Citizens for Self-Governance

Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) is a conservative American nonprofit political organization.[3] In 2015, it launched a nationwide initiative calling for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution to reduce federal spending.[4] The group's efforts are focused on imposing fiscal restraint on Washington D.C., reducing the federal government's authority over states, and imposing term limits on federal officials.[3] As of 2019, the organization's resolution has passed in 15 states.[5][6] A total of 34 states would need to pass such a resolution in order for a Convention to Amend the Constitution to be called per Article V. The organization funded and won a class action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service over the agency's politically oriented targeting of conservative organizations. The group is based in Austin, Texas.[2]

Citizens for Self-Governance
Logo of Citizens for Self-Governance.png
Type501(c)(3)[1]
Location
Region served
United States
President
Mark Meckler
Key people
Jim DeMint
Websiteselfgovern.com

LeadershipEdit

Mark Meckler serves as president of CSG.[7] Meckler was previously co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots before resigning from that group.[8]

Tim Dunn was a founding board member.[9]

Eric O'Keefe is the current chairman of the board as of April 2020.[9]

ActivitiesEdit

Lawsuit against the Internal Revenue ServiceEdit

In May 2013, CSG filed a class action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service, alleging violations under the Privacy Act as well as violations of constitutional rights guaranteeing free expression and equal protection under the law.[10][11] The lawsuit stemmed from IRS targeting of conservative groups for more scrutiny as they applied for tax-exempt status.[10][12] In April 2015, a federal judge ordered the IRS to turn over the list of 298 groups it had targeted for intrusive scrutiny.[13] The IRS failed to turn over the list, filing a petition for a writ of mandamus from the appellate court so that it would not have to disclose information on groups the agency had targeted.[14]

In March 2016, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a unanimous ruling rebuking the IRS and giving the agency two weeks to produce the names of organizations it had targeted based on their political leanings.[15][16][17] In October 2017, the IRS settled with the tea party groups for $3.5 million. In August 2018, Judge Michael Ryan Barrett approved the $3.5 million settlement between the IRS and hundreds of tea party groups on "what all sides now agree was unwarranted and illegal targeting for political purposes."[18] The IRS expressed its "sincere apology" for mistreating conservative organizations in their applications for nonprofit status.[19]

Convention of StatesEdit

CSG has called for a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution.[20][21][9]

According to Meckler:

By calling a convention of states, we can stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power. The current situation is precisely what the Founders feared, and they gave us a solution we have a duty to use.[20]

CSG has opened numerous chapters across the nation to urge state legislators to summon a national convention; for example, in Virginia, the group sponsored the founder of Patrick Henry College, Michael Farris, to launch a Convention of States Project which is a forum for delegates appointed by state governments to propose amendments to the constitution.[22]

In December 2013, nearly 100 legislators from 32 states met at Mount Vernon to talk about how to call a convention of states. According to Slate, "The meeting lasted four hours, ending when legislators agreed to meet again in the spring of 2014. That’s the most progress anyone’s made in decades toward a states-first constitutional amendment campaign." CSG provided the legislators with briefing books that laid out a plan to call a convention of states.[23]

In March 2014, Georgia became the first state to pass CSG's convention of states application.[24] As of 2019, a total of fifteen state legislatures had passed CSG's convention of states application.[6][1]

In July 2014, CSG announced plans to have resolutions before at least 24 state legislatures in 2015.[25] In 2015, the group backed bills in 26 states that would call for a convention. Some members of both the Republican and Democratic parties have supported bills backed by the organization, while others from both the left and right have criticized the proposal, fearing that it could "set the stage for a runaway convention to make over the entire Constitution."[26]

In September 2016, CSG held a simulated convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution in Williamsburg, Virginia.[27] The simulated convention passed amendments relating to six topics, including requiring the states to approve any increase in the national debt, imposing term limits; limiting the Commerce Clause; providing an "easy congressional override" of federal regulations; requiring a supermajority to impose federal taxes and repealing the Sixteenth Amendment; and "giving the states (by a three-fifths vote) the power to abrogate any federal law, regulation, or executive order."[28]

Jim DeMint became a senior advisor to the group in June 2017. According to DeMint, "The Tea Party needs a new mission. They realize that all the work they did in 2010 has not resulted in all the things they hoped for. Many of them are turning to Article V."[3]

In early 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the group began operating an online campaign called "Open the States" which helped organize opposition to government mandated stay-at-home orders.[9]

