Philip Blumel: Our favorite New Year’s resolution is the US Term Limits amendment. Happy New Year, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement, for the week of January 4th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Well, it’s official. The 117th Congress opened yesterday, January 3rd, and the first bills have been introduced. These include resolutions in both houses to propose a three-term limit for House members and a two-term limit for senators. This is the 3-2 amendment that some 93 members of Congress have signed a pledge to co-sponsor and vote for. In the House, the resolution is sponsored by Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina. In the Senate, the resolution is once again sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Oh, but there’s more. In the states, we have seen our first term limits convention bill introduced and more are on the way. We call that the state resolutions call for an amendment proposing convention limited to the subject of congressional term limits. Let’s get the details from US Term Limits Executive Director, Nick Tomboulides. Hey, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Happy New Year, sir.
Philip Blumel: Ah, indeed. And to you too.
Nick Tomboulides: Good riddance, 2020. Good riddance.
Philip Blumel: No kidding. Well, I think it will be a good year. I think it will because, first of all, as I announced in the intro, we have the federal congressional term limits amendment re-introduced in both houses, but there’s also some rumbling going on in the states already. Right, Nick?
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, we are already seeing some action in the states. The Term Limits Convention, as you know, it’s expected to be filed in quite a few states this year. We’re expecting approximately 15 state legislatures to move to term limit Congress via an Article V convention. And it has already been filed in the state of Indiana.
Philip Blumel: Four days into the new year. That’s great.
Nick Tomboulides: Four days in the new year. You’ve got three state senators in Indiana, Michael Young, Travis Holman and Jon Ford have filed the Senate Joint Resolution 10, which is an application to Congress for a convention under Article V of the Constitution to propose an amendment limiting the number of terms a person may serve in the US House and the US Senate. So we are starting 2021 with a bang.
Philip Blumel: Oh, that is great, and I’m sure we have some feelers out for a House introduction in Indiana. Any progress on that?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, I believe there will be a House counterpart coming down the pike very soon.
Philip Blumel: Oh, that’s fantastic. And I know there’s a handful of states where we did so well during the elections, West Virginia was one, ’cause I recall as we announced on our podcast that we got majorities of both houses of the West Virginia legislature to sign the pledge, committing to co-sponsor, vote for and defend the Term Limits Resolution Bill. We certainly… That’s gonna be one. What else are we looking at?
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, West Virginia, you noted. We’re going behind the scenes and we’re talking to state legislators there about co-signing on to this resolution when it gets filed. We’re anticipating that will come out in early February. And it’s the first of many across the country. We’re soon gonna get Tennessee, Kentucky, Arizona, Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, among others, Wisconsin. So there’s a lot of hope on the horizon here for term limits. State legislatures do not all start up at the same time. Some have sessions that start much earlier than others, so the bill filing windows are different as you go from state to state. So the timing is obviously gonna be different, but we’re expecting to get filed in 15 states, and we believe that a sizable number of those have a realistic chance of passage in 2021, so we’re highly encouraged right now.
Philip Blumel: But we had a couple of near misses in 2020. We got shut down by the pandemic like pretty much everybody did, but we did have some near misses and we’re gonna go back and finish the job in 2021.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, we had some near misses this year, and we’ve also been building a head of steam in a few of these states now for several years, like in Arizona, where we’ve passed the State House twice and we’ve come within a couple of votes of passing the State Senate. Louisiana, which I neglected to mention before, we passed the State House twice in 2020 and we expect some action there. And then Utah, we’ve also passed the State House a couple of times, and we made a lot of noise in Utah elections in 2020, playing a critical role in the defeat of two, I would say, establishment anti-term limits candidates who were running for the State Senate. They were both defeated by USTL pledge signers.
Philip Blumel: That’s exciting. Now, you mentioned Tennessee as being one of our target states. We have done some new polling in preparation for this campaign in Tennessee, and what did we learn?
