State Rep. Chris Taylor
Op Ed

ALEC Wants New U.S. Constitution

Corporate-funded right-wing group is driving force for constitutional convention.

By - Mar 25th, 2017 12:40 pm
We The People

We The People

After the 2010 tea party takeover of Wisconsin, it became clear that the real force behind policymaking in Wisconsin is not the voters, but the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the most powerful right-wing policy-making machine in the country. A ménage a trois of powerful corporations, state legislators, and right-wing think tanks, ALEC pushes out model legislation that promotes corporate hegemony.

I know because I am a Wisconsin legislator, and a member of ALEC.

For the last six years, the ALEC agenda has rolled through Republican state houses – including mine – crushing labor unions and workers’ rights, voting rights, consumer and environmental protections, and campaign finance reforms. And now, ALEC, their funders and partners, are leading the effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to kneecap the federal government.

At my first ALEC conference in 2013, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) rolled out the “Convention of States” campaign. Their scheme was to get 34 states to pass resolutions calling for an Article V Convention of States, provided for in the U.S. Constitution, in order to propose constitutional amendments that severely limit the government’s ability to regulate and spend. CSG’s Mark Meckler, founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and his colleague Michael Farris railed against the federal government, civil rights, and social safety nets. Meckler proselytized like a preacher at a church revival, exhorting us to use our power as state legislators to save the country and join their movement, for which we would be handsomely rewarded with bundled campaign contributions and grassroots support. We were given a model Article V constitutional convention resolution, urged to save the Republic, and sent on our way.

One of my Republican colleagues was sitting several rows in front of me, and I knew then this effort would come to Wisconsin. His resolution, which would make Wisconsin the 30th state calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment, will soon be considered by the Wisconsin legislature.

ALEC is a driving force behind this austerity movement, supplying model bills, “how to” books, and support for pro-amendment groups.

The last time we had a Constitutional Convention, George Washington served as chair. This is a high-stakes process. The convention can amend the Constitution in any way it sees fit, and can write its own rules. In a hyper-partisan environment, most convention delegates would be chosen by Republican legislatures. The only safeguard is that three quarters of states must ratify any proposed amendment.

After CSG’s presentation, a representative from the right-wing Madison Coalition asked about my thoughts on such an effort. I told him I didn’t think people would go for it. He replied that because Republicans controlled so many state governments and the corporations pushing these changes had unlimited money to spend, they didn’t really need the people.

That sums up ALEC. ALEC’s drive to amend our constitution has nothing to do with actual people and everything to do with their big corporate backers. They want to stop the federal government from protecting our environment, giving workers a voice at the table, paying fair wages, and giving the economy a boost during recessions. To them, government is not about the people, but the most powerful doing what they want, when they want, and to whom they want.

As I left that first Convention of States meeting, I was asked by a young, enthusiastic ALEC staffer whether I was “ready fight the fight with us?”  Indeed, we must be ready to fight.

Chris Taylor, D-Madison, represents District 76 in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

15 thoughts on “Op Ed: ALEC Wants New U.S. Constitution”

  1. Penrod says:

    While I am no fan of an Article V convention, I would be a lot more impressed with this column if Taylor had told us exactly what amendments are being proposed. Mandatory gun training for school kids? Executing gays and lesbians? Making Christianity the Established religion? Making the Constitution so explicit that neither conservative nor Progressive judges can pretend it says that which it does not, and doesn’t say that which it does? Redefining ‘shall not be infringed’ to mean ‘shall not be infringed’? (sic)

    The closest Taylor got to explicit was a balanced budget amendment, and that is so vague as to be meaningless. Hawaii has a balanced budget provision in it’s Constitution, and the legislature utterly ignores it by not funding the public employee pension system, the public employee health benefits fund, not doing preventive maintenance on public schools and university campuses…on and on. A balanced budget amendment with real teeth might be useful, but in real world experience is simply a means of scamming the responsible but naive members of the electorate.

    If Taylor wants my respect she will have to stop with the platitudes and start making some serious, factual points.

  2. Jon Erik Kingstad says:

    I think Rep.Taylor’s point is just what you say Penrod: that there are exactly no amendments being proposed. Which is just the reason why an Article V Constitutional Convention is a terrible, no, unthinkable proposition. We are far beyond the days of the 18th century. We might as well have another violent Revolution because that’s what another Constitutional Convention would lead to. Our divisions are deep and we need to resolve them nonviolently and within the Constitutional framework we inherited to fulfill its promise and its dream.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    I am constantly amazed that people get themselves all worked up when an elected official issues a press release. Some are very selective with their outrage and somehow never get this worked up when it’s a conservative politician spinning and obfuscating.

  4. mbradleyc says:

    Political hogwash.

  5. Duane Snyder says:

    Yea, Penrod misses the point entirely or is completely brain washed. They (the GOP, or Greedy Oligarch Party brought to you by Koch Industries) don’t want a specific agenda. That might rile up the masses and nip this in the bud. They want a convention that turns into a free for all, that is what makes it so dangerous. And if it wasn’t serious why are so many Republican controlled states calling for the convention?

