Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vote NO on Prop. 28, California's anti-term limits SCAM

In 1990, California voters passed term limits on their legislators. As in other states, California politicians have been trying to get rid of them ever since.

But in California, their attempts are grander because the prize is bigger: California has the highest-paid legislature and being a legislator is a full-time, year-round job. Plus, it is a large, wealthy state with out-sized special interests that spend freely to achieve their goals and share their largess with the politicians that serve them. The system is tailor-made for ambitious political careerists, except for those pesky term limits!

In the first attempt to kill term limits in 2002, the ballot measure was pretty straight-forward and the voters squashed it. The politicians and lobbyists learned their lesson – voters love term limits! -- and in 2008 came up with a deceptive ballot measure and spent $18 million to promote it. But the voters saw through the ruse and squashed it again.

Now, on the June 2012 ballot, politicians are back with an initiative so deceptive that many – I fear most – Californians will vote YES, believing that the initiative actually strengthens California term limits. It doesn’t.

The scam lies in the ballot title:

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Reduces total amount of time a person may serve in the state legislature from 14 years to 12 years. Allows 12 years' service in one house. Applies only to legislators first elected after measure is passed. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state or local governments.

Clearly, Proposition 28 is designed to trick voters into thinking it strengthens terms limits when it does the exact opposite. We have to get the word out quick!

Here’s what you need to know about this scam initiative:

1) Proposition 28 allows politicians to be in the California State Assembly for 12 years -- not the 6-year maximum permitted under current law. That means members of the state assembly will actually have THEIR TIME IN OFFICE DOUBLED -- NOT REDUCED!

2) Proposition 28 also allows politicians to be in the California State Senate for 12 years - not the 8-year maximum permitted under current law. That means members of the State Senate will actually have THEIR TIME IN OFFICE INCREASED BY 50% -- NOT REDUCED.

3) Sure, the overall service in the legislature might be, ahem, ‘reduced’ for a handful of house-jumping politicians by two years, about 8% historically by our count. But so what? Jumping from one house to the other is not automatic like running for one’s own seat. The politician has to win a competitive open seat election in a differently configured district, often against another term-limited politician. This is exactly what the politicians are desperately trying to avoid. With this amendment, over 80% of politicians will have their terms lengthened, not shortened. That is exactly what the politicians are after.

4) Proposition 28's top backer is corrupt developer Ed Roski Jr. who sought a special exemption from environmental regulations by the legislature -- at the exact same time he was paying to qualify this initiative -- so that he could make millions by building a sports stadium. See the full story here.

5) In 2008, one reason the anti-term limits initiative failed because the terms limits were weakened for current incumbents, which voters correctly saw as a egregious conflict of interest. In this scam initiative, politicians claim the new, weaker limits apply only to newly elected legislators. This is perhaps the most insidious aspect of the scam. It would create two classes of legislators with different term limits. They know this will not stand up in court. We can expect an immediate challenge by incumbents and the incumbent politicians expect to win in the court what they can't win honestly at the ballot box, weaker term limits.

Friends, this is an elaborate and insidious scam. Please send a link to this article as well as the official anti-Prop28 site to every Californian you know. Post it to Facebook, Twitter, everywhere.

The politicians can’t win if the people get the truth in time. It is up to us to see they do.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time to hit RESTART on the Congressional political machine!

With term limits polling at all-time highs and Congress at its all-time lows, the environment appeared ripe for another push at Congressional term limits. Then, in floating new amendment bills real leadership appeared in Congress, with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) introducing his 'Term Limits for All' constitutional amendment bill in the U.S. Senate and Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) introducing its companion in the House. A handful of cosponsors jumped on board and more are on the way due to U.S. Term Limits Congressional term limits pledge, which over 121 Congressional candidates have signed so far.

Friends, this is working!

But it is also not enough. Today a major national project is being launched to engage the public and push more Congress members into sponsoring the term limits bills.

It is called Restart Congress. Click here and press the Restart button to take the first step in rebooting the corrupted political machine in Washington. Sign up and send the link around to everyone you know.

You'll be surprised to see who the public face on this project is. And he is not a just a face, this gentleman has had a successful career in television and this is a labor of love, not a new job.

Go on, hit Restart right now.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Miami citizens take matters in their own hands

The voters of Miami had had enough. In March 2011, they threw out a rapacious and incompetent mayor via a lopsided recall election and called for real reform of the county commission including 8-year term limits.

The commissioners trembled in light of the 88 percent vote to fire Mayor Carlos Alvarez. We hear you loud and clear, they said. Real reform is indeed needed. And then they put a 12-year term limits proposal on a special May 24, 2011, ballot.

It didn't work. The reformers opposed the proposal and the voters shot it down. When the politicians initially tried to claim the voters had rejected term limits, the clamor grew louder. No one believed it. Like everywhere else, 12-year term limits are just a ploy by politicians to avoid the shorter limits that the people demand.

