Alaska politicians in black robes

Charles Lane is a relatively sane liberal who writes editorials for the Washington Post.  His latest is “Do we really want the Supreme Court to decide how partisan is too Partisan?”  The Court has agreed to review an appellate ruling from Wisconsin that said the Wisconsin Legislature’s redistricting plan was so partisan it was a violation of the equal protection clause.  Lane thinks the case should be reversed, and he’s right.

If the court unexpectedly upholds the lower court ruling it could spell trouble for the BBA movement.  The Wisconsin Legislature would be paralyzed by a new redistricting effort, with little time for things like Article V resolutions.

Anthony Kennedy will be the fifth and deciding vote, and while it’s highly unlikely he’ll go against his four conservative colleagues, with him you never know.  He may be retiring shortly.  Let’s hope so, and let’s all say a prayer of thanks for the Justice Neal Gorsuch appointment.  I don’t care how much you dislike Trump, if Clinton had won Scalia’s replacement would have been another whack job like Sotomayor.  And there would have been hell to pay.  We’d have the activist Warren court all over again, with what little that’s left of the Constitution in jeopardy.

If Kennedy wants to stick it in the eye of conservatives one last time, he would be making an enormous mistake.  As proof, I cite the record of the Alaska Supreme Court in redistricting cases.

Republican Jay Hammond reapportioned the legislature after the 1980 census, and his plan was challenged before the 1982 election.  The Supreme Court let the 1982 election take place with Hammond’s new districts, but when the election was over and Democrat Bill Sheffield was elected Governor, it revisited the case.

Justice Jay Rabinowitz had claimed to be on the fence in this case, but that was a lie.  Once a Democrat was in the Governor’s mansion, he found one insignificant flaw in one House District in Southeast.  Rather than order the small adjustment that was necessary, he gave the Democratic Governor a free hand to redraw the map of the entire state.

In the 1982 election, Republicans gained control of the legislature for the first time in Alaska’s short history, 11-9 in the Senate, and 21-19 in the House.  Under Sheffield’s new lines, in 1984 the Democrats were back in the majority.  Hammond had designed a State Senate district especially for me.  Sheffield made it impossible for me to stay in the Senate, so I ran for the House.

After every census since, in 1990, 2000, and 2010, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the redistricting plan was unconstitutional.  Unless you’re a lawyer, don’t bother reading these opinions.  If you are a lawyer, look at just one, Carpenter v. Hammond, 667 P2d 1204, 1983.   See if it makes one whit of sense to you.

The Alaska Supreme Court is a disgrace, and Senator Pete Kelly of Fairbanks tried to fix it.  The problem is the Alaska Judicial Council, which selects judges for the Governor to appoint, and is controlled by the Alaska Bar Association and the Supreme Court Chief Justice.   Conservative Governors have wanted to appoint conservative judges, but the Judicial Council refuses to allow them to be considered.

Alaska has a 1950’s era Constitution, written by liberal Democrats.  Kelly wanted to amend the Constitution, and reform the Judicial Council.  Republicans had the supermajorities needed to propose the amendment, but some weak kneed “moderates” wouldn’t go along.

Trump would not have been elected if Scalia’s seat had not been vacant.  Mitch McConnell, in one of his finer moments, kept it open, and deserves some credit for keeping Clinton out of the White House.  A fair number of conservatives only voted for Trump because of the Supreme Court.  They were right about that.

Because Trump made such an outstanding appointment with Gorsuch, Kennedy can retire knowing that his replacement will be cut from the same cloth.  We can expect another Gorsuch – like nominee.  There will be blood.

Because Roe v. Wade may be on the line, this will be the most contentious Supreme Court appointment fight in American history.  The left will disgrace itself with its rabid, half crazed opposition.

It all couldn’t come at a better time for Donald J. Trump.

The Phoenix Convention of States marches on

Since the States formed the federal government in 1787 there has been one national Convention of States, the Washington Peace Conference of 1861.  The Conventions held in Hartford in 1814 and Nashville in 1850 were sectional, not national meetings.  Hartford was about New England’s opposition to the War of 1812.  Nashville was about Southern efforts to head off the secessionists in South Carolina and elsewhere.

All that’s necessary for a successful national Convention of States is a call to Convention by one State, which is then answered positively by a quorum of the States in the union, 26 of 50.  With 32 States under complete Republican control, we’re assured of a quorum, but we want 50 out of 50.

My theory on why there hasn’t been a Convention in 156 years is complicated, but one element is partisanship.  If a Convention is called by Democrats to promote a Democratic solution to a problem the Republicans won’t come, and vice versa.

This partisanship almost prevented the first national Convention of States, called by Democratic Virginia.  The northern Republican States had just won the Presidential election, and didn’t feel inclined toward participating in a Democratic led effort to deal with the issue of slavery.  But, in the end, most of them came.  They wanted to make sure nothing was done to continue slavery.

