Insider: Republicans’ next big play is to ‘scare the hell out of Washington’ by rewriting the Constitution. And they’re willing to play the long game to win.
Insider: Republicans' next big play is to 'scare the hell out of Washington' by rewriting the Constitution. And they're willing to play the long game to win.
As former Republican senator Rick Santorum addressed Republican lawmakers gathered in San Diego at the American Legislative Exchange Council policy summit, he detailed a plan to fundamentally remake the United States.
It would become a conservative nation.
And the transformation, Santorum said, culminates with an unprecedented event: a first-of-its-kind convention to rewrite the Constitution.
“You take this grenade and you pull the pin, you’ve got a live piece of ammo in your hands,” Santorum, a two-time GOP presidential candidate and former CNN commentator, explained in audio of his remarks obtained by the left-leaning watchdog group the Center for Media and Democracy and shared with Insider. “34 states — if every Republican legislator votes for this, we have a constitutional convention.”
The December 2021 ALEC meeting represents a flashpoint in a movement spearheaded by powerful conservative interests, some of whom are tied to Trumpworld and share many of Trump’s goals, to alter the nation’s bedrock legal text since 1788. It’s an effort that has largely taken place out of public view.
But interviews with a dozen people involved in the constitutional convention movement, along with documents and audio recordings reviewed by Insider, reveal a sprawling, well-funded — at least partly by cryptocurrency — and impassioned campaign taking root across multiple states.
Notably fueling them: success. …
Article V to the US Constitution provides two ways to amend the nation’s organizing document — the most difficult, but most dramatic way to alter American society’s very foundation.
The first is for a two-thirds majority of Congress to propose an amendment, with three-fourths of states ratifying it. This is how all 27 of the current amendments to the Constitution were added, but it’s a path that today is largely blocked because of intractable partisan divisions. No American under 30 has experienced the nation amending the Constitution in his or her lifetime.
The second method — never before accomplished — involves two-thirds of US states to call a convention. The power to call for a convention belongs solely to state legislatures, who would pass and ratify amendments without a governor’s signature, Congress’ intervention, or any input from the president. …
So far, 19 GOP-controlled states, including four in 2022 alone (Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin), have passed applications and calls for a constitutional convention under the model pushed by the conservative nonprofit group Convention of States, an offshoot of Citizens for Self Governance.
Because of their efforts, “it’s the first time any of these applications have had this much movement in quite some time,” Viki Harrison, director of Constitutional Convention and Protecting Dissent Programs at Common Cause, told Insider. She called the passage of four new convention calls in states including South Carolina “a brutal loss.”
Citizens for Self Governance and Convention of States, led by former Tea Party activist and ex-Parler CEO Mark Meckler, are relatively newer and well-funded players on the scene with connections to wealthy and powerful conservative interests.
Tax filings obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy reveal the groups, which are not required to disclose their donors, have received millions from the Koch-connected DonorsTrust, the Mercer family, and groups linked to powerful conservative lawyer Leonard Leo. A 2020 internal audit of Convention of States obtained by the group revealed that a $1.3 million donation made in Bitcoin made up 16% of the group’s budget in 2019. Two donations totaling $2.5 million accounted for 36% of the group’s 2020 budget.
While the various offshoots of the movement may have momentum on their side, they don’t yet have the math to get to 34 states, as would be necessary to call a convention. Some are skeptical they ever will, no matter how well Republicans do at the polls in 2022 and beyond. …
Because the states have never called a convention under Article V since the Constitution’s creation, the exact mechanics are the subject of intense debates between legal scholars and activists
The prospect of a free-for-all convention has scared lawmakers away from other historic efforts to rewrite the nation’s Constitution, fearing that a debate on imposing term limits or a balanced budget could quickly morph into a full-fledged redesigning of gun, abortion, religious, or free speech rights.
Right-wing organizations such as the John Birch Society oppose a convention out of fear that it could open the door to weakening constitutional rights.
So does Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a staunch Trump defender who wrote an entire book, “The Con of the Con-Con,” about the dangers of conventions.
“In states where you would have expected this to pass because they have Republican leadership, they’re firmly on our side because they’re scared about losing guns,” Harrison said.