Nick Tomboulides.: Welcome to the No Uncertain Terms podcast for the week of December 20th, 2020. I’m Nick Tomboulides. This week, I’m talking about the continuing saga of Senator Diane Feinstein’s memory loss, and why the new Congress getting sworn in this January will be the laziest Congress of all time. We also step outside politics for a few minutes to talk about term limits in the sport of boxing and why a new scandal could put an end to life tenure in the squared circle. You don’t wanna miss this.
Nick Tomboulides.: I have a Feinstein follow-up for you. Last week, we did discuss Senator Diane Feinstein, who is under the microscope right now because she has accidentally hired another Chinese spy. No, wait, that was last year. This time it’s because she is showing signs of serious mental decline and she is the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so I’m not too crazy about that, having a person with severe memory loss in one of the most powerful positions in the most powerful country on earth. That is probably in the what-not-to-do category. But we now have an update on this, we have some prominent progressive commentators calling for Feinstein’s resignation. One of them is Professor Rick Hasen of UC Irvine, who is also a CNN commentator.
Nick Tomboulides.: He was quoted as saying, “It’s been clear for the last few years that Feinstein’s cognitive decline is serious. Time for the governor to appoint someone who can fully represent California’s interests.” Now, Diane Feinstein was just reelected in 2018. She’s got four years left on this term, it doesn’t expire until January 2025, which is very scary. One unnamed Democratic senator was quoted as saying, “It’s sad to watch.” And yes, I agree with that. Of course it’s sad to watch. We’re lying to ourselves if we say this is all about Diane Feinstein, because it’s not. This is about the culture in Washington DC, a culture that prioritizes seniority and ladder-climbing power over merit, over doing the right thing. Every two years, a third of the Senate is up for re-election, and what these political hustlers and carnies and bootlickers in Washington DC do is they beg these senators to keep running for re-election. They stroke their egos. They say, “Oh, look at all you’ve done in public service.” But that’s political doublespeak, by the way. Abraham Lincoln was involved in public service. What these people do is pure politics, there’s no one being served but themselves. It’s self-service. But they still manage to convince these prehistoric members to run for re-election because they know they’re name brands, they know they’re gonna win.
Nick Tomboulides.: Diane Feinstein and Chuck Grassley and these other senators are name brands, and people are gonna select them at the ballot box more often than not, some of them, because they just know the name. She’s gonna get re-elected no matter what. People are gonna choose her no matter what. So it helps the party keep the majority. And if there’s a fight within the party, sometimes it’s not Democrat versus Republican, it can be Democrat versus another Democrat or a Republican against another Republican, it helps the Democratic establishment because then they can fend off a more principled challenger, or it helps the Republican establishment fight off a more principled challenger. We saw that in Mississippi several years ago, where the Republicans out there, the Republican party, basically propped up Thad Cochran in a Weekend at Bernie’s costume just so they could keep power, just they could keep the seat. They didn’t want that more principled Republican winning it, nor do they want a Democrat running it, so they just stuck Thad Cochran out there like a scarecrow. They humiliated the guy.
Nick Tomboulides.: And now the Democrats in California are doing the same thing. And it’s sad, but it’s not Diane Feinstein’s fault. It is the fault of these toties in Washington who let their own lust for power cloud out their judgment. A prominent Democratic senator should not be whispering, “This is sad.” He should be following his duty as a leader. He should be publicly, boldly proclaiming that, “We’re not gonna take this anymore. We’re not gonna put people like Diane Feinstein in a humiliating position. We will pass term limits to keep this from ever happening again.”
