It is easy to forget that back in the early 1990s 23 states actually term limited their federal Congress members to (mostly) six or eight years in office in the House and 12 years in the Senate. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court shot these down term limits before they went into effect in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, 1995.
In response, dozens of Congress members at that time pledged to self limit in a bow to the clear will of the voters. Some of these pledgers lived up to their word, including Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn and others.
However, many did not. When they still identified closely with the people, the Founder’s vision of regular rotation in office sounded like a great idea. But when the time came for them to relinquish the perks of power, these politicians all of a sudden discovered the value of “political experience.”
Hence, the self-limit pledges in many cases aided and abetted some crooked politicians or, at least, politicians who would eventually be corrupted by power. That is, these politicians got to benefit from their popular stand when their political position was new and precarious, but once they were established as part of Washington’s entrenched and largely unbeatable incumbency, they tossed their promise out the window.
Enter bonded term limits. A couple of years ago, a handful of gentlemen out of Pinehurst, NC, added a new twist to the self-limit idea. What if a politician signing a self-limit pledge actually signed a contract – a bond – that legally required them to pay big money to charity if they broke their word?
Now the self-limit idea had teeth, and the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits was born. In ABTL’s first foray in 2010, 22 candidates signed the ABTL bonded term limits pledge. The group was off to a good start.
Self-limiting – George Washington’s inspiring innovation – is back. Next time a candidate or politician is wooing voters with his support for term limits, ask him to sign on the dotted line!
For the candidate pledge kit and a short introductory video on the bonded term limits idea, go here.