CSG Action is a 501 (c)(4) project founded by Eric O'Keefe and Mark Meckler, who are "heading up" the to push for a constitutional convention in order to severely restrict federal power. According to its latest available IRS filing, its mission is "to empower ordinary citizens to have an impact on community life by providing opportunities for citizens to receive information and training on civic engagement, and to engage in lobbying activities in order to influence legislation for the benefit of the community."
Meckler described his group's goals to "stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power." According to the organization's handbook, it aims to "go AROUND the Washington political establishment and rein in the out-of-control federal government PERMANENTLY" (emphasis from source).
Common Cause called COS "a more far-reaching plan" than an Article V convention, advocating for "a complete change in how the federal government operates." According to The Dangerous Path report, COS "has deep ties" to the tea party movement, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Koch brothers."
Potential outcomes range from redefining the Commerce Clause to prohibit Congress from enacting protections against child labor laws, to adding a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. CSG has promoted this strategy in workshops at the 2012 and 2013 annual conference of ALEC, which has published a "how-to" manual for an Article V constitutional amendment and offers a "model" resolution, the "Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution."
"Various activist groups have sought to amend the constitution on specific points through an Article V convention before, but few have been as well-funded or as ideologically driven as the Convention of States Project, steeped in evangelical Christianity and backed by millions of dollars in dark money. Between 2011 and 2015, the group’s budget more than tripled to $5.7 million—buoyed by donations from the Mercer Family Foundation and various donor-advised funds linked to the Koch brothers," Brendan O'Connor reported in June 2017. Arn Pearson of the Center for Media and Democracy said “Convention of States is a much more radical approach to a constitutional convention... Their budget has increased dramatically. This is their effort to push the state agenda as far as they can while they hold peak power.”
News and Controversy
CSG Action Funds "Green" PAC
CSG Action was the sole funder of a political action committee, Go Green Montana, which backed Green Party candidate Wendie Fredrickson of Helena for the 2020 Montana U.S. Senate race. Go Green Montana spent $27,000 on digital advertising, mailings, and a website supporting Fredrickson before the June 2 primary election. Filings with the Federal Election Committee show Go Green Montana raised $45,500 from CSG Action. The Montana Green Party has said the PAC has no affiliation with the Green Party of Montana. According to KTVH Helena Montana "the Montana Republican Party financed the effort to qualify the Green Party for the 2020 Montana ballot, enabling candidates to run under that banner. GOP officials said they wanted to give Montana voters 'more choices.'The Montana Democratic Party says the effort to promote the Green Party and its candidates, including the Go Green Montana PAC, are part of an 'ongoing Republican effort to mislead Montanans and meddle in our elections.'"
Ties to Conservative Groups and Politicans
The leadership of the COS is staffed with alumni of various conservative organizations. Meckler is a founder of the Tea Party Patriots and writer at The Daily Caller. O'Keefe is a founding Board Member of the Institute for Free Speech, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and numerous other conservative groups.
CSG Action is not required to disclose its funders, so they remain unknown. Through an examination of IRS filings, however, six funders have been uncovered. "CSGA has three known donors, including two groups associated with Leonard Leo, Trump’s point person for stacking the federal courts with conservative activists, In 2016, Leo’s Freedom and Opportunity Fund gave $2 million to CSGA, and the Judicial Crisis Network gave $110,000."
- Citizens for a Strong Economy: $10,000 (2015)
- Freedom and Opportunity Fund: $2,000,000 (2016)
- Judicial Crisis Network: $110,000 (2016)
- Total Revenue: $581,000
- Total Expenses: $630,927
- Net Assets: $134,948
- Travis Institute of Educational Policy: $163,200
- Total Revenue: $22,630
- Total Expenses: $259,519
- Net Assets: $184,875
- Total Revenue: $2,144,000
- Total Expenses: $1,806,314
- Net Assets: $421,764
- Total Revenue: $88,003
- Total Expenses: $424,303
- Net Assets: $84,079
- Total Revenue: $952,506
- Total Expenses: $785,768
- Net Assets: $420,379
- Total Revenue: $823,134
- Total Expenses: $1,214,289
- Net Assets: $253,641
As of December 2018:
- Mark Meckler, CEO
- Michael Ruthenberg, Secretary
- Timothy Murphy, CFO
Board of Directors
5850 San Felipe
Houston, TX 77057
Articles and Resources
IRS Form 990 Filings
- David Armiak, Radical Resolution Calling for a Constitutional Rewrite Passes Wisconsin Assembly, ExposedbyCMD.
- David Armiak, Convention of States Fires Up Base for Push to Rewrite U.S. Constitution, ExposedbyCMD.
- Mary Bottari, Infighting, Legal Questions Slow ALEC Push for Second Constitutional Convention, ExposedbyCMD.
- Arn Pearson, Koch Convention to Rewrite Constitution Runs Into Roadblocks, ExposedbyCMD.
- Alex Kotch, Kochs Bankroll Move to Rewrite the Constitution, ExposedbyCMD.
- CSG Action, 2017 IRS Form 990 organizational filing, November, 2018.
- Emma Roller Conservatives’ Improbable New ‘Convention of States’ Project Slate, Dec 23, 2013
- Citizens for Self Governance Pocket Guide Booklet promotional materials, accessed April 23, 2019
- Jay Riestenberg and Dale Eisman The Dangerous Path Common Cause Education, May 2016
- Brendan Fischer, Wisconsin Moving to Advance ALEC Constitutional Convention Scheme, Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, February 10, 2014.
- Brendan O'Connor, Koch Brothers' Former Right-Hand Man's New Gig: Helping Reactionaries Dismantle the Constitution, Fusion, June 12, 2017.
- Arn Pearson, Koch Convention to Rewrite Constitution Runs into Roadblocks, Exposed by CMD, June 12, 2017.
- Holly Michels, PAC backing Green candidate funded by conservative group, Independent Record, Jun 24, 2020
- Financial Summary, Go Green Montana PAC, Federal Election Commission, accessed 8/31/20
- Mike Dennison, Texas-based conservative group funding 'green' PAC in MT, KTVH Helen Montana, June 23, 2020
- COS home organizational site, accessed April 22, 2019
- David Armiak, Radical Resolution Calling for a Constitutional Rewrite Passes Wisconsin Assembly, ExposedbyCMD, February 25, 2020.
- CSG Action, 2018 IRS Form 990 organizational filing, October 31, 2019.
- CSG Action, 2016 IRS Form 990 organizational filing, October 24, 2017.
- CSG Action, 2015 IRS Form 990 organizational filing, November 11, 2016.
- CSG Action, 2014 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 16, 2015.
- CSG Action, 2013 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2014.