Free Speech For People opposes efforts to convene a national constitutional convention in the current political climate. We remain committed to advancing the movement for a 28th Amendment to reclaim our democracy via the passage by Congress of an amendment bill and ratification by the states.

We take this position based on the following conclusions:

Free Speech For People was founded on January 21, 2010, the very day of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, a decision that helped unleash the era of big-money politics as we know it today. Since that day, we have worked to overturn Citizens United and related cases by a constitutional amendment. Our campaign has focused on pressing Congress to pass an amendment bill and send it to the states for ratification. Poll after poll consistently shows that about 75% of voters support a 28th amendment to overturn Citizens United and make our democracy responsive to ordinary Americans, not wealthy donors and corporations.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides two methods of passing constitutional amendments, but we, as a nation, have only used one method to enact the 27 amendments in the Constitution’s 230 year history. Under this method, two-thirds of both Houses of Congress pass an amendment, and then three-fourths of the states must ratify the amendment. This process is hard, but given the broad support of the American public across party lines for an amendment to overturn Citizens United, we can do it. We have catalyzed a “bottom-up,” grassroots strategy, in which state and local resolutions in support of the amendment lead the way. So far, 18 states (and over 730 local communities in 38 states) have passed resolutions in support of a 28th amendment overturning Citizens United and related cases.

Some of our allies in the movement for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy call for a different amendment process: a new constitutional convention called by the states. Article V of the Constitution provides that “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, [Congress] shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments.” Although this provision has never been used in 230 years, the Founders presumably imagined that there might be an occasion for its use.

However, in the current political climate, we oppose the call for a convention.

Our basis for this opposition is not unique. Many objections to a convention of the states have been put forth in a report by Common Cause. As this Common Cause report highlights, an Article V constitutional convention, at this particular time, would pose a serious threat to civil, voting, and constitutional rights, potentially reversing hard-won gains over many years in advancing the promise of a more inclusive democracy grounded in principles of equality and justice for all.  Although some have argued for a constitutional convention limited to the issue of reversing Citizens United, it is highly implausible that the requisite number of states would vote in support of such a convention.  Perhaps more importantly, there would be no legal basis in the Constitution or otherwise to enforce such a limitation after the convention was convened.  Everything would be on the table, including eliminating or narrowing essential constitutional protections.

Further, a convention could choose to lower the bar for ratification from the threshold set forth in Article V of the Constitution (three-fourths, or 38 states). That is precisely what happened at the original Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Article 13 of the then-binding Articles of Confederation stated that “the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.” But the Philadelphia Convention ignored the unanimous ratification requirement, and specified in Article VII of the proposed new Constitution that “[t]he Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.” If the Founders themselves ignored a ratification requirement, it is hard to rule out that today’s politicians might do so.