Philip Blumel: Election season is upon us. The votes have not been cast, but the voters are speaking. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of August 17, 2020.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: In the handful of tight congressional races across the country, voters are telling posters that term limits may be the deciding factor. Will the politicians listen? US Term Limits executive director Nick Tomboulides has the latest polling. Hey, Nick. So what’s the big picture? We have some new polling. Who did it? And what’s it telling us?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, that’s right. US Term Limits has actually released 10 new polls and there will be more on the way. These are House and Senate polls at the federal level. Because we wanted to see not just where do some of these key toss-up races stand, this balance of the House and Senate could be decided, but also we wanted to see what’s the impact of term limits on congressional races. Potentially if a candidate comes out for term limits, how much of an advantage does that give him in a closely contested general election? And so we did these 10 polls. The pollster was RMG Group. And for those who are not acquainted with them, it’s owned by Scott Rasmussen. Widely considered one of the most accurate and dependable ever. And these polls, even though they’re different races, they all pretty much show the same thing.
Nick Tomboulides: If you wanna get elected, supporting term limits is a political gold mine. Of these 10 polls, we’ve found that signing the term limits pledge accounts for a net-gain of around 12 points in the polls. 12 points, if your opponent hasn’t signed it and you sign it. If you’re a Republican, it brings over Democrats and Independents. If you’re a Democrat, it brings over Republicans and Independents. And so we’re not talking about incumbents here. Incumbents get elected by having a pulse and not being in jail. Even though that wouldn’t stop most of them, actually.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: But we’re talking about challengers to incumbents. Think of how much money candidates waste on high-priced consultants, advisors and these paid hacks, just to get a couple of points in the polls, much less 12. But being a true champion of term limits, signing the pledge, beating up your opponent for refusing to sign, it’s worth more than all of that, arguably. It’s something that really resonates with people and has the chance to decide so many of these pivotal elections.
Philip Blumel: Interesting. Give us an example of broadly which races are we looking at. And then give us some concrete example of what you’re talking about in a specific race.
Nick Tomboulides: Sure thing, yes. So we’ve looked at two Senate races and we’ve looked at eight House races. And if you go on termlimits.com, look at our press releases, you can see all of the polling data there. I’ll give you an example. So the Iowa US Senate races… As you know the Republicans have a very slim majority in the US Senate. Our poll showed that Theresa Greenfield, business woman, Theresa Greenfield is beating first term incumbent Joni Ernst, 40 to 36.
Philip Blumel: Okay.
Nick Tomboulides: That means that race is very close. It’s within the margin of error. It is a toss-up, just like all the pundits tell us. But we asked voters across Iowa, hypothetically, if Greenfield were to sign the US Term Limits Pledge who would you vote for then, knowing that Joni Ernst has opposed term limits throughout her career. And when Greenfield signs the Term Limits Pledge… Mind you, she hasn’t. She jumps out to a 17 point lead.
Philip Blumel: Wow.
Nick Tomboulides: So that is a net 13 point gain. We also found that over 70% of Iowans support a 6-year House term limit rather than a 12-year House term limit. And we also found that 84% of voters are either unaware of Joni Ernst’s position or they falsely believe that she is for term limits, when in fact she is not.
Philip Blumel: Okay, stop, because this is a really important point.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes.
Philip Blumel: Voters are telling pollsters that term limits would change their vote. It’s that powerful an issue with them. It resonates that well with voters. But the voters don’t know what the positions are of these candidates. So we’re not going to see these big moves based on a pledge unless the voters know it.
Nick Tomboulides: Correct.
Philip Blumel: That’s one thing I get from this.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. But every single one of these campaigns… You know, remember, these are races that are very meaningful to both major parties. Which means that they’re spending hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, injecting into these races. These candidates have no shortage of funds with which they can advertise. But as of now, they’re missing out on a huge opportunity because they’re not advertising on term limits.
Philip Blumel: That’s the point. If they sign the pledge and they let the voters know they’re signing the pledge, they can capitalize on what these polls are telling us.
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, and they can expose some of these incumbent members of Congress who are basically scamming the public by not telling you what they think about term limits. I’ll give you another example. We polled Michigan’s 6th Congressional District. And in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, challenger John Hoadley, Democrat, leads incumbent Republican, 33 year incumbent, Fred Upton by four points. But if Hoadley signs the pledge, he gets a 13 point net gain. He’s up by 17.
