Michael Farris is the co-founder of the Convention of States Project and Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies at Citizens for Self-Governance. In the article below -- originally published in the Bonner County Daily Bee -- he explains why he began to fight for the Article V movement and where he imagines the Project is heading. (Photo by Mary Malone)
When Michael Farris was a young man starting out in politics, his father told him, "Don't ever tell people there is a problem until you give them a path for the solution."
Farris, who was in Sandpoint Saturday for the Inland Northwest Freedom Festival, is the co-founder of the Convention of States Project that is sweeping America. Farris told the Daily Bee he came to four conclusions following the 2012 presidential election: Washington, D.C., is "drunk with power;" things in Washington, D.C., are never going to be fixed; the Founding Fathers gave the states the ability to do something about it; and — it is time to do something about it.
Farris begged the question, "Do I trust Washington, D.C., to decide how much power it should have, or do I trust the average person in every bowling alley in America to decide how much power Washington, D.C. should have?"
"That's an easy one," Farris said. "I'll take the bowling alleys. I'll take anyone other than Washington, D.C."
The Founding Fathers did not give that power to the bowling alleys, but they did give it to the states. Under Article V of the United States Constitution, there are two processes that would allow amendment of the Constitution. The first is a congressional proposal requiring two-thirds of the House and Senate to "deem it necessary," and the other is a convention requiring two-thirds of the states. The states can then propose amendments, which would be valid if ratified by legislatures of three-fourths of the states.
Farris has been on Capitol Hill for more than 30 years and has served as lead counsel in cases before the United States Supreme Court, eight federal circuit courts and the appellate courts of 13 states. He is also known for his legal defense of homeschooling. Farris worked with a team of litigators in an Article V case where Congress proposed the equal rights amendment with an original deadline of about seven years and then reportedly changed the deadline, tacking on an additional three-and-a-half years. During that litigation he went to the National Archives and held in his hand all the original ratification documents from the 13th amendment to modern times.
"Because of that case I have a deep background in Article V and one of the few lawyers who can say they have litigated an Article V case," Farris said.
It is with that background that he decided to start the Convention of States project.
Eight states have gotten behind the Convention of States movement since its founding in 2013, including Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Farris said there is work to do in Idaho in order for people to understand the problem, understand the history of the Constitution and to understand this is a realistic solution. He feels it is realistic because it is not like a presidential election — he doesn't need 50 million people to understand it; he needs somewhere between 300,000 and 3 million.
This week, legislators from 48 states are in Colonial Williamsburg, Va., acting as commissioners for the first Article V Simulated Convention of States. Wednesday through Friday, those in attendance will perform a test run of an actual Article V convention to consider amendment proposals that, according to a press release by the Convention of States project, will "impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and set term limits for its officials and for members of congress."
Legislators from Idaho will be attending the simulation including Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, and Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona.
In the press release, Farris said, "Change in personnel will not restore liberty, but state legislators can institute change to our governing structure through an Article 5 Convention of States."