Nick Tomboulides: Yes, that is correct. We have fresh polling in the state of Tennessee, it’s a new survey by RMG Research, which is a firm run by Scott Rasmussen. If you don’t know him, Rasmussen is the co-founder of Rasmussen Reports, sorry, he was the founder of Rasmussen Reports, no longer with them. Also a co-founder of ESPN, he’s one of the most reputable people in the polling industry. And this new survey shows that term limits are a white hot issue in the state of Tennessee. 78% of registered voters in Tennessee support term limits for Congress. And the cross-tabs might surprise you a little bit. In that support, we’ve got 78% of Republicans in Tennessee who are behind term limits, but 90% of Democrats, 90% of likely voter Democrats in Tennessee are for term limits, as well as 71% of independent voters. So the numbers are stratospheric across the board, but it’s not every day that you see that Democrat number being substantially higher than Republicans, so that’s an encouraging sign that the effort in Tennessee will be a bipartisan one.
Philip Blumel: It sure is. What’s the political makeup in Tennessee in the two houses?
Nick Tomboulides: Tennessee has a dramatically Republican super majority in both chambers, but that doesn’t mean the Democrats don’t have enough power to stop legislation. It’s like as we’ve seen in Florida where school board term limits did not succeed in 2020 because the Democratic Caucus rallied against it. So too can Democrats in Tennessee stop legislation if they really put their hearts and minds to it. But here, it looks like they’re gonna be hamstrung by their own voters, because if Democrats in Tennessee attempt to obstruct term limits, they’re gonna be defying 90% of the people who are registered with their party. Yeah, so that is going to be politically very difficult. They probably do not have the political capital to thumb their noses at the voters like that.
Philip Blumel: Oh, that’s exciting. Anything else interesting from Tennessee?
Nick Tomboulides: Let’s see, Tennessee… Tennessee is interesting in the sense that we just got a new US Senator will be sworn in this week from Tennessee who is a pledge signer, Senator Bill Hagerty signed the US term limits pledge. So it’s always good to have that interaction, that synergy between what’s going on in the state at the federal level, and what’s going on at the state legislative level. So in Nashville, you’re gonna have energy, you’re gonna have a head of steam behind the term limits convention, and then you’re gonna have a newly minted member of the US Senate from Tennessee pushing for term limits as well, getting on that Ted Cruz constitutional amendment that gets filed this week.
Philip Blumel: Excellent.
Philip Blumel: For the new session, Ted Cruz of Texas is once again the chief sponsor in the US Senate of the US term limits amendment resolution. Last year, Senator Ted Cruz was challenged by Ben Shapiro, a term limits skeptic, who suggested at the dailycaller.com that basically, “We already have term limits. They’re called elections.” Here is the senator’s response.
Senator Ted Cruz: “So look, I understand that sentiment, and there are times even when I’ve been pretty amenable to it. I don’t think it recognizes the reality of the political process today. Number one, there are massive advantages with incumbency. Incumbency in terms of free media, in terms of money, in terms of infrastructure. It’s incredibly difficult to defeat an incumbent. But number two, it was interesting, I used to be a supporter of term limits until I got in the Senate, and now I’m a thousand times more a supporter of term limits because what I’ve seen, the dominant instinct, Ben, in the Senate, and it’s true in the House also, is risk aversion. There’s an old joke that politics is Hollywood for ugly people. There’s enormous truth to that. You’ve got old fat bald guys who were the unpopular kids in high school, who suddenly get elected to Congress and they go to a cocktail party and they’re handsome, and they’re witty and they’re wise, they tell a joke and everyone laughs, and it becomes like a narcotic.
