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Right-wing group that wants to shrink federal government sues Massachusetts for asking who its contributors are

Update: Group dropped the suit.

A group trying to summon a constitutional convention to impose limits on the federal government says Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin has some nerve asking it hand over the names and addresses of anybody in the country who's contributed more than $15 when it's spent only $1,624 in possible lobbying activities in this bluest of states.

The Convention of States Action, headquartered in Houston, today sued Galvin and Marie Marra, head of his lobbyists' division, in US District Court in Boston, asking a judge to order Massachusetts officials to leave them alone and bar the state from demanding it turn over its contributors' names and addresses. The group accuses Galvin of wanting the information so opponents can doxx contributors who believe the federal government should be shrunk enough to be drowned in a bathtub and that states should have the right to limit federal oversight over interstate commerce, which, in addition to allowing regulation of trucking, has long been used as a tool to fight discrimination.

The Convention of States Action says the small amount it filed with Galvin's lobbying division represents money spent on mailings to Massachusetts residents who'd requested them and for the assigned Massachusetts costs of ads it ran, based on the number of people from Massachusetts who responded to the ads.

It says it hasn't actually done any traditional lobbying in Massachusetts and that its goals elsewhere are to convince regular old citizens to communicate their demand for a Constitutional convention with their own state legislatures. The group says its reading of Massachusetts law is that the requirement to report contributors for any "lobbying" only applies to efforts directed specifically at Massachusetts initiatives, of which it says it has none.

The group wants to convince the required 34 state legislatures to formally call for a Constitutional convention to achieve its supposed goals, although there is nothing to stop a convention, once convened, from trying to declare new amendments on anything it wants. Whatever the convention pushes out would have to be approved by three-quarters of states to become constitutional amendments.

Although such a convention is allowed under Article V of the Constitution, to date, one has never been called - all the amendments we have were first passed by Congress and then by the required number of state legislatures.

The Massachusetts legislature's Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs actually holds a hearing on Jan. 7 on a proposal by three state representatives to add Massachusetts to the list of states requesting such a convention, although all three are Republicans, so the odds of passage are slim at best.

Last year, one of the founders of the group, whose supporters include Rick Santorum, Ron DeSantis, Sean Hannity, Mark Meadows, Sarah Palin and Rand Paul, solidified its right-wing bona fides by branching out from constitutional reform to attacking efforts by states to create Covid-19 restrictions. One of its founders also took time away from the Constitution to attack Black Lives Matter and transgender people.

In its complaint, COSA says Massachusetts's request for donor information would be chilling on its contributors' First Amendment rights and would lead to the sort of dangerous, job-depriving doxxing some of its contributors have already experienced elsewhere, even the vast majority of its contributors who have little to no interest in Massachusetts.

When supporters’ affiliation with COSA becomes publicly known, they have been subjected to reprisal, ridicule, intimidation, and threats, the group says.

For example, one COSA affiliate lost their long-held job after their involvement with COSA was made known. That volunteer had to take a substantial reduction in pay to find a new job.

Other affiliates have faced verbal harassment while volunteering, and one was reported by her employer after her affiliation was disclosed to the Department of Homeland Security as a “risk” to her company and country as a whole. Because of instances like this, supporters insist on the protection of their identities and have indicated they will reconsider future contributions if COSA must disclose their identities.

The compelled disclosure of COSA donors and affiliates is likely to subject those donors and affiliates to reprisal, ridicule, intimidation, and threats and to deter future contributions and affiliation. Disclosure would have a significant chilling effect on donors’ speech and association, harming both COSA and its donors.

Complete complaint (221k PDF).
Secretary of State letter and COSA filing (6.4M PDF).

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"The compelled disclosure of COSA donors and affiliates is likely to subject those donors and affiliates to reprisal, ridicule, intimidation, and threats and to deter future contributions and affiliation."

Except for the threats, which might possibly be illegal, and if so dealt with by law enforcement, all of those things are inherent consequences of the COSA supporters' exercise of free speech. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, and they aren't victims.

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C O SA = modern CSA.

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Sorry, couldn't resist.

Bring on an Article V convention. Maybe we'll get a modern constitution out of it, like Canada's, instead of this hopelessly obsolete eighteenth century piece of excrement.

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there is no part of the US Constitution which more strongly imposes tyranny of the minority than Article V, which gives each state an equal vote in both calling a convention, and in ratifying amendments.

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"If people knew who we were, they would laugh at us more directly than they're already doing!"

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A constitutional convention would be such a historical shitshow black comedy that I almost hope one happens just for the lulz.

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is a more accurate name. Thank you Adam for including Grover Norquist's statement of drowning the Federal gov't in a bathtub.

That is the goal of Charles Koch, the Koch empire and the many folks who believe that they can create a fascist nation if only we returned to a Confederacy.

Part of me says go ahead. Let the states that was to leave the union do so. The states that need more money from the Federal gov't. The states that can't manage to take care of their own people because they depend on states that 1) have an excess of tax wealth, 2) prefer to stay united.

There is a moral infection in the nation. Trump was pusticular head of that infection. But there are still plenty more who want to return to the Colonial caste system - sans a king. Actually, given that the heirs to "kingship," Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, etc. are part of the cabal, they probably would fight each other over who got to create start a new royalty and aristocracy for the Confederated States of America under the Aegis of some Whacked Out Nightmare of a God.

Handmaiden's Tale was science fiction at its best. Showing what the future could be if the wrong people took control.

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Fascist states are always unitary, controlled from the center. One of the first things the Nazis did after taking power was to reduce Germany's Länder (federal states) to irrelevance. They divided the country into Gauen, each one led by a Gauleiter. It stayed that way until 1945, when the Allies dissolved Germany's government.

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Germany was always a confederation until the Weimar Republic. Even under the title Holy Roman Empire it remained an anomalous kingdom in that the emperor was nearer the pope than a traditional hereditary royal. Fast forward to the Weimar Republic, it's weakness given the conditions of the day (e.g., the Versailies Treaty) and multiple social forces at play, Germany became a more or less solidly unified nation under the NAZIs.

That does not preclude the fundamental social concept of fascism growing in the US. Fascism under Germany included a purity of national identity. Pure German, rather pure Aryan, excluded Jew, East European, Jehovah's Witness, Gypsy, homosexual, etc. A definition tightly focused on what was excluded.

This particular aspect of fascism is very much alive in the US. With the particulars of the evolution of US identity the basis of the fascism encompasses both an ethnic purity (white European) and, very important difference I think, a religious purity. Which means that anyone who is not right wing Evangelical, Fundamentalist, post-Protestant Christian, etc. is excluded. In that definition of purity Catholics and Jews are equally rejected. I can see right a program that "encouraged" Catholics to publicly reject their Catholicism in the same manner that Jews had to renounce Judaism if they wanted to stay in kingdoms where the government strove to exile native Jews.

Fascism is far more than a formation of government. It is a mindset that allowed the Holocaust, but is not limited to the Holocaust. This same mindset has existed in the US since before the US. The cultural genocide of Native Americans, the slave culture, the Eugenicist Movement, all of these are aspects of the evil side of human society that today is identified by the word fascism.

The fascist mentality is very much alive in the US. Always has been. Trump, as the pustular whitehead he posed, simply brought the infection out of from underneath the usually opaque skin of media notice to the surface. We can only hope that the sunlight of revelation with ultimately cure most of those infected of the disease.

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