Politically, a Democratic boycott of a Convention addressing the issue of a balanced budget amendment is foolish.  65% of Democratic voters support a BBA.  One of the most active Article V movements in the country, Wolf-PAC, is led by progressive Democrats.  Any sensible person, right or left, knows that the fear of a runaway Convention is moonshine.

We may see a replay of 1861, with the parties reversed.  The Democrats may decide to send Commissioners at the last minute.  We will do everything we can to encourage them to come.

The Arizona Legislature’s Convention planning committee is up and running, and no one from the Task Force will be participating.  These are formal interim legislative committee meetings and are subject to Arizona’s sunshine law, and will be conducted just like any other legislative committee.  The subject matter will be SHR 1.  The first full meeting will be Tuesday, June 27th at 2:00 Arizona time.  Listen in through this link. 

All indications point to a very successful Convention.  So successful that more such Conventions of States are probably going to be called.  My hunch is that a western State like Utah calls a national Convention of States on the subject of the Transfer of Public Lands.  The twelve western States who would be directly affected would send Commissioners.  The other western states from North Dakota down to Texas would also attend.  If they can convince enough States in the eastern half of the country to come, they could hammer out a proposed solution and send it to Congress.  If Congress ignores them they can start a TPL Article V campaign.

There will be other Conventions, on other subjects, which may be called from time to time.  With modern communications technology, all of these meetings need not be in person.  It all may develop into a new American tradition.

The States, acting together, can save their country.





Welcome to the swamp, Greg

Rep. Greg Gianforte made his maiden speech in Congress yesterday, and it didn’t go over very well.  He started talking about Congressional salaries, and how they should be suspended for failing to balance the budget.  There were boos from the Republican side, and an audible buzz of disapproval.

He said he wanted a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and term limits, and has signed on to be a sponsor.  Those bills were dead when they were introduced.  In this or any Congress, such bills are the stuff of dreamers.  Gianforte is not one of those, and it won’t take him long to understand there is no chance of Congress reforming itself.

Rep. Ken Buck was on the floor, no doubt, to hear his new colleague.  Maybe he’ll get a chance to have a frank conversation with Gianforte about life in the Swamp.  It ain’t pretty.

Gianforte expects to serve just two terms before running for Governor of Montana in 2020.  He won’t have time enough to have any real accomplishments in Congress.  He’ll want to spend as much time back at home in Montana as possible.  While he’s travelling the state he can talk about a balanced budget amendment to more effect than in the halls of Congress.

Avik Roy likes the Senate health care bill, so I think Cruz and Johnson can be convinced to vote for it.  This stuff is so complicated that you rely on experts you trust.  I trust Roy and James Capretta.  Roy twittered, this would be “the greatest policy achievement by a GOP Congress in my lifetime.” (thanks, Instapundit).

If so, hats off to Mitch McConnell.  He got the most conservative bill he could, and that’s as good as it’s going to get.  Cruz and Johnson will figure that out soon enough.  You can’t talk about doing something for seven years, and then get in power and not do it.

The Republicans really need to pass this bill.  If they don’t, this Congress is going to hell in a hand basket.  The worse it gets, the better it is for Article V, but I don’t want to lose the House.

At the actual Article V Convention, once the balanced budget amendment has been drafted and voted on, there will still be some business to conduct.  A Committee of Correspondence of the former commissioners can be formed, with several purposes in mind.

The first will be to monitor the ratification process.  After ratification, the Committee could continue in existence to monitor Congressional compliance with the BBA.  If they felt it was not being properly done, they could issue a call for a Convention of States to discuss what remedy should be pursued.

Maybe calling it a Committee of Correspondence is too grandiose.  They could call themselves the Assembly of States, or the Federal Assembly.  Such a body could prove of lasting significance.

George Soros vs. the Almighty Dollar

[CORRECTION  —   Former Montana State Representative Matthew Monforton did not write, or adopt as his own, the  views expressed by Erick Erickson in the article “Let’s Consider Secession”.  This error on my part has been corrected, and I apologize to Matthew for it,]

George Soros is famous as “The Man who Broke the Bank of England”.  He made a $10 billion bet against the pound sterling in 1992, and broke not only the bank but the Conservative government of Great Britain, which had staked its reputation on defending the pound’s value.  Labour won the next election in 1997, and ruled for thirteen years.

If Soros is no friend to the British, he’s a deadly and determined enemy of our country.  He hates it, and us, so much that it may be clouding his investment judgement.  I did read somewhere that he did lose some money in an investment that was predicated on American weakness.  He’d love to bet against the dollar, as he did against the pound.

I hope he’s already made that bet, and that’s why he and his various organizations are fighting the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, and will fight any use of Article V.  If Congress were forced to gradually balance its budget, over the course of a ten or even fifteen year time span, the dollar would be as mighty as it’s ever been.

National wealth is a strategic asset in a wild and woolly world.  Our national currency is a stand in for the country itself.  Defending the dollar is a patriotic duty of every American.   Passing a balanced budget amendment, through the use of Article V, would restore the republic.