Philip Blumel: Wow. Upton is a long time opponent of term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: Long time opponent of term limits. But here’s the thing though. He’s been in office 33 years. When he got elected, the number one song on Billboard was Everybody, Wang Chung Tonight. You could get a gallon of gas for 80 cents. So he’s been in for 33 years. And yet 82% of the voters in his district could not correctly identify his position on term limits.
Philip Blumel: That’s an opportunity that’s being missed.
Nick Tomboulides: Huge missed opportunity, 75%. Three and four, they didn’t know where he stood, 7% actually said he supported term limits. Who are these people in the district that think this 33-year incumbent supports term limits?
Philip Blumel: He probably implies that when he’s speaking to them when it comes up. He nodes and smiles and says, “Oh, yes of course. I’ll do my best.” And they probably believe. He probably tells them that in private.
Nick Tomboulides: Exactly. And would you…
Philip Blumel: Probably lies to their face. Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: Would you believe though that almost every poll we did showed the same result? Between 85% and 95% of voters don’t know their congressman is opposed to term limits if he or she is. And that is what the swamp wants, is it not?
Philip Blumel: Oh, it sure is.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: “The Swamp” is a documentary film about fundraising and political culture on Capitol Hill and in Washington DC. Released in August 2020 on HBO, it chronicles the activities of recent arrivals to Congress who are outsiders to the dominant party patronage system. The film details how heavily the Republican and Democratic parties rely on lobbyists for financial support. It describes a system where the members of Congress are required to raise vast sums of money in order to be rewarded with committee assignments. The film uses interview clips and narration from Article Five convention activist Lawrence Lessig to provide background information. This clip features democratic US representative Ro Khanna of California and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. Separated by geography and party, they see a common solution to the machinery of legal corruption in Washington DC.
Matt Gaetz: We would be sort of an odd couple politically. I am a Tea Party Republican from Florida, Ro served in the Obama administration and represents Silicon Valley. But folks like Ro, even who maybe don’t hold my ideology or my view on every subject, understand that this place has to change if we wanna do right by the American people.
Ro Khanna: We came here to work for the people who sent us here, not for the leadership, not for committee chairs, and not certainly for the lobbyists.
Matt Gaetz: Alright, so some reforms that would surprise people, we would agree on, would you vote for term limits?
Ro Khanna: I would. I’m one of two Democrats [07:45] ____ who would.
Matt Gaetz: See, I would vote for term limits. Would you vote for non-partisan redistricting commissions?
Ro Khanna: I would. I think that’d be great.
Matt Gaetz: I would you vote for that. Would you vote for a lifetime ban on lobbying for members of Congress?
Ro Khanna: I would. I think there should be a no-revolving-door.
Matt Gaetz: And would you ban lobbyists from giving money to members of Congress?
Ro Khanna: I would, and I don’t take lobbyist money, and I think we should ban lobbyists from doing that.
Matt Gaetz: See, that’s the, ‘Drain the swamp agenda’, Khanna-Gaetz. We could run on that and unite 80% of the country.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s rather shocking when members of Congress, members of The Swamp stand up and claim that they’re doing such a good job because nobody has voted them out. Well, this poll is revealing why that hasn’t happened, because for the most part, voters are not aware of where these politicians stand on key issues. Again, in some of these polls, 95% of people don’t know their congressman is opposed to term limits. They wanna keep you in the dark so you don’t throw them out of office, so they conspicuously avoid the issue, they pray it never comes up so they don’t have to publicly oppose it.
Philip Blumel: And of course, as we talk about on this podcast all the time, close races generally go in favor of the incumbent and the incumbent is the default to win in almost every single case. So the number of races that are competitive around the country is usually very small. This is the core of them. And in every single one that we jumped into and had this polling done, we saw that the challengers could move ahead meaningfully if they would just sign the pledge and advertise it.
Nick Tomboulides: Right. What we also saw with the polls was that term limits is as we’ve said millions of times, such a popular, durable and bipartisan issue. And I’ll give you an example of that. One district where we did polling was California’s 53rd congressional district. In this case, you have two Democrats, you have no Republicans. It’s a very liberal district, heavily Democratic district in San Diego. This is a district where Joe Biden is beating Trump, 62%-21%.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Okay.
