from Pennsylvania who joined the Convention of States Project in September as a senior adviser, expressed optimism about the movement and made an important admission to his private audience: their path to victory relies on gerrymandering.
We have a hard time winning presidential elections, as you know, in Pennsylvania, yet we dominate the state legislature and Congress. Why? …All [of Democrats’] votes are concentrated in a very small group of people [in urban areas], and it’s hard to draw legislative districts that they can win because most of their legislative districts are 90 plus percent one party.
Rural voters, even though there are fewer of them…actually have an outsize granted power under this process. And we have the opportunity as a result of that to have a supermajority, even though…we may not even be in an absolute majority when it comes to the people who agree with us, but because of the way the concentration of votes has changed in this country, we can actually accomplish things.
In other words, Republicans have been successful at drawing district lines to dilute Democratic votes by packing them into a small number of districts, thereby giving themselves an outsized majority in state legislatures, and COSA wants to use that advantage to lock their minority views into the Constitution.
The very first bill that Democrats in Congress introduced this year was H.R. 1, a sweeping elections and voting rights framework that would end partisan gerrymandering. But after 11 months of Joe Biden’s presidency, the Senate still has not passed it. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have gone to work drawing new state and federal voting districts to give themselves impenetrable majorities for the next decade.
Republican state legislators have drawn district lines this year that, if voters vote the same way they did in 2020, would flip the U.S. House to GOP control.
Due to extreme partisan and racial gerrymanders after the 2010 census, Republican state lawmakers went into this year’s redistricting with a strong advantage over Democrats, and now they’re set to expand that advantage, making COSA’s desired supermajority more of a possibility.
Knowing their views aren’t popular with a majority of Americans, conservative constitutional convention advocates hope to use archaic, anti-democratic standards that empower rural and more traditionally conservative voters to effectively gerrymander the Constitution and cement their minority rule for decades to come.
COSA advocates envision a constitutional convention that would propose sweeping amendments to reign in federal spending with a balanced budget amendment, enact term limits on politicians, and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. The group wants the term limits applied to elected federal officials, judges, and other federal civil servants, which they consider part of the “Deep State.”
“The Deep State’s real. I mean, it’s just real,” said Santorum. “You all know this from your own legislature, your own state governments.”
ALEC Board of Scholars member Rob Natelson claimed at the ALEC panel that a “runaway” convention, where delegates propose and vote on unrestricted amendments regarding any issue, won’t occur, but nothing in the Constitution limits the scope of a convention once it has been convened.
Santorum likes the convention approach, where delegates chosen by state legislatures or Congress will represent their states, and disparaged direct democracy.
“California has proven that…pure democracy is not not the greatest idea,” Santorum said.
COSA Says No to “Leftist” Groups
As CMD previously reported, several liberal organizations joined right-wing groups like the Reason Foundation in a half-day session called “Academy of States 2.0” to discuss strategies for convening a constitutional convention. But COSA would not participate in the event because of the presence of those “leftists,”, including Wolf PAC and American Promise, because they want to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate spending on elections.
Mark Meckler, a Tea Party organizer and president of COSA, said that the ruling, which relied on the idea that corporations should be treated as people, was “one of the greatest free-speech decisions in American history.”
“Citizens United opened the floodgates to free speech in the United States of America, and I think it is extraordinarily dangerous, unproductive, for us, for people who consider themselves conservatives, to invite that effort into our tent,” Meckler said.
Meckler also had some harsh words for the hundreds of pro-democracy groups, including the Center for Media and Democracy, that signed a 2018 statement (updated in 2019) condemning a constitutional convention, calling the prospect “a threat to every American’s constitutional rights and civil liberties.”
“It’s every…radical leftist group in America that stands for, I would argue, the destruction of America, the destruction of babies in the womb, the destruction of life itself,” Meckler claimed. “They hate America, they want to destroy America, and they’re against Convention of States.”
Funding a Rewrite of the Constitution
The parent organization of COSA, Citizens for Self-Governance, gets most of its funding from anonymous donations via donor-advised fund sponsors. From 2012-18, the group received nearly $7.6 million from the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, a fund that passes along its clients’ charitable donations to the nonprofits of their choice. Donors also include DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund—right-wing donor-advised fund sponsors used by GOP megadonors such as the Koch and Mercer families—the Armrod Charitable Foundation, Judicial Education Project (now known as The 85 Fund), the Mercer Family Foundation, and the Thomas W. Smith Foundation.
Another related Meckler nonprofit, CSG Action, received $2.1 million in 2016 from two groups associated with Leonard Leo, Trump’s point person for stacking the federal courts with right-wing judges.
When former state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) asked Meckler to reveal his funders at a public hearing on Wisconsin’s Convention of States resolution in 2019, he refused to do so.
Citizens for Self-Governance has direct ties to the political network of billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch. Eric O’Keefe, the group’s co-founder and board chair, has deep connections to the Kochs, and another board member has been Tim Dunn, vice chairman of the Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation, which supports an Article V convention.
