Obenshain v. Dunbar

In just a handful of days Republicans across the state will gather in Harrisonburg, my hometown, for their state convention. There they will be voting for a new committeewoman. The two choices for this position are Suzanne Obenshain and Cynthia Dunbar. Having had the opportunity to get to know both women, I’d like to offer a few thoughts.

The Obenshains in Richmond in late 2012
The Obenshains in Richmond in late 2012

I’ve known Suzanne Obenshain for well over a decade. While I was growing up in Harrisonburg we both attended the same church and were both quite active in local Republican Party politics. She’s a person whose opinion I’ve valued. For example, when in 2013 I started to consider running for local office in the 2014 elections, speaking to Suzanne Obenshain was of prime importance. To highlight some of my activism, I was a bus captain for the Obenshain for Attorney General campaign at the 2013 Virginia Republican convention and later the campaign asked me to serve as her chauffeur, though I only ended up driving her once and it was just around Harrisonburg.

My last meaningful conversation with Suzanne Obenshain was a little over two years ago. However, as I’ve written in previous pieces, after about 19 years of activism I was kicked out of the Harrisonburg GOP in February 2014. Given that I had been a loyal supporter and volunteer for the Obenshains since Senator Obenshain first declared his intent to run for office in late 2002 or early 2003, the first person I called looking for assistance with this matter was Suzanne Obenshain. In the moment I needed her help the most she refused to provide aid. During the call she asked me if I knew what a “good Republican” was. I explained that I thought it was someone who held fast to principle and advocated the values found in the Virginia Republican Creed. Instead, Ms. Obenshain explained that being a good Republican had nothing to do with ideology, but instead a good Republican was a person who supported all the Republican candidates. I was shocked when I heard these words, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

After all, after the 2012 Republican National Convention, which screwed over the Ron Paul delegates, I presented a resolution to the local Harrisonburg GOP from the Virginia Republican Liberty Caucus that condemned both John Boehner and Reince Priebus for their role in this matter. However, it was Suzanne Obenshain herself who scuttled any attempt to either discuss it or bring it to a vote.

Also, during the 2012 Harrisonburg City Council elections, much to my disappointment I discovered that one of the Republican candidates promoted a lot of big government policies, more so than even the Democratic candidates. Given this realization, there was no way I could bring myself to either support or vote for this person. After the election, when all three Republican candidates went down in defeat, I spoke with Suzanne Obenshain, as she was the person who recruited our local candidates. I asked why the local GOP would nominate a person who couldn’t be called a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. She responded by telling me that no one else wanted to run. However, wouldn’t it have been better to have one fewer nominee than running a full slate if that meant rallying behind someone who was antithetical to our principles? Does being a Republican actually mean anything?

Getting back to 2014, although no longer a member of my local committee, I still requested to attend the state convention. Both the chairman and Ms. Obenshain told me that I could go as a voting delegate. However, I was dismayed to discover that the call for the convention included a strict loyalty oath to the party and her candidates, declaring that all delegates from Harrisonburg would support all of the Republican candidates that year. Neither knowing who they were nor whether or not they would uphold the principles of the RPV Creed I felt could not honorably sign such a document. I asked who decided to include this oath in the call, which was considerably more stringent than other local calls, such as the one from Waynesboro, and was told that it was Suzanne Obenshain who did so.

One of my relatives asked Suzanne Obenshain why the Republicans had treated me poorly and I was told that she responded saying that the Republicans were afraid of me, in part because I was unwilling to compromise on most principles and because I openly criticized my representative, Bob Goodlatte when he voted against what I always assumed were supposedly Republican values.

After the convention I spoke to a local friend who was also a Shak Hill supporter and convention delegate. At the time Shak Hill was running as the more conservative option for Senate. However, my friend told me that several Ed Gillespie supporters, including Suzanne Obenshain, attempted to intimidate him on the voting floor into supporting their preferred candidate.

I still ran for local office but I did so as an independent since I wasn’t a member of the Republican Party any longer; I felt someone needed to represent my principles. I ran on a platform of limiting the power and scope of the city government and to the best of my knowledge, I was the only candidate who mentioned the Creed of the Republican Party of Virginia or sought to advance the values which it advocated. Party labels aside you’d think that limited government Republicans would be happy that at least one of the candidates actually advocated limiting the government. Nevertheless, several of my friends told me that Suzanne Obenshain was furious with me because I had the audacity to run for office against the Republican nominees. When I went door-to-door for my campaign I stopped by the houses of several friends who had signs for the Republican council candidates in their yard. When I asked them about it, I was told that they had not requested the signs but instead Suzanne Obenshain placed them in their yards simply because they were members of the Harrisonburg Republican committee. By comparison, due in part to my principles, many Libertarians supported my campaign either through time or money as did some disaffected local Republicans.

Photo of Cynthia Dunbar with Suzanne Curran and Mark Berg. Image from the Dunbar campaign.
Photo of Cynthia Dunbar with Suzanne Curran and Mark Berg. Image from the Dunbar campaign.

On the other hand, I first spoke to Cynthia Dunbar on New Years Eve of 2015. She called me while I was picking up a few pizzas for a party that was taking place that evening. Although I wasn’t a member of the Republican Party and had no plans of rejoining, we spoke about her candidacy, the GOP, and political principles. I met her in person on Saturday at a meeting of the Shenandoah Valley Constitutional Conservatives in Mt. Jackson.

