Philip Blumel: Term limits: Yes we can. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement, for the week of November 30th, 2020.
Speaker 2: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Former president Barack Obama’s presidential memoir, The Promised Land, sold a record 1.7 million copies in its first week, and is number one on USA Today’s bestseller list. Along with a detailed history of his administration, he also shares some lessons, and here’s one that struck us at US term limits as most poignant. I’ll quote: “I question what might happen to be the longer I stayed in Washington, the more embedded and comfortable I became. I saw how it could happen, how the incrementalism into quorum, the endless positioning for the next election, and the group think of cable news panels all conspire to chip away at your best instincts and wear down your independence, until whatever you once believed is totally lost.”
Philip Blumel: That’s a message you may be used to hearing right here on No Uncertain Terms Podcast. This is hardly the first time that Obama has questioned the evils of long tenure and political entrenchment. Obama specifically advocated term limits on the presidency and the Congress on several times, as president. Even advocated this position on the world stage, specifically calling on African leaders to respect their term limits and to encourage peaceful rotation in office. Barack Obama was followed in his office by Donald Trump, a very different man in temperament and in world view. He too saw congressional careers as a hindrance to good government and explicitly endorsed the proposed congressional term limits amendment. So over the last 12 years, a term limit supporter has spoken to us from the White House. Now absent some dramatic recount news, this will change in January. At the very same time, though, the number of pledge supporters of the congressional term limits amendment, and also the state-level term-limits convention, will be at a record high in both Washington, DC and in the state capitals. So the term-limits movement is entering a new phase, thank you listeners for being part of it.
Philip Blumel: Now, for a couple of news items. On last week’s podcast, we discussed the effort of Representative John Yarmouth, of Kentucky. He’s the Chairman of the House Budget Committee. He wanted to abolish a Democratic caucus rule that imposed term limits on members of the House Budget Committee. Now, these tournaments have been around in one form or another since 1974 under the modern budgeting process, and I just wanna follow up on that story. It’s official now, on November 19th, the House Democratic caucus approved the Yarmouth amendment to the caucus rules and ended term limits on the House Budget Committee. But there is some positive term limits news, as well. Recounts are winding up in close races across the country, and last week, in Utah, incumbent representative Ben McAdams conceded the race, as it became clear that former NFL football player Burgess Owens had the votes to take the seat. Owens, 69, is the second African-American Republican elected to Congress from Utah. Owens is also the signer of the US term limits congressional pledge, which means he has committed to co-sponsor and vote for the US term limits congressional term limits amendment. So there are now 92 pledge signers in the US Congress. Congratulations, representative elect Owens, we’ll be knocking on your door soon.
Speaker 3: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Calls for term limits come from across the political spectrum. From the top of pedestals to the nooks and the crannies, from Barack Obama’s latest autobiography to this nugget, last week, from a York podcaster and prepper, known only as Dave, the host of the X22 Report.
Dave: We need people who are from the working class, who understand what it’s like to have an everyday job to work. They can go into office, but there needs to be a term limit. They serve their time, and then they go back to their job. This is actually how the founding fathers really wanted it. They didn’t want career politicians, they didn’t want them to have a pension plan, health benefits, a gym, a restaurant, private limousines, bringing them back and forth, and people in government for 60 years. Now they wanted the everyday person in government, because this was “We, the people.” And I believe we need to return to that, there should be no life-long politician in government, there needs to be term limits.
Speaker 5: Corruption.
Philip Blumel: This week’s profile and corruption is of sitting US Senator Bob Menendez, of New Jersey. Prosecutors documented Senator Menendez accepting multiple bribes and gifts in exchange for political favors. But nonetheless, he was re-elected to the US Senate, in 2018. Menendez ran his first political office in 1974, at the age of only 20. He served on the Union City School District’s Board of Education, as the mayor of Union City, as a New Jersey State legislator, he served in the US House of Representatives, and now he’s a third term US Senator. All told, that’s 46 years in elected politics and 28 years in the US congress. In 2013, reports surfaced that a federal grand jury in Miami was investigating Menendez regarding his role in advocating for the business interests of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, one of his major donors.
Philip Blumel: On April 1st, 2015, United States Department of Justice indicted both Menendez and Melgen. The charges against Menendez included bribery, fraud and making false statements. According to the indictment, Menendez asked top state department officials to pressure the Dominican Republic’s government into enforcing a port security contract that would benefit Melgen’s company, while at the same time, Melgen was promising to give $60,000 to Menendez’s political campaign. Prosecutors also charged that Menendez acted as Melgen’s personal Senator, that’s a quote, helping obtain visas for several Melgen’s Dominican girlfriends to come into the US.
