The Constitution Project, now part of the Project On Government Oversight, works to combat the increasing partisan divide regarding our constitutional rights and liberties. For over 20 years it has brought together people of diverse experiences and political philosophies to forge consensus-based solutions to some of the most difficult constitutional questions of the day. Our bipartisan committees comprise highly regarded experts with experience in government, academia, business and the law, whose commitment to the principles embodied in our Constitution trumps their political and ideological differences.
We undertake original research, develop policy positions, publish reports and statements, file amicus briefs, testify before Congress, and hold regular briefings with legislative staff and other policymakers. TCP’s work has been cited by numerous government agencies, as well as leading law and policy organizations.
There are, of course, a number of challenging constitutional questions to which this approach could be productively applied. TCP has chosen to concentrate on three areas: First, how can we maintain public safety while ensuring that our government exercises its law enforcement and national security powers in a fair, humane and constitutional manner? Over the past 40 years, our criminal justice system has experienced systemic failures that come at a high economic and societal cost. And, since 9/11, the national security state has exploded, threatening some of our most basic rights and protections. TCP works to safeguard fundamental liberties in both of these arenas, which increasingly overlap.
Second, how do we safeguard personal information, privacy and First Amendment rights that are increasingly affected by rapid technological innovations? Advancements in technology are making it far easier for the government to monitor, collect and analyze personal information and activities. We look at what can be done to ensure that First and Fourth Amendment safeguards still apply in the digital age.
And third, how can we make government more open and accountable? An informed citizenry is central to our representative form of government. But it seems the government’s usual practice has become non-disclosure, whether through over-classification of information, resistance to legitimate Freedom of Information requests, or other efforts to conceal government activities. We are working to improve government transparency and oversight.
TCP was established in 1997 by Virginia “Ginny” Sloan, who served as president and a member of its Board of Directors for 20 years and now sits on the Board of Directors for the Project On Government Oversight. Concerned about the proliferation of proposals to amend the Constitution in the late nineties, Ms. Sloan reached out to esteemed individuals from the private, non-profit and government sectors, to solicit support for a new initiative to safeguard the constitutional amendment process. A “who’s who” of lawyers, judges, scholars and policymakers—representing a remarkable breadth of ideological and political diversity—agreed to participate, producing a seminal report, “Great and Extraordinary Occasions: Developing Guidelines for Constitutional Change,” which still serves as a primer on the constitutional amendment process. Based on this initial success, we apply that same consensus-based model to a variety of other constitutional issues.
In December 2017, TCP officially became a project of the Project On Government Oversight–a nonpartisan, independent government watchdog that has worked for over 36 years to hold both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congress accountable to the people and our democratic ideals. Sarah Turberville is the director of The Constitution Project at POGO.
Please consider supporting TCP’s work by donating to POGO. TCP can no longer directly accept donations.