Over the last several months, I’ve had the chance to listen to Cynthia Dunbar on a handful of occasions.   She seems to be a person guided by conviction that promises to stand up to the party bosses and elected officials who betray their principles and/or the grassroots activists who elected them in the first place. In addition, she’s picked up endorsements from a number of good Virginia political activists and elected officials I respect including: Delegate Brenda Pogge, Delegate Bob Marshall, Senator Dick Black, Suzanne Curran, Anne Fitzgerald, Steven Thomas, and Ed Yensho. However, the most exciting endorsement comes from my former boss, the godfather of the modern liberty movement, Dr. Ron Paul.

Some of her detractors have attacked Dunbar for the fact that she has lived in Virginia for only a handful of years. But don’t we all have to come from somewhere? One of my Republican opponents for city council used this issue against the Democrats and the Libertarian candidate because they lived within the city limits for only several years. Although I am a native of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, that was as a result of the choices my parents made, not my own. Honestly, what should matter more, political principles and character or something transient like geography? I’d like to think this is an easy question and we should not treat people as outcasts simply because their roots are not as deep as our own.

Let me offer you a few fun facts. Since 2009, only one Republican candidate has beaten a Democratic candidate in Harrisonburg. If Senator Mark Obenshain had won our hometown in 2013, he would be Virginia’s attorney general. Here’s another fact. In 1995, at the age of 15, I was the youngest Republican activist in Harrisonburg. In January of 2013, at the age of 32, I was still the youngest person who regularly attended monthly meetings of the Harrisonburg Republican Party.

The facts and experiences I’ve mentioned might leave you with several important questions. Why don’t Republicans win Harrisonburg? Although I don’t know their current membership, when I was a part of the party why did the Harrisonburg GOP fail to recruit newer, younger members? Well, when you have leaders of a political party which values loyalty to the party over principle, what do you think happens? When you have a local unit, which forces its members to sign onerous loyalty oaths to the party and her candidates, it is possible that the members begin to build up resentment? When you have a political party that is more concerned with pleasing elected officials and party bosses at the expense of the volunteer grassroots activists, why in the world would anyone choose to join such a group? When a local party recruits candidates who are indistinguishable from the Democrats, why wouldn’t voters select the genuine article? When the local leaders of the Republican Party treat conservatives and libertarians who are outside of the party as hostile enemies, should there be any wonder why Republicans no longer win Harrisonburg and the local unit is so dreadfully small and ineffective? Lastly, I have to ask you, are these kinds of values ones that Virginia Republicans want at the national level?

It should be obvious that this election for Republican National Committeewoman is one of important contrasts. Like my hero Ron Paul, if I were a delegate to the Virginia Republican Convention, given my experiences and knowledge of the two candidates, I would have no hesitation in casting my vote for Cynthia Dunbar.

Seniority Plates

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Photo from Senator Dick Black’s Facebook page

This morning, Senator Dick Black (R-Loudoun) announced on Facebook that he has received new license plates for his vehicle.  Each member of the General Assembly is assigned a plate so that their vehicles can be identified easily.  If you see a car on the road that bears the tag “22 Senator”, then you have likely found Senator Black (or someone who has absconded with his property).

However, given that Senator Black represents the 13th senate district of Virginia, it might seem curious that he bears the number 22 instead of 13.  Bizarrely, this numbering system has nothing to do with district number and instead is based upon seniority.  Thus, of the 40 members of Virginia’s State Senate, 21 have served longer than Senator Black.

However, should a senator or a delegate resign his or her office, die, or lose an election, then new license plates will need to be issued to every elected official with less time served than the outgoing member in order to properly reflect this update in seniority.  Depending on how long he or she has been in office, this change could result in a lot of new plates, especially in a large group, like in the hundred member Virginia House of Delegates.

On the Republican primary day in 2015, while volunteering at the polls, I spoke to Delegate Mark Berg (R-Winchester) about this issue.  I observed that although he represented the 29th House of Delegates district, his license plate number was not “29 Delegate”.  He agreed that the numbering scheme didn’t make much sense and offered to sponsor a bill in the 2016 General Assembly session so that the legislators’ plate numbers matched their respective district number.  Unfortunately, the bill didn’t materialize as Delegate Berg was defeated in the GOP primary.

Sure, there are certainly more important issues than license plate numbers.  But, do we really want to “reward” legislators to try and stay in office as long as possible in order to gain a coveted low number?  We don’t renumber legislative districts every year or two when a new delegate or senator acquires office so why in the world should we craft and re-craft so many license plates based upon something the average Virginian would think is so trivial, like seniority?  It may not be the biggest cost savings technique, but if we assigned license plates based upon legislative districts I’m certain we wouldn’t print as many.  Of course redistricting happens too, but it typically comes up once every ten years as a result of the census, not nearly as frequently as either elections to the House (every 2 years) or Senate (every 4 years).

So, isn’t it better to distribute license plates based upon district numbers instead of seniority?  I’m pretty sure that the state government could save at least a few tax dollars by not replacing a multitude of perfectly good plates every two or four years.

Black Responds to Farris

Senator Dick Black on Lobby Day 2015
Senator Dick Black on Lobby Day 2015

VC Note: About an hour ago, Senator Dick Black released the following response to Mike Fariss’ opinions made in a previous article. 