OK, OK, they said. We hear you now, 8-year term limits it is. No problem. And the commission put genuine 8-year term limits on the ballot for voter approval, but this time it was linked to a huge pay raise from $6,000 to over $92,000 a year. The term limits would go into effect in eight years; the salary increase was immediate.

Again the voters scorned them, rejecting the scam initiative 46 to 56 percent on Jan. 31.

Now the reformers are taking matters in their own hands, starting a citizens initiative to put genuine 8-year term limits on the ballot themselves under the auspices of the Miami Voice political committee. It won't be easy, as access to the ballot will require 120,000 valid signatures.

Maybe commissioners will step up and put the standalone 8-year language on the ballot. Two are saying they aim to do just that. I'll believe it when I see it.

U.S. Senate votes down DeMint term limits resolution 24-75

It was a clear defeat, and a predictable one, but the fact the vote was held at all was a clear victory in bringing this issue back to the fore.

Recent uproar about insider trading by Congress members and their staffs led to a vote on the so-called STOCK Act to explicitly prohibit such activity. The STOCK Act easily passed the Senate and a House version passed soon after. But the attention given to Congressional soft corruption invited amendments to deal with more fundamental issues such as earmarking and, yes, Congressional term limits.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), chief sponsor of the Congressional term limits amendment bill, used this opportunity to add a "Sense of the Senate" amendment calling for a vote on whether Congressional terms should be limited. The amendment failed 24-75 on Feb. 2.

Check to see how your Senator voted here.

The breakdown of the votes is interesting. Note that three-quarters of the Senate opposes term limits. This is a near mirror image of the public, three-quarters (or more) of which support term limits in polls and at ballot boxes. This clearly shows how opposite the interests of incumbent politicians as a class are from the electorate. It is this class interest that makes institutional protections of voters such as term limits so important.

Currently, U.S. Term Limits is approaching all the YEA voters and urging them to walk the talk. Only about a third of those who voted for DeMint's Sense of the Senate resolution are cosponsors of his Term Limits for All amendment bill.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do. But with polling on term limits at all-time highs, term limits bills in both Houses of Congress, 99 signatories on the USTL Congressional term limits pledge, a vote on the Senate Floor and even a rival bill being floated to sabotage term limits in the House, you can see things are moving on this issue.

If you haven't yet, be sure to sign the USTL online petition calling for Congressional term limits here. Let Congress know how you would have voted on that Senate resolution!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How will term limits fare in the upcoming presidential election?

While term limits have to be by the Congress, such is a difficult task and presidential sponsorship
-- or opposition – could be a decisive factor. The current president is a foe of the reform, but what of his potential successors?

Newt Gingrich – While Gingrich famously used the popular reform to win a House Republican majority in 1994, he played the central role in derailing them once in power. Today, he openly opposes them. See my full blog post on Newt here.

Mitt Romney – The former Massachusetts governor of Congressional term limits. To date, he has not taken any specific action on their behalf, but if the issue came to a vote during his presidency, one would expect he would at least aid the effort rhetorically.

“I would love to see term limits for congressmen and senators,” the former Massachusetts governor said earlier this month. “We have one for the president. It’s a good idea.”

Ron Paul – Ron Paul has always spoke positively about term limits and, as he points out, has voted for them at every opportunity. In fact, he was a pioneer on the issue, submitting a Congressional term limits bill in the 1980s prior to the rise of the modern term limits movement in the early 1990s. Today, however, the issue has taken a back seat. Rep. Paul is not a cosponsor of Rep. David Schweikert’s term limits amendment currently bill in the House. See my full blog post on Ron Paul here.

Rick Santorum – I had the opportunity to ask Rick Santorum about Congressional term limits at the Florida Republican Party straw poll and debate in Orlando last September. His face lit up. He said, paraphrasing, that “I was the only person on that stage tonight that can say he has actually imposed term limits,” referring to his efforts in his first term to impose 6-year term limits on Senate committee chairs.

He continues to boast about this. In January, he told CNN that “I was a big reformer in the House and the Senate… what we did in the Senate with just reforming the Senate itself and putting term limits in place. I mean, term limits is a big reform."

Gary Johnson – It is worth mentioning former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Although he has dropped out of the Republican primary race, he is likely to be the nominee of the Libertarian Party and hence may appear on most or all the state ballots in the general election. Johnson is a vocal proponent of Congressional term limits and the only candidate to sign (when he was still running as a Republican) the U.S. Term Limits Presidential Pledge. This pledge commits the signer to actively pursue the issue as president.

While a position on term limits is certainly not the sole criterion in choosing a president, it nonetheless should be part of the mix. With amendment bills in both houses and a pledge and other projects under way to advance them, the issue is likely to hit big during the next administration. Keep that in mind at the ballot box.