Senator Ted Cruz: And what happens is incumbent members of Congress, their dominant focus is, “I must get re-elected no matter what.” And so on any big issue, on any big choice, if there’s a serious solution, the reasoning often is, “You know what, if we do that, that entails risk. And if there’s risk, I might not get re-elected. And if I don’t get re-elected, who am I?” And so one of the big virtues of term limits, is that it ends the phenomenon of career politicians. I’ve introduced… I’m the author of a constitutional amendment in the Senate, to term limit senators to two terms, to term limit members to three terms. And the virtue of that is that at least you throw the bums out and bring new people in, and I think you’re more likely to have, I hope, a Congress that is responsive to the people because the elected officials are not just obsessed with staying there for life.
Philip Blumel: In doing this pulling in Tennessee, I think at the same time, or roughly the same time, we had some polling done in New York. Two things. Why did we do it in New York? And then, what did we learn there?
Nick Tomboulides: Well, we did it in New York because New York is super interesting. It’s a massive city. I think 20 million people or more live in New York City. And they’ve got a long history of supporting term limits. It started with a 1993 ballot initiative, which was led by Ronald Lauder, who he’s a philanthropist, he’s a chair of EstŽe Laude, they make cosmetics. My wife knows about that stuff, I really don’t. And that initiative established term limits, eight-year limits for the city council and the mayor, by an 18-point landslide, that the voters protected the eight-year limit again in 1996. But in 2008, 2009, Michael Bloomberg and the Bloomberg-influenced council repealed the term limits without even consulting the voters. They repealed eight, they implemented a 12-year limit, and they let Bloomberg seek a third term.
Nick Tomboulides: And in 2010, the voters restored the eight-year limit that Bloomberg had repealed, but not before Bloomberg could succeed in that power grab and serve out that third term. And every member of the city council alongside him was allowed to serve that third term. So the voters resoundingly restored the eight-year limit, but this is still a huge issue in New York City, because obviously we see when real term limits are not in place, you’ve got corruption, you’ve got self-dealing running rampant. Just look at Congress as an example. There’s always a chance that politicians will try to weaken or repeal term limits, so we need to be ever vigilant, and that’s where this New York polling comes from.
Philip Blumel: Okay. I know in New York, they have the term limits on the mayor, and for that reason the current mayor, de Blasio, is being term limited out, and so there’s a fight over replacing him. And of course, a very competitive election, there’s no incumbent in the race, and one of the candidates that have jumped into the fray is a notable Democratic term limits supporter and former presidential candidate…
Nick Tomboulides: Andrew Yang.
Philip Blumel: Andrew Yang.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s right. Yeah, you’ve got like 50 candidates running for mayor of New York in this next 2021 election. And in case any of them thought that maybe term limits had faded from relevance in the city, they’d be mistaken because this new poll from Rasmussen shows that 77% of New York City voters say it is important that the next mayor of New York protect and defend the eight-year term limits law. And in addition to that, by a margin of 73 to 9, voters say they are more likely to support a candidate for mayor who promises to protect the current eight-year term limit. So with Andrew Yang, you’ve got someone who, when he ran for president, already tapped into that popular sentiment, was already a term limit supporter. If he really wants to capitalize on it, he should make term limits a big part of his campaign for mayor.
Philip Blumel: Great. I think it’s also important that when we’re doing polling, that we remind politicians that not just that term limits are popular voters, ’cause they know that, it’s that eight-year term limits, shorter term limits, are popular with voters way more than long ones. Because the politicians will come out and say, “Oh yeah, I like term limits too. You know, 16 years, 12 years.” Some outrageous amount that basically takes away all the power of term limits. But when you ask voters, that’s not what they’re looking for.
Nick Tomboulides: Right. Eight is great, and it’s time to shelve 12. At least that’s what the voters in New York said in this poll. They were asked about term limits on the mayor and city council, and they were told hypothetically if a proposal was made to lengthen the limit so that the mayor and the council could serve for up to 12 years, would you prefer a 12-year limit or the current eight-year limit? And by a margin of 67% to 15%, the people of New York City prefer eight-year limits. They believe eight is enough.
