If you are not familiar with the Koch brothers and their Libertarian agenda – it is time for a crash course. Your constitutional rights may depend on it.
Even though conservatives believe the Constitution is practically holy writ, many are now pushing hard for a constitutional convention that could rapidly amend or abolish it.
Conservatives are rallying behind two related causes to justify such a drastic course of action. One is the perceived size of the federal government. The other is the national debt, which hovers around $20 trillion.
Under Article V of the Constitution, Congress must convene a constitutional convention if 34 state legislatures request one. Since last year’s elections, Republicans now control 33 state legislatures. In February, Wyoming became the 29th state to introduce a resolution calling for a convention.
America’s last constitutional convention was in 1787. But this is not the first time states have called for a constitutional convention.
The difference this time, though, is that the push is coming not from a groundswell of grassroots discontent, but from a more menacing source: the Koch brothers. The brothers – owners of Koch Industries, one of the nation’s largest polluters – are behind a network of organizations pouring money into the effort to remake America.
As the Center for Media and Democracy’s Alex Kotch reported last month:
“The Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity says it favors a balanced budget convention. Such an austerity amendment would drastically cut the size of the federal government, threatening critical programs like Social Security and Medicare and eviscerating the government’s ability to respond to economic downturns, major disasters and the climate crisis. … [The Kochs] continue to be a bedrock funder of the entire convention ‘movement.'”
Through groups with benign-sounding names like Donors Trust, the Greater Houston Community Foundation, the Knowledge and Progress Fund, and the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, the Koch brothers and their allies have developed a network of right-wing organizations eager to slash the social safety net and weaken the federal government.
One of the other major players in the convention game is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Kotch describes ALEC as a “corporate bill mill.” The group facilitates collaboration between big corporations and politicians to pass business-friendly legislation. ALEC has received an estimated $1 million from the Koch brothers, and has already developed “model” balanced-budget amendments.
But a constitutional convention is a legislative Pandora’s box. If the Koch brothers and their conservative partners did manage to orchestrate a convention – even one in which the stated objective is merely to balance the federal budget – anything could happen. A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights the major concerns:
“A convention could write its own rules. No constitutional convention has been called since the 1787 meeting that wrote the Constitution, and the Constitution provides no guidance whatsoever on what a convention’s ground rules would be.
“A convention could set its own agenda, possibly influenced by powerful interest groups. The only constitutional convention in U.S. history, in 1787, went far beyond its mandate. … There is no guarantee that a convention could be limited to a given set of issues, such as balancing the budget.”
If a GOP-led constitutional convention decided to unilaterally overturn Roe v. Wade or completely abolish the EPA, there’s nothing to stop it from doing so.
Last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for legislation authorizing a convention of states and published a 70-page plan to restrict federal authority through constitutional amendments. Watch his address before the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin below:
Featured image via YouTube video.