Philip Blumel: Slap down. A federal appeals court last week didn’t give professional politicians and lobbyists any satisfaction, in response to their call to abolish Michigan’s popular term limits law in their state legislature. Hi, I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the term limits movement for the week of November 22nd, 2021.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Happy Thanksgiving. Also last week, we saw some more progress in purple Pennsylvania where the term limits convention bill picked up additional bipartisan support from some political heavy-hitters. Let’s get started.
Philip Blumel: In last week’s podcast, we shared some of the hearings on HR 57, the resolution being considered in the Pennsylvania House that would make an official application for an amendment proposing convention under Article V of the US Constitution. That’s right, the term limits convention. The Constitution requires that two-thirds or 34 states make such a call to make the meeting happen. Well, our own Ken Quinn was there and addressed the Pennsylvania House State Government Subcommittee on Campaign Finance and Elections, along with Mike Riley, our Pennsylvania-based Legislative Advocate. These guys really knocked the ball out of the park, as you heard. Of course, I know, I’m biased. But it isn’t just me. Shortly after the hearings, the co-chair of the committee signed on the term limits convention bill as a co-sponsor. This is significant. Representative Malcolm Kenyatta is a Democrat, and he provides further evidence to the bipartisan popularity of the resolution. He also has a voice outside the Pennsylvania State Legislature, as he is an announced candidate for the US Senate.
Philip Blumel: But that’s not all, last week, we, US Term Limits tournaments announced that former state senators, Andrew Dinniman and John Eichelberger, Jr., have agreed to be the Pennsylvania State co-chairs for US Term Limits. Now, Dinniman is a Democrat, and Eichelberger, a Republican. Their number one mission is to help convince the Pennsylvania State Legislature to make this call for the term limits convention. I like Eichelberger’s quote from our release, he says, “We have members of Congress who were first elected when the Ford Pinto was the best-selling car in America, and the 8-track tape was the next big thing. I can think of no better argument for term limits than that. Serving in Congress has become for many a lucrative life-long job, rather than a public service. Term limits will help end career politicians and make Congress work better for all Americans.” Hear, hear. And this was echoed by Senator Dinniman, who pointed out that in this polarized political atmosphere it’s refreshing to see Democrats and Republicans working together, term limits for Congress is one issue that all Americans agree on.
Philip Blumel: Sure enough. Now, both of these gentlemen served in the Senate in of 2000s. Andrew Dinniman left the Senate in 2020, and Eichelberger left in 2018, so they are well-known former senators from the state, and when they’re knocking on doors, people will know and respect them and give them a listen, so we’re very excited to have these two heavy-hitters, one representing each party to be making those calls on their former colleagues. Exciting stuff going on in Pennsylvania. Now, on to our slap down in Michigan. A group of former Michigan legislators, now nearly all lobbyists, and you’ve heard us tell the story on this podcast before, they’ve been peddling a lawsuit over the last couple of years that claims that the Michigan term limits law, that it somehow violates their rights as politicians to hold office, their rights as politicians to hold office. Well, last week, the Sixth District Court of Appeals, in no uncertain terms, yeah, that’s right, in no uncertain terms, shut down the sleazy uprising of we, the politicians against the people. Let’s cut to US Term Limits Executive Director Nick Tomboulides, and a special guest, to give us the full story.
Nick Tomboulides: Just a little background, Michigan has the shortest legislative term limits in the country, aka the best term limits in the country, and that really infuriates the political class because they want a gig for life, they want the salary, the pension, the perks, the privilege. Michigan legislators are some of the highest paid in America. What do they make, Scott? 70…
Philip Blumel: Mid-70s, yes, for regular members, leadership makes more.
