The John Birch Society & Liberal Group Oppose Article V Efforts In Montana

Helena – Every legislative session has its signature moments when landmark legislation makes its way through the democratic process. This year will be no different. The Montana legislature is grappling with Medicaid expansion, Charter schools and the transfer of federal lands. One of the most important bills, HJR 4, calls for a Convention of the States for the limited purpose of proposing a federal balanced budget amendment.

If the Montana legislature were to pass HJR 4, the ‘Big Sky’ State would join twenty-four other States that have passed similar legislation which taps into the vast powers granted to the States under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. This authority empowers the States, upon the application of two-thirds the State legislatures, to call a convention to propose amendment(s) which three-quarters (38) must ratify. The States have never used this power, as all twenty-seven amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been proposed by Congress.

Aligned against HJR 4 is an unholy alliance of left and right leaning organizations including the Montana Budget and Policy Center (MBPC), a liberal think-tank funded by leftist agitator George Soros, and the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. Why? Because they are both terrified that Montana legislators might rediscover their power under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, and use it to help save the American dream by supporting HJR 4!

The MBPC fears a balanced budget amendment because it would strip liberals of their greatest power: the ability to borrow unlimited sums to pay off their constituents with handouts and freebies. The John Birch Society fears a successful convention because it would deprive them of their biggest propaganda and fundraising tool which preys on constituent fears of a ‘run-away’ convention.

This threat of a ‘run-away’ convention was first floated in the 1960s and 70s by liberals like Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg to protect three unpopular Supreme Court decisions (Prayer in Schools, Roe V. Wade, etc.) from conservative lawmakers who were threatening to reverse these decisions using Article V. The run-away convention myth was used again in the late 1970s by liberal V.P. Walter Mondale to scare conservative lawmakers away from using Article V to propose Ronald Reagan’s balanced budget amendment.

While it was the liberals who first peddled this false anti-Article V propaganda, it was the John Birch Society who swallowed it hook, line and sinker. The JBS has become infamous for their zealous opposition to a convention, peddling it as a constitution-destroying mob of delegates to scare rural state voters and raise millions. All that, despite the fact that Ronald Reagan dismissed the run-away convention myth in a 1979 radio interview:

“Voices have been raised warning of danger that a convention would open the door to all manner of proposed amendments. In my view, those who warn of this show little faith in our democratic procedures.”

Sadly, the JBS has been duped by those on the far left into attacking the only constitutional method by which the rural right-leaning states they represent can push back against the overreaching policies of liberals in Washington DC. All the while they naively proclaim nullification as the cure for all that ails us, despite the fact that any state law (including nullification laws) can be declared unconstitutional by the federal courts.

In order to sabotage the campaign to propose and ratify a balanced budget amendment via a Convention of the States, the JBS and MBPC have launched attacks on five different fronts.

Proof of this can be found in a memo to legislators which surfaced that purported to advise them on how to lob softballs toward speakers against Article V opponents (like JBS folks) while avoiding questions to knowledgeable Article V proponents. The memo came from the Montana Budget and Policy Center, a spin-off of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities… which is heavily funded by George Soros.

Among other things, the message said: “We strongly urge committee members to AVOID talking about a balanced budget amendment, instead focusing on the lack of certainty in calling a convention.  We also strongly urge that you resist asking Rob Natelson questions and instead direct your questions to the John Birch Society.”  Then the memo offered soft questions to pose to the Article V opponents.

The first attack on the convention attempts to tie it to the original constitutional convention in which they accuse our founding fathers of going beyond the scope of their authority by proposing a new Constitution. The JBS & MBPC claim our founders went beyond the authority granted them by the Confederation Congress which only empowered them to make changes to the existing Articles of Confederation.
This charge is absolutely false.

First of all, the Article V Convention has a number of safeguards that the Constitutional Convention did not which disproves the false assertion that a modern-day convention would automatically run-away. For example, the convention delegates can propose amendments, not ratify them. That requires a separate vote of 38 States.

Secondly, they base their charge that our founders ‘ran-away’ on a snippet from the resolution which the Confederation Congress passed on February 21st, 1787, which called for the Constitutional Convention to be held for the “sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.”

What they fail to mention is that the members of the Confederation Congress knew they didn’t have the power to place limits on the Constitutional Convention. That’s why they began the above resolution with the following strategic words:

“Resolved that in the opinion of Congress.”