This must be the work of the state legislators next year in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Idaho, Montana, Virginia, Kentucky and Minnesota.  We were hoping to get Wisconsin this year, but the opposition, mainly the John Birch Society, was too much.  The Senate is a problem that must be dealt with.

Voting on an Article V Resolution is different than any other vote a state legislator can make.  They only vote on issues within their state’s jurisdiction.  Nationally, they have no power, except that granted by Article V.

The power potential of Article V is so great that some are afraid to ever use it.  This is why we’re having a Convention of State in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.  I know it’s 120 degrees there, and planes can’t fly, but it’s a dry heat, and I’m sure it will cool off by September.

The weather doesn’t matter.  This is not some pleasure junket to Disneyland.  This is serious business, and Arizona and its Speaker, J. D. Mesnard, stepped forward and took leadership when it was needed, and the entire Task Force is indebted to them.

Rather than fear the abuse the power of Article V,  legislators need to show themselves capable of exercising some of it.  And because they have the power, they bear the responsibility.  That’s what everyone in attendance in Phoenix needs to understand.

Understand, and then communicate that understanding to their colleagues back at their own State Capitol.  They all swore an oath to respect, defend, and honor the Constitution.  They all ran for office with the intention of keeping that oath.  By serving in a state legislature, each individual member can only defend the Constitution, as they swore to do, in one positive way.

And that’s through the use of Article V.

One last word on secession.  It can only be done, constitutionally, through an Act of Congress.  Anything else is unconstitutional, unlawful, and treasonous.

If California wants to secede, it needs to ask Congress and the President.  Maybe there’s a deal out there that only Donald Trump could make.  Maybe there are terms of separation for the San Francisco Bay Area and greater L. A.

Barry Goldwater got in trouble for fantasizing about sawing off the northeast and letting it drift into the Atlantic.  I wouldn’t mind sawing off San Francisco and letting it float into the Pacific.

And a San Francisco Democrat is going to lead the Democrats to a House Majority next year?  Who’s crazy enough to believe that?


Secession? Hell no. Federalism.

In the four years I’ve been back in politics, the best part has been the friends I’ve made.  In the spring of 2014, on behalf of and funded by the National Tax Limitation Committee, I sent letters to all the Republican candidates for the Montana Legislature.  I  told them about the campaign for a balanced budget amendment through Article V, and asked them to sign a pledge to support it.

I got one response, from Matthew Monforton, a lawyer making his first run at the State House.  That summer I had breakfast with Matthew in Bozeman, along with my son Darren and half a dozen of his friends and business associates.  I’m UCLA Law, class of ’74.  Matthew is UCLA Law, class of ’94.  After he got out of law school he worked as a D.A. in southern California, and blew the whistle on some prosecutorial abuses.  He’s got guts.  Plus, he’s smart as a whip and a good guy.

Now Matthew writes occasionally at Erick Erickson’s web site, The Resurgent.  He’s posted on his Facebook account out  a piece by Erickson called Let’s Consider Secession.  Erickson is so disgusted with the Scalise shooting, and all the rest of it, that he thinks he might want a divorce.  Instead, let’s try a separation agreement.

Secession is a very bad idea.  It’s been threatened any number of times, but only tried once.  It was, and is, the worst idea in American history.  I won’t play with fire, and I won’t discuss secession.  Let’s keep our country, the greatest gift of our forefathers .  Let’s save it.

A separation agreement would have to be negotiated at a future Convention of States.  If 2/3 of the states can agree on the terms of separation, they would recommend the passage of 34 State legislative resolves.  These resolutions would set forth the terms of the separation agreement from the Convention of States in the form of a proposed amendment to the Constitution.  If ratified by 3/4 of the states, a peaceful and orderly separation will have been achieved.

None of this will happen at the Phoenix Convention.  It was called for one purpose, to plan for a Balanced Budget Amendment Convention, and it would be inappropriate to take up any other subject.  If anything else is even discussed, it would feed the big lie of runaway conventions.

But once the Phoenix Convention adjourns, the assembled state leaders could discuss the possibility of another Convention of States, to be held early in 2018, at a state Capitol to be determined.  If there is enough interest, the main subject of discussion would be, what shall the second Article V constitutional amendment be?

Term limits, or any other of Mark Levin’s amendments could be considered.  Alternatively the Republicans and Democrats present could discuss the terms of the legal separation that both sides seem to want.  Until these two sides meet and try to come to an agreement, any talk of secession is bad medicine.

Rather than post articles on secession, I’m going to try to convince Matthew to give the BBA another shot in Montana.  He worked his tail off after he was elected, trying to get our Resolution passed.  We’ve never had a sponsor, in any state, work harder.  But we got our butt kicked, bad.

Matthew had the eminent good sense not to seek reelection.  He’s wise beyond his years.  He’s a patriot, and a constitutional conservative.  And he’s got a lot to contribute.