Nick Tomboulides: Mid-70s, that’s unheard of in state legislature. Some state legislatures don’t get paid at all. Basically, we’ve got bitter, angry, corrupt politicians who brought a complaint in federal court arguing that all term limits are unconstitutional. And they lost at the district level, federal court, they filed an appeal. And now, this is breaking news, they’ve lost in federal appeals court as well. Judge Amul Thapar, who is a Trump appointee in the Sixth Circuit affirmed lower court’s ruling, he said, “Term limits enacted by the people of Michigan 30 years ago are constitutional, people have a right to term limit government, to stop career politicians, stop special interests.” Scott Tillman, you are not only the US Term Limits National Field Director, but you are a Michigan resident, which means term limits are very near and dear to you, you’ve got your ear to the ground on this. What’s your reaction to this ruling?
Scott Tillman: Well we’re very excited. So as you know, when these go to the Court of Appeals, there’s normally a panel. So this was actually a panel of three judges, and one judge was a Clinton appointee, another one was a Bush appointee, and the third one who wrote the decision was a Trump appointee, but they all concurred. And that was a great decision. We don’t often see decisions with these many juicy quotes it them, but this one was a great one ’cause this judge clearly understood what was going on, and all three judges clearly understood what was going on, that a group of legislators, former legislators, is really frustrated that they… As he put it, they’ve been promoted back to citizens, and they have the opportunity to go and participate just like regular citizens, and it’s not a privilege that you’re entitled to to be a legislator, and especially in Michigan, we have written it into our Constitution that we have an interest in having a citizen legislator and not a class of political lifers that is going to go there and make the rules for everybody else in Lansing, and it was so nice to see the judge affirm that, and the panel affirm that and to shoot them down. I wanna say that it was eight legislators, former legislators that were on this, six or seven of them were turned to lobbying after they got done being legislators. So it’s unbelievable that they have had this sense of entitlement.
Nick Tomboulides: I think these legislators were also, some of them were arguing that, well, if we got rid of term limits, legislators would not become lobbyists, and I’m like well, who holds held a gun to your head and told you that you had to be a lobbyist, right? It’s like you could have gone back and gotten a normal job if you wanted to.
Scott Tillman: That’s right. One thing that people don’t take into account a lot of the time is that it really shortens the shelf life of a politician as a lobbyist when you put term limits in. It’s like when you leave the legislature automatically in Michigan, where you can serve two Senate terms or and three House terms, well, if you’re in the House for six years and you leave the legislature, the maximum amount of people you’re gonna know from having worked with them in the legislature is gonna be two-thirds of the house. Not maximum ’cause in different years, you get a different number of people leaving, but about two-thirds of those people. One-third of those people will be gone that year when you leave. Two-thirds of them will be gone in two years, and in four years they’ll all be gone.
Scott Tillman: So it’s like when you leave high school, go on to college, and then you come home for homecoming, the homecoming game, and you go to the party after the game and yeah, you know a whole lot of people because you were a senior last year, but three years later when you come back, now you’re the creepy old dude who maybe shouldn’t be hanging out with the high school kids at the high school party when you come home and a lot of these legislators, their shelf life goes down and they turn into the creepy old dude who yeah, I was here so many years ago trying to relive my glory days and hey, it’s time to move on and get back to a regular life. You don’t, you’re getting a little bit creepy on everybody over here.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and it’s not like these legislators really have any kind of specialized knowledge. They’re just getting paid ’cause they’ve got the relationships because they’ve got the Rolodex and they’re just capitalizing on those relationships they’ve built up over their short tenure in office, and they hate the fact that if they wanna be a lobbyist, they have to go out and learn all these new faces, learn all these new names and phone numbers, and really have to work at this job rather than having it just come easy to them. So in this ruling, the judge, Judge Thapar, he said Benjamin Franklin was a supporter of term limits, and he proposed it when this country was founded. He was basically implying how can you possibly say term limits are unconstitutional when the people who wrote the Constitution were in favor of it? What did you think of that?
