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Washington Free Beacon: "A grassroots effort to amend the Constitution"

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Stephen Gutowski and published on the Washington Free Beacon.

A group of activists are building a network with the goal of amending the Constitution by calling a convention of the states.

Ever since Rick Santelli’s rant heard round the world millions of Americans have searched for a way to limit the federal government and restrain its spending habits. First came mass rallies across the country. Then came the organizations dedicated to winning elections and influencing policies.

Despite significant electoral victories, many question whether any practical progress has been made. With many of the first wave Tea Party groups now focused on raising money and little else, one of the first Tea Party leaders is moving on to a campaign he believes could deliver the real world results which have remained elusive.

Following Santelli’s famous outburst Mark Meckler helped organize one of the first Tea Party protests on Feb. 27, 2009, in Sacramento, Calif. By March of that year Meckler and a group of other activists founded the Tea Party Patriots. The group quickly became one of the most prominent in the new movement and remains among the most influential Tea Party groups still active today.

Meckler left the Tea Party Patriots in early 2012, and in April of that year he formed Citizens for Self-Governance. Today Meckler and Citizens for Self-Governance are undertaking a grassroots campaign to force Congress to call a convention of states and amend the constitution.

“I think it’s self evident that Congress will never propose anything that restrains its own power or actually restrains the federal government in any way,” Meckler said. “Today 66 percent of Americans say that the federal government is too big so that’s not even partisan. Ask people on the left. Ask people on the right. They think D.C.’s out of control.”

“The question that’s always asked is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’”

Meckler believes a convention of states is the answer. Article 5 of the Constitution allows for the states to call for a constitutional convention to discuss new amendments.

“The reality is the founders put this gem in Article 5 and it was aimed straight at state legislators. It was like a message in a bottle across the hundreds of years,” Meckler said. “That message says ‘someday the federal government will get out of control and we’ve given you a mechanism whereby you actually have full authority over the federal government.’”

“We’re proposing, specifically, restrictions on the scope, power, and jurisdiction of the federal government, fiscal restrictions on the federal government, and term limits on the federal government.”

Amending the Constitution through a convention of states isn’t easy. Thirty-four states must approve of the convention by passing bills called “applications” and agree on the subjects to be debated at it. Then, if a proposal makes it out of the convention, 38 states must ratify it for it to become law.

The Constitution has never been successfully amended through a convention of states, nor has a convention of states ever been called.

Meckler said he used to think the idea was a pipe dream until Mike Farris explained how it could be done.

Mike Farris is the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He has argued cases in over a dozen states, eight federal circuit courts, and even before the Supreme Court. He played a leading role in legalizing home schooling throughout much of the country.

He not only believes calling a convention of states is possible, he has a concrete plan to get it done.

“Politics always goes to a majority of those who participate,” Farris said. “If we were trying to get electoral activity on this then we would have to convert about 35 percent of the American public to be activists in our cause because when you take the number of people who are registered to vote and then you take the number of registered voters who actually show up to vote about 35 percent of the public can carry pretty much any election you want.”

“But this is lobbying. There are no elections involved. … So, the premise is, if we can get 100 people to call their state legislator on this issue, and we can get our message delivered to 75 percent of the legislators in 40 states, we can win.”

According to Farris the numbers work out to be relatively manageable.

“There are 4,000 state legislators in the 40 states most likely to take this up,” he said. “So, 75 percent of that number is 3,000. 100 times 3,000 is 300,000 people, 1/10th of 1 percent of the American public.”

“And so, the question is ‘can we organize a movement of 1/10th of 1 percent of the American Public who believes in limited government?’ I completely believe that is possible.”

Farris said his successful home schooling movement required more supporters.

“We were told in the beginning of the home schooling movement that we could never overcome the National Education Association, which was the biggest lobbying group in every state. Well, in state after state after state we beat them. We out hustled them. We out worked them. We were right on the issues and we believed that God blessed.”

“We think the same combination of things are possible here.”

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