Editor: How does she do it? Peg Brady not only journals nonstop through the Western Conservative Summit main sessions. She also takes in the citizen action workshops and breakout sessions by great gulps and renders them into a written record as well. Again with gratitude to a valued friend of Centennial Institute and of liberty, here is Peg’s log of WCS14 workshops.
Citizen Action Workshops
Of great value during WCS 2014, 24 Citizen Action Workshops empowered and informed us. These learning sessions were scheduled on Friday afternoon before the Summit convened, on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday afternoon following adjournment. Choosing among them was most difficult.
Article V: Power to the People
How to reform the out-of-control federal government through the state-initiated constitutional amendment process. Rob Natelson, Bob Berry and Lori Saine of Colorado’s First Committee and Mark Meckler from Convention of States explain the nationwide effort to restore federalism’s essential checks and balances.
Civilizational Jihad Comes Home: Be Ready
Amid Islamist turmoil overseas, the Muslim Brotherhood agenda in America keeps advancing. Forearm yourself with insights from experts John Guandolo and Frank Gaffney.
Defending the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
Colorado’s TABOR, the nation’s gold standard in tax and spending limits since 1992, faces relentless attack from politicians, special-interest groups and the courts. Get an update from economist and former state legislator Penn Pfiffner of from Colorado’s TABOR Committee and then get involved.
Endangered Species Madness: The Texas Experience
No law better serves the anti-capitalist, anti-people agenda than the Endangered Species Act. Learn how Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has effectively led her state’s pushback.
Exercising your Civic Authority
Tired of being driven like sheep by politicians and political parties? Tea Party Patriots and Center for Self-Governance explain how to drive government properly and effectively.
Fracking: What’s True, What’s at Stake, What You Can Do
Ahead of the likely ballot issue to shut down hydraulic fracturing in Colorado (and with it, our oil and gas industry), Rocky Mountain Energy Forum and Dr. Bert Fisher detail the facts and how to help.
Fundraising for Freedom
You can’t save the world if you can’t pay the rent. Leadership Institute and Barry Aarons explain how to raise more money for the issues that matter to you.
Grassroots Lobbying for Freedom: Organizing to Win
Get the tools for holding Congress accountable to conservative principles. Heritage Action and Ben Evans describe how to communicate effectively with legislators using the Heritage Action website and scorecard.
Grassroots Social Media to Win
Use social media to have a conservative influence on the agenda in Congress. Heritage Action and Stephanie Kreuz detail the steps to combine our voices to win legislative fights (MakeDCListen).
Hot Issues in Pro-Life & Religious Liberty
How goes the battle to protect the unborn, defend traditional marriage and uphold freedom of religion? Charlotte Lozier Institute and Alliance Defending Freedom, frontline combatants from Arizona, Colorado and DC, will report.
How to Get Publicity for Your Cause: Write Better, Persuade Better
Tea Party Patriots with Michael Prell and Juda Englemayer describe simple techniques for effective writing and how to use media and current events to get publicity for your group and its activities (two-part workshop).
How to Hold Your Legislators Accountable
What are those rascals up to at your state legislature? Rich Bratten from Principles of Liberty explains how to track them with a principles-based legislative analysis and a factual report of what legislators are doing.
Medical Dangers of Legal Marijuana
Juvenile substance abuse expert Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel (PhD) lays out the grim realities of Colorado’s experiment with universally available marijuana.
North America as the New Energy Powerhouse
Rocky Mountain Energy Forum and John Felmy explain that developments now allow the US, Canada and Mexico to direct their energy destiny, but it will take wise policies. Fossil-fuel opponents are determined. Local, state and federal actions on these issues will determine whether energy will be abundant or scarce.
Power of Conservative Fiction
Storytelling that instills a cultural and political worldview need not be the monopoly of the left. Right-minded novelists James Kellogg, Joanne Moudy and Jim Czuper discuss their craft.
Power of Conservative Film
Progressives no longer own Hollywood and the big screen. Hear about it from John Sullivan (“America the Movie”), Ann McIlhenny and Phelim McAleer (“Fracknation”), Josef Lipp (“Persecuted”), Dave Voda (“The Good Fight”) and Joel Gilbert (“There’s No Place Like Utopia”).
