Saturday, July 19, 2014

Georgia's Bob Johnson: Term Limits NOW!


Congressional term limits have emerged as a key issue in another tight primary race, this one in Southeast Georgia where term limits supporter Dr. Bob Johnson is tangling with term limits opponent -- and 25-year political veteran -- Buddy Carter. The runoff election is July 22.

Georgia's District 1, which stretches from Savannah down the eastern Georgia coast to Florida, is a natural term limits battleground.

Incumbent Jack Kingston, who is running for the U.S. Senate, is a signatory of the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge. Over 175 Congressional candidates in 2014 have signed the pledge in which they commit, if elected, to cosponsor and vote for the existing Constitutional amendment bill limiting House reps to three terms and Senators to two. Just this last week, Kingston fulfilled the pledge and signed on to the bill. Kingston's opponent, David Perdue, is also a signer.

So the question is, will District 1 remain a safe one for term limits?

Former Army Ranger and cancer surgeon Bob Johnson says 'yes.'  He signed the U.S. Term Limits pledge and has been speaking about this issue at debates and to the media. He even enlarged an unsigned copy of the pledge and brought it to his opponent's office for a signature.

No dice. Georgia state senator Buddy Carter not only refuses to sign but has been explicitly opposing term limits as part of his campaign.

Then, last week, Johnson launched what he called the "Term Limits NOW!" tour across the district, travelling with U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel (full disclosure: that's me), speaking and holding rallies to draw attention to the subject. Rhetorically at least, no other issue distinguishes the campaigns more than this one.

If we are to achieve Congressional term limits, it will take efforts like that of Dr. Bob Johnson. The people are already on our side, the question is whether we can elect leaders to match.

(TOP: Dr. Bob Johnson answers voter questions at July 11 event in Brunswick, GA, in front of enlarged U.S. Term Limits pledge. ABOVE: U.S. Term Limits president Philip Blumel and other term limits supporters rally in Savannah.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Term limits may be Mississippi tie-breaker


Term limits may turn out to be the deciding issue in the Mississippi U.S. Senate primary race where standard issue professional politician Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is locked in a tight runoff with election reformer Chris McDaniel. Decision day is June 24.

Sen. Cochran didn’t know it, but he fired the opening salvo of this battle in February 2012 when he was one of the 75 percent of Senators to oppose  Sen. Jim DeMint’s Sense of the Senate amendment calling for Congressional term limits.  Just months later, Gallup published new polling data that shows 75 percent of Americans support Congressional term limits. Oops.

As McDaniel has said: “After spending decades in Washington, too many career politicians lose touch with the people who elect them.”  Indeed.


Even though Cochran slipped into the House in 1972 and the Senate in 1978 in competitive open-seat elections, he is an active opponent of term limits which would mandate open seat elections in every seat periodically.  Since his election to the Senate, he has faced largely nominal challengers or, as in 1990, no challenger at all.

Seemingly untouchable by voters like most incumbents, he has established mutually beneficial relationships with special interests.  Sen. Cochran is ranking member and former chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee.  It is not surprising that Sen. Cochran’s largest contributor is the agriculture industry and, specifically, he is the top recipient of contributions from the following agriculture industry subsectors: crop production, agricultural services, poultry, dairy, forestry products and sugar cane and beets.

It is hardly a coincidence either that Sen. Cochran has been a Senate champion of the federal sugar program, subsidies for ethanol and other corporate welfare programs. He has a similar symbiotic relationship with the defense industry.

According to opensecrets.org, after agriculture, his largest contributors have been leadership PACs (that is, other politicians vying for votes and support), law firms, lobbyists and defense firms.

In his defense, Sen. Cochran boasts that he brings Federal money home to Mississippi. And he does.  The problem is nearly every other senator is bragging about the same thing.  The result, as Chris McDaniel says, is “after too long, career politicians in Washington have allowed our national debt to grow out of control.” In his long tenure, Sen. Cochran has voted to raise the debt ceiling some two dozen times.

