Days before the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as protests at Standing Rock intensified and the costliest wildfire in United States history burned across Big Sur, some 150 current and former state legislators gathered in Colonial Williamsburg for a weekend of role play—to debate amendments to the U.S. constitution. The event was led by Ken Ivory, a state representative from Utah. “Like air in a tire, gas will expand to fill the space that is given to it. Government, like that, expands to the limit that it’s checked. Left unchecked, government expands limitlessly,” he told those gathered before him, according to a video later posted on YouTube. Addressing them for the last time, after several days of debate that culminated in passing three proposed (fake) amendments, he said, “It’s time for us to be leaders among leaders, to take this back, this spirit that we’ve felt—the beauty of self-governance.”
It was a role-playing exercise at a historical theme park, but what the participants were acting out was not a homage to the past, but a vision of a radical future—and one which they are closer than ever to realizing. A nationwide political movement, fueled by millions of dollars in political dark money and guided by some of the most powerful and influential figures on the right, has come historically close to invoking a previously unused constitutional provision, which could put the entire structure of American rights and government in play. At a moment when political norms and institutions are already being stretched to their limits, the advocates see an opening to breach those limits altogether.
Recently, Ivory appeared with former senator Coburn at a rally hosted by Convention of States Action in the Utah State Capitol building and attended by numerous other state legislators. In his remarks with Coburn, Ivory said that he’d been to 11 different state legislatures lobbying for an Article V convention. However, by appearing with Coburn, a Convention of States lobbyist in Utah in the Capitol building, it appears that Ivory may have gone too far in blurring the lines between his role as a legislator and as a lobbyist.
“Rep. Ivory does appear to be in violation of the state’s lobbying requirements,” Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, a liberal watchdog group, told me. “He does not have to obtain a license to lobby in Utah: he is exempt as a public official. He does, however, have to file financial reports disclosing his lobbying expenditures. A search of the Utah’s lobbying disclosure database contains no submissions from Ivory.”