Precinct Organizing to Win
In four steps, learn from Tea Party Patriots and Bill Pascoe how to win your election 30 days before the polls open, plus everything else you wanted to know about precinct operations.
Repealing Obamacare, One State at a Time
Ten states have already approved the Health Care Compact to opt out of the ACA. Who should make decisions about your family’s health – Washington insiders or you? Tea Party Patriots and Leo Linbeck detail a way to put citizens back in control.
Secrets of a Winning Political Campaign
Meet Joe Basel and Hannah Giles, the 20-something couple who shook up their campuses, then took down ACORN, helped elect Scott Brown and worked on the 2013 Colorado recalls.
Speaking the Language of Liberty
Tea Party Patriots and Bill Norton explain how to speak the language of liberty effectively to stir both the heart and the mind to inspire others to desire freedom, peace and prosperity over the subtleties of tyranny.
The Answer: Frederick Douglass
Tea Party Patriots and K. Carl Smith show how to take control of the political narrative and enhance your ability to share the conservative message in a way that connects with all Americans.
Truth Transcends Color
Ready to build a coalition of all colors and ages around America’s founding principles of liberty, equality and opportunity, our self-evident truths? Learn how from Derrick Wilburn of American Conservatives of Color and Hugo Chavez-Rey of Colorado Hispanic Republicans.
Video Activism for Change
Conservatives are making a big comeback through online video activism. Leadership Institute and Caleb Bonham teach how you can make a difference by exposing the corrupt left.
Write Better, Persuade Better
Part 2 of How to Get Publicity for Your Cause.
Workshop — Article V: Power to the People,” Rob Natelson, Bob Berry and Lori Saine of Colordo’s First Committee and Mark Meckler of Citizens for Self-Governance
The wise, forward-seeing authors of our precious Constitution recognized that our nation might encounter circumstances that they had not anticipated. Instead of the citizen-controlled government that they envisioned, America is experiencing out-of-control government run by professional political elitists, a government that no long respects or even acknowledges its constitutional limits. But our nation’s Founders gave us a tool to rein in their destructive over-reach: Article V
“Exercising Article V is not revolution. It’s restoration.” Constitution scholar and former law professor Rob Natelson explained the historic context for the inclusion of Article V in our Constitution. The Founders modeled Article V’s Convention of States to Propose Amendments on more than 30 prior multi-jurisdiction conventions. The procedures in place for such conventions have been carefully honed: each state’s legislature selecting the state commissioners, the stipulation that the convention must stay within its agenda, the requirement that any proposal must be approved by the states to become binding, the rule that each state’s delegation has one vote.
“History shows that amendments work.” Our cherished Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, clearly demonstrate the power and importance of exercising our amendment privilege. “It’s not just our right. It’s our duty.”
Author and radio commentator Bob Berry emphasized that Article V restores the states’ constitutional authority, now being severely undermined by the over-weaning federal government. He reviewed some of the many amendments being considered in the states: legislative and judicial term limits, line-item veto, no exemption for Congress from the impact of their legislation, and others. Especially popular (about 75%) is the Balanced Budget amendment.
Colorado state representative Lori Saine assured people that the myth of a runaway convention is not creditable. Any proposed amendment arising from an Article V convention would require, like a Congress-initiated proposal, approval by 38 states. Extreme, undesirable or unworkable proposals would not garner ratification. “Just one house in one of 13 states would kill it.”
Passionate proponent of states’ rights Mark Meckler reminded us that, rather than concern about a fictitious runaway convention, we are far more endangered by runaway government. “That’s a reality!” Before an Article V convention can be summoned, the legislatures in 34 states must submit applications to Congress, and those applications must be identical or similar enough that they can be aggregated to the required count of 34. Given that Congress is highly unlikely to allow any leeway, success probably requires identical applications. After all, Congress hardly wants us mere citizens to instruct them and no recent administration has favored limiting governmental power. To avoid providing Congress an excuse for not acknowledging the states’ demand for a convention, his Convention of States Project has drafted an application for states to use (coonventionofstates.com).