That is how the system works and Sen. Thad Cochran is a product and defender of that system.
Will Chris McDaniel be different after a couple of decades in office?   We are unlikely to find out. McDaniel has vowed to serve only two terms, as would be required under the Congressional term limits bill currently introduced in the Senate by Sens. David Vitter and Rand Paul.
More importantly, McDaniel is one of over 160 (so far) Congressional candidates to sign the U.S. Term Limits pledge in which candidates promise to “cosponsor and vote for” the Congressional term limits bill.
As Sen. Cochran is reaching out to Democrats and independents to save him on June 24, McDaniel is pressing the term limits card.  Gallup tells us that these Democrats and independents favor term limits by large majorities, just like his fellow Republicans. McDaniel is letting them know via a new TV ad that term limits are his priority. Why should they make the effort to cross party lines and vote in the GOP primary?
My guess is they won't.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Arkansas: The most deceitful ballot title EVER?

As chronicled in this blog, politicians will go to great lengths to thwart voter-approved term limits. They lose by one scheme, they try another.  In Arkansas they are trying several simultaneously and topping it off with the most dishonest ballot title, well, ever.

The plan is to hide a provision in a long so-called ethics bill that would double Arkansas state term limits from six to 16 years in the House and eight to 16 years in the Senate with an overall term limit of 16 years. This change is being presented as minor as, after all, isn't the current overall limit only 14 years?  This deceptive proposal will appear on the November 2014 ballot.

That is bad enough. But now this, announced last week from the Arkansas Secretary of State:


ISSUE NO. 3
HJR 1009

Popular Name

An amendment regulating contributions to candidates for state or local office, barring gifts from lobbyists to certain state officials, providing for setting salaries of certain state officials and setting term limits for members of the general assembly. 


Setting term limits for members of the general assembly? What?  Eight-year term limits were set by voters in 1992 and reaffirmed by them in 2004. This amendment weakens them, doubles them, lengthens them to 16, whatever, but it does not set them.

Read that wording again. Do you believe in "setting term limits for the general assembly?" I do! More importantly, all term limits supporters in Arkansas and everywhere else support "setting term limits for members of the general assembly."

That is what the politicians are banking on. They know Arkansans support term limits, so they have crafted language that will trick voters into voting yes. This is a scam, perhaps the most deceitful ever.

It is likely this scam title will have a date in court before a date with the voters. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The emerging 16-year term limit scam

Since the first state term limits were approved by voters in 1990, professional and wannabe professional politicians have tried to overturn them. This opposition has come in progressively devious waves.

The first and most successful counterattacks were legal and several referenda were shot down in courts or in a few cases by legislative action. Examples include Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts,Wyoming and Illinois. The biggest legal victory of the anti-term limits forces was the U.S. Supreme Court's split (5-4) U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton decision in 1995 which nullified the Congressional term limits laws passed by 21 states.

But the remaining 15 state term limits laws are now cast in stone having passed their legal tests. In these states, politicians have to ask voters -- not courts or legislatures -- to abolish or weaken the popular limits at the ballot box. This has proved much more difficult than finding friendly judges.

The first reactionary response was for simple abolition of the limits. As the limits starting taking effect, there was a wave of legislation launched in the term limits states to repeal them. This went nowhere, as voters learned to love term limits more over time, not less.

Next there was a wave of tricky referenda by politicians who "support" term limits but would like to see them "improved" by making them weaker, usually 12 years. Typically, these were written in a way to suggest that the referenda were establishing limits, as if for the first time, to trick a margin of voters into believing the referenda were pro-term limits! This too went nowhere, but it required mobilization by term limits activists to make sure the voters weren't being fooled. Examples include Arkansas, Montana, Maine and California.

This year, politicians in Arkansas, Missouri and Montana are launching the most deceitful strategy yet to free themselves from voter-approved term limits.


Professional politics is an industry. Like other industries, the participants -- parties, politicians, special interests -- compete, often fiercely. But as members of the same industry, they also have common incentives and interests. In the oil industry, for example, the companies compete in the marketplace, surely, but they still have common interests which unite them. Hence they have industry organizations with lobbyists to press their common demands and interests.

Politicians are no different. They compete at the ballot box. But when the dust settles, they talk, they share ideas, they plot, they scheme, they connive... You know.

Hence a new wave of anti-term limits bills are appearing in several states simultaneously with the most outrageous strategy yet. In states with 8-year term limits, politicians are suggesting that 8 years in each house is really a 16-year limit. So, it would be just a small tweak make the 16-year limit official, with the small alteration that politicians could 'spend' their 16 years in either house.

