Letters to the Statesman Editor

Here are several letters we sent to the Statesman:

#1)  In his May 3 Austin American-Statesman article, Ken Herman writes about fears associated with a constitutional convention. There’s another angle to consider: such an action is about all that we have left to restore sanity to Congress. This body is so dominated by moneyed special interests that it can’t even pass the Disclose Act, which simply tells people who is spending money to influence elections. Calling for a convention is the strongest message we can send to Congress about the need for change.

The fears of a wholesale rewrite of our Constitution are hysteria. Delegates to a convention could never reach consensus on anything other than rational changes, and 3/4 of the states would never ratify a bad idea. The safeguards are there.

What isn’t safe, however, is allowing even more Special Interest control of government, a problem that is obvious to almost all Americans. The scope of today’s Big Money problem is exactly why the Founders gave the people the ability to directly amend the constitution.

#2)  Exacerbated by the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the corrupting influence by moneyed special interests has dominated our election process and put our democracy at risk. Citizens United v. FEC unmuzzled corporate treasuries to directly spend on influencing elections.

Now, living, breathing people are working to overturn Citizens United through a Constitutional Amendment declaring that corporations CAN be regulated, as can political spending.

This legislative session, Texas could become the 14th state to pass a resolution requesting Congress to write Amendment 28 to reign in unfettered and in some cases anonymous spending. Because of a lack of transparency, we don’t know whether illegal foreign donors are influencing our elections. Over 9300 Texans signed a petition in support of HCR21 and SCR2. Texans want their voices heard. The deadline for bills to leave committee is only days away, and the Chairmen (Rep. Creighton and Sen. Duncan) with the exclusive power to do so are refusing to give these resolutions a hearing.

#3) Few remember the previous calls for a constitutional convention that SJR 53 would nullify, mostly because they were aimed at issues best addressed through other avenues, or were just plain wrong-headed. (Note: If the John Birch Society is for it, chances are good it’s wrong-headed.)

While Sen. Estes and Rep. Elkins “Move to Rescind”, Rep. Burnam rightly calls for a convention to address Supreme Court rulings (Citizens United v FEC, et al.) that erased a century of state campaign finance laws and led to intractable partisan gridlock and a Congress that spends more time fundraising than legislating (HJR 94; see also SCR 2 by Ellis, HCR 21 by Thompson).

Fears of a “Constitutional Convention Gone Wild” are absurd. Only the most thoughtful amendments stand a chance of ratification, and press scrutiny of such a historic event would surely increase transparency and accountability.

Remember the media frenzy that erupted in 1992 when the 27th Amendment was ratified? Nope, I don’t either.

#4)  Fearmongering about a convention has been demagogued by both the left and the right for decades, using misinformation campaigns based on skewed interpretation of the law and wild speculation to advance a political or ideological agenda. Like any good misdirection there is just enough truth to make it believable. Instead of quoting the John Birch Society, Mr. Herman might have quoted constitutional scholars like UT’s Sanford Levinson or Harvard’s Larry Lessig who advocate for a convention to address problems Congress is unable or unwilling to address.

The greatest threat to our democracy is not a process in the Constitution but the corruption by unlimited special interest money in our political process. Lon Burnam’s HJR-94 fixes that problem by calling a convention that will propose the needed amendment, or force our dysfunctional Congress to propose it themselves.

When someone opposes an amendments convention, ask them: What other parts of the Constitution should we ignore?

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