Professor Natelson observed that, even if the states do not succeed in submitting 34 sufficiently similar applications, the possibility of an Article V convention serves as a lever for Congress to reform government, rather than face a highly motivated Convention of States.
Reasserting federalism’s balance would achieve the limited federal government stipulated in our Constitution. So would Nullification, another means of reform being widely discussed. “Use them both!” Mark Meckler urged. But, he reminded us, some courts have cast doubt on the constitutional legitimacy of Nullification. “Article V is obviously constitutional.”
Workshop — Defending the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights,” Penn Pfiffner from The TABOR Foundation
Among the timeless wisdom of self-evident truths in our cherished Declaration of Independence are the concluding words, “…that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation of such principles….”
Too often, government spending grows beyond the citizens’ willingness to fund newer, bigger programs. Many such programs not rightly within the government’s enumerated powers simply grasp for power, using our own tax dollars to control us. Moreover, tax dollars may be spent on vote-buying programs and rewards to cronies for campaign donations.
Seeking to protect our freedom and strengthen our economy, in 1992 Coloradans passed an amendment to our state constitution that limits government spending at every level in our state. Since then, our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, nicknamed TABOR after a famous Colorado miner and philanthropist Horace Tabor, has become “the gold standard for restraining government’s intrusive growth, ensuring fiscal responsibility and promoting prosperity.”
Other qualifiers include the requirement that a tax or debt ballot measure can only occur in conjunction with a general election. Also, all ballot measures must explain the cost of the proposed action.
Taxation is forced contribution, leaving people with less money to contribute to causes that they would voluntarily support of their own free individual choice. TABOR adds one more check to our American system of vital checks and balances. Once a legislative body at any level decides to raise taxes or incur debt, citizens get to vote the notion up or down.
Thus, TABOR protects individual choice. It requires governments to prioritize spending, just as we all must do. Our success has attracted considerable interest from other states; the TABOR Foundation (thetaborfoundation.org) is currently responding to inquiries from Arizona, Florida and Kansas. Even Winnipeg, Canada, has sought guidance about TABOR as an effective path to reduced spending and smaller government.
So effective has Colorado’s TABOR Amendment been that the state’s economy avoided much of the downturn that impoverished Americans and crushed businesses in less thrifty states. Greater certainty about Colorado’s taxes has encouraged businesses. “If it weren’t for TABOR, we could be in the same boat as California or Detroit.” At the same time, its success has made TABOR the tax-and-spend left’s target.
Contrary to the left’s false claims, the TABOR Amendment does not utterly forestall government spending. Revenue can increase in parallel with population growth and inflation, with a provision for true emergency needs. For school districts, the calculation is based on school enrollment, rather than population growth. Thus, government revenue in Colorado has increased every year since TABOR took effect except for a small reduction in 2011. Moreover, if additional funds are needed beyond the TABOR-allowed increase, the government can request voter approval; if Coloradans perceive the purpose as worthy, they will consent. The same process applies to a government’s desire to incur long-term debt. “That’s representative government.”
Workshop — Grassroots Lobbying for Freedom: Organizing to Win, Ben Evans of Heritage Action
“Tens of thousands of DC lobbyists” maneuver for special-interest groups. Instead, Heritage Foundation has an honored position because it presents objective facts compiled by subject-matter experts. The foundation formed Heritage Action, its new activist group, to empower citizens to act as effective lobbyists for liberty. To that end, Heritage Action publishes an up-to-date scorecard on federal legislators.
As informed citizens, we can address our representatives and senators with factual information pertaining to current bills. Heritage Action’s website (heritageaction.com) provides a thorough description of each relevant bill and cogent fact-based reasons for them to vote according to conservative principles. The website also delivers similar information about nominations and bill amendments.
Although the website offers a statement that the citizen-lobbyist can use, a better approach is to reword it in one’s own style. We can also effectively express conservative values at our legislator’s townhall meetings, on blogs and through op-ed letters to local newspapers.
