New Hampshire Rescinds Con-Con Calls

By:  Alex Newman
05/28/2010
       

Tim ComerfordThanks to the dedication of John Birch Society members and freedom-loving statesmen in New Hampshire, the state officially rescinded all past calls for a federal Constitutional Convention after a decades-long fight to educate legislators about the dangers.

Using materials such as Larry Greenley’s 2009 article for The New American magazine entitled "Dangers of a Constitutional Convention," a JBS DVD called "Beware of Article V," and a model resolution available on JBS.org, Birchers spread information and testified at committee hearings to highlight the enormous risks of a “con-con.” And this time around, they were successful.

In what witnesses described as a unanimous voice vote, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed HCR28 in mid March “rescinding all requests by the New Hampshire legislature for a federal constitutional convention.” The State Senate followed suit, approving the resolution earlier this month. And the Governor’s consent is not required.  

“This has been a very long battle,” explained JBS volunteer New Hampshire Section Leader Bill McNally, who legislators and JBS officials credited with being one of the primary movers of the effort. “It started in 1988 when the Birch Society alerted us that we needed to rescind the calls for a con-con.… We had that battle nearly won until President Reagan called the House Majority Leader and basically told him that this was a bad idea.”

But after many attempts and a lot of work, McNally and other Birchers were finally able to get the necessary support among lawmakers, all the while learning through their experiences. “It’s been a long fight, but it’s an interesting educational process because no one understood the Article V,” McNally told JBS.org in a telephone interview. 

Harold Shurtleff, the JBS Coordinator for the North East region of the U.S., offered some insight into the triumph. “I think the key thing is building relationships with people — especially legislators. Patience is a virtue here, and also having the right material,” he said, pointing out that the Society’s educational material played a key role. “And just because a person may have a D beside their name doesn’t mean they won’t help us. It was a Democrat House that passed this in New Hampshire, so it’s not a left-right issue.”

About half-a-dozen Birchers testified in favor of the resolution. “The JBS was pretty much alone in this one, which is not unusual,” he said, adding that it was members who deserved most of the credit. “Most people know nothing about this, or they sympathize with the notion of a con-con, but let them read our material or view our DVD, and they change pretty quickly,” Shurtleff explained. He’s also working in other states to have them rescind their calls.    

The whole issue of constitutional conventions remains mysterious, and there are many unanswered questions about how and when one should be convened, what limitations there could be, if any, and more. Everybody seems to have different answers. But the danger to the American form of government is extraordinary.  

“A Constitutional Convention could really open up a can of worms — there’s no constitutional mechanism to limit the delegates to a specific topic no matter how much the legislatures think they can,” explained liberty-minded Republican New Hampshire Rep. Tim Comerford, who introduced the resolution. “The only other convention the U.S. has ever had was a runaway convention that was meant to amend the Articles of Confederation. They created a whole new Constitution, and while we got a good Constitution, I don’t think we’d get anything good these days; it’d become a lobbyist free-for-all.”

Comerford said he distributed the ‘Beware of Article V’ DVD to fellow legislators and that it helped him refine his talking points. The 24-year-old, first-term legislator told JBS.org that he received an e-mail from the Senate President in Florida urging him to defeat his own resolution. But for the most part, there was very little opposition to it once fellow lawmakers and citizens understood the implications of a con-con.

It’s a very risky proposition, Comerford said, and plus: “there’s no real sense in putting a balanced budget amendment in there — they don’t really follow the rest of [the Constitution] anyway.” He said he would support a constitutional amendment to limit Congress’ power to borrow money, but that it should be adopted using the other option available through Article V which has been used for all previous amendments — approval by two thirds of Congress and three fourths of the states.  

Rather than calling for a con-con, a better solution to America’s out-of-control federal government would be to force it to obey the Supreme Law of the Land as it stands today. As Jack Kenny pointed out in a recent article for The New American: “if Congress heeded the existing Constitution, there would be no need for a balanced-budget amendment, since much of the federal spending authorized by our Representatives and Senators bears little to no relation to the legislative powers delegated to Congress by the Constitution.” Or as attorney Gregory A. Hession wrote: “virtually every overreach of the federal government can be checked by applying the chains of the existing Constitution! So why chance a convention?”

While the nation may be dangerously close to a con-con, the victory in New Hampshire is certainly encouraging news. Hopefully it will lead legislators in other states to take notice and educate themselves and their colleagues on the dangers. And while many state lawmakers are undoubtedly well intentioned, the risks are simply too great at this point to consider calling a convention a good idea. The Constitution may not be perfect, but losing it could very well mean the end of mankind’s greatest experiment in liberty — forever.

Photo: Rep. Tim Comerford

Alex NewmanAlex Newman is an American freelance writer and the president of Liberty Sentinel Media, Inc., a small media consulting firm. He is currently living in Sweden and has spent most of his life in Latin America, Europe and Africa. He has a degree in foreign languages and speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian and a little Swedish and Afrikaans. In addition, he earned a degree in journalism from the University of Florida, with emphasis on economics and international relations.

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