Of course, what this really means is a comfy 16-year stint in one house, as all politicians know the great majority of  reps cannot successfully make the jump to the other. Getting re-elected to one's own seat, on the other hand, is nearly automatic.

This is a scam. A version of it made it to the ballot in Arkansas and passed at least one house in Missouri and Montana last year. In Arkansas, they added additional cover, as they hid this teeny-weeny tweak inside an ethics bill of mild, pleasant-sounding restrictions on lobbyist gifts and contributions. Don't be surprised to see copycats pick up the 'ethics bill' gimmick as well.

So 2014 is the year of the 16-year term limits scam.

Nationwide, polls show the voters' support for term limits has not dimmed over time. The politicians can only succeed though obfuscation and deceit. That places a new burden on us as citizens to get the word out, but we have one big advantage: the simple power of the truth.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

OKC RISING: Citizens on march to impose 8-year term limits



Oklahoma was one of the earliest bastions of term limits – boasting the first successful statewide initiative to limit state legislators’ terms – and in light of experience term limits have only grown more popular there.

Since that 1990 initiative there have been others, notably a 2010 vote to limit the governor to a lifetime 8-year limit. This legislatively-referred referendum also imposed an 8-year limit on the lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and inspector, state treasurer, labor commissioner, insurance commissioner and state schools superintendent. It won by 70%.

But Oklahoma citizens aren’t done yet. A new effort, launched by activist Bob Dani, would limit the terms of the mayor and city council of Oklahoma’s largest city to eight years in office.

The effort needs 6,000 signatures of Oklahoma City voters to place the idea on the March 4 citywide ballot. Signature collection is under way and Dani reports the campaign is on schedule in spite the winter weather. The effort is a mix of volunteer and professional signature collectors, so supporters are encouraged to either get out on the streets with their clipboards or make a financial contribution to the campaign. The end result will be the same.

The voters will do the rest. If Oklahoma’s history, current polling and the experience of other municipalities across the country are any indication, victory is nearly certain if the will exists to get the proposal to the ballot. Please help.

Oklahoma City would be joining a growing club of term limited cities across the country. Today, only about 9% of America’s municipalities are term limited, according to my latest copy the League of Cities Municipal Handbook. But among larger cities, where the need for term limits is greatest, the reform has been adopted at a much faster rate. Nine of the largest 10 cities in the United States are term limited, along with about 51 percent of cities with a 250,000+ population.
Bob Dani


Oklahoma City fits the bill. With a population of 600,000, the government of Oklahoma City wields considerable power and resources and the influence of special interests in Oklahoma’s capitol city are intense.

“Just like the Mayor says, Oklahoma City is always striving to be a ‘Big League City’,” says Dani, the moderator of the weekly political forum known as the High Noon Club. “These limits will put a stop to career politicians. All citizens will benefit from more choices, new faces, new ideas, new perspectives, and new solutions to old problems."

He is right – and there is no question it can be done. But the clock is ticking. To sign the petition and help collect signatures from others, please contact OKC Term Limits Now! Chairman Bob Dani at (405) 990-1900 or rndani@gmail.com. To make a donation in support of our effort, go here. Follow the effort on Facebook.

Go OKC!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Regnat Populus strikes Devil's Bargain with corporate interests

The anti-term limits amendment apparently headed to the November 2014 statewide ballot in Arkansas might not have started out as a scam. But as it made its way through Little Rock, a Devil's Bargain was made with aspiring career politicians and corporate interests that sunk an effort to promote 'ethics' in Arkansas government.

The "ethics bill," as it was originally called, came out of proposals offered by a citizens group called Regnat Populus which had emerged from the deflating Occupy Little Rock phenomenon in 2011. The ostensible idea was to reduce corporate influence on legislators decisions with some mild reforms regulating lobbyist gifts and direct corporate contributions.

Ordinarily, the plan would have had to qualify for the ballot via petition. But helpful legislators offered to refer it to the ballot for them sans signatures -- for a price. That price was a plank to gut Arkansas popular voter-approved term limits law. The provision, buried on page 16 of the final bill and not included in the ballot title (!!!), would change the House term limit from 6 to 16 years and the Senate limit from 8 to 16 years.

