Philip Blumel: California über alles. Hi, I am Philip Blumel, welcome in to a No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement for the week of July 12th, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: The Golden State provides us with both sad and humorous news this week, as a group of elder Democrats in Northern California, publicly confronts Senator Dianne Feinstein and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer over their advanced ages and refusal to retire gracefully. To the south an unpopular scheme by term limited Orange County supervisors to cling to power has been thwarted by the California legislature, accidentally. US Term Limits executive director, Nick Tomboulides, joins us with the details. Hey Nick.
Philip Blumel: Let’s start with, I think what is the more amusing of our two stories this week. In Orange County, Southern California, there’s the county supervisors… There’s five of them on the board… And they have been conspiring… It’s been in the news… Although we haven’t really followed it very closely on this podcast until now… But it’s been in the news in Southern California that they’ve been conspiring to try to get around their eight-year term limit. And currently it’s a two-term limit.
Philip Blumel: A couple of them are coming to the end of their term and they’re thinking… “This is a cushy job. We love it. How are we gonna stay in office?” And so they came up with this plan. And they said, “Well, we’ll let the voters decide.” And on a three two vote they decided to put on the ballot a question that would limit their terms to three terms in office and have that be a lifetime limit. So they’re gonna get tough and strengthen the term limits law in Orange County. We’ve seen the this scam before, but it came to a humorous conclusion this week.
Nick Tomboulides: It did. And yeah, we see these scams all over the country. The reason we talk about it, despite it being California, where our listeners may or may not live, is that it happens everywhere… It happened in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida… Things like this… They happened in Arlington, Texas… Happened in Las Vegas… It happens everywhere. It could happen to you if you’re not vigilant.
Philip Blumel: Same scam, every time. They put a ballot title out there that sounds like they’re imposing some kind of powerful term limit and the voters will react positively and say, “Heck yes, I wanna see a lifetime limit on those guys,” to get them to vote yes. When really it’s weakening the term limit from a eight year, to a 12 year.
Nick Tomboulides: And what happened was… So California is voting in September on whether to recall the Governor, Gavin Newsom.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: And these local schmucks… The Orange County supervisors, commissioners, they wanted their anti-term limit measure on that same ballot. They wanted you to vote for the recall or against the recall and then vote for another question as to whether they should have new 20-year term limits. They’re calling it 12, but each member would actually get 20 years under this…
Philip Blumel: Right, ’cause the clock starts over again, so you’re in there for eight and then 12 more.
Nick Tomboulides: Under this plan. And so they’ve framed it as creating term limits, and then it says that… It says lifetime ban for politicians right on the ballot language, but their ulterior motive was to get 20 years in office.
Philip Blumel: Amazing.
Nick Tomboulides: But here’s the problem. There’s another group of politicians in California… Another group of slime balls who had their own ulterior motive, and that’s the California State Legislature.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: Because one day after the Orange county supervisors put this on the ballot, the California State Legislature passed a law stating “You can’t put questions on the recall ballot.” And they didn’t do that because they are a bunch of pro-term limits heroes and saviors… We know from experience, they’re not… They did it because they wanted to protect Gavin Newsom, and they knew that higher turnout would arise if term limits were on the ballot. So they had an ulterior motive, the local politicians had an ulterior motive, and these two countervailing forces of sleaze wound up cancelling each other out, and as a result, the people win.
Philip Blumel: The people win. This is why I found this story sort of amusing because the state legislature was not weighing in on fixing this scam going on down in Orange County. And it sort of reminds… Made me think of the fact that if you get enough crooks in one room, eventually the crooks are gonna be stealing from each other. In fact, it also reminds me of a novel I once read called The Man Who Was Thursday by the famous Catholic apologist GK Chesterton… In which the different police agencies were investigating an anarchist organization, and the anarchist organizations became so infiltrated with police that at the major shindig throughout Europe of all the anarchist organizations, no one was an anarchist at the table. Every single person was a police officer. And actually this is totally tangential and should be deleted. But I find it amusing. [laughter]
Nick Tomboulides: Well, so yes this was a miracle. The California legislature passed the Senate Bill 152, which made this crooked term limit… Anti-term limit election illegal. The Governor had to sign it because he wanted to save his own bacon, and so the scam is off the ballot for now.
Philip Blumel: Haha.
Nick Tomboulides: But I wanna just read you some background about Orange county supervisors… These self-serving weasels. This is from an article by Norberto Santana. He’s an investigative reporter with the Voice of Orange County. And this kind of explain some of the background here. They get $150,000 dollars a year… These supervisors. They get free healthcare… A $750 dollar per month car allowance, pension benefits and 401K benefits… They get a million dollar staff. They get to do six-figure election style mailings to their constituents on taxpayer dime, no less…
Philip Blumel: Incredible.