Stacey Selleck: Hi, this is Stacey, Digital Director for US Term Limits. I’d like to talk to you about the top 10 congressional perks you won’t believe. Aside from the $174,000 starting salary for a job with up to 230 days off, here are the top 10 congressional perks. Number 10: Fine dining. The Senate dining room is definitely not your typical corporate cafeteria. Number nine: Airports and airlines. Airlines permit members to reserve seats on multiple flights, but they only have to pay for the trips they take. Knowing how the airlines often double-book seats, perhaps that’s the true reason why Representative Sheila Jackson Lee booted a public school teacher from her first class seat in December 2017. Number eight: Office furnishings. Each senator is authorized $40,000 for state office furniture and furnishings. That’s just below what the average American worker makes in a year. Number seven: Mailing services. Congressional budgets allow that $50,000 per fiscal year may be spent by each member for mass mailings, also known as franking privilege. This provides a distinct advantage to incumbents as they can use these funds for campaign-style mailers when running for re-election, all under the guise of congressional business.
Stacey Selleck: Number six: Expenses. A $1.2 million to $3.3 million per year expense is allocated to each member of Congress. When’s the last time you spent $3.3 million a year on expenses? Number five: Medical. While Congress doesn’t get free medical insurance, they do have access to a gold-level ObamaCare policy and receive federal subsidies that cover 72% of the cost of premiums. Number six: Subsidized beautification. Among the country club environs, Congress gets a tax payer-funded state-of-the-art, ultra-exclusive wellness center, in addition to a members-only indoor tennis court. The gym costs just $20 a month. In addition, Senate hair care services is the long-standing taxpayer-subsidized barbershop and salon. Apparently, the budget details on these facilities are tougher to find than nuclear codes. Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, told ABC News, “The gyms and the hair care and all the parking facilities that they have, they’re really living in a different life than the average American.”
Stacey Selleck: Number four: A private underground subway and museum. Beneath the capital is the United States Capitol subway system, an underground city, so that law makers don’t have to walk outside to get to their offices across the lawn. The subway travels from the capitol to the Russell, Hart and Dirksen Senate buildings, just two-tenths of a mile away. The Rayburn House building is slightly further, at three-tenths of a mile away. The entire trip takes just a minute or two, but we don’t want Congress walking outside amongst the people, do we? Number three: Pension and health insurance subsidy. Depending on the age and length of service, Congress members may receive up to 80% of their pay in a life-long pension program. Number two: The masterpiece art of Alexander Calder. Not only is the Capitol building part of the Congressional Office, but there are four enormous other buildings as part of the legislative complex: Three Senate buildings, the Russell, Dirksen and Hart buildings, and one House building, the Rayburn Building. The most recent addition, the Senate Hart building, is a modern colossal complete with a ginormous Alexander Calder masterpiece. The cost for the sculpture in 1976 was a whopping $650,000. Adjusted for inflation, that masterpiece is equal to $3,009,000 in 2020.
Stacey Selleck: And the number one top congressional perk is a full salary death benefit, a death benefit of one year salary for the next of kin if a member dies while in office. No wonder Congress looks like a retirement home. There’s no incentive to leave office, even if you’re on dementia meds or have to get wheeled in to your chambers. And there you have it, the top 10 reasons why Congress members can’t empathize with ordinary everyday Americans like you and me.
Scott Tillman: This is Scott Tillman, the National Field Director with US Term Limits. Every session of Congress is numbered. After the Constitution was ratified, the first session of Congress was session number one. Our current Congress is the 116th, and in January 2021, Congress will be seated for the 117th session. Senate terms span three congressional sessions, but House terms only one. I recently calculated the increased number of pledge signers seated in Congress going back to the 115th Congressional session. That’s 2017. In the 115th session, we had 47 House members who had signed the pledge, then we gained eight for the 116th session to 55. This time, we gained 19 or maybe 20, depending on a recount currently going on in New York 22. So in 2021, the 117th session of Congress, we’re going to have either 74 or 75 members who have pledged to support the Term Limits Resolution. In 2017, the 115th session, we had 11 senators. Then in the 116th session, we had 15 senators. And in the 117th session starting in January, we have 18 senators and potentially 20, depending on how the Georgia run-off elections go. Amending the Constitution is difficult for a reason; it requires two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate.