SupportersEdit

CSG is aligned with the Tea Party movement.[10]

Radio host Mark Levin has supported CSG's efforts to a call a second constitutional convention.[29] Former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R) has endorsed the Convention of States Project and serves as a senior advisor to CSG's efforts.[30][31]

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R), former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee (R), conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity, conservative political commentator Glenn Beck, former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin (R), former Governor of Ohio John Kasich (R), former Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal (R), former U.S. Representative Allen West (R), and current Governor of Texas Greg Abbott (R), have all endorsed a convention of states.[32][20][33][34]

In September 2014, CSG announced that a Legal Board of Reference had signed a "Jefferson Statement" endorsing the Convention of States initiative. The Legal Board of Reference included Randy Barnett, Charles J. Cooper, John C. Eastman, Michael Farris, Robert P. George, C. Boyden Gray, Andrew C. McCarthy, and Mark Meckler.[35][36]

In late 2015, U.S Senator Marco Rubio (R) endorsed CSG's call for a convention of the states.[29][37]

Ken Cuccinelli, Ben Carson, and Ron DeSantis have all endorsed the Convention of States project.[9]

OpponentsEdit

Opponents of the group's efforts to call a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution include conservative groups the John Birch Society and the Eagle Forum as well as George Soros.[1][38] Liberal advocacy group Common Cause has been a vocal opponent of the CSG's Convention of the States initiative; in a May 2016 report entitled The Dangerous Path: Big Money's Plan to Shred the Constitution, the group wrote that "There is nothing to prevent the convention, once convened, from proposing additional changes that could limit or eliminate fundamental rights or upend our entire system of government."[39][40]

FundingEdit

Tax records show that CSG's annual funding increased since its push to amend the Constitution began; the group received $1.8 million in contributions in 2011, and $5.7 million in contributions in 2015.[41] In 2016, the group raised over $4.2 million.[42] The group does not disclose the sources of its funding; in a 2013 tax filing, CSG stated that disclosure would "chill the donors' First Amendment right to associate in private with the organization."[41]

CSG also operates the Alliance for Self-Governance and Convention of States Action, neither of which is legally required to disclose donors' identities.[41]