Nick Tomboulides: And then he had some analysis of their performance because… If you’re getting what you pay for no one’s gonna have a problem with this… If these are highly paid elected officials who are very effective. That’s not the case at all. He said, “They’re consistently in-curious.” They never ask any department heads about their budgets. They never ask about probation department, Animal Services, juvenile hall, they never talk about parks funding, development. They manage tens of billions of dollars, and yet they have bungled all of their responses to wild fires, jail breaks, homelessness and the pandemic.
Nick Tomboulides: So what have Orange County supervisors done on top of that record of horrible incompetent leadership? They’ve cut their meeting times in half. They only meet up few times a month, like a City Council while they get full compensation. They built a new $300 million building for themselves. And apparently they didn’t account for the pandemic because the building’s got terrible WiFi. And they have gutted the county auditors office when he started looking into abuses of their pensions. And now they want 20 years in power to keep that gravy train on the rails.
Philip Blumel: Hey, no wonder they want 20 years in power, that sounds like a really good set up. Great compensation and benefits with very little work and not being held to any standard of merit. Well, the voters are safe. Oh, let’s be clear about this now. There was a three to two vote to put this on the ballot, and I think it really… Really, we should point out that the three was Lisa Bartlett, Doug Chaffee, and Andrew Do. These are the three of the five that voted to put this on the ballot.
Nick Tomboulides: Those are the bad guys… The bad guys who don’t respect the voters, don’t respect the taxpayers… The good guys… I have their names written down here, but my handwriting is so illegible that I can’t read them.
Philip Blumel: Do your best.
Nick Tomboulides: Okay. Donald Wagner, a republican, and Katrina Foley, a Democrat joined in bipartisan votes against this camp so that’s off to know.
Philip Blumel: Alright. Thank you very much.
Speaker 4: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: There’s nothing like a little corruption to trigger calls for term limits. Here’s a recent sighting from WGRZ TV Channel-2 in New York.
MaryAlice: Well, the recent turmoil caused by the ongoing scandal investigations for Governor Cuomo and the question of whether he will pursue re-election for a fourth term, has also inspired more talk about term limits. It’s a topic that re-appears almost every year in Albany, but never gets much traction. Channel 2’s Ron Plants explored that for us tonight. Hello, Ron.
Ron Plants: Hi MaryAlice. Now, according to Ballotpedia, New York state is one of 12 states, including Illinois, and Texas, which do not have term limits for governors. Most other states like Pennsylvania go with, say two consecutive terms for eight years total or some variation. As you pointed out, it’s been looked at here in the Empire State, but it never seems to go anywhere.
Ron Plants: Republican conservative state Senator Joseph Griffo from Rome, New York introduced a term limit measure again last session, as he had done before. And again, it got bottled up in committee. His Bill called for an eight-year total term limit for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney-general and controller, and a 12-year total limit for state lawmakers. One of his co-sponsors is from Western New York, as his constituents have called for it.
Speaker 7: The people have expressed interest in term limits throughout my 10 years. I’ve talked with people. I think at other times in the past several years, people have been more vocal about it.
Ron Plants: Also Caliban’s support is really somewhat mixed with this rationalization.
Speaker 7: When I look at term limits, I see an argument, both for-term limits and at the same time, impose term limits by statue and at the same time, a term limit that already really exist at the hands of voters every two years, in the case of the legislator.
Ron Plants: Some term limit advocates suggested it can bring up a fresh voice and differing perspectives from long-time politicians and turnover can eliminate too much power or corruption that could come with longevity in seniority. So how does it play with a political scientist?
Speaker 8: I realize that the public sees that as a career of politician, but there’s a reason that might not necessarily be a negative, which is to say that they’re good at what they do. They know the players involved. They know how to get stuff done, and if you’re on your way out, it turns out that there’s less of an incentive to do a good job, there’s less of an incentive to not pay back friends or political cronies and those kinds of things. Of course, that can happen in a system that isn’t term-limited.
Ron Plants: Also think about this, remember the term limits at the national level for presidents did not happen until the late 1940s. Remember, Franklin Roosevelt actually died in his fourth term, even though George Washington did establish a two-term tradition, but not an actual limit for the presidency until then. Ron Plants, Channel-2 news.
