10.02.15

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the Life of Doug Kendall

This past weekend, I learned of the untimely passing of Doug Kendall, founder of the Constitutional Accountability Center.  Doug was a true visionary who helped transform how the American public views our Constitution.  Despite a recent movement to interpret our founding charter in a cramped manner that too often leaves our most vulnerable populations unprotected, Doug was able to serve as a forceful counterweight and guardian of an inclusive, progressive, and faithful understanding of our National Charter – based on both the text and history of the document.

Under his leadership, the Constitutional Accountability Center revitalized the debate over the original understanding of the Constitution.  Doug refused to cede the intellectual ground of originalism and textualism to conservative advocates.  Significantly, the organization he founded was defined as much by its scholarship as its effective advocacy.

Doug made myriad contributions to the world of law and policy, but I will point out just two.  First, I asked him to testify in March 2010 before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC because I knew that no one could better articulate the harm that the decision would cause to our democracy.  As he eloquently testified before the Committee, “Since the Founding, the idea that corporations have the same fundamental rights as ‘We the People’ has been anathema to our Constitution…  Corporations do not vote, they cannot run for office, and they are not endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights.  ‘We the People’ create corporations and we provide them with special privileges that carry with them restrictions that do not apply to living persons.  These truths are self-evident, and it’s past time for the Court to finally get this right, once and for all.”  While the Court was unable to get it right in Doug’s lifetime, I believe his views will come to be vindicated in time.

Second, this past year, I introduced a joint resolution with Senator Mike Lee of Utah, celebrating the Sesquicentennial or the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment, which, along with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, make up our Nation’s “Second Founding.”  The Second Founding, which has served as the bedrock and inspiration to procuring equality for racial minorities and women, has too often been overlooked by the general public and constitutional scholars.  Doug and his organization were the intellectual driving force behind advancing this important resolution.  His contributions to the world of law and policy will be sorely missed.

As accomplished as he was as an advocate and scholar, Doug was an even better person.  My staff met with him countless times, and always came away inspired by his intellect and humanity.  An article in the Washington Post from January 2008 about the historic endorsement that then-candidate and Senator Barack Obama received from Senator Ted Kennedy noted that Doug was there with his then 8-year old daughter, Miracle.  Doug had pulled Miracle out of her elementary school that day so that she could experience the historic nature of the President’s candidacy and the bridge between former President Kennedy and future President Obama.  He stated in the article that he wanted his daughter, Miracle, to be inspired.  What she will come to know – if she does not already – is that her father’s life and his accomplishments have helped to inspire a new generation.  Doug Kendall has reminded us about the ever-more inclusive story that is reflected in our Constitution.  His life was cut short, but his vision – like the Constitution itself – will continue to endure and inspire.  The Nation has lost a true patriot with his passing.  

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