Philip Blumel: Well, that’s no surprise, because all three times that they got to vote on the issue actually at the ballot box, they voted for eight-year term limits. It was only the politicians on the city council and Mayor Bloomberg that was trying to push for 12. And of course, that was only for their own personal self-aggrandisement.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. And you know what? They’ve actually voted four times in favor of eight-year term limits as a concept. Yeah, they enacted it in 1993, they defended it in 1996, they restored it in 2010, and then in 2018, there was a city-wide charter amendment to put eight-year term limits on all community boards in New York City. And that passed, I believe, with about 75% of the vote. So New Yorkers have now stated resoundingly four times that they prefer eight-year term limits. It’s just the politicians who refuse to listen.
Philip Blumel: Right. I hope that Andrew Yang stirs the pot. Well, I’ll tell you what, it hasn’t all been good news. We lost a pledge signer in the US House to COVID, or at least COVID-related complications. And this was Luke Letlow, an elected representative in Louisiana, and he had replaced a non-signer, so it was a pick-up, and the poor guy, he’s 41-years-old, and he died of a heart attack that was a tragic and unexpected thing, and I’m sorry for his family and everything else, and it’s hard to even imagine.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, it’s a huge tragedy. This was a young guy who was very public-spirited, very energetic, had a wife and two children. And this unfortunately occurred before he could even be sworn into the Congress. So our hearts and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Letlow family during this time, our condolences. I cannot even begin to imagine the grief that they’re dealing with right now.
Ken Quinn: Hi, this is Ken Quinn, Regional Director with the US Term Limits. In our last segment of exposing the myth of the runaway convention, we learned that the Annapolis convention of 1786 was the impetus to the calling of the Philadelphia Convention. Today, we’re going to present the big lie that the opponents of Article V say all the time, “We will expose how utterly false it is and demonstrate that the groups that propagate this nonsense are either completely ignorant of our history or have a motive to use fear to raise money for their organizations, protect the establishment and to maintain the status quo.” Organizations on both sides of the political aisle have joined forces in attacking the Constitution’s amending provision, and some of the more well-known are the John Birch Society, Eagle Forum, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. There are others, but you get the point.
Ken Quinn: Now, here is how their big lie goes. Congress called the Philadelphia convention for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, but what happened? After a couple of weeks, they decided to throw out the articles completely and adopted a new Constitution. They even changed the ratification requirement from unanimous consent to only nine states. If an Article V convention was ever called today, it could completely rewrite our Constitution and even change the ratification requirement. It sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it? Well, it’s supposed to because fear is exactly what they want you to feel. The best way to overcome this fear is knowing the truth, so let’s examine their statements and compare it to our true history. We will see that it is completely false, and the myth of the runaway convention is nothing but a straw man argument.
Ken Quinn: Number one, Congress did not even call the 1787 Convention. The State of Virginia called it in response to the recommendation from the Annapolis convention. Number two, Congress couldn’t call it, because under the Articles of Confederation, there was no provision that allowed them to call such a convention. Number three, Virginia stated that the purpose of the convention was not to solely revise the Articles of Confederation. Its purpose was “Devising and discussing all such alterations and farther provisions as may be necessary to render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the union.” Now, due to time constraint, I will address the ratification requirement in a future segment. In our next segment, we are gonna take a closer look at this big lie by walking through the timeline leading up to the Philadelphia Convention and by examining the commissions issued by the state legislatures in response to Virginia’s call.
Philip Blumel: Also from the bad news file, President Trump has pardoned two poster children for term limits that we have focused on and reported on on this podcast since they got themselves into hot water, Duncan Hunter out in California, and Chris Collins in New York, both of which were convicted of crimes, both of which were sentenced, one of ’em already serving in prison and Trump let him out. Why?