Philip Blumel: Nick, this one’s not so humorous, it’s an ongoing story that we’ve been talking about, it’s a little sensitive, and that is with the issue of the extreme age of so many of our officials in Congress and in other roles in government, in which you are… You really cannot lose your job, and so it’s really up to the person that has the position to decide when they retire, and they’re not doing it. It’s a particular problem on the Democratic side, because on the Republican side, they at least have term limits on committee chairs in Congress in the house, and so after you sort of top out in power and on the Republican side, they tend to retire earlier because they sort of go backwards, but that’s not true on the Democrat side and it’s hurting them, and the poster child for this is the sad case of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California who has shown market decline in her mental competence while on the job, and more and more Democrats, not Republicans attacking her, but Democrats who care about her are trying to reach out and say, “You know, Diane, It’s time.”
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and we have chronicled the saga of Dianne Feinstein, we’ve talked about how she’s repeating questions over and over again in committee hearings, how the staff are basically doing everything for her. How she had to step down from her key position on judiciary as the ranking Democrat there. And the LA Times had, I guess you could call it a focus group on this, and this focus group was unanimous in wanting 88-year-old Senator Feinstein to step down. Now, lest you think these are a bunch of young turks here who are saying this, the youngest member of this Focus group was 75, the oldest was 89. And I have it on good authority that not a single person in this group was wearing a MAGA hat, in fact, none of them were republicans…
Philip Blumel: No, they weren’t republicans.
Nick Tomboulides: The opposite is true. These are die-hard Democratic activists. They’re members of the Rossmoor Democratic Club which is the largest democratic local club in the nation, it’s got a thousand members, and they say it’s time for Feinstein to hit the road. That’s huge.
Philip Blumel: It is huge, and like I said, it’s not because they are trying to get a Republican elected, they appreciate her for many years, and they wanna make sure that it’s that seat, which is gonna be a democratic seat, that’s not the issue, it is going to have someone young and able to fulfill that role more effectively in the way that they like. And so they’re looking at it, this is for the benefit of their party, this is for the benefit of their state and for the country. And from the point of the person in the position, Dianne and her team and her backers, it’s all about, “Well, we don’t wanna lose power.”
Nick Tomboulides: And California, it’s the largest, most populous state in the country, 40 million people live in California. You’re telling me in a state of 40 million people, there’s only one 88-year-old woman who’s qualified to hold office for 40 years, who’s buying that at this point? Certainly not, these Democratic activists. Interestingly, they were polled and none of them supported a mandatory retirement age, but all of them also supported term limits for Congress.
Philip Blumel: And I know that this column also talked about Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court Justice, who of course doesn’t face elections, it’s actually a lifetime position, and some other group… Not all of them, but some other group felt that he also should be thinking about retiring so that their president, their democratic president could announce a replacement, ’cause there was some dissatisfaction on the Democratic side when Ruth Bader Ginsburg rather than retiring, while Obama was President held on and then passed away and allowed Trump to choose her successor.
Philip Blumel: And although that was not a position that everyone in this group held, but one reason I am bringing this up is that one thing that was brought up is that some of the dissenters on that idea about having Stephen Breyer retire, they said, “You know, we really don’t wanna make this about a single person, it’s better to have term limits on the Supreme Court so that it’s about the institution and it’s about all members, and you’re not singled about one person deciding whether one person is old enough or too old or competent enough, which is sort of a humiliating position to put anyone in, it’s just to have the institution automatically rotate, so you never end up in this position where you’re tugging on someone sleeve, telling them, “Look, you can’t do it anymore, it’s time to go.” Especially someone that has earned so much respect of their peers and support over the years, it’s painful for everyone.
Nick Tomboulides: Term limits never work when you personalize it, when you make it just about one person, it has to be about the institution.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: That’s why I don’t believe in self-limits, I don’t believe in egging on a particular member of Congress to retire, ’cause what good is that gonna do? Only the good guys are gonna follow through with that and you’re gonna leave Congress with a bunch of crooks who just stay and fester there, so for term limits to work, it really does have to affect all the members, and I’m not at all surprised that of this group nobody supported the mandatory retirement age, but they all supported term limits, because here’s a problem with the retirement age. There are some politicians who are quite elderly and quite good. There are also young politicians who suck.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, you bet.
Nick Tomboulides: Term limits focus… Term limits shifts the focus to, how entrenched you are rather than how old you are because entrenchment is a much greater danger than age, although entrenchment and age together do produce some pretty absurd results.
Philip Blumel: Right, in fact, well if you’re talking about citizen legislatures, when you look around the country at the states that have term limits, of course those on average, term limited legislatures are a lot younger. However, in citizen legislatures, there is a very important role for people that have had successful careers in business or in professions or in whatever, and as a retirement, as sort of a semi-retirement, because being in the legislature is really not the most taxing profession out there, is that it’s a very suitable position for a lot of people that retire from other roles in society, and they might be older. So it’s not about age.
