Hypocrisy watch: WI’s Taylor tailors constitutional amendment ideals to fit her politics

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — State Rep. Chris Taylor has a love-hate relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Madison Democrat, of course, loathes the nonprofit advocate of limited government and free markets and what she sees as its controlling hand over Republican state lawmakers.

But Taylor, as a member of ALEC, loves the liberal spotlight in “infiltrating” the meetings of an organization that ALEC officials say she, as a legislator, is more than welcome to attend.

BETTER CONVENTION: State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, sounds appalled that the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, would call for a constitutional convention to discuss a federal balanced budget amendment, but she sees nothing wrong with doing the same to kill the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Taylor made a big stink about her experiences at ALEC’s 40th anniversary event in Chicago last year in a two-part account titled “My ALEC Diary,” published for the liberal faithful in Madison’s The Progressive magazine. Taylor said she felt like she “was on another planet.”

Interesting. That’s how conservatives often describe a sojourn in liberal Madison.

“My takeaway after spending two days at a conference is ALEC is a well-oiled machine,” Taylor said in a story published in August in the Capital Times, another Madison-based progressive publication. ”Putting the amount of money it has aside, the coordination and the infrastructure this group has in place is incredible. I was both fascinated and horrified by it.”

Despite Taylor’s complaining about being treated differently as the only Wisconsin Democrat to attend the ALEC conference and all her talk about the group’s clandestine dealings, ALEC officials have said they welcomed the lawmaker with open arms, as the group would do for any state legislator.

She wasn’t turned away — a point that should be obvious by Taylor’s detailed “ALEC Diary” — and one ALEC administrator told Wisconsin Reporter the organization fully expects Taylor to attend ALEC’s spring meeting this week.

Taylor doesn’t mind slinging a little hypocrisy, particularly as it relates to the liberal edict: Do as I say, not as I do.

In February, the Madison Democrat chided Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature for their support of Assembly Joint Resolution 81, which calls for an Article V Constitutional Convention to demand a federal balanced budget amendment.

As Lew Uhler, president of the National Tax Limitation Committee, recently wrote in Human Events:

“In their wisdom, our Founders provided two ways to propose amendments in Article V of the US Constitution: by Congress with a two-thirds vote of each House, or pursuant to the action of a convention of the states to be convened by Congress per resolutions of two-thirds of the states on a particular subject (or multiple subjects, if the state calls were plenary in nature.”

With each American’s share of the debt approaching $55,000, the need for a balanced budget is more acute than ever, said state Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, who led the resolution and is one of scores of state lawmakers nationally organizing the Article V initiative.

“For the first time in our nation’s history the federal government is incurring such an immense amount of debt that our kids will be paying for it,” Kapenga said in a statement. “It’s reckless, irresponsible and it frustrates me that they don’t even have a plan to deal with it.”

Brendan Fischer of the left-wing Center for Media and Democracy, also based in Madison, bemoaned the notion “Wisconsin is the latest state to line up behind a national effort to amend the Constitution and cripple the federal government’s ability to spend…”

Such a constitutional amendment, Fischer declared, appears to hold the “ultimate goal of completely overhauling America’s system of governance.”

Fischer writes that the Wisconsin legislation closely tracks the “Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution” from the American Legislative Exchange Council “and allied advocacy groups promoting an Article V convention.”

Fischer quotes Taylor, who asserts the Wisconsin resolution “comes right out of the Convention of States workshop and materials presented at ALEC where state legislators were promised bundled campaign contributions and grassroots support if they joined this effort to amend the federal constitution.”

“I am alarmed that this effort is now making its way through the Wisconsin Legislature,” Taylor said in a statement issued days before the Assembly, on a party-line vote passed the resolution and Assembly Bill 635, which puts in place the process of action by the Legislature should the call for an Article V convention come in.

But Taylor certainly didn’t express the same “alarm” when she introduced a resolution in February 2012 calling for a National Constitutional Convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, should Congress fail to push through a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United.

Taylor worked with fellow Madison progressive, then-state Rep. Mark Pocan, now a U.S. representative for Wisconsin’s ultra-liberal 2nd Congressional District, in pushing the resolution, which went nowhere in the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

Taylor has since introduced a resolution that would create an advisory referendum, taking the idea of a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform to Wisconsin voters. That proposal, too, failed to move.

The Democrats’ call for a constitutional convention was directly aligned with the national Move to Amend initiative, a coalition of mostly liberal activists, including the Center for Media and Democracy, a founding member. Move to Amend members despise the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and a more recent decision, each lifting campaign spending limits on corporations, labor unions and individuals.

“We are calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to unequivocally state that inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns,” Move to Amend asserts on its website.

David Cobb, the group’s national spokesman, didn’t return several calls from Wisconsin Reporter seeking comment.

Taylor didn’t respond to an interview request from Wisconsin Reporter, but her office emailed the lawmaker’s statement deriding Wisconsin conservative support for a balanced budget amendment as the “latest ALEC scheme.”

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Article V of the U.S. Constitution gives the states power in constitutional amendments. Conservatives and liberals both are pursuing its use.

She insists the Convention of States project, calling for an Article V convention of the states to pursue federal balanced budget requirements, “aims to curtail the power of the federal government to protect the environment, consumers and workers.”

Conservatives charge that Taylor doesn’t seem to have any problems with calling a constitutional convention and amending the constitution to weaken long-established First Amendment rights and overriding the authority of the nation’s highest court.

Bill Meierling, senior director of Public Affairs for Arlington, Va.-based ALEC, said 48 states, including Wisconsin, already have some sort of statutory or constitutionally mandated balanced budget provision.

“If it works for the states, why shouldn’t it work for the federal government?” he asked. “People are allowing their political passions to supplant good thinking … All that we are exploring is the need to talk about this.”

Instead of engaging in debate, Meierling said, opponents of a federal balanced budget amendment “focus on character assassination.” With mounting federal debt, something is going to have to give, he said.

Meanwhile, the national battle over Citizens United and campaign finance goes on, with Senate majority Democrats on Wednesday pledging a vote on a constitutional amendment.

“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now,” said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in announcing the plan.

Schumer failed to mention in his outraged news conference the $22,774,723 he has raised, much of it from wealthy donors in the securities and investments trade and from lobbyists and lawyers, between 2009 and his latest campaign filing March 31.

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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