Created out of the belief that we must cast aside the labels that divide us in order to keep our democracy strong, The Constitution Project brings together policy experts and legal practitioners from across the political spectrum to foster consensus-based solutions to the most difficult constitutional challenges of our time. 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 continues today as president and a member of its Board of Directors. 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.
Since that first effort, The Constitution Project has grown from one founder with a vision to a talented team of staff, fellows and interns. These men and women bring credentials from the worlds of government, the law, journalism and the non-profit and business sectors. But the passion to make a constructive difference—whether it involves strengthening access to justice, protecting civil liberties or ensuring governmental transparency and accountability—is the trait common to all. This commitment is shared by the highly-respected members of our bipartisan Board of Directors and Policy Advisory Committee.
Another important member of TCP’s team is Dr. Louis Fisher, who serves as our Scholar-in-Residence. We are privileged to house a comprehensive library of Dr. Fisher’s research and policy analysis on our website. Rounding out our professional family is TCP Supreme Court Fellow, Stephen Vladeck. Professor Vladeck serves in many capacities, including the crucial role of briefing members of Congress on issues of importance to our organization.
The Constitution Project is very grateful to the many private foundations and public charities that have made our vital work possible. We also appreciate the contributions we receive from hundreds of citizens around the nation who believe deeply in our mission. In addition, we enjoy the generous pro bono assistance of law firms in Washington and around the nation. Our policy analyses and recommendations are not influenced or determined by donations we receive.
Now well into its second decade, TCP has forged a national reputation for its truly bipartisan approach to grappling with key constitutional issues confronting Americans in the 21st century.