Pennsylvania representative joins call for convention of states

Kristen Kaelin

House Representative Thomas P. Murt (R-PA) recently introduced a resolution calling for a Convention of States under with the intention of overturning two Supreme court rulings regarding campaign contributions. The resolution has been co-sponsored by two other Republican legislators and 14 Democrats, including Allegheny County Reps Ravenstahl, Deluca, and Frankel. Murt’s resolution argue that decisions made by the Federal Government have infringed upon State rights under the Tenth Amendment, underming their ability to make their own laws governing campaign finance.

House Resolution 457 invokes Article V of the US Constitution, which gives state representatives the power to propose constitutional amendments at the Federal level with a two-thirds majority. The proposed amendment, The Free and Fair Elections Act, is intended to overturn the rulings of Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, two Supreme court rulings with removed restrictions on campaign contributions from business and wealthy individuals.

Murt’s resolution asserts that the aforementioned rulings “effectively [deny] the states the ability to establish their own laws governing the financing of elections” and that this has led to “undue influence of powerful economic forces,” which his resolution states has allowed for increased corruption in the electoral process. A successful resolution would make Pennsylvania the fifth of 34 required states to invoke Article V. Vermont, Illinois, Missouri, and New Hampshire have all passed similar resolutions in the last five years. The long-term proposed Constitutional Amendment, the Free and Fair Elections Act, is designed to “provide for stricter enforcement of existing bans on coordination between candidates and super PACs, and ensure that American elections are free and fair so that the will of the people is reflected in the actions of the Federal government,” according to the PA resolution.

The beliefs of legislators looking to pass a Free and Fair Elections act in defense of personal liberty are in stark contrast to the motives stated by the Supreme court for their rulings on the two cases being called into question. A public statement by the Supreme Court regarding the ruling notes, “contributing money to a candidate is an exercise of an individual’s right to participate in the electoral process through both political expression and political association.” The document also states that “the Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates may endorse.”

The divide between the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court and the legislators aiming to overturn their ruling may seem out of the ordinary, but there is historical precedent at hand. Get Money Out Maryland, a nonprofit aimed at convincing Maryland legislators to pass their own Article V resolution, notes on their website that “Seven out of 27 amendments have overturned Supreme Court rulings.”

This is not the first time Pennsylvania has attempted to add itself to the Convention of States. Allegheny County Senator Jay Costa introduced an Article V resolution in Jan 2018, which did not succeed. New Mexico also had a Convention of States resolution fail in its house at the beginning of this year. As of now, no deliberation on the pending resolution has occurred. The fate of the resolution is completely in the air.