Nick Tomboulides: Why does it have to be an old person who ran a business? Couldn’t it be like an old person who was Mayor of Vermont for like 30 years?
Scott Tillman: Hello, this is Scott Tillman, the national field director with US term limits. There are two ways to term limit Congress, first, Congress could refer a term limits amendment out to the states, we’re pursuing that route and the Congressional term limits resolution is resolution HJR12 in the house, and SJR3 in the Senate. And we currently have 83 co-sponsors between these two resolutions. The second way to amend the constitution requires states to pass resolutions asking for a term limits amendment convention, we’re pursuing this route also. We ask candidates for the state legislature to sign a pledge that will help us Term limit Congress. The pledge reads, “I pledge that as a member of the State legislature, I will co-sponsor, vote for and defend the resolution applying for an Article V convention for the sole purpose of enacting Term Limits on Congress.” About 75 Special elections for state legislature normally take place in a year. This year, we only have 43 so far scheduled, that’s in 16 different states. We’ve received pledges from over 75 candidates in the races for the special election races this year. There’s gonna be over 10,000 candidates who need to be approached to sign the term limits pledge in the next 15 months.
Scott Tillman: That’s a lot of candidates, and we need your help on to contact those candidates. We need volunteers to help us do research and volunteers to help us make phone calls. If you’re able to help with either of those things, please email me. Scott Tillman at S-T-I-L-L-M-A-N@termlimits.com. That’s email@example.com.
Nick Tomboulides: George McGovern did the opposite of most politicians in that he was an elected official very early on in his life, and then when he retired from the Senate, he became a business owner, and I think his quote was, “Man, I wish I had known all this stuff about running a business, I wish I had known how hard it was. I wish I had known about budgeting before I got elected.” So, you’re right. That real life experience can be… I think in most cases, is way more valuable than political experience, but there’s just one quote in here that was really good. This is from the person who ran the focus group. They said, “Not one person in the crowded living room,” where they had this group, “felt used up or as if they’d outlived their purpose in life. Each said they’d found ways to stay active and productive and meaningful in retirement by mentoring or consulting in their old profession or doing community service. They wished Feinstein would do the same.”
Philip Blumel: That is healthy and beautiful, and how to live a proper life.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s the circle of life… If that’s not trademarked by Disney.
Philip Blumel: Well, I’m gonna finish off then with a maybe sadder note in that we lost a term limit hero recently. On June 29th, longtime term limits activist Allen Johnson Jr passed away. He was battling lung cancer for some time, and it finally took him away. He was running a group called termlimitpledge.org, and he wanted to start a grassroots movement to put pressure on politicians to limit themselves in office. And that’s not our aim, but it’s a friendly one, and it also helps put pressure on politicians to take this issue seriously and puts more pressure on them to take action on the issue of term limits, and his efforts were greatly appreciated. He was also helpful and supportive of our chief efforts too on the Term Limits Convention in trying to get a bill passed through Congress, so he lived a long and interesting life. He studied botany, he was a farmer for a while, he wrote books for children and adults. He served in the US military in Germany in an armed infantry platoon, and then sort of as a semi-retirement project at the end of his life, he worked very hard on the issue of trying to get term limits for the US Congress, so… Thank you very much, Allen Johnson Jr, for your efforts. And you will be missed.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, Allen Johnson contributed a lot to the movement in the time that he was involved in it. We have a Term Limits Hall of Fame on our website, where we honor some of the patriots who contributed through volunteer service to this movement and made it as successful as it’s been… And as big as it is today, and so I actually plan to nominate Allen Johnson for posthumous induction to the Term Limits Hall of Fame.
Philip Blumel: Motion second.
Philip Blumel: Thanks for joining us for another episode of No Uncertain Terms. The Term Limits Convention bills are moving through the state legislatures. This could be a break through year for the term limits movement. To check on the status of the Term Limits Convention resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/take action. There, you will see if it has been introduced and where it stands in the committee process on its way to the floor vote. If there’s action to take, you’ll see a Take Action button by your state, click it. This will give you the opportunity to send a message to the most relevant legislators, urging them to support the legislation. They have to know you’re watching. That’s termlimits.com/take action. If your state has already passed the term limits convention resolution or the bill has not been introduced in your state, you can still help. Please consider making a contribution to US term limits. It is our aim to hit the reset button on the US Congress and you can help. Go to termlimits.com/donate, termlimits.com/donate. Thanks. We’ll be back next week.
Stacey Selleck: The revolution isn’t being televised. Fortunately, you have the No Uncertain Terms podcast.
Speaker 10: USTL.