Scott Tillman: Building our support each cycle is very important, and our support has been building. Signers leave, we had 10 signers leave this cycle, but because of your help and because of the ability that we have to go out there and get pledges, we were still able to grow our pledge members from 55 to 75 going into 2021. When you ask your Representative or Senator to sign the pledge and co-sponsor the Term Limits Resolutions, it helps us to bump these numbers up. Please go to our website, termlimits.com, and follow the instructions to send a message to your elected officials. Amending the Constitution is a difficult process, and we need your help. Go to termlimits.com and send a message to your representative asking them to sign the pledge and to co-sponsor the Term Limits Amendment.
Nick Tomboulides.: We’ve got some new numbers on the next Congress, the 117th Congress, which will be sworn in on January 3rd, and we’re looking at congressional productivity. These numbers are courtesy of leader Kevin McCarthy’s office on the Republican side of the US House, and McCarthy has pulled together the data on how many days Congress works per year. We know, for example, that since the year 2000, Congress has worked on average 146 days per year. Last year, they worked 134 days. And now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has laid out her agenda for 2021, and it appears that Congress will only be working 105 days. That represents a 25% decrease. It means that this next Congress will not just be the oldest Congress of all time, it will also be the laziest Congress of all time.
Nick Tomboulides.: Now, I personally don’t always mind when politicians are lazy. A lazy politician who doesn’t show up for work oftentimes is a politician who can’t take bribes, waste my money and spend me into oblivion. But in this case, you have to consider the context. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, there’s certainly no one out there who can say Congress doesn’t have work to do, and Congress’ compensation is grossly disproportionate to what the average American is earning. The average American worker works 240 full-time days a year and makes about $45,000. That’s a very respectable wage. The average member of Congress in the year 2021 will be earning nearly four times what the average American takes home. They will be getting $174,000 and they will only be working 105 days. So they’re making quadruple the average American’s wage while working less than half the time.
Nick Tomboulides.: This is exactly why Congress has a lower approval rating than cockroaches and colonoscopies. It is why term limits are so vital to remind these people exactly who it is they work for. I’m reminded of Ben Franklin, who didn’t believe politicians should be paid at all. In fact, Ben Franklin once wrote that when you leave office, when you get term limited, you are actually getting a promotion because the position of citizen is the highest one we have in American society, and politicians are at the very bottom in terms of respect. It’s like an organizational chart that many of us have in our workplaces that shows who is at the top of the organization and who is in the middle, who is at the bottom. In the organizational chart for America, for the American Republic that we have, it is the people who are in the upper echelon, who are at the very top of our constitutional framework, and it is the politicians who work for us who are at the very, very bottom. But based on the egotism, based on the hubris that we see coming from Washington DC, our so-called public servants believe it’s the exact opposite. They believe it is their responsibility to dictate the ways of Washington to us, rather than to dictate our beliefs, our desires, our vision and focus for what America should be, and reflect that in the nation’s capital.
Ken Quinn: Hi, this is Ken Quinn, Regional Director with US Term Limits. In this segment of exposing the myth of the runaway convention, we are going to dispel the false claim made by opponents of the Article 5 Convention, which is that the only precedent we have for such a convention is the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Our country has a long, rich history of conventions among the colonies and the states to address specific issues ranging from Indian negotiations and war supply, defense and economic issues. Constitutional scholar and professor Rob Natelson has done exceptional research in identifying many of these conventions, discovering close to 40 that have been held, 20 of these being held prior to our independence and 18 after, with eight of those being held after the ratification of the Constitution. To claim that the Philadelphia Convention is the only convention that has been held among the states is simply false. In our previous podcast, we learned how the Articles of Confederation were inadequate and attempts were made in Congress to amend them, but they all failed being unable to achieve unanimous consent in Congress. The only option left was for the states to take action, which is exactly what Virginia did on January 21st, 1786 by calling the Annapolis Convention.