As you have observed from the last several posts, there are a lot of opinions from a number of political figures in and outside of Virginia.  Although I have heard arguments in favor and against an Article V Convention and have friends on both sides of this debate, I was greatly disappointed by some of the statements made by Mike Fariss to disparage Senator Black.  Although I will admit that I side with Senator Black on this matter, my hope is that regardless of one’s position on this issue, we can remain rational and civil and not launch into personal attacks and declaring one side or the other is resorting to incite hysteria (unless such a claim is undeniably true).

Farris Attacks, With Spittle Flying; Senator Black Issues a Gentleman’s Response

Here is THE TEAM SEN. BLACK rebuttal to Mike Farris:

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL: “Michael Farris, J.D., LL.M., Constitutional Lawyer & Chancellor of Patrick Henry College

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Mason of Virginia insisted that there would come a day when the federal government would abuse the authority it was given under the Constitution. Mason therefore insisted that the States be given the power to propose amendments to the Constitution to rein in the Federal Government. Mason said that Congress would never propose amendments to restrict federal power. And he has been proven right.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  Mason was in a minority of only THREE delegates to the 1787 convention that took this view.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL: “Dick Black’s “Urgent” Appeal is false, deceptive, and demeaning to all Virginians. Here’s why:

1. BLACK CREATES A FALSE IMPRESSION OF IMPENDING CHANGE TO THE CONSTITUTION.

Black claims that “Virginia will vote to change the Constitution of the United States in a few days.” This is a far cry from the reality both as to the timing and as to the scope of the Convention. Virginia is set to vote on whether to begin the process of considering the proposal of specific amendments to the Constitution. We are years away from making any amendments (34 states must first approve the call, the convention must be held, and 38 states must ratify any proposals coming out of the convention before any change is made to the Constitution.

 

Black claims that Virginia could be the “tipping point” to get to 34 states. This is based on the idea that many states have already called for a convention, and that adding Virginia to the list would bring us to the needed number.

This claim is demonstrably false and nothing better than a blatant attempt to incite panic.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  This claim is not false. There is nothing in Article V that requires a petition for an Article V convention to specify a certain topic. It only requires a petition to be made. Mr. Farris has no legal foundation to make his claim that a petition for an Article V convention is required to identify a specific purpose for its request, nor that there must be 34 matching petitions asking to address the same subject in order for the 34 state threshold to be met. If he has such proof, he should provide it.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “The two specific resolutions in front of the Virginia General Assembly are for an Article V Convention to limit federal power and jurisdiction (HJ 497) and an Article V Convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499).

Three states have passed the first application, and 24 states have passed the second. Virginia would not be the 34th state for either measure.

Black’s assertion that Virginia could be the tipping point is based on the clearly erroneous assumption that Article V applications can never be rescinded.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  Senator Black makes no such claim. In fact, in 2004, then “Delegate” Black was co-sponsor of a resolution to rescind Virginia’s previous application for an Article V Convention that stated in part:

“WHEREAS, the operations of a convention are unknown and the apportionment and selection of delegates, method of voting in convention, and other essential procedural details are not specified in Article V of the Constitution of the United States;”

This passed the House of Delegates 91-5 (Lingamfelter voting Yea) and the Senate 37-0. (HJ 194 – 2004)

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “Every serious Article V legal scholar understands that rescissions are valid. I personally litigated a case regarding rescissions of ratifications of proposed constitutional amendments under Article V. The federal court holding is that rescissions of ratifications are indeed binding. Idaho v. Freeman, 529 F.Supp. 1107 (D.Idaho 1981).”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  The ruling on this case was stayed by the court on Jan. 25, 1982. As such it is technically not binding.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “The simple truth is that we are years away from voting on actual amendments to the Constitution. If these applications pass, Virginia will be the 4th state to call for a Convention of States to restrict federal power and the 25th state to call for a Balanced Budget Amendment. These applications can only trigger a convention where amendments will be debated, drafted, and then sent on to the states for ratification. They will “change” the Constitution only if ratified by 38 states.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  According to Mr. Farris’ own organization, we are not years away. Rita Dunaway, who works for Mr. Farris, stated in a public meeting on Jan. 10th that they were no more than one year away (two at the outside) from calling a convention.

 

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “2. LIBERAL ORGANIZATIONS CITED BY DICK BLACK ARE NOT “PUSHING FOR THIS.”

Black claims that George Soros, Code Pink, MoveOn.org, New Progressive Alliance and 100 other liberal groups “are pushing for this.”

