Lobbyist takes grassroots politics national
When David P. Schneider became state director for the Convention of States Action in 2013, he knew he was taking a major pay cut after 18 years as a banker.
“It doesn’t feel like I work at all because this is what I’m passionate doing,” he said. “It’s like a hobby, but I get paid doing this.”
Now, Schneider is in his fourth year as regional director, working in grassroots politics from Texas to Michigan, and west to Montana.
“I’d been passively involved in politics,” he said. “I always paid attention, but I never got involved other than to vote.”
Bipartisanship is important to a Convention of States because it is too large a proposition for solely democrats or republicans, Schneider said.
“There are people throughout the spectrum who support it because they know Washington D.C. is broken,” he said. “I don’t care who you talk to, they understand it. They have different solutions, but they support this because they know some of these things are bipartisan.”
A convention of states is outlined in Article V of the Constitution, wherein two thirds of state legislatures, 34 of the 50, have to agree to the prospect.
“You really have to have some bipartisan support to get that level of approval,” he said.
Using the term “Constitutional Convention” to describe a COS is a misnomer because it can’t rewrite the Constitution or write a new one, as the original Constitutional Convention in 1787 did, Schneider said.
“If we wanted a Constitutional Convention to write a new Constitution, you don’t use Article V to do that,” he said. “Kansas could call for everybody to meet in Kansas City on a certain date, and put the call out to the other states. They don’t need to apply to Congress to do it.”
If a convention was held, the process would be paid for by individual states, not the federal government, Schneider said.
“With the states being in charge of it, it’ll be thrifty,” he said. “It’s not going to be a boondoggle. They’d do a lot of things by Skype, and hold committees remotely. The states are used to doing this.”
“We’ve never had an Article V Convention because we never had two thirds agree on why we need to meet,” he said.
Instead of lobbying for a specific amendment, the Convention of States Action focuses on term limits for federal officials, fiscal restraints on federal government, and size, scope, jurisdiction of the federal government, Schneider said.
“If we can get the states together on these subjects, the convention will hammer out the differences as far as what actual amendments are needed,” he said. “We don’t push any particular amendment; our application is tied to subject matter.”
One side effect of being a lobbyist is that he gets asked for opinion by many lawmakers, Schneider said.
“I used to hate the word, but I’ve come to realize being a lobbyist is an important role,” he said. “Legislatures will say the same thing, they rely on good lobbyists. I get asked all kinds of things on unrelated topics.”
While the paycheck is lower than working in banking, the job has allowed Schneider to live in Marion while his three children attended high school.
“It allows me to have a remote job while being based here,” he said. “Marion isn’t a bad place to be, I’m and hour 40 minutes to Topeka, three hours from Lincoln, Nebraska.
To date, Schneider has passed COS with legislatures in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and North Dakota, and he works with legislatures in 11 other states across the Midwest.