This proposal aims to implement controls on Congress and other federal officials. Congress can make this easy by passing the necessary amendments and forwarding them to the states for ratification. It is almost certain that Congress will not do anything of the sort. Anything they have passed so far has contained major loopholes. The Supreme Court has removed even the loose restrictions that Congress had legislated. Think SuperPACs.
Our founders must have known this. They gave us a way to hold Congress accountable. Thirty-four states can require Congress to call a constitutional convention. Congress must call the convention but has the authority to set certain limits. A grassroots movement at the state level is the easiest (well, the least difficult) and practically the only way to force Congress to do the right thing.
Here we offer a template for a proposal to be used by the states, and of course the grassroots movements pushing those same states, in preparing their requests that Congress call a constitutional convention. We are looking forward to fine tuning it as we get comments from the state grassroots movements and our readers. Our proposed template, tailored from one that Lawrence Lessig has proposed in his book Republic, Lost, follows:
The state of Michigan, speaking through the voice of its legislature, pursuant to Article V of the Constitution, hereby petitions the Congress of the United States of America to call a convention for the purpose of proposing Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America.
Michigan also requests that members of the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, federal judges, and key executive branch officials not be permitted to be delegates to the convention.
Further, Michigan requests that the convention consider amendments consistent with the following items which deal with campaign finance, money used to run federal offices, and places certain restriction on what certain federal office holders can do after they leave office:
- Candidates for office can collect funds only after they have declared their candidacy. Only American citizens of age 18 or older living within their jurisdiction can make contributions. Individuals can only contribute up to $500 per election cycle. A candidate can only donate $500 to his or her own campaign. An election cycle begins when a person declares that he or she is a candidate and ends when an official is elected. All non-monetary contributions are prohibited. This includes but is not limited to travel, lodging, supplies, etc. Individuals may volunteer unlimited amounts of their own time.
- The money donated can be spent on the primary and election campaigns, nothing else. Money not spent does not belong to the candidate. Any remaining funds at the end of each election cycle must be distributed to certified charities active in the candidate’s jurisdiction and those charities must not have any relationships with the candidate which can cause any conflicts of interest. The only money that can be spent in a candidate’s quest to win a primary or general election are the campaign funds collected by the candidate. This will eliminate parallel campaigns such as those run by so called independent groups or individuals.
- Once an elected candidate is in office, all office expenses, e.g., staff, must be paid by the government. If something is worth doing, then the government, not a Special Interest Group, must pay for it. No office holder may receive gifts or fees for entertainment, travel, ghostwriting position papers, books, speeches, etc., from any outside source. The group writing proposed legislation will consist only of legislators and their staffs. Any individual or group can submit proposals for legislation.
- Office Holder shall not earn any money other than his or her government salary. The only exception is that received from savings and investments. (Investments must comply with existing law.) Examples of sources of income not permitted include but are not limited to speeches, books, articles, personal appearances, consulting, paid vacations, trips, dinners, physical gifts of any amount, etc.
Elected officials may not accept any position outside government in which they can influence government decisions for a period of three years upon leaving elected office. If the most remote possibility exists that government decisions may be influenced, then the three year waiting period applies.
- Political parties at all levels – national, state, county and city or town, etc. – are Special Interest Groups. They are, however, different from others in that their objectives are political, i.e., their main reason for existence is to elect their members to office. Political parties provide a useful setting for like minded people and they should be able to do some things that other Special Interest Groups can not:
- Write platform, mission, position and issue papers in any form including multimedia and make them available to their candidates
- Organize and run conventions
- Create ads and other promotional material and make them available to candidates. They can not, however, pay the cost associated with running the ads or the cost involved with use of any other promotional material by the campaign.
- Funding for political parties may come only from USA citizens who live within the geographical area of the organization to which they donated the funds and are 18 years of age or older. Individuals may contribute up to $400 per year per level (national, state, county and city or town, etc.). The money may be divided among more than one party. An individual is limited to a maximum of $1600 per year.
We know we face obstacles. That the Supreme Court confuses corporations with people provides ample evidence. We believe that a grassroots movement at the state level can force Congress to call a constitutional convention to write an amendment which will return political power to us, “We the People.”