None of these entities have endorsed or “pushed for” the Convention of States (HJ 497) or a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499) in Virginia or any other state.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  There is nothing in Article V that requires state petitions to be for matching subjects, nor is there any legal foundation that can be pointed to that can limit an Article V convention to the subjects specified in the petitions of the states.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “Not one of these entities even mentions Article V on their website (georgesoros.com, codepink.org, moveon.org, occupywallst.org, and newprogs.org). Not once. Moveon.org mentions Article V of the Wisconsin Constitution and Article V of the Geneva Convention. The Occupy Wall Street website includes reader comments discussing Article V. But not once is there any mention of Article V of the U.S. Constitution by these organizations. Pure silence.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  MoveToAmend.org lists all the supporters of amending the constitution for the purposes of limiting money in politics. Wolf-Pac.com (funded by George Soros) specifically lists an Article V convention as a preferred tool to amend the Constitution. Under Section 3, it states, “Once we have found those states that are the most receptive to joining this battle with us we will focus our time, effort, and money on them until we get that vital and historic first state to call for an Article V. Convention for the purpose of limiting the influence that money has over our political process. According to Article V of our Constitution, Congress must call for an amendment-proposing convention, “on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States”, and therefore 34 state legislatures would have to submit applications.” http://www.wolf-pac.com/the_plan

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “Dick Black’s source for this claim is a website operated by a group that is seeking an Article V convention for a wholly different purpose. This group seeks to repeal the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. The organization listed are endorsing the repeal of Citizens United. No organization with that movement has “pushed for” or endorsed either the Convention of States (HJ 497) or a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499) in Virginia or any other state.

Black’s claim that these liberal organizations are “pushing for this”—referring to the bills slated to be voted on by the Virginia General Assembly—is a blatant falsehood.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  There is no legal foundation that allows anyone to limit the scope of an Article V convention. It doesn’t matter why Mr. Farris seeks to call one. Once a convention is convened, it can consider any amendment it chooses. If Mr. Farris has any legal foundation to back up his claims, he should provide it.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “3. WE DO KNOW HOW DELEGATES ARE CHOSEN

Dick Black says that there is no law which states how delegates to the Convention are chosen. There was no such law in place in 1787 when Virginia chose its delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The legislature had the inherent power to appoint delegates—who represent Virginia—and it did so. The Virginia General Assembly has that same power today, and it comes from Virginia’s sovereign power and Article V of the Constitution.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  An Article V convention will be called by Congress, not the states. As such Congress has the power to determine whether or not the States will even be represented at said convention. If Congress does decide to include the states, they can decide to give states proportional representation, similar to the Electoral College. If Mr. Farris has any legal foundation to back up his claims, he should provide it.

 

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “4. THE CONVENTION WILL BE LIMITED TO PROPOSING AMENDMENTS THAT LIMIT THE POWER OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

Black claims (citing a video by the John Birch Society) that a convention cannot be limited to the subjects identified in the state applications, but will necessarily throw open the entire constitution. In fact they claim that our original Constitution is invalid because it, too, was adopted by a “runaway convention.”

This argument has been thoroughly discredited.

Dick Black needs to explain why he is listening to and promoting these dangerous people, who have admitted that they will pursue secession if their “plans” for nullification are unsuccessful.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  It is not Senator Black that needs to provide proof of his claims. It is up to Mr. Farris to provide proof of the legal foundation that he claims will allow him to limit the scope of an Article V convention. No such legal foundation exists. If Mr. Farris has such legal foundation to back his claim, he should provide it.

Furthermore, the convention delegates themselves decide upon the rules governing what can be discussed at the convention. Just like every convention convened throughout history. One of the first orders of business at a convention is to vote upon the rules of said convention. The delegates themselves make that decision. They are not bound by the subject matter of any specific petition for a convention.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “5. CONGRESS HAS NO CONTROL OVER THE CONVENTION ONCE IT IS TRIGGERED.

You can see from the text of Article V itself that Congress only has two duties with regard to the Convention mechanism. It aggregates the applications and “calls” the Convention once 34 states apply for a Convention to propose a certain type of amendments. Then it chooses between two specified methods of ratification for any amendment proposals that come out of the Convention—each of which requires 38 states to ratify.

The term “call” used in Article V is a legal term of art with regard to the Convention process. To “call” a Convention is not to control it, determine its rules or decide who represents the parties! Rather, to “call” a Convention is to announce the date, time and location for it to facilitate its occurrence. Virginia “called” the Constitutional Convention in 1787. But did it unilaterally determine the rules or select the delegates from other states? Of course not!”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  Review any “call” for a convention and one of the things you will see spelled out is who shall be eligible to be a delegate, how many delegate “votes” there will be, and where those votes shall come from, including whether or not there will be weighted voting, among many other issues. The “call” for a convention does not merely set the time and place. It provides the structure for the convention.

The 1787 convention did not have such a requirement that Congress “call” the convention, but Article V of the Constitution does. If Mr. Farris has any legal foundation to prove otherwise, he should provide it.

 

MIKE FARRIS, ET AL:  “Some of the arguments made by Dick Black are matters of opinion, and as such, are not untruthful per se–even if they have been rejected by most legal scholars. But when he says that Virginia could be the “tipping point,” and when he says that George Soros and Moveon.org are “pushing for this,” he has spoken untruthfully about material facts.”

 

RESPONSE FROM SEN. BLACK:  Mr. Farris provides to you a vision of how he believes an Article V convention should be called and run. If it indeed ran that way, we would probably support him. Unfortunately, he has no legal foundation to back up his claims, and he is putting the very founding document of our Country at great risk if he is wrong.

We are not willing to take that chance.

Lingamfelter on the Convention of States

Delegate Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg, April 2013
Delegate Lingamfelter in Harrisonburg, April 2013

VC Note:  Last night, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, patron of HJ 497, (calling for a convention of states under Article V of the Constitution) sent out the following email in response to earlier messages from Delegate Bob Marshall and Senator Dick Black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friends,

I am sorry for the length of this, but it’s really important.

