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, nearly all the money spent to promote the anti-term limits amendment came from them.


ARKANSAS FARM BUREAU$105,84125.91%Agriculture
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
ALLTEL CORP$10,0002.45%Communications & Electronics 
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 
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.

Monday, November 11, 2013

USTL opens new digs in South Florida

With term limits polling at historic highs and Congress at historic lows, U.S. Term Limits is ramping up operations in preparation for the coming national battle over Congressional term limits.

The single issue advocacy organization, long headquartered in Fairfax, VA, has opened a new branch office in Palm Beach with a new full-time activist focused on lighting term limits fires across the country. Nick Tomboulides, formerly part of the Ford Motor Company social media team, started on Oct. 8. Tomboulides was a successful college activist at the University of Connecticut and an alumnus of the Washington DC-based Leadership Institute's acclaimed training program.

The reason for the Florida location is for Tomboulides to work more closely with USTL President Philip Blumel and USTL Treasurer Rick Shepherd who live in the Palm Beach area.  The office is located at 2875 South Ocean Boulevard #200 in Palm Beach, just north of Lake Worth Beach.

But Tomboulides' focus will be national. 

The time is right. Today there are genuine term limits bills introduced -- with cosponsors! -- in both Houses of Congress and last year the state of Florida voted to officially ask its Congressional delegation to support a Congressional term limits amendment. Dozens of sitting Congress members have signed the USTL pledge in which they committed to cosponsor and vote for such an amendment and USTL plans on expanding the successful pledge program for the 2014 and 2016 elections cycles. The clamor from the people for Congressional term limits is growing louder and the USTL board believes that the time has come to renew the emphasis on Congressional limits.

At the same time there is action in the states, with the petition drive to term limit the Illinois legislature and the deceptive attack on voter-approved term limits in Arkansas. There are many local campaigns springing up as well.

For U.S. Term Limits to sustain its reputation as the nation's oldest, largest and most successful term limits advocacy organization, it must seize the day. And it is.

Please help take advantage of the historic opportunity we have right now by making a contribution to U.S. Term Limits.