Nick Tomboulides: Both of which pled guilty. Pled guilty. It was not merely shown beyond a reasonable doubt in court that they had committed these offenses. They both pled guilty. Chris Collins pled guilty to insider trading. Duncan Hunter pled guilty to at least misusing a portion of over $250,000 in campaign funds that he had stolen. And when you think about this in the context of President Trump, he ran for office on draining the swamp, removing corrupt politicians from Washington, DC. “Lock her up” was a chant at his rallies, and I think it was aimed at Hillary Clinton. But most people knew that there were quite a few members of Congress who also deserved to be locked up. And in this case, we were so fortunate enough that they had the evidence on these two congressmen to throw the book at them and get them to prison, they pled guilty, and he lets them out.
Philip Blumel: It’s really unbelievable. And the reason really is because they were loyal to him, and that was it.
Nick Tomboulides: Right. This is the opposite of draining the swamp. He is letting the swampiest swamp monsters rein free. He is letting them avoid accountability for their criminal action. There’s just no excuse for this, it’s just blind political loyalty. I’m sorry, there’s no other way to spin it. I go back to Duncan Hunter, just to refresh your memory. What did he do? Took those $250,000 campaign funds, went on vacations to Italy and Hawaii. He bought video games, he was carrying on affairs with five different women, including lobbyists and congressional staffers.
Philip Blumel: With campaign money.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, with campaign money. He was embezzling the money, using it to carry on affairs. He was the sleaziest thief ever, because he would also report these personal purchases as gifts for wounded warriors, for example. He tried to pass off the vacation as a tour of a Navy base, but the Navy told him to go pound sand. So it’s like if there were a museum of congressional sleaze, there would be a monument to Duncan Hunter. He’s like the crown jewel of corruption. And yet, here he is with a get out of jail free card from President Trump. It’s unbelievable.
Philip Blumel: Very disappointing.
Nick Tomboulides: I don’t want to suggest that people who follow and like the President do not believe these two people should be held accountable. I think there’s so much going on right now in our country, we’ve got COVID, we’ve got the Congressional negotiations over the stimulus package, and we’ve got the certification of the election results in Congress on January 6th, we’ve got the two Georgia elections, there is so much going on right now that I think maybe this issue fell under the radar and people are not appreciating how severe and egregious it is. But it really is. Screw you, Duncan Hunter. Do we mention Chris Collins too was convicted for insider trading?
Philip Blumel: Yeah, he was actually already serving in prison. And in politics, everyone in the other party is always a crook, right? You hear these accusations about everything, “That’s just the way those people are.” But we’re not talking about that, political accusations. We’re talking about people that were tried and convicted in court and pled guilty. So this isn’t a gray area, this is guilty people being set free because of their loyalty to another politician, which is exactly the type of thing that we’re fighting a US term limits.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and it’s a bipartisan issue too. I thought it was equally as appalling when earlier this year Corrine Brown, Queen Corrine, she of the embezzling money from a false charity for students, was released from prison due to supposed COVID regulations. I believe in a simple principle, and that is that we need more politicians in jail.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Another point about it being a bipartisan issue, Trump himself actually criticized former President Clinton for, on his way out, pardoning crooked people that were supportive of Clinton, specifically Marc Rich, a very wealthy financier who was convicted of tax evasion and fled the country, fled the country to avoid prosecution. Clinton pardoned him, and at the time, Trump was appalled by it and made some public comments about how sleazy that was, so it definitely goes both ways.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and term limits is a deterrent of corruption, but once corruption has occurred and you know about it and you have the evidence, politicians need to be held accountable in the criminal justice system. And it offends the senses to see that these two crooks have escaped liability for their actions.
Philip Blumel: Right. But even with this bad news, it looks like 2021 is gonna be a great year. I’m really excited about what’s going on in the states, the record number of sponsors we have for the federal legislation in the Congress, and we got a lot of work to do this year, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Absolutely. What all this news underscores is that, unfortunately, no single elected official is able to drain the swamp on his or her own. It’s never gonna be a president, it’s never gonna be one senator or a small group of senators, you need to change the fundamental structure of Washington DC to drain the swamp. You need term limits that will remind all of these people who they work for.
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.
Speaker 6: USTL.