For those of you who are in support of an Article V Convention of the States, please read this important rebuttal by Michael Farris to Senator Dick Black’s email sent yesterday that is, I am sad to say, utterly untrue.

First, many of you know that I am the Chief Patron of this effort (HJ497) in the House of Delegates.  http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=151&typ=bil&val=HJ497&submit=GO

Those who are opposed to the states coming together to rein in Federal power have panicked, because we are on the verge of victory.  They are putting out blatant distortions to make people and their Delegates fearful.  Consider this:the following conservatives SUPPORT a convention of the states:

Ken Cuccinelli, Mat Staver, Governor Bobby Jindal, Randy Barnett, Sarah Palin, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, David Barton, Colonel Allen West, Senator Ron Johnson, Retired Senator Tom Coburn, and countless other conservative leaders.  And we are joined by very brave Delegates in the House including Delegates Anderson, Morris, Ware, Berg, Bloxom, Cole, Cox, Edmunds, Fowler, Garrett, Greason, Head, Jones, LaRock, Massie, O’Bannon, Peace, Poindexter, Webert and Wilt.  They have the courage to take a stand and I hope you will also.  Others are signing on too as they come to realize that we must act now.

Do you think these conservative leaders are trying to scare you?  No, they are conservative leaders and they have the courage to stand up to Federal overreach and not cower to the fear tactics of the John Birch Society.

Second, there is an utter lie being circulated that the NRA opposes the Convention of the States.  The NRA has NOT taken a position and in fact their chief Counsel supports our effort.  So let’s be straight. Lies to scare folks won’t work.  Please call your delegate and senator this weekend, and tell them that this week when this comes up for a vote, to please act boldly and support HJ 497 and SJ 269, calling for a Convention of the States.

 

ANSWERING DICK BLACK: Michael Farris, J.D., LL.M., Constitutional Lawyer & Chancellor of Patrick Henry College

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, George Mason of Virginia insisted that there would come a day when the federal government would abuse the authority it was given under the Constitution. Mason therefore insisted that the States be given the power to propose amendments to the Constitution to rein in the Federal Government. Mason said that Congress would never propose amendments to restrict federal power. And he has been proven right.

Dick Black’s “Urgent” Appeal is false, deceptive, and demeaning to all Virginians. Here’s why:

 

1. BLACK CREATES A FALSE IMPRESSION OF IMPENDING CHANGE TO THE CONSTITUTION.

 

Black claims that “Virginia will vote to change the Constitution of the United States in a few days.” This is a far cry from the reality both as to the timing and as to the scope of the Convention. Virginia is set to vote on whether to begin the process of considering the proposal of specific amendments to the Constitution. We are years away from making any amendments (34 states must first approve the call, the convention must be held, and 38 states must ratify any proposals coming out of the convention before any change is made to the Constitution.

Black claims that Virginia could be the “tipping point” to get to 34 states. This is based on the idea that many states have already called for a convention, and that adding Virginia to the list would bring us to the needed number.

This claim is demonstrably false and nothing better than a blatant attempt to incite panic.

The two specific resolutions in front of the Virginia General Assembly are for an Article V Convention to limit federal power and jurisdiction (HJ 497) and an Article V Convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499).

Three states have passed the first application, and 24 states have passed the second. Virginia would not be the 34th state for either measure.

Black’s assertion that Virginia could be the tipping point is based on the clearly erroneous assumption that Article V applications can never be rescinded.

Every serious Article V legal scholar understands that rescissions are valid. I personally litigated a case regarding rescissions of ratifications of proposed constitutional amendments under Article V. The federal court holding is that rescissions of ratifications are indeed binding. Idaho v. Freeman, 529 F.Supp. 1107 (D.Idaho 1981).

The simple truth is that we are years away from voting on actual amendments to the Constitution. If these applications pass, Virginia will be the 4th state to call for a Convention of States to restrict federal power and the 25th state to call for a Balanced Budget Amendment. These applications can only trigger a convention where amendments will be debated, drafted, and then sent on to the states for ratification. They will “change” the Constitution only if ratified by 38 states.

 

2. LIBERAL ORGANIZATIONS CITED BY DICK BLACK ARE NOT “PUSHING FOR THIS.”

 

Black claims that George Soros, Code Pink, MoveOn.org, New Progressive Alliance and 100 other liberal groups “are pushing for this.”

None of these entities have endorsed or “pushed for” the Convention of States (HJ 497) or a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499) in Virginia or any other state.

Not one of these entities even mentions Article V on their website (georgesoros.com, codepink.org, moveon.org, occupywallst.org, and newprogs.org). Not once. Moveon.org mentions Article V of the Wisconsin Constitution and Article V of the Geneva Convention. The Occupy Wall Street website includes reader comments discussing Article V. But not once is there any mention of Article V of the U.S. Constitution by these organizations. Pure silence.

Dick Black’s source for this claim is a website operated by a group that is seeking an Article V convention for a wholly different purpose. This group seeks to repeal the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. The organizations listed are endorsing the repeal of Citizens United. No organization with that movement has “pushed for” or endorsed either the Convention of States (HJ 497) or a Balanced Budget Amendment (HJ 499) in Virginia or any other state.