Listen to the full audio from the workshop:
Read the full comment about minority rule from Santorum:
I look at my state of Pennsylvania, for example. We control the state House. We control the state Senate and have for a long, long time, and yet there are over a million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. We have a hard time winning presidential elections, as you know, in Pennsylvania, yet we dominate the state legislature and Congress. Why? …All [of Democrats’] votes are concentrated in a very small group of people, and it’s hard to draw legislative districts that they can win because most of their legislative districts are 90 plus percent one party…So that’s why we have an opportunity in many states because that trend is increasing, I would argue, on their side because they’re such as a special-interest, divisive party right now. They’re appealing to just a core group. I look at this as an opportunity given the fact that most states are not populated by heavily, densely metropolises like we have in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh or New York has in New York, most states don’t have those huge big cities, and so most states are going to be controlled by Republicans. And most of that means rural voters, even though there are fewer of them, because of, just like the Electoral College, they actually have an outsize, in a process like this, they actually have an outsize granted power under this process, so this is why this, in a country that’s deeply divided, you can say, ‘How can we, how can we achieve what Rob [Natelson] said we can achieve?’ which is approaching a supermajority in the states. Why? Because their population is concentrated and ours isn’t. And we have the opportunity as a result of that to have a supermajority, even though the country may not, we may not even be in an absolute majority when it comes to the people who agree with us, but because of the way the concentration of votes has changed in this country, we can actually accomplish things.
First and foremost, SUPREME COURT IS CORRUPT, there is NO TRUSTING this group of PERJURED, LAIRS, must stop these betrayal now their BULLCRAP traitors period! Nothing is being done, NO ACCOUNTABILITY from the top, including allowing rapist, pedophile of kids(9-14), trumps PREFERENCE CONTROLLING and THREATENING, loser trump has NEVER faced ACCOUNTABILITY, WHEN?
Plus, critical now waiting as republicans mover forward, As a lifelong TAXPAYER, I demand President Biden SIGN DISCLOSURE ACT NOW THIS URGENT. As a hardworking TAXPAYER, I’m demand that Biden signing this DISCLOSURE ACT, it’s a fact that REPUBLICANS will not pass this disclosure Act. Plus, SUPREME COURT IS CORRUPT RULING most ANTI democracy ruling since CITIZENS UNITED RULING IN 2010, must be signed by President Biden period.
Here, here Christine, you hit the nail on the head! The extremes in governance are to policy questions of the times, i.e. Lincoln and the
Emancipation Proclamation and FDR dealing with the depression. Neither
of these seem far left or right at the time because both addressed a need
at the time.
Maybe thats because the left have been trying to rewrite or out right destroy the constitution for the betterment of eight decades now.
FDR was a progressive pox upon citizen, country, and constitution.
The GOP are no more right wing or racist than the Democratic Party are. In fact both parties are heavily addicted to left wing policies that use the force and power of government to force their cancerous views upon everyone else.
Both parties are a disease upon the country and nothing but different sides of the same coin.
Both parties went above and beyond the realm of failure decades ago and this country has done absolutely nothing but blindly, spitefully, and stupidly recycle the political instruments of its own demise ever since.
The Democratic and Republican Party have long been the very embodiment of everything that’s wrong, rotten, and ruinous within American society.
These two political cancers are nothing more than the finest false choices money can buy. There diseased governance is exactly what’s destroying this country.
An entire country run by fools and greediots who have completely abandoned all reality and common sense in the name of feeding their own goddamned addictions to dollars, denials, and delusions because they think they know best how individuals should live. While the country progressively collapses underneath the weight of their bureaucratic shit and one sided laws of ignorances.
Pure goddamned hubris and egotism fueled by dollars, denials, and delusions.
If the nation had any sense left it would throw both of these hollow ideological cancers from the steps of government
When one drives drunk and causes tragedy their license gets revoked
When one unjustifiably murders another there freedom, rights, and liberties get revoked.
But when politicians repeatedly ruin society they get re-elected.
As long as the Democratic and Republican Party keep running this country the nation will never be anything more than the mess the nation is today.
Why? Because it was their diseased recycled governance that made the country this way.
Wrong. The left wants protection for all. “Liberty and justice for all”. The right is about taking it away. Only straight, white males should get it all. The R wants to bring Afghanistan here. Huge no thanks.
Lol yea ok 🙄
You are so full of it.
Paul Robert Roden
If Attorney General Merrick Garland finds enough “facts” and courage, he can either appoint a Special Prosecutor or convene a Federal Grand Jury, and then throw the book at Trump. Maybe the “facts ” from the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 can make a criminal referral to him, and he will have no choice but act. Then we will know finally if no one is above the law or not once and for all. We will know if he lives up to his oath of office “to protect and defend the Constitution from against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”
Um the Clintons have proven time and time again the the law doesn’t apply to certain individuals. If they had one ounce of evidence to go after trump they would. They are dying to.
It is hard to imagine a more anti-democratic agenda that undermines truly representative government and our fundamental civil liberties than this. Minority rule is oligarchy and it is authoritarian, the very thing the radical right claims to be against, but secretly wants. It can never succeed in America for long, if at all. It is really an effort to start another civil war, which is exactly what they would get.
Once again, when is something going to be DONE about these terrorists, huh? How much longer will they be allowed to terrorize this country and NOTHING happens to them? What’s it going to take to STOP these terrorists? What’s it going to take?
I don’t know but something needs to be done before it’s too late in my belief that’s the next election, once republicans get control of the Congress and Senate then it will be too late. I don’t want to see any kind of civil war breaking out because it would be totally different than the last one with Russia and China chomping at the bit to get global power there is a very good chance, they would insert themselves and end up with control of this Country as well as other Countries.