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    Excuse me, an op-ed, in this case, not a press release.

  7. Rita Brunkow says:

    You can go to Breitbart “news” and read about the suggested changes. They have all kinds of ideas. We don’t want to go down this road.

  8. myfivecents says:

    This is just an opinion as is your comments. Your opinion. We won’t have a “new” constitution but still have to be vigilant to protect the one we do have.

  9. Dave says:

    Yes, some of this is her opinion, but what is not a matter of opinion is the number of states that have been pushed to call for a constitutional convention. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, this should be cause for serious concern.

  10. blurondo says:

    A number of prominent jurists and legal scholars have warned that a constitutional convention could open up the Constitution to radical and harmful changes. For instance, the late Justice Antonin Scalia said in 2014, “I certainly would not want a constitutional convention. Whoa! Who knows what would come out of it?” Similarly, former Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger wrote in 1988:
    ” [T]here is no way to effectively limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the Convention to one amendment or one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey. After a Convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don’t like its agenda.”

  11. The giant lawmaking corporate syndicate known as ALEC has accomplished much in its years of existence. It has essentially created the modern corporate-state as we know it, wherein corporate shareholder supremacy is the law of the land. The Supreme Court and lower courts have been “finding” corporate rights in the U.S. Constitution since the 1800s, and now the process is all but complete. Neither natural persons nor local levels of government have any rights, nor have we any power in face of the awesome, ultimate power of the corporations.

    If anyone has any doubt that an Article V Convention called together by the corporate syndicates will not further strengthen and codify Corporate Totalitarianism, well, we think you’re moderately to wackily naive.

    When the Article V Convention is called, the proletarian movement in the USA can look on this as an opportunity to break free of the influence of the false liberal-conservative divide, and go straight into full-on class combat. There will no longer be that treasured U.S. Constitution to defend; it will be the oligarchs on one side, and the vast numbers of propertyless proletarians on the other side.

    Everyone’s wondering what will trigger the United States’ next social revolution. I think we’ve found the trigger here: The Corporate-State Constitutional Convention. It is very doubtful there will be an intact nation-state here much past the year 2030 given the path we’re on.

    Signed, The Snowflake Communists.

  12. duncan says:

    The United States will not survive as 50 states for another century, full stop. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when as 2016 showed us. With a constitutional convention the split will occur sooner, rather than later. Wisconsin will likely remain in the original USA, and a post-split constitutional convention will also be inevitable. To an extent, that makes me indifferent.

  13. Blaine Phipps says:

    You aii need to do some serious homework on the convention of states. Look at it’s website for starters. It would have saved you a lot of wasted time.

  14. Tim Dake says:

    How disingenuous and hypocritical of Rep. Taylor to critique an Article V convention resolution calling for a balanced budget. She herself proposed an Article V convention resolution in 2012 for overturning the Citizens United decision.

    To begin with, Article V allows for the calling of a strictly limited power amendatory convention and not for calling a plenary constitutional convention. In fact, in the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia, the proposal for a second plenary constitutional convention was made four times and rejected each time. A proposal was made for including the power to call a future plenary constitutional convention like the 1787 convention and that was voted down 3 ayes, 7 noes and 1 divided. There is no authority under the federal Constitution of 1787 for another federal constitutional convention – only for amendatory and ratificatory conventions.

    An amendatory convention can only propose, debate and refer an amendment proposal, it cannot ratify or enact an amendment. That is exactly the same power as Congress – which has, on average, about 200 amendment proposals per two year session. You want to talk about a runaway convention? Then look to Congress since it takes only one congressperson to submit a resolution for an amendment but it takes 34 states to propose a convention to draft the same resolution that a single congressman can draft and submit.
    An amendatory convention cannot rewrite the convention and NO ONE is proposing to do that. Proposing a single amendment for a balanced budget is not the same thing as proposed to write a new constitution – if it is, then Rep. Taylor is herself guilty of that charge when she proposed a resolution for a convention to draft a single amendment to overturn Citizens United.

  15. L Lang says:

    Article V works within the Constitution. It is one of two methods the Constitution provides to create amendments. Rep. Taylor is fear-mongering by calling it a Constitutional Convention, when in fact, it is not that at all. It’s legitimately a tool that the founders provided to add amendments, and the states have the right to call for a convention to create amendments, especially if and when Congress is unable or unwilling to create the amendments needed.

    States pass legislation to call for a convention and to pass rules for their delegates on how they’ll be selected, how many will be sent to the convention, but the amendment itself is drafted by the entire convention, with all states and their delegates present and participating in the process.

    Repeatedly calling an Article V convention a Constitutional convention shows a person’s lack of understanding regarding Article V. It is not a Constitutional Convention. It has rules, it has a ratification process that must work through the people’s representation on the state level in order to be ratified and that must occur in 38 states. It is not designed, nor does it have the authority, to create a new constitution. Rep. Taylor clearly needs a refresher course on the Constitution and the Articles of that document.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us