Black’s claim that these liberal organizations are “pushing for this”-referring to the bills slated to be voted on by the Virginia General Assembly-is a blatant falsehood.

 

3. WE DO KNOW HOW DELEGATES ARE CHOSEN

 

Dick Black says that there is no law which states how delegates to the Convention are chosen. There was no such law in place in 1787 when Virginia chose its delegates to the Constitutional Convention. The legislature had the inherent power to appoint delegates-who represent Virginia-and it did so. The Virginia General Assembly has that same power today, and it comes from Virginia’s sovereign power and Article V of the Constitution.

 

4. THE CONVENTION WILL BE LIMITED TO PROPOSING AMENDMENTS THAT LIMIT THE POWER OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

 

Black claims (citing a video by the John Birch Society) that a convention cannot be limited to the subjects identified in the state applications, but will necessarily throw open the entire constitution. In fact they claim that our original Constitution is invalid because it, too, was adopted by a “runaway convention.”

This argument has been thoroughly discredited.

Dick Black needs to explain why he is listening to and promoting these dangerous people, who have admitted that they will pursue secession if their “plans” for nullification are unsuccessful.

 

5. CONGRESS HAS NO CONTROL OVER THE CONVENTION ONCE IT IS TRIGGERED.

 

You can see from the text of Article V itself that Congress only has two duties with regard to the Convention mechanism. It aggregates the applications and “calls” the Convention once 34 states apply for a Convention to propose a certain type of amendments. Then it chooses between two specified methods of ratification for any amendment proposals that come out of the Convention-each of which requires 38 states to ratify.

The term “call” used in Article V is a legal term of art with regard to the Convention process. To “call” a Convention is not to control it, determine its rules or decide who represents the parties! Rather, to “call” a Convention is to announce the date, time and location for it to facilitate its occurrence. Virginia “called” the Constitutional Convention in 1787. But did it unilaterally determine the rules or select the delegates from other states? Of course not!

Some of the arguments made by Dick Black are matters of opinion, and as such, are not untruthful per se–even if they have been rejected by most legal scholars. But when he says that Virginia could be the “tipping point,” and when he says that George Soros and Moveon.org are “pushing for this,” he has spoken untruthfully about material facts.

If Black is not willing to play straight with the facts, then his opinions do not merit serious consideration.

The “questions” Black poses about the Article V Convention process have answers that are grounded in fact, history, and law. For him to suggest otherwise is to purposefully sow confusion and fear.

The conservatives who have endorsed this effort include:

Ken Cuccinelli, Mat Staver, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, David Barton, Col. Alan West, Sen. Tom Coburn (ret.), and many others. These are the people who, in fact, are “pushing for this.”

Senator Dick Black, what is your plan to stop the abuse of power in Washington, D.C.?

Senator Black on Article V

Senator Dick Black on Lobby Day 2015
Senator Dick Black on Lobby Day 2015

VC Note:  Earlier today, Senator Dick Black (R-Loundon) sent out the following message regarding an Article V Convention.

Virginia will vote to change the Constitution of the United States in a few days!

This is called an Article V Convention and the purpose is to rewrite parts of the Constitution of the United States. Two thirds of the states must apply for a Convention and there is confusion about whether Virginia will complete the tipping point because other states that passed it decades ago have since attempted to rescind that vote.

3 SIMPLE FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • Article V Convention Supporters include:

George Soros, Code Pink, MoveOn.org, Occupy Wallstreet, New Progressive Alliance and 100 other liberal groups are pushing for this.

  • We can’t control who will amend the Constitution.

This is the most troubling aspect because there is no law that states how delegates to the Convention are chosen. Congress could appoint themselves. Even if Congress allowed states to choose their own delegates, the Republican establishment leadership in Virginia’s House and Senate would never choose a conservative to amend the Constitution.

  • We cannot limit what parts of the Constitution can be changed.

No matter what limited rules are put on the Convention regarding what parts of our Constitution will be changed, the delegates themselves can vote to change the rules at the Convention. The First Amendment, Second Amendment, etc. could be changed if delegates at the Convention vote to change the rules.

Please contact your state delegate and senator and ask them to vote no and protect our Constitution! Find out who your representative is here and tell them not to gamble with the Constitution of the United States.

Want to learn more? Read on:

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Burger said history shows us we can’t control what parts of the Constitution will be changed.

In a letter to the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly (who opposes calling a Convention), former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger wrote, “The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. The Congress might try to limit the Convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey. After a Convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don’t like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the Confederation Congress ‘for the sole and express purpose.’ With George Washington as chairman, they were able to deliberate in total secrecy, with no press coverage and no leaks. A Constitutional Convention today would be a free-for-all.

A new Convention could plunge our Nation into constitutional confusion and confrontation at every turn, with no assurance that focus would be on the subjects needing attention. I have discouraged the idea of a Constitutional Convention, and I am glad to see states rescinding their previous resolutions requesting a Convention…

Whatever may need repair on our Constitution can be dealt with by specific amendments.”

We have never had an Article V Convention. In 1787 we had a Constitutional Convention for the sole purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation. History shows us that although limitations were put on these delegates, they came out of that Convention with a completely different form of government. Thankfully, we had selfless men of character in that Convention who crafted a Constitution that has withstood the test of time. However, do you think today’s Congress would send similar selfless men/women of character to a modern-day Convention? Do you think Congress today has similar values as those who crafted our Constitution?