Nick Tomboulides: Joe Biden, the 40-year Washington dinosaur is winning this district handily. And yet 70% of people in this district support term limits. Is that not incredible?
Philip Blumel: It is. In a district where both of the main candidates there are Democrats, their overlap or their positions is going to be very large, right? And so this is… Even in that kind of case, is even more important of a distinction because the candidates would be so similar on so many other issues.
Nick Tomboulides: The big takeaway here is, if you wanna win an election, your candidate needs to sign the US term limits pledge. If you are a booster, if you are a supporter, if you’re a volunteer, if you’re a campaign manager, and you want to win in November, contact your candidates for Congress and send them the US term limits pledge. And if they put up a fight, tell them, “Look, six years in the house is what the American people have coalesced around. This is the term limit we are going to put in the constitution, because this is what people want.”
Philip Blumel: And I would urge some caution to voters that only signing the pledge lets you know whether a politician is really for term limits or not. They will say anything, that’s part of the reason why all of these voters think that their incumbent supports the idea. They will tell you anything, they’ll nod and smile, but until they put pen to paper and commit to support the specific amendment to impose term limits on the Congress, they are not a supporter and they will never vote for us when the chips are down.
Nick Tomboulides: Realistically speaking, look at the industry that we’re in. The levels of trust and honesty in politics poll lower than used car salesmen. Promises are broken constantly. We don’t know these thousands of candidates all over the country personally. We don’t know them, frankly, regardless of their party, age, race, religion, gender. We don’t trust any politicians. We certainly don’t trust them when they say they are for term limits because we’ve been burned so many times before.
Philip Blumel: So many times.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, so we created the pledge as a simple way for candidates to express their support one way or the other. That way if they get in and break their word, we have a written statement they made to hold them accountable, to keep them honest. So our philosophy as an organization is to use the pledge, and only the pledge as a litmus test to see whether a candidate supports term limits or not.
Philip Blumel: Following the indictments of the ComEd electrical utility and the wave of subpoenas from federal prosecutors to the offices and home of Illinois Speaker of the House, Illinoisans are taking a closer look at their seniority-based system of graft and its kingpin, the longest serving house-speaker of any state in US History, Michael Madigan. In this clip, we hear from Ted Dabrowksi of wirepoints.org, an independent non-profit company delivering original research and commentary about Illinois economy and government.
Tom: NewsRadio WJPF, Sothern Illinois’s number one for news and talk. I’ve invited Ted Dabrowksi from Wirepoints to join me this morning. Ted, how are you?
Ted Dabrowksi: I’m doing great Tom. Thanks for having me.
Tom: What is ComEd accused of doing wrong first? And then let’s move to Mike Madigan.
Ted Dabrowksi: Well ComEd has been accused of creating jobs, creating payrolls, doing contracts, taking care of, in theory or in practice, taking care of Madigan’s people. And they spent a lot of money to do that. And so they’ve been accused of giving these jobs to people that support Madigan in order for Madigan to make sure that certain laws are passed on behalf of ComEd. So effectively, if they’re doing Madigan favors, and Madigan is doing ComEd favors via the legislation process. We shouldn’t get complacent, even if Madigan gets busted and steps down. And the reason why is because he, over 30-something years, has built, he and others, have built what I would term an amazing machine. It is a machine that knows how to garner money, garner laws, garner the power and it’s a machine that if Madigan is gone tomorrow, that machine is still there. And I call it a legally corrupt machine because they get away with everything and it’s done legally, it’s impossible to stop. And the taxpayers have no power. The legislature and the… Madigan’s rules have all the power. And it’s all legal, and it all works. We need to understand that it’s not just Madigan, but the machine that has to be deconstructed. And that’s where the power of the people at some point has to come into play.
Tom: Well, was it this following week, the Speaker of the House in Ohio indicted for very similar activities by the federal government?
Ted Dabrowksi: Yeah, these guys, once they get into power, they know how to construct things, and the patronage system has been in play for a long time. Madigan started that patronage… Or learned about the patronage system under Father Daley, and he’s made it perfect. And I think if you were to look at how they construct the rules and the laws and the infrastructure to protect themselves, it is… When you talk about controlling the maps, controlling the judges, controlling… Who votes on committees, what laws ever come to the floor, how laws are killed immediately, it’s fascinating I’m sure.