In 2014 CSG received a $500,000 donation from the Mercer Family Foundation. CSG has also received support from Donors Trust.[9]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c O'Connor, Brendan (April 4, 2017). "Right-Wing Billionaires Are Buying Themselves a New Constitution". Fusion. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  2. ^ a b Michael Wines, Inside the Conservative Push for States to Amend the Constitution, The New York Times (August 22, 2016).
  3. ^ a b c Schouten, Fredreka (June 12, 2017). "Exclusive: In latest job, Jim DeMint wants to give Tea Party ' a new mission'". USA Today. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  4. ^ Sherfinski, David (April 7, 2015). "Supporters of convention to amend Constitution aim to defeat state legislators standing in way". The Washington Times. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  5. ^ Wagster, Emily (March 27, 2019). "Mississippi Lawmakers Seek US Constitutional Convention". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b Pollack, Cassandra (May 27, 2017). "Convention of states-related bill hits Gov. Greg Abbott's desk". Texas Tribune. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  7. ^ Richman, Josh. "Political Blotter: NorCal Tea Party sues IRS". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  8. ^ Lee, MJ (February 24, 2012). "Mark Meckler, Tea party co-founder quits". Politico. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Stanley-Becker, Isaac; Romm, Tony (22 April 2020). "The anti-quarantine protests seem spontaneous. But behind the scenes, a powerful network is helping". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 23 April 2020. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  10. ^ a b c Bohn, Kevin (May 20, 2013). "8 months ago First lawsuit filed against IRS". CNN. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  11. ^ Raymond, Nate (May 20, 2014). "Tea Party group sues IRS over inappropriate targeting". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  12. ^ Katrina Trinko May 21, 2013, National Review, Tea-Party Groups Sue IRS Seeking Damages, Accessed Jan. 21, 2014, "...NorCal Tea Party Patriots announced yesterday that it would be filing a suit against the IRS, in coordination with Citizens for Self-Governance..."
  13. ^ Dinan, Stephen (April 2, 2015). "Judge orders IRS to release list of tea party groups targeted for scrutiny". The Washington Times. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  14. ^ Smith, Samuel (March 25, 2016). "IRS Must Turn Over List of Targeted Tea Party Groups to Allow for Class Action Lawsuit, Appeals Court Rules". Christian Post. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  15. ^ Chakraborty, Barnini (March 24, 2016). "Federal appeals court slams IRS in Tea Party case, demands documents". Fox News. Retrieved 5 April 2016.
  16. ^ NorCal Tea Party Patriots v. Internal Revenue Service, 817 F.3d 953 (6th Cir. 2016).
  17. ^ "Tea Party Federal Lawsuit Against IRS Set for 2017". KTXL. Associated Press. August 14, 2016.
  18. ^ Dinan, Stephen (August 9, 2018). "Tea party groups get revenge against IRS as judge approves $3.5 million payout". The Washington Times. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  19. ^ Overby, Peter (October 27, 2017). "IRS Apologizes For Aggressive Scrutiny Of Conservative Groups". NPR. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  20. ^ a b c Roller, Emma (December 4, 2013). "Conservatives' Improbable New 'Convention of States' Project". Slate. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  21. ^ Niraj Chokshi December 5, 2013, Washington Post, Next up for ALEC: Taming the federal government, Accessed Jan. 21, 2014, "...a panel focused on a plan to call a convention of states under the Constitution to limit the powers of the federal government, developed by a group called Citizens for Self-Governance. CSG is led by Meckler...."
  22. ^ Markus Schmidt, January 20, 2014, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The News Virginian, Effort seeks to reset course for America, Accessed Jan. 21, 2014, "...Last year, Farris launched the Convention of States Project, sponsored by a group called Citizens for Self-Governance. In the past three months, the project has opened numerous chapters nationwide that lobby legislators...."
  23. ^ Weigel, David; Roller, Emma (December 10, 2013). "Inside the Secret Conservative Campaign to Rewrite the Constitution". Slate. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  24. ^ Lowrey, Jason (March 12, 2014). "Georgia Legislature calls for convention under Article V Read more: The Daily Tribune News - Georgia Legislature calls for convention under Article V". Daily Tribune News. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  25. ^ "Push continues for convention of states". Miami Herald. Associated Press. 2014-07-09. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  26. ^ Cooper, Brad (March 19, 2015). "States urged to call for convention to amend U.S. Constitution". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  27. ^ Harris, Andrew (September 23, 2016). "Tea Party co-founder holds convention in Williamsburg for amending Constitution". Williamsburg Yorktown Daily. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  28. ^ Farris, Michael; Ellis, Jenna (September 29, 2016). "A Convention of the States to Amend the Constitution". National Review. Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  29. ^ a b Weigel, David; Roller, Emma (December 10, 2013). "Give Me Amendments or Give Me Death". Slate. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  30. ^ Coburn, Tom (February 24, 2015). "A means to smite the federal Leviathan". The Washington Times. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  31. ^ Ward, Jon (February 5, 2014). "Tom Coburn Decides Only A Constitutional Convention Can Fix Washington". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  32. ^ Bedard, Paul (February 2, 2015). "Palin joins push for 'Convention of States' to throttle Obama". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  33. ^ Burk, Eric. "Huckabee and Others Endorse COS Project". Convention of States. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  34. ^ Grissom, Brandi (January 26, 2016). "Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's play for national audience draws questions about higher-office plans". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  35. ^ "The Convention of States Project Announces Formation of Prestigious "Legal Board of Reference" in Support of Article V". CNBC. PR Newswire. 2014-09-29. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  36. ^ Lifson, Thomas (October 1, 2014). "Article V convention moves a step closer". American Thinker. Retrieved 7 October 2014.
  37. ^ Sherfinski, David (December 30, 2015). "Rubio backs call for constitutional convention to balance budget, impose term limits". The Washington Times. Retrieved 4 January 2016.
  38. ^ Bedard, Paul (March 16, 2015). "Soros, Birchers fight constitutional fix to limit Obama, Congress". Washington Examiner. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  39. ^ John C. Moritz, Abbott renews his call for 'convention of the states', USA Today Network (December 6, 2016).
  40. ^ The Dangerous Path: Big Money’s Plan to Shred the Constitution, Common Cause (May 2016).
  41. ^ a b c Brandi Grissom, Mega-rich conservative donors are behind Texas' obsession with amending the Constitution, Dallas News (March 1, 2017).
  42. ^ Mansoor, Sanya (August 13, 2018). "How a mock convention is helping fuel a movement to change the Constitution". Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved 10 January 2019.

External linksEdit