Ken Quinn: The purpose of the convention was limited to only trade and commerce issues. On September 11th, 1786, commissioners from the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia met in Annapolis, Maryland. The report details how the commissioners produced their credentials upon arriving at the convention. Now, this is critical to understanding how conventions function. The credentials, or commissions, expressly state the authority given to the Commissioners from their state legislatures. Conventions operate under what is known as agency law, where the agent or Commissioner is acting on behalf of their principle, in this case, the state legislature. After reviewing each state’s delegated powers, they determined that New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia had authority to proceed according to the stated purpose of the convention. Delaware provided similar powers, with the only exception of requiring Congress to also agree to any act that is approved by the convention. New Jersey enlarged their authority to include “other important matters.” Realizing that the convention could only address the issue of trade and commerce and with minimal representation from the states, the convention issued their report on September 14th.
Ken Quinn: The commissioners realized that New Jersey was on to something and that other critical issues needed to be addressed. “In this persuasion, your commissioners submit an opinion that the idea of extending the powers of their deputies to other objects than those of commerce, which has been adopted by the State of New Jersey, was an improvement on the original plan and will deserve to be incorporated into that of a future convention.” The report ends with its official recommendation to the states, “The appointment of commissioners to meet at Philadelphia on the second Monday in May next, to take into consideration the situation of the United States, to divide such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the Constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” The path to a new constitution was laid out for the states in Annapolis and they would soon set off on that course.
Nick Tomboulides.: There’s a corruption scandal that is engulfing the world of international and Olympic boxing. There are revelations coming from the last Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro back in 2016 that the International Boxing Association was involved in bribery, extortion, fixed fights, lining their pockets to the advantage of certain competitors. Not since Mike Tyson turned Evander Holyfield’s ear into an all-you-can-eat buffet has the world of boxing seen a scandal this massive. And of course, the governing body is having its reorganizational meetings right now. The international boxing Congress is getting together and trying to figure out, “What do we do to stem the tide of corruption?” And naturally, the number one reform on their list is term limits, term limits for the president of the International Boxing Association. Serge Mikayilov, a former member of the boxing Congress who is vying for the presidency of this group, has gotten behind the term limits effort. He’s pointing out that boxing right now has a lack of transparency, a lack of discipline and ethics over governance issues. The past leaders are more interested in pursuing and pushing their own interests rather than the interests of the sport and the interests of the industry. And the Boxing Association has racked up massive debt along the way.
Nick Tomboulides.: So you’ve got ethical violations, abuse of power, corruption, debt. What does that sound like? Where have we heard that before? And why is term limits always the answer? Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, whether you’re talking about boxing, Congress, the corporate world, anywhere. You need checks and balances, you need accountability, and this is evidence of that. Because when an institution is perceived as corrupt, people lose faith in it. People have lost faith in the Congress, people have lost faith in the government. The Olympic Committee, fans of the Olympics, boxing experts, people who have enjoyed this sport their entire lives are losing faith in the competition. They no longer believe that it’s genuine as a result of scandals like this. And so term limits, it’s as much an optics thing as process reform. It’s important that people have confidence in institutions, and term limits is a way to re-instill confidence when it has been lost.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another weekly episode of No Uncertain Terms. After an election year, which saw voters send more term limits pledge signers to Congress and the state legislatures than ever before, US Term Limits is gearing up for the 2021 legislative sessions. As a No Uncertain Terms listener, you are a member of the inner circle of the term limits movement. What can you do to help in 2021? Let us know at termlimits.com/volunteer21. Sign up as a volunteer and answer some simple questions about what kind of work you’d feel comfortable doing to help advance the congressional term limits amendment. That’s termlimits.com/volunteer21. Hey, and don’t forget to mark your calendars for Term Limits Day, February 27th. Thank you. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms Podcast.