A convention to amend the constitution is exactly what the country needs
Mar 27, 2018 at 1:30 PM
A brief timeline of the history of Citizens United.
The commentary by Richard Boldt spreads unfounded fears about the path that the people can take to push for needed constitutional reforms when Congress is unresponsive (“Citizens United is bad. A constitutional convention to overturn it would be worse,” March 26). Article V of the Constitution allows two-thirds of the states to compel Congress to call a “a convention for proposing amendments.” This provision was inserted at the suggestion of George Mason of Virginia when the draft constitution had only a provision for Congress to propose amendments. He convinced the delegates in Philadelphia that Congress might prove to be a barrier to essential reforms rather than the author of them.
What prescience! Today, the approval rating of Congress is barely in double figures, but the percentage of respondents who identify big money as a source of dysfunction in our political system is 96 percent, according to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll from Oct. 28, 2017. Citizens are more united on this issue than on any other (pun intended).
Mr. Boldt states that the convention “mechanism has never been used in our constitutional history.” Actually, the Bill of Rights and several other amendments were proposed by Congress after states made convention applications.
For several decades prior to 1912, the U.S. Senate had been quashing amendment resolutions for direct election of senators. Why? Because the senators were the beneficiaries of the process of business tycoons buying senatorial appointments from state legislatures. When only one more state was needed to invoke the convention, the corrupt U.S. senators themselves proposed the 17th Amendment for direct election. It was ratified in 11 months.
There are many op-eds stating that the topic of a convention cannot be limited. However, every serious scholarly study conducted on the matter has concluded the opposite. The American Bar Association, Congressional Research Service, and U.S. Department of Justice have laid out specific procedures by which a convention called for a specific purpose could be restricted to those limits.
All kinds of horrible amendment proposals are mentioned to scare us out of using our right to petition for a convention, but the fact is that it takes both legislative chambers in 38 states to ratify any proposal.
Mr. Boldt worries that the Supreme Court would not be able to intervene in a convention. Well, the Supreme Court intervened in our campaign finance system and has made it drastically worse! He states, “Finally, there is potential for special interest money to influence the convention,” as though wealthy special interests were not totally in control of Congress right this minute. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois summed it up: “The banks run this place.”
Why is the Maryland House of Delegates ready to apply for an amendment-proposing convention after it had refused to do so in the four previous sessions? The answer is that hundreds of volunteers have devoted themselves to this campaign, and thousands of citizens have petitioned their legislators. Both House and Senate have given painstaking consideration to this measure in multiple hearings. They’ve heard from experts, community leaders, and just plain voters. The House concluded that the threat to our nation from the corruption of money in politics merits an amendment to the Constitution. They are wise to apply maximum pressure to Congress through the convention mechanism.