Scott Tillman: Well, that’s exactly right. The founders discussed this issue, and it came up, the only reason that it wasn’t passed at the founding was because it was really tough to get to Washington, and they didn’t think that they would be able to find people to go, but now, as we know that it’s impossible to drag them away, kicking and screaming. They don’t leave Washington when they’re done in Washington. They go to Washington and then they… When they leave or when they finally get gerrymandered out of their seat or whatever causes them to finally have to go, they stay there and cash in, monetize those relationships. And same thing in Michigan. If we’re not sending people home on a regular basis, then they get down to Lansing and they decide that they’re entitled and they’re gonna be there and own that city and that somehow it belongs to them and they’re not leaving to go home. It’s not hard to find people to go and participate. It’s harder to get them to quit using the advantages they found in Lansing for personal gain, and that’s one of the big things that term limits does, is it stops them from taking advantage of the system after they learn it.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah and this entire case, it was just dripping with irony because the argument these politicians and lobbyists made was well we don’t wanna take away the voters’ choices, but is that not exactly what these politicians themselves are attempting to do here, because it was Michigan voters who put term limits on the ballot in 1992. It was 2.5 million Michigan voters who passed it into law. That’s the grand irony in all of this, that they claim to be for the voters, and yet here they are in court trying to get three people in black robes to disenfranchise the millions of voters who wanted term limits.
Scott Tillman: That’s right, the people of Michigan have decided that we want certain conditions being a legislator here, and one of those conditions is gonna help us to have a citizen legislature, and that is term limits. And we want you to leave after a certain amount of time so that you’re not there learning how to gain the system and fill your pockets.
Nick Tomboulides: You know, it’s been said there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. I think there are three, death, taxes, and politicians scheming to get around their own term limits. So I’m guessing this is not the last we’ll see of this. Maybe they’ll appeal. I think the Supreme Court would lay the smack down on them, just like the appeals court did here because the judge said, “Hey guys, if you hate term limits that much, here’s what you can do. You can go ask the people of Michigan to vote to repeal it.” Now of course the chances of that happening, pigs are gonna fly before that happens, but why do you think they haven’t gone back to the voters yet? Is it It’s because they know they will lose in a landslide if they try to repeal term limits at the ballot box?
Scott Tillman: They do. This challenge was essentially a retake on a challenge that they lost back in 1998, different group of legislators, same arguments, they want to somehow undermine the will of the people because they know, they have a knowledge that they can’t go back to the people and get the vote to change. They have no problem raising money to do what they wanna do. They would be able to raise the money to try to put this on the ballot, but they know and they do the polling and they’ve checked and they know that nobody is going to vote to overturn this. Nobody is gonna vote to change this. People enjoy the term limits that we have. We like the term limits we have. We like having a citizen legislator. We like representatives that are accountable to the people. We like it when somebody new can run for office and with less than $5,000 or $10,000 can go out and knock the doors and actually win because they’re not up against a machine that’s impossible to beat like in other states.
Nick Tomboulides: Couldn’t agree more. Hey, this is a victory for Michigan. It’s a victory for term limit supporters everywhere. We wanna give a shoutout to the people who’ve been involved in Michigan term limits since the very beginning, Patrick Anderson, Kurdo Keith, Greg Schmitt, these were the guys who were instrumental in getting it on the ballot, and passing it back in 1992, and they’ve fought hard for term limits every step of the way and continue to do so today. And you’re in that group as well, Scott. So thank you for your time. Any last words on Michigan term limits?
Scott Tillman: Well, we’re here, the people of the state of Michigan like term limits, there are people who were involved in 1992, and there’s people who have been involved between then and now, and there are more people getting involved now there are there’s still initiatives in Michigan passing for term limits and on city government around the state, term limits in Michigan are something that the people enjoy the people like it makes us happy, we’re going to keep it, we’re going to expand it where we can, and when I say expand it, I mean, add more term limits to different levels of government, and legislators need to accept that, and the lobbyists need to accept it too, we’re keeping our term limits, we love them, go home and leave us alone.
Nick Tomboulides: And here’s an idea for all these Michigan legislators since it appears they have a lot of time on their hands. Instead of trying to bring Washington DC’s problems to Michigan by repealing term limits, you guys should try to bring Michigan’s term limits to Congress because that would be one hell of an idea.
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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 breakthrough year for the term limits movement, to check on the status of the term limits convention resolution in your state, go to termlimits.com/takeaction. 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/takeaction. 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.
Philip Blumel: USTL.