It is likely that Regnat Populus and their legislative accomplices expect more than a free limo ride to the 2014 ballot. Nixing the Arkansas term limits law has long been a priority for corporate special interests and they have proven themselves willing to open their wallets to preserve the relationships they have cultivated in Little Rock.

The last time legislators referred an anti-term limits amendment to the ballot was 2004. Citizens hated it (it lost by 70%!), but corporate special interests loved it. In fact, according to FollowTheMoney.org, nearly all the money spent to promote the anti-term limits amendment came from them.


CORPORATE SPECIAL INTERESTS VS. TERM LIMITS 2004


ARKANSAS FARM BUREAU$105,84125.91%Agriculture
ARKANSAS OUTDOOR ADVERTISING ASSOCIATION$30,0007.34%General Business
ARKANSAS STATE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE$26,7106.54%General Business
ENTERGY$25,0006.12%Energy & Natural Resources
ARKANSAS REALTORS ASSOCIATION$25,0006.12%Finance, Insurance & Real Estate
STEPHENS GROUP$15,0003.67%Finance, Insurance & Real Estate
ARKANSAS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION$12,5003.06%Labor 
NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION$12,5003.06%Labor 
ALLTEL CORP$10,0002.45%Communications & Electronics 
ARKANSAS HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION$10,0002.45%Health 
TYSON FOODS$10,0002.45%Agriculture 
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOUNDATION$10,0002.45%Government Agencies/Education/Other 
ARKANSAS TELECOMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATION$10,0002.45%Communications & Electronics 
ARKANSAS BAR ASSOCIATION$7,5001.84%Lawyers & Lobbyists 
ARKANSAS HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION$5,0001.22%Health 
ARKANSAS STATE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION$5,0001.22%Labor 
WHOLESALE BEER DISTRIBUTORS OF ARKANSAS$5,0001.22%General Business 
ARKANSAS HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION$5,0001.22%General Business 
MCMATH WOODS$5,0001.22%Lawyers & Lobbyists 
AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER$5,0001.22%Energy & Natural Resources 

Naturally, special interests can't stand competitive elections and rotation in office, as they raise the cost and reduce the value of the mutually beneficial relationships they must create to succeed in achieving their legislative goals. None of the puny 'ethics' planks in the original bill packs the wallop that term limits do in reducing special interest influence.

But the politicians and interests have also learned the hard way that a frontal assault on term limits is doomed at the ballot box. Hence they have devised a referendum so deceptive that they have hoodwinked and co-opted Regnat Populus along the way. We'll see if voters will be as easily taken for a ride.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Opposition to anti-term limits amendment pushes Arkansas Senate candidate over finish line

Tuesday was the first time voters had a chance to weigh in on the Arkansas legislature's sneaky passage of an anti-term limits amendment unscrupulous politicians are calling an "ethics" bill. It appears the voting public is not so easily fooled.

It was a special election called to fill a vacant seat due to the resignation of Sen. Paul Bookout in August after he was busted and fined $8,000 for spending campaign money on personal items. In Tuesday's run-off, John Cooper bested Dan Sullivan by a slim margin. Not surprisingly, ethics played a key role.

Cooper and Sullivan were running neck and neck, sparring particularly on a so-called 'private option' under the Affordable Care Act. They were virtually tied in the first primary election and appeared to be so going into the runoff.

At the end, with controversy growing about the deceptive anti-term limits amendment referred to the November 2014 ballot, Conduit For Action launched two post card mailers pointing out Sullivan's clearly stated support for the anti-term limit amendment. Cooper, on the other hand, signed a U.S. Term Limits pledge that he would take no actions as a Senator to weaken Arkansas state term limits.

Given the slim margin of victory (it appears the final count will be less than 100 votes), it is suggested Cooper's embrace of the popular voter-approved (twice!) term limits law put him over the top.

"Cooper and Sullivan differed over whether a proposed constitutional amendment that weakens term limits was a good one or a bad one," said Dan Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute, a nonprofit public policy research organization. "Cooper thought it was a bad idea and the final tally suggests the voters agreed with him."

Ironically, it was this deceitful "ethics" bill that may have sunk Sullivan's candidacy, in a seat where unethical behavior led to the special election in the first place.

Cooper will face Democrat Steve Rockwell in the special election, which takes place on January 14, 2014. As of now, it is unknown what Rockwell's position is on the anti-term limits amendment.