Convention of States Action
Convention of States Action is a 501 (c)(4) project founded by Citizens for Self Governance (CSG). It is often referred to as simply "Convention of the States" (COS) or "the Convention of States Project." CSG, founded by Eric O'Keefe and Mark Meckler, is "heading up" the to push for a constitutional convention in order to severely restrict federal power. Meckler described his group's goals to "stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power." According to the organization's handbook, it aims to "go AROUND the Washington political establishment and rein in the out-of-control federal government PERMANENTLY" (emphasis from source).
Common Cause called COS "a more far-reaching plan" than an Article V convention, advocating for "a complete change in how the federal government operates." According to The Dangerous Path report, COS "has deep ties" to the tea party movement, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Koch brothers."
Potential outcomes range from redefining the Commerce Clause to prohibit Congress from enacting protections against child labor laws, to adding a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. CSG has promoted this strategy in workshops at the 2012 and 2013 annual conference of ALEC, which has published a "how-to" manual for an Article V constitutional amendment and offers a "model" resolution, the "Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution."
"Various activist groups have sought to amend the constitution on specific points through an Article V convention before, but few have been as well-funded or as ideologically driven as the Convention of States Project, steeped in evangelical Christianity and backed by millions of dollars in dark money. Between 2011 and 2015, the group’s budget more than tripled to $5.7 million—buoyed by donations from the Mercer Family Foundation and various donor-advised funds linked to the Koch brothers," Brendan O'Connor reported in June 2017. Arn Pearson of the Center for Media and Democracy said “Convention of States is a much more radical approach to a constitutional convention... Their budget has increased dramatically. This is their effort to push the state agenda as far as they can while they hold peak power.”
- 1 News and Controversies
- 2 COS Plan
- 3 Ties to Conservative Groups and Politicans
- 4 Mock Constitutional Convention
- 5 Convention of States Article V Application Gaining Momentum
- 6 Funding
- 7 Core Financials
- 8 Personnel
- 9 Contact
- 10 References
News and Controversies
Emerging Leaders Program
COS hires college students and high school seniors for an internship program called the "Emerging Leaders Program." In an interview by Prager U, all of the Students were from Hillsdale College. The interns work remotely, as COS does not have an office space.
Claims Medicare-for-All is "we need to call an Article V Convention of States"
Following the first congressional hearings on Medicare-for-All, a proposal in its current iteration put forth by Rep. Pramila Jayapal COS claimed that "Nationalized healthcare" is "why we need to call an Article V Convention of States." The COS argument is that "the Founders never imagined that the federal government would control industries as massive as our healthcare system -- or any industries at all" further stating that an article five convention should be called to so that the United States can return to the "Founders' original vision."
In a Facebook live video mid-April 2019, COS founder Mark Meckler said "North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan" in regards to which states COS is "shooting for right now."
COS no longer hosts their plan on their "about" page. An archived version of that page states that the plan "is twofold." The first step listed is to get 34 states to pass resolutions to call a convention of states on the same subject. "We are working with state legislators around the country to call a convention for a specific subject: Limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government." The second step is to recruit 100 citizens in 40 states "who are ready to contact their state legislators in at least 75% of the state legislative districts."
Ties to Conservative Groups and Politicans
The leadership of the COS is staffed with alumni of various conservative organizations. Meckler is a founder of the Tea Party Patriots and writer at The Daily Caller. O'Keefe is a founding Board Member of the Institute for Free Speech, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and numerous other conservative groups. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint both serve as senior advisors to COS. DeMint resigned from the Senate to become the president of the Heritage Foundation but was ousted after failing to resolve issues to the satisfaction of the board. Coburn is a Republican politician who has been called "one of the real far-right guys" for his stances as "a top anti-abortion crusader," proclaiming "I am a global warming denier" and fearmongering over what he calls the "gay agenda" alongside austerity budgeting. Coburn joined the Manhattan Institute in 2016 as a Senior Fellow.
COS boasts endorsements of its ideas from Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Gov. Greg Abbott, Rand Paul, Gov. Sarah Palin, Ben Shaprio, Sen. Marco Rubio, Charlie Kirk, James O'Keefe, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ron Johnson, David Horowitz and other conservatives.
Mock Constitutional Convention
Convention of States hosted a three-day simulated constitutional convention in September 2016 in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The promotional video, invoking a sense of nostalgia, describes the city as the place "where liberty was born". A nearly seven-hour video of the "historic simulation" is available on the organization's YouTube channel here. The mock convention passed amendments related to right-wing agenda items, easing the process to repeal federal regulations, requiring approval to increase the national debt, imposing congressional term limits, repealing the 16th amendment, limiting the Commerce Clause and requiring a supermajority to impose federal taxes.
