The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 6, 2014

Susan Redden: Local residents testify for calling constitutional convention

JOPLIN, Mo. — Some Jasper County residents went to Jefferson City last week to testify in favor of a Missouri resolution calling for a constitutional convention that supporters say is needed to rein in the powers of the federal government.

Witnesses from Jasper County at an April 1 hearing were John Putnam, president of the Jasper County Republican Central Committee, and Gwen Waddell and Ray Schell, party precinct representatives.

The action is called for in House Concurrent Resolution 41, which is sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, and co-sponsored by local Reps. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City; Bill White, R-Joplin; Mike Kelley; R-Lamar; Bill Lant, R-Pineville; and Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho.

The resolution would express Missouri’s support for a constitutional convention proposing amendments that would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit federal powers and limit the terms of office for members of Congress. Georgia last month became the first state to pass the resolution. The measure must be approved by two-thirds of the state legislatures to force a convention, and any resulting constitutional amendments would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Also testifying was Michael Farris, a constitutional lawyer and co-founder of the Convention of the States Project. Farris also is founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association. In 2012, he was a spokesman for opposition to U.S. ratification of a treaty proposed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

McCUTCHEON RULING

I missed connecting with Mark Peterson, professor of political science at Pittsburg State University, last week when I was gathering perspective on the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finances.

The high court in its ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission lifted an existing limit on how much individuals may spend in aggregate contributions to political parties and campaigns, while keeping in place the mandate that a donor may give no more than $2,600 to an individual candidate during an election cycle.

Peterson characterized his comments as “speculation offered by one political scientist after a hard day,” and said the 5-4 ruling could be viewed in terms of its constitutional precedence and how it affects political parties.

“First, regarding precedent, on the surface this does not appear to be a groundbreaking ruling,” he wrote. “The $2,600 per election per candidate limit on ‘hard money’ contributions is maintained, and only the total ‘hard money’ contribution limit to ALL candidates is eliminated. Second, regarding precedent, the trend seems far more potentially significant (coming in the wake of the Citizens United decision). This ruling may be sending a message that the Supreme Court (or the majority of five) is prepared to go further chipping away at remaining limitations on contributions.

“The political calculation is more complex. I was interested to see reports of such a clear partisan divide, with Republicans favoring the McCutcheon ruling and Democrats opposed. If one considers the potential trajectory of such rulings this makes sense, but the victor with the narrow McCutcheon ruling is less clear. When McCain-Feingold was passed in 2002, the hard money limit was doubled. It was expected that Republicans would be the primary beneficiaries of this increase, but this did not materialize. Democratic donors generally were able to keep up with their Republican counterparts when the hard money cap was increased from $1,000 to $2,000.

“Whether Democratic donors will be able to keep up with the NUMBER of candidates that can be given money now remains to be seen. I suspect, however, that the Democrats’ ability to match Republicans with the increase allowed under McCutcheon will be far easier than their ability to keep up with the elimination of limits on independent expenditures created by Citizens United (the ruling, also 5-4, that barred the government from restricting political contributions by corporations, associations and labor unions).”

SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at sredden@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.

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