Putting the Constitution Up for ALEC to Grab, Again

Chuck Sheketoff

Putting the Constitution Up for ALEC to Grab, Again

Some well-meaning legislators rightly upset about the damage that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United has done to our democracy have, unfortunately, again embarked on a dangerous path: seeking a constitutional convention.

For the second legislative session in a row, Oregon lawmakers are considering a joint memorial calling for a constitutional convention. This time around, the legislation is House Joint Memorial 201 (HJM 201) (PDF).

I wrote A Constitutional Convention Plays Into ALEC’s Hand during the 2015 legislative session, and it remains equally relevant to HJM 201 today:

The strategy of calling for a constitutional convention, however, is too dangerous.

Why? Because states cannot limit the agenda of a constitutional convention. A convention would open up the Constitution to whatever amendments its delegates choose to propose, not necessarily or exclusively an amendment to overturn Citizens United. As Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe explains with regard to a constitutional convention, “What you’re doing is putting the whole Constitution up for grabs.”

If that isn’t scary enough, consider who else is calling for a constitutional convention: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).. . . [T]he call for a constitutional convention is a strategy straight out of ALEC’s handbook (PDF).

If the goal is to overturn Citizens United with a constitutional amendment, there is a better approach: have Congress propose and send to the states for ratification an amendment. This is the tried-and-true approach that every amendment to the Constitution has taken, and it is the safe route to fixing our campaign finance system.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

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