Secretary of State Doug La Follette mails out ‘convention of states’ documents following GOP complaint

La Follette said Republican complaint about timing of mailing was politically motivated

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar
Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar make her opening arguments at a hearing in front of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., March 29, 2011. Michael P. King/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s Democratic Secretary of State said he has mailed official copies of a Republican resolution calling for a “convention of states” to amend the U.S. Constitution.

The step resolves a dispute between GOP lawmakers, who threatened legal action after the mailing was delayed, and Secretary of State Doug La Follette, who called their complaint a politically motivated stunt.

Republicans in the state Legislature passed a joint resolution in January calling for an Article V Convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. Because the plan was passed as a joint resolution, Republicans were able to sidestep a veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Under the terms of the resolution, the convention would be limited to proposing amendments that “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials.”

While a constitutional convention would be historic, there’s a long way to go before it could actually happen. Congress must receive requests from 34 states to convene a convention — Wisconsin was just the 16th state to take the step.

Still, GOP lawmakers threatened to sue La Follette in July after his office did not promptly follow through with the terms of the resolution, which calls for the secretary of state “to transmit copies of this application” to a long list of government officials, including the president and secretary of the U.S. Senate, the speaker and clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and House members from Wisconsin and the presiding officers of legislatures in other states.

La Follette said Monday that he had mailed the documents, but rejected the idea that there was ever any urgency.

“We did our job and we did it adequately. And they have no reason to complain about it except to make headlines,” La Follette said. “When people receive it, they’re going to put it in a file folder. And that’s it. So it’s not the kind of thing that it has any urgency to get it done. Given that we made it a second priority”

La Follette, whose office has been trimmed by Republicans to a single employee, said part of the reason for the delay was that his office mailing budget had run out of money.

He said the only reason Republicans waged the complaint was to criticize him ahead of this year’s election.

“There was never an issue,” La Follette said. “It was a political gimmick on their part to make headlines and to criticize me.”

When Republicans criticized the delay in July, Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said she had sent multiple emails to La Follette asking about the status of the mailings.

“The secretary of state in the state of Wisconsin has no authority to say whether he likes or dislikes something and to shirk his duties,” Bernier said at the time.

An aide to Bernier confirmed Monday that the documents had been mailed by La Follette. Her office said Bernier had no further comment.

La Follette has been Wisconsin’s Secretary of State all but four years dating back to 1974. He faces Dane County Democratic chair Alexia Sabor in the Aug. 9 primary.

The Republican primary features state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, former Secretary of State candidate Jay Schroeder and Justin Schmidtka.

New WPR  Apparel. Starting at $12/month. Donate now.

Trustworthy news, world-class music and Wisconsin stories … made possible by people like you.