Convention of States Article V Application Gaining Momentum
In March 2014 the Convention of States application was passed by the state of Georgia, making it the nation's first. During the 2017 legislative session, COS introduced wide-ranging resolutions calling for a broad convention to limit the powers of the federal government in 24 states and won passage in four, Arizona, Missouri, North Dakota, and Texas, bringing the total number of states to pass COS resolutions to 12, as of June 2017. Most of the states that have passed Convention of State resolutions are in the deep south, prompting some critics to call it the “New Confederacy.”
Convention of the States Action is a project Citizens for Self Governance (CSG) which files its tax forms under the name John Hancock Committee for the States. COS's budget more than tripled between 2011 and 2015. CSG does not disclose its donors; however, organizations that have reported making contributions to CSG include:
- Abell-Hanger Foundation: $500 (2013, matching gifts program)
- Donors Capital Fund: $1,500,000 (2015)
- DonorsTrust: $691,916.16 (2012) and $97,000 (2014)
- Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking: $250,000 (2011), $50,000 (2010)
- Greater Houston Community Foundation (a donor-advised fund): $1,164,268 (2012) $859,382 (2011)
- Mercer Family Foundation: $500,000 (2014)
- Strake Foundation: $2,500 (2013)
- Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program (a donor-advised fund): $1,600,000 (2013), $900,000 (2012)
Years listed indicate FY of tax filing and may not indicate calendar year grant was received.
Convention of the States Action is a project CSG. Click to see the core financials of CSG.
As of April 2019:
- Eric O'Keefe, Chairman of the board
- Mark Meckler, President
- Tom Coburn, Senior Advisor
- Jim Demint, Senior Advisor
5850 San Felipe
Houston, TX 77057
- COS about archived website, access April 2019
- Emma Roller Conservatives’ Improbable New ‘Convention of States’ Project Slate, Dec 23, 2013
- Citizens for Self Governance Pocket Guide Booklet promotional materials, accessed April 23, 2019
- Jay Riestenberg and Dale Eisman The Dangerous Path Common Cause Education, May 2016
- Brendan Fischer, Wisconsin Moving to Advance ALEC Constitutional Convention Scheme, Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, February 10, 2014.
- Brendan O'Connor, Koch Brothers' Former Right-Hand Man's New Gig: Helping Reactionaries Dismantle the Constitution, Fusion, June 12, 2017.
- Arn Pearson, Koch Convention to Rewrite Constitution Runs into Roadblocks, Exposed by CMD, June 12, 2017.
- COS COS Internship Citizens for Self Governance, accessed May 9, 2019
- Sarah Kliff Medicare-for-all: Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s new bill, explained Vox Feb 26, 2019
- COS Blog Congress holds hearing on government takeover of the healthcare industry blog post, April 30, 2019
- Convention of the States Battle Cry! (quote from around 13 minutes in) Facebook live, April 14, 2019
- COS home organizational site, accessed April 22, 2019
- Jessia Taylor [Jim DeMint Ousted From Heritage Foundation In Major Shake-Up https://www.npr.org/2017/05/02/526617944/jim-demint-ousted-from-heritage-foundation-in-major-shake-up] NPR May 2, 2017
- Robert Schlesinger Medicine Man Salon via the Wayback Machine, Sept 13, 2007
- Carol Hulse Democrats Try to Break Grip of the Senate’s Dr. No New York Times July 28, 2008
- Alex Brown Tom Coburn Labels Himself a "Global Warming Denier" The Atlantic Aug 27, 2017
- Manhattan Institute Former Senator Tom Coburn Joins Manhattan Institute as Senior Fellow press release, Dec 16, 2016
- COS endorsements organizational site, accessed April 23, 2019
- Arn Pearson Koch Convention to Rewrite Constitution Runs Into Roadblocks Exposed by CMD, June 12, 2017
- John Hancock Committee for the States d/b/a Citizens for Self Governance, 2013 IRS Form 990, tax filing, December 15, 2014.
- Abell-Hanger Foundation, 2013 IRS Form 990, tax filing, November 14, 2014.
- Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, 2012 IRS Form 990, tax filing, February 25, 2013.
- Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, 2011 IRS Form 990, tax filing, April 16, 2012.
- Greater Houston Community Foundation, 2012 IRS Form 990, tax filing, May 13, 2013. Grant purposes included $4,268 for Tocqueville Project, and remainder for overhead expenses.
- Greater Houston Community Foundation, 2011 IRS Form 990, tax filing, August 7, 2012. Grant purposes included $285,000 for research and education, $5,636 and $3,494 for Tocqueville Project payroll in September and October 2011, $200,000 for operation costs through the end of December, $360,000 for overhead, and $5,252 for payroll and services provided by Aquinas Companies.
- Mercer Family Foundation, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, November 15, 2015.
- Strake Foundation, 2013 IRS Form 990, tax filing, December 1, 2014.
- Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, 2013 IRS Form 990, tax filing, November 13, 2014.
- Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, 2012 IRS Form 990, tax filing, October 15, 2013.