Tom: When you read ComEd’s public statements about this, they recognize they have done something wrong. They’re going to pay the $200 million fine. And when I read deeper to the public statements they’ve made, including published reports in the associated press, they talk about how we’re going to stop this from happening in the future and seem to fall on their sword in many respects. And as I’m reading that, I can’t help but wonder… It was like ComEd in the public statements admitted that they were an instigator of this, and I found that hard to believe. I mean, are they the instigator or the responder? And after their statements, they seem to admit that this is their fault and… Some of the statements just seemed out of kilter.
Ted Dabrowksi: Well, we have to remember that this is a two-way system, and it’s been a two-way system for a long time. And this is how it works. And it’s not just ComEd and the government, it’s the unions and the government, it’s the units of local government, and Madigan with the system. So it’s everybody’s taking care of each other. And this is why it’s so powerful. So in the case of ComEd, you’ve got a situation where ComEd needs laws passed and everybody knows that to get laws passed, you have to have Mike Madigan on your side, especially for big laws. And when we go back to these Madigan’s rules, the House rules, the rules have been structured such that Madigan and Madigan only can cause whether a bill will ever see the light of day. If he doesn’t want it to go to the floor for a vote. He keeps it out. And that is unprecedented power in the country. And so ComEd knows that if they want a law passed, they’re gonna have to curry favor with Madigan. Madigan also knows that for him to get things his way, he needs to have those patronage jobs out there filled. They work together. I think it’s just a hand-in-hand system, everybody know who it works, and if you wanna play in Illinois, that’s pay-to-play.
Tom: I think the term you’re looking for is quid-pro-quo, isn’t it?
Ted Dabrowksi: Quid-pro-quo, exactly.
Tom: Just [chuckle] one of our listeners texted that in this morning, going, “Huh, think we’ve heard that phrase before… “
Ted Dabrowksi: You know, this is the problem, this is why I say that we have to be careful not to become complacent when Madigan is gone because all the rules are still there, that infrastructure he built is still there. And you can imagine whoever takes power next, is gonna say, “Wait a minute, I don’t wanna give up all these powers. I like not having term limits. I like being able to draw the map. I like the powers I have.” There’s an implicit power sharing between all those groups. And nobody’s gonna want to give that up. And I’m concerned, even if Republicans were to take power, they’d like that control. So it’s the big challenge is for us as groups, and I think the lawsuits is one way to go, how to strip down all those powers with too many units of local government, too much collective bargaining power, term limits, the maps, all those things. They’re are huge things that need to be changed. The whole country is watching Illinois. Of course, we’re in this whole COVID mess, so it’s messy for the country to understand what’s happening in Illinois explicitly. But Illinois, under the 30-something years of Mike Madigan, is the laughingstock of the country. We’re the worst in virtually every financial, economic and governance metric you can find in the country. People know it.
Philip Blumel: And in another troublesome news item this week, an anti-term-limits legislator was exposed in Tennessee. State Senator Katrina Robinson, who represents part of Memphis, is a foe of term limits who has refused to sign the US Term Limits State Pledge. Perhaps now we know why. In late July, Senator Robinson was charged with swindling $600,000 in federal funds to pay the legal fees for her divorce, to pay for her new wedding, for her new honeymoon and other aspects of her lavish lifestyle. From 2015 to 2019, Senator Robinson is accused of stealing money appropriated to the Healthcare Institute, which is a company she directed, and using the money not only for her wedding etcetera, but also a Jeep Cherokee for her daughter, home improvements, a $500 Louis Vuitton handbag and a snow cone business to be run by her children. She is charged with theft, embezzlement and wire fraud. She’s not up for re-election this year, and pledges, or maybe threatens is a better word, to serve, “With the same integrity, the same passion that I’ve demonstrated since you elected me to this office.” [chuckle] One could hardly expect legislators who put their own self-interest first and personally benefit from incumbency to support term limits.
Philip Blumel: That’s it for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. For our action item this week, we would ask you to consider making a financial contribution to US Term Limits. To do so, go to termlimits.com/donate. US Term Limits does not receive institutional money, no packs, no parties, no corporations, no labor unions, no lobbyists. We’re funded solely by individuals, by people we call angels and activists. No amount is too large or too small. With an issue supported by more than 80% of America, our success is solely based on what kind of effort we’re willing to make. Please help, that’s termlimits.com/donate. Thank you.
Speaker 2: If you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review. The No Uncertain Terms podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, and now Google Play.