Another website feature, the Dashboard, recommends how best to contact our legislators. In general, legislators are least busy on Tuesdays, and a phone call gets the most notice. Contacting the legislator’s local office is highly effective. By frequent contacts, calmly presenting reliable information, we can build a communication link with our legislator’s staff; identifying the staffer responsible for specific issues strengthens these links.
The Dashboard also provides some information about contacting our state, county and city officials.
Finally, Heritage Action is recruiting “sentinels” – individuals who want to take action. The Heritage Action leader for each state will detail reasoned responses for current issues so that the “sentinel” can communicate conservative values effectively. Thus, through grassroots lobbying we can restore the American traditions of freedom.
Workshop: “Speaking the Language of Liberty,” Bill Norton of Tea Party Patriots
Realistically, it is necessary to address people’s genuine concerns. The issues that matter are personal and economic freedom, the opportunity to pursue one’s own vision of the American Dream.
Five years ago the Tea Party coalesced among lovers of freedom who recognized that our liberty and our constitutional principles were under exceptional threat. Today Americans are even less free than we were then. Sixty-six percent of Americans feel that the American Dream is less achievable now than in their parent’s lifetime.
Like the Revolutionary patriots for whom today’s Tea Party is named, we reject excessive, unjust taxation and the government’s attitude of elitist supremacy. The more desperate the government becomes – legislators, judges, bureaucrats and all — the more oppressive their actions.
Our task is helping people realize that freedom is more precious than free stuff. Freedom requires effort, though, from citizens and government: fiscal responsibility, wise choices, dedicated endeavor, and commitment to America’s core values. The left targets our precious Constitution because it protects personal liberty, the free-market economy because it promotes equal opportunity.
To be heard, we need to express our values as those of all Americans. For example, people understand that cheating is wrong and erodes the nation’s moral foundation. Capitalism’s critics cite the abuses of “crony capitalism” that is not capitalism at all. People cherish their privacy. They recognize that the IRS wrongfully targeted Conservatives on ideological grounds. They do not want the government interfering in their health-care choices. They know that the executive branch violates its constitutional power when it governs through directives and regulations, the proper role of the legislative branch. Most agree that out-of-control spending, especially spending that benefits special-interest groups, is ruining our economy; reduced taxes, not government spending and ever-burgeoning debt, would stimulate economic growth Most Americans favor a flat tax or “fair tax” over the current, corrupt IRS system.
Benjamin Franklin wisely observed that the poor thrived when they had opportunity, not largesse. “The less that was done for them, the more they did for themselves and they became richer.”
We are not “fringy” but representatives of “America’s mind” at its best – freedom, fiscal sanity and opportunity, the assurance that we can benefit from our labor. We speak from genuine care, wanting to empower people and believing that Americans will flourish with renewed prosperity when we regain limited, constitutional government.
Workshop –Truth Transcends Color,” Derrick Wilburn from American Conservatives of Color and Hugo Chavez-Rey from Colorado Hispanic Republicans
Conservatives often lament that Blacks and Latinos too consistently vote for leftist candidates. Instead, Derrick Wilburn (blackandconservative.com) advised us to reach out to those communities, building friendships that bring genuine benefit and goodwill. These people too seek freedom, prosperity and self-esteem – the American Dream. And they too cherish America’s traditional values. Yet they primarily vote for leftist candidates and causes. Why? Because the left nurtures community relationships.
As Conservatives we must demonstrate human caring. We need to be part of the solution. Instead of a monthly breakfast meeting, we should volunteer in other communities – paint a school, weed a garden, march in a parade, tidy a park or playground. However we cannot just be seeking votes; building trust and friendships takes time, perhaps years. Recognizing that we share American values, we can bridge the long-standing divide through understanding and respect.
Hugo Chavez-Rey declared that many Hispanics, like many blacks, are Conservatives at heart but vote for the candidates who come to their communities. He averred that Hispanics would gladly vote for conservative candidates and causes; Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush related warmly with Hispanics, and millions voted for those honorable men. Hispanic communities in America are young and mostly of Mexican ethnicity. To reach them, we need to learn about their lives and values and participate in those communities year-round.
“Like all of us, blacks and Latinos cherish faith, family and freedom.” On such strong shared values, we can and should build friendships.