Philip Blumel: But perhaps most egregious, Menendez put pressure on Medicare to end a dispute with Dr. Melgen over Melgen suspected overbilling, a spectacular fraud case, which would later explode in the headlines. In return, Menendez was accused of accepting a range of perks from Melgen, including trips on Melgen’s private jet, three nights at a five-star Paris hotel, a round a golf at a private club in West Palm Beach, Florida, and access to an exclusive Dominican resort. His gifts did not make it to his financial disclosure forms. Melgen also donated a substantial amount of money to benefit Menendez’s political campaigns, and prosecutors claim that $750,000 of those contributions were tied to personal benefits Menendez accepted. His 2017 trial ended at mistrial, due to the jury’s inability to secure a unanimous verdict. The case was complicated by the freshly minted 2016 Supreme Court decision, McDonald versus the United States, which narrowed the legal definition of public corruption and made it harder for prosecutors to prove that a political official engaged in bribery.
Philip Blumel: But this mistrial did not fool anyone. In April 2018, Menendez was, quote, “severely admonished”, close quote, by the United States Select Committee on ethics, in a letter. In that letter, the committee wrote, quote, “The committee has found that over a six-year period, you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen, without obtaining required committee approval, and that you failed to publicly disclose certain gifts, as required by Senate rules and federal law. Additionally, while accepting these gifts, you used your position as a member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen’s personal and business interests. The committee has determined that this conduct violated Senate rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct. Accordingly, the Committee issues you this public letter of admonition, and also directs you to repay the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already repaid.”
Philip Blumel: So while Menendez got off on technicalities, at least in court, his doctor friend Melgen was sentenced to 17 years in prison, for stealing $73 million from Medicare, by persuading elderly Medicare patients to undergo excruciating tests and treatments for eye diseases they didn’t have. Surely, it is no surprise that Senator Bob Menendez is a foe of congressional term limits. He has refused to sign the US turn limits pledged co-sponsor and vote for the congressional term limits amendment. In 2012, he voted nay to a sense of the Senate non-binding resolution, asking whether congressional terms should be limited. In spite of all this, Menendez won re-election to his third term for the US Senate, in 2018. Long tenure is highly correlated to corrupt behavior, due to hubris and opportunity. Given the incumbent advantages that lead to a 90% plus re-election in Congress from voters, the corrupt have little to fear.
Ken Quinn: Hi, this is Ken Quinn, Regional Director with US Term Limits. As you know, if you’ve been listening to our podcast for a while, that our goal at US term limits is to have a congressional turn limits amendment proposed under Article 5 of the US Constitution. Now, this can be accomplished either by two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, or by two-thirds of the state legislatures. We are working hard around the country on both of these fronts, to finally get this accomplished on behalf of the American people. However, as you can imagine, the establishment will do whatever it can to try to stop us, and unfortunately, many good people have fallen for one of their tactics in this fight, the myth of the runaway convention. It is the second option, an Article V convention, which has been attacked by opponents for years, creating unfounded fear which has prevented state legislatures from exercising their authority to propose needed reforms for a country. These false claims come from extremist groups on both sides of the political aisle, and are nothing more than pure propaganda, designed to protect the establishment and maintain the status quo.
Ken Quinn: In upcoming episodes, we will be exposing the lies and tactics used by these groups by comparing the true record of our constitutional history. When we are finished, you will be able to see for yourself the wisdom of the framers, and that it is time for us to use the very tool they gave us in the Constitution to check the power of the federal government. We’ll expose the myth of the runaway convention, and we’ll go back to our very first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, to examine its defects and the reasons why it had to be replaced. We’ll discuss the purpose of the Annapolis convention of 1786, which led to the call of the 1787 Philadelphia convention, and finally the adoption and ratification of the US Constitution. So please join us again, and we’re gonna have some fun busting the myth of the runaway convention.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another weekly episode of No Uncertain Terms. All eyes are on Georgia, where two run-off elections in January will decide which party controls the US Senate. But term limits are also on the ballot. It turns out that both run-offs feature one US term limits pledge signer and one US term limits pledge refuser. Oddly, it’s the two incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who have signed the pledge, which commits them to co-sponsoring and voting for the congressional term limits amendment to the US Constitution. Their opponents, Raphael Warnock and John Jon Ossoff, have so far declined to sign the pledge. This week’s action item is for Georgians only. Please, if you live in Georgia, email messages to all four of these candidates. Two of them should get thank yous for signing the pledge, reminding them of their commitment in case they win. Two of them should get friendly encouragement from you to sign the pledge. You can do this at termlimits.com/gasenate. It’ll take you two minutes. Your party registration is not important here, it doesn’t matter who you’re voting for. Go to termlimits.com/gasenate, and send all four candidates a pro-term limits message. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.
Speaker 2: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have No Uncertain Terms Podcast.