This illustrates their recognition that they could not place any limits on the convention, only issue an opinion on what they’d like the limits to be.
In reality, the Articles of Confederation constituted a treaty between 13 states that retained full sovereignty. This allowed them to call the Constitutional Convention and dictate its purpose. Of the thirty-nine delegates who signed the Constitution, only two from Massachusetts went beyond the scope of their authority. Two rogue delegates hardly qualifies the 1787 convention as a run-away.

Final proof that the Constitutional Convention did not run away is evidenced by the fact that when the Constitution was presented to the members of the Confederation Congress (a mere formality), they passed it along to the States for ratification. If they truly had the power to place limits on the convention, and they thought our founders had gone beyond the scope of their authority, they would have rejected the Constitution.

The second attack on the convention propagates the false notion that the delegates could change the rules for ratification just like our founders did when they stipulated that three-quarters of the States must ratify the Constitution. That, as opposed to the Articles of Confederation which required that any changes be approved by every member state.

This charge is absolutely false.

First of all, our founders weren’t bound by the Articles of Confederation, and therefore they could propose whatever ratification requirements they deemed wise.

Secondly, the delegates to a modern-day convention could not change the ratification rules because they are governed by Article V of the U.S. Constitution which already dictates the rules for ratification.

If the delegates to a convention were to propose a repeal of the 2nd amendment and claim that only a majority of the States (25) were needed to ratify, thirty Republican state legislatures would refuse to ratify the amendment while the Supreme Court declared the ratification rule change unconstitutional.

The third attack on the convention claims that representation at the convention would follow the Electoral College which means Montana would only get 3 delegates and California would get 55.

This charge is absolutely false.

First of all, there is no such provision in the Constitution. Furthermore, Article V explicitly dictates that each state gets one vote at every step in the amendment process, including the call for a convention which requires thirty-four and the ratification vote which requires thirty-eight states. Neither of these steps gives California a greater vote than Montana. As such, there is no constitutional basis to suggest that the apportionment of votes within the convention would follow that of the Electoral College.

The fourth attack on the convention suggests that Congress could control the selection of convention delegates.

This charge is absolutely false.

First of all, there is no place in the Constitution in which this power is granted to Congress. Accordingly, that power is ceded to the States as dictated by the 10th amendment.

The last attack on the convention reminds us that half of the original thirty-two states that called for a convention to propose Ronald Reagan’s balanced budget amendment rescinded their applications over the last two decades which proves that the convention process is dangerous.

This charge is absolutely false.

When Ronald Reagan left office in 1989, he laid down the Article V / balanced budget amendment mantle. This launched a twenty year span in which the John Birch Society was free to poison the minds of hundreds of state legislators as its paid operatives convinced over a dozen states to reverse their applications.

Since 2010 however, legislators and citizen-activists have exposed the falseness of their attacks. This inspired Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and even Tennessee (which rescinded its application in 2012) to reapply in 2014! These states were joined by Ohio and Michigan as states that had never applied before. That leaves us with 24!

The tide has turned against the JBS and its liberal cohorts at the MBPC because the truth about Article V has been exposed. The campaign for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment is being decided in 12 additional states this legislative session which makes it possible to reach thirty-four states by July 4th, 2015!

Those in the Montana legislature who are deciding whether to support HJR 4 must recognize that these attacks are being launched from behind the scenes by the George Soros funded MBPC which is using the unwitting dupes at the John Birch Society as their delivery vehicle.

To believe these attacks and vote against HJR 4 is to believe liberals like Arthur Goldberg and Walter Mondale, along with extremists like George Soros. That, as opposed to the greatest founders and presidents like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison, Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan who were strong believers in the right of the States to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution via a Convention of the States.

When articulating his view of the constitutional amendment process, Abraham Lincoln described his preference for amendments proposed by a Convention of the States as opposed to Congress:

“I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves.”

Congress has had over forty years to propose a balanced budget amendment, and it has proven that it will never do so by refusing the public call each year. As such, the only remaining option is for the States to call a convention for the limited purpose of proposing a balanced budget amendment.

The time has come to pick up the mantle that Ronald Reagan laid down 25 years ago, and carry it through to the finish line by supporting HRJ 4 in order to prevent national bankruptcy and save the American dream!

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