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No doubt Gov. Mike Leavitt is wondering how the New World Order hijacked his plan for a Conference of the States.

Good question.Unfortunately, understanding the answer isn't easy. As with most matters involving conspiracy theories, it requires a suspension of rational thought.

Leavitt's plan has always been simple and straightforward. He believes the federal government for many years has been eroding the rights of states, mandating a lock-step adherence to federally prescribed programs regardless of local needs or opinions. Added to that, states usually are left holding the bills.

He wants each state to send a delegation to a meeting in Philadelphia later this year to talk about ways of recovering some of the lost clout. At the most, the conference would collectively sign a petition that could be used as a tool to persuade Congress. The petition would have no legal power, only the clout inherent in the united backing of state representatives.

Leavitt wants each state legislature to pass a resolution endorsing the conference and to send a delegation. He will call the meeting if 26 of them do so. Thirteen already have, but many other states have backed away in recent weeks in the wake of a barrage of misinformation from conspiracy theorists.

They believe the conference will turn into a Constitutional Convention, that delegates sent specifically to recommend ways to balance the federal-state relationship will close the doors, rewrite the supreme law of the land and hand the nation over to a one-world government.

Certainly, that would be a coup of tremendous significance, considering such a government doesn't exist.

Leavitt's intention, of course, isn't to conquer the world; governors of remote western states rarely harbor such ambitions. Even so, the resolution Leavitt is asking states to approve does not meet the Constitution's own requirements for a constitutional convention. Those requirements include the specific application by two-thirds of the states.

Some states have attached amendments to the resolution expressly forbidding a constitutional convention. The resolution itself doesn't mention such a thing. Stretching imagination to the breaking point, if the delegates did become New World renegades their actions later would require the ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures before becoming law.

It's difficult to imagine even one legislature that would approve the wholesale revision of the Constitution - almost as difficult as it is to imagine that anyone could believe nonsensical conspiracy theories.

However, the arguments by extremist groups are holding sway with politicians in many states, and that is a shame.

This page has consistently opposed the convening of a second constitutional convention. Such a gathering would indeed provide an opportunity to take away many precious rights and liberties and would not be worth the risk, even if three-fourths of the states later had to ratify the actions.

But the Conference of the States is another matter entirely.

If his conference is in jeopardy, Leavitt should back away from requiring resolutions in 26 states. He could convene the meeting anyway. It wouldn't have the clout that a united legislative resolution would carry, but states may not need a very large club to persuade a Republican-controlled Congress to understand their concerns.