What does Article V say? Here it is in its entirety (it’s very short):

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Now that you’ve read Article V, ask yourself some questions:

Where does it say how the delegates to the Convention are chosen? Where will it take place? Will delegates be bound to vote on behalf of their state or as individuals? How many delegates will there be? Can Congress appoint themselves as delegates? ANSWER: No one knows. It’s similar to what Nancy Pelosi said, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

You Cannot Control Who the Delegates Will Be at a Constitutional Convention:

The makeup of the delegates to the Convention is the most troubling aspect of this entire endeavor, and it is the one thing that is guaranteed to go AGAINST those hoping for a conservative outcome.

There is no law or statute that binds Congress or the states on who will be selected as delegates to a Constitutional Convention, or how they will be chosen. There is not even a requirement that a delegate to the Convention representing Virginia be an actual Virginia Citizen. All we have are historical precedents of how other conventions have chosen delegates, but precedent is NOT binding.

The most likely scenario is that a slate of delegates would be put forward by the General Assembly, voted on by both Houses, and approved by the Governor. Governor McAuliffe is not likely to approve a conservative delegation, nor would the Republican establishment choose conservative lawmakers. This would guarantee that the delegates from Virginia would NOT be conservative and would most likely be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

With the need to secure Democrat support for any slate of delegates, do you think there is a chance that Virginia will send a group of people dedicated to reining in the size and scope of government? Absolutely not. Frankly, it was the Republican establishment that gave us the largest tax increase in Virginia’s history and they would never choose a conservative to amend the Constitution of the United States. The most likely scenario would be moderate Republicans joining with the Democrats to select a slate of centrist, left-leaning individuals, and that’s just in Virginia. Imagine what states like California and New York would do.

In states controlled by Democrat legislatures, you can be assured of getting only a slate of liberal lawmakers without a single conservative voice among them.

You Cannot Limit the Scope of a Constitutional Convention:

Proponents of a Constitutional Convention argue over and over that they can keep the scope of any convention focused on a narrow subject. They are wrong. Just like any other political convention ever held in this country, the delegates to the convention set their own rules.

No matter what limited rules any Congress, State Legislature, or anyone else may seek to impose on the Convention, the delegates themselves are the ones that vote on these rules. They can easily dismiss any limits placed upon them and set their own rules governing what amendments they can consider, as well as how those proposed amendments are considered. They can even do away with the “one state, one vote” notion put forward by Convention proponents and institute “proportional representation” giving liberal states like New York and California the ability to run roughshod over smaller, more conservative states.

Imagine what harm a Constitutional Convention, packed with left leaning delegates, could do to the Constitution? If the left were able to amend the Constitution of the United States, they could change Freedom of Religion to say certain teachings from the Bible are hate speech, they could take away our right to own a gun, etc.

Planners Are Already Moving to Loosen Restraints on the Scope of a Convention:

“Assembly of State Legislatures” is a group of legislators planning the Article V Convention. About fifty state legislators met December 9, 2014 in Washington DC. Notes from this meeting show that lawmakers tabled a motion to restrict the scope of the Convention to only the subject matter of the state applications, and also rejected a motion which would have prevented congressmen and senators, federal judges and governors from serving as delegates to the Convention. This is an early indication that politicians want to have a more open process and may want to appoint members of Congress, the US Senate and federal judges to amend the Constitution.

We Don’t Get a Second Chance to Get it Right:

The supporters of a Constitutional Convention are well-meaning people who, like us, want so badly to get our country back on track. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix to our problems. Our form of government was never meant to be on autopilot.

Proponents of a Convention say that they know the rules. But how can anyone know the rules for something that has never been done before? There has never been a Constitutional Convention called under Article V of the US Constitution , and with good reason. Most people understand the dangers to our liberties a Constitutional Convention represents. At a time when our rights are being redefined by activist judges and the Constitution is being ignored by our President and his supporters in Congress, why would we place our most sacred document into the hands of the same corrupt leaders who are trampling it in the first place? The fact is that there is no way around bad leaders. The only way is to replace them with good leaders. We would be delusional to think these bad leaders would choose good leaders to amend our Constitution, no matter how badly we need them to.

Please contact your state delegate and senator and ask them to vote no and protect our Constitution! Find out who your representative is here and tell them not to put the Constitution of the United States of America AT RISK: http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/

I will be in my Richmond office until February 28 and welcome you to stop by. Our office is in Room 308 of the General Assembly Building. You can contact me at District13@senate.virginia.gov or 804.698.7513. You can also follow me on Twitter @SenRichardBlack and on Facebook where I will do my best to bring you the most up to date information on the session.

Warm Regards,

Senator Dick Black

Senator Black on Syria

Yesterday, the official Facebook page for the Syrian President posted a letter received from a Virginia legislator.  This letter dealt with the subject of President al-Assad and the ongoing Syrian Civil War.  Interestingly, it turned out to be from Senator Dick Black of Loundon County.

Here’s the picture they posted:

10368798_733802899996878_5790165130987512064_o As the post on Facebook summarized, “Virginia Senator sent a message to President Al-Assad thanked the Syrian army for heroism, praising his prowess and skill, calling the terrorists “war criminals are linked to Al-Qaeda”, mercenaries are entering Syria to kill the people, adding that few Americans realize they are supporting the same the events of September 11, and that they are themselves massacred civilians and using suicide bombings in Syria to kill women and children.

“The Senator thanked Assad for his ‘respectful with all communities’ while ‘rebel’ wire ‘thieves and criminals and saboteurs’, wishing the Syrian army victories continued in the face of terrorists, blaming its sovereignty thanks personally to Syrian soldiers who protect civilians.”

Personally, I’m somewhat surprised that a state legislator would offer his or her opinions on this subject given that it isn’t a topic over which the Virginia government has any control.  Nevertheless, it does offer a perspective that is markedly different from quite a few members of Congress.

So what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree with Senator Black’s thoughts?

Sam Rasoul is a Terrorist?

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2008 campaign photo from Sam Rasoul’s Facebook page

Earlier today, JHPolitics posted a piece supposedly linking Democratic Roanoke House of Delegates candidate Sam Rasoul to terrorism.  One of his donors, a group called Mar-Jac Investments, may have ties to the funding of radical Islam.  As the author concludes, “Virginians deserve better than representatives who may owe favors to such nefarious figures.”

In response, Shaun Kenney at Bearing Drift points out there are several issues that ought to be addressed in this matter.  One particularly pressing one is that if Mar-Jac does have a terrorist link, what does that mean for other recipients of their funds, such as Republican State Senator Dick Black, Democratic Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli?  I encourage you to read his entire post.

Normally, as this issue has been picked up by Bearing Drift, I’d likely leave it as is.  However, as some of my political associates have been running with Rasoul’s supposed ties to terrorism, I felt I had to offer my thoughts.  Even the Republican Party of Virginia is spreading it too.  Although I haven’t spent much time reading about Mr. Rasoul since he ran for House of Representatives in 2008 and almost certainly wouldn’t be supporting him in his House of Delegates race, we can’t go about grasping at straws and making wild accusations.  By all means, figure out what Mar-Jac is all about.  However, for anyone who seeks to condemn Rasoul for this donor, are you also willing to declare Republicans who have benefited tainted as well?

Can we please have a race where we focus on principles and substance?  Or am I simply asking too much?

The Week That Was

These last few days have proved to be some of the more interesting in Virginia, both politically and otherwise.  Of course, this thought may lead you to ask why I haven’t written about it before Friday.  Well, when you are working a bunch of ten-hour days straight, I find you have time for little more than sleeping and eating.  But enough about myself; let’s dive in.

I suppose the most talked about news has to be the Virginia earthquake.  Based right outside the town of Mineral, VA, at 1:51 PM on Tuesday, a 5.8 magnitude quake shook the eastern U.S.  At the time, I was about sixty miles away, across the Blue Ridge Mountains in Weyers Cave, VA.  Although I certainly felt the tremor, I didn’t know it what it was at the time.  Fortunately, the damage was limited and there have been no reports of any fatalities.  However, any time there is an earthquake near a nuclear power plant, I suppose there should be cause for concern.

Moving on to political matters…also on Tuesday, there were a number of primaries across the Commonwealth.  Republican and Democratic hopefuls squared off against each other to secure their party nominations.  Although there weren’t really any great surprises, there were a few disappointments.  Running through the most interesting contests for Senate, we find Senator Norment easily fended off a challenger, former Del. Dick Black making a successful return to state politics, former Delegate and former RPV Chairman Jeff Frederick wiping the floor with Tito Munoz, Jason Flanary denying Steve Hunt another chance to reclaim the seat formerly held by Ken Cuccinelli, and Tom Garrett edging out a win in a five-way contest in the 22nd.

Switching to statewide issues, a recent rift has developed between Senate candidate and former Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke and RedState editor Erick Erickson.  If you may recall, Erickson was early supporter of Radtke’s, promoting her over the “establishment retread” of former Governor and former Senator George Allen.  Although many of the details are still being sorted out, Erickson recently published negative comments about Radtke after her recent speech at a convention sponsored by RedState in Florida.  With allegations flying that her discourse was extremely lackluster and that Allen supporters fund RedState, it is proving difficult to sort out the facts from the conjecture.  Although it is certainly true that I respect both Radtke and RedState, I recommend letting the dust settle before delving into wild speculation.

Moving to local issues, a new candidate has entered the race for Sheriff of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.  His name is Kevin Shifflett and he is from Harrisonburg.  Although details are limited, he is currently a captain in the Army National Guard.  Running as a second independent candidate, it should be interesting to see how his candidacy affects the field of Hutcheson & Hess.  Is he a strong contender?  I suppose we will discover the answer to this question very soon.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on last night’s Tea Party meeting.  As a result of featuring Delegates Tony Wilt, Steve Landes, and Rob Bell, the gathering was extremely well attended.  Just as impressive, the media covered the event for the first time.  Both WHSV (the local T.V. news) and the Daily News Record were present.  Although tea parties are waning in certain parts of the state and country, does this event herald an era of new success for our local tea party?  I certainly hope so.  I wish that I had brought my camera to capture it all.

Although there are other topics to consider, I believe that the ones listed above are far and away the most important in Shenandoah Valley politics these last several days.

Earthquakes, primaries, and political intrigue…wow!  What a week!