Philip Blumel: Do term limits empower women? Hi, I’m Phillip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms, the official podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of September 5th, 2022.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Entrenched incumbency is a roadblock for any under-represented community for running public office, including women. Today, we look at the data in an important interview with Professor Samantha Pettey, also former Congressman TJ Cox of California is the latest term limits opponent to be indicted for corruption. Let’s turn the program over to Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of the US Term Limits. Take it away, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: This week on No Uncertain Terms, I interview Dr. Samantha Pettey, an Associate Professor of History and Political Science at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Her key research areas include Congress, state and local politics, as well as women in politics. Dr. Pettey received her PhD from the University of North Texas in 2016. And in 2018, she published a landmark paper in Political Research Quarterly titled Female Candidate Emergence And Term Limits: A State Level Analysis. That paper looks at the correlation between legislative term limits and the number of female candidates for public office. We’re honored to have Dr. Samantha Pettey on the podcast this week.
Nick Tomboulides: Let me just say, first of all, I’m big fan of your work, I’ve actually cited your paper and committee testimony before, here in the state of Florida and maybe elsewhere. And one issue that I’ve always had with a lot of the academic research on term limits is that it seems to be on a different wave length from what term limits activists like me are concerned with. I’m concerned with things like checking incumbency, making elections more competitive, making government more representative, and it seems like a lot of the scholarly research on this is focused on stuff that’s a lot less empirical. But what you did, your paper, I think is a refreshing move in the right direction, it’s about female candidate emergence and term limits. So let me ask you, what motivated you to research that specific topic and what were your main takeaways?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: I’ve always been interested in how institutions can affect behavior, specifically, I had an advisor who got me into studying and being interested in the lack of female representation at all levels of government. So being a PhD student, I was looking at gaps in the literature, and I thought just one of the bigger ones that I found was that nobody had touched term limits in years. So it was like term limits are being enacted and everybody’s rushing to find out some effects, whether it be the demographic ones you’re talking about, or polarization, all the things. But my big critique of it was that they came too soon. It was… The enactment happened, nobody really found the results that they were looking for on either side, it was a little bit muddied. So I was like, “Well, we need to look at this again from a longer term perspective.”
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, and that’s been one qualm that I’ve had with some of the papers I have found on term limits, it’s like you are writing them pretty much before term limits had even taken effect. Sometimes before the first class of legislators had even gotten termed-out, and you’re already concluding that it hasn’t worked. That doesn’t really make sense, just from a lay standpoint. So in terms of encouraging more women to run for office, what were the results of your research on that?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Yeah. So my thought with this was, there’s a lot of research at the congressional level that shows open seats are a great opportunity for more women to get into office. As you said in the start, you’re interested in diminishing the incumbency advantage. Incumbents have a huge advantage, we know it, and we see a gradual glacial pace of women coming into office when you do have more open seats. Ergo, when the incumbent leaves, there’s more opportunities to diversify Congress. So I think I took that theory and applied it to the states and that… Well, we do have states that have term limits making these open seats more regular, predictable.
Dr. Samantha Pettey: So that was part of it and then another part was, the Center for American Women and Politics does really great research on women, and one of their big studies found that most women are… They’re not getting into office to be career politicians, they’re really getting into office incentivized by maybe a particular policy or a particular concern. So my thought was, well, term limits states might create this better scenario to encourage women to run for office, because they don’t have to be career politicians, there’s a literal limit on how long they will serve. And they can still be incentivized by something they see in the State level, whether it be healthcare or pharmacy, whatever the issue is. So that was my theory is that you’d have more amateur candidates, and those amateur candidates tend to be women. I don’t look at people of color or anything like that in my research, but I would theoretically apply the same theory there, although I’ve never looked at that.
Nick Tomboulides: So you believe that women, generally speaking, are less interested in becoming career politicians, I think that was an interesting comment. Why do you think that is, as opposed to men?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Yeah, so there’s been research done by other folks, not necessarily me, Fox and Lawless started their initial looking at ambition levels, and so they’ve tracked over the years that women in general just have lower ambition to higher office. It doesn’t mean that there are women lacking wanting to do it, it’s just that when we compare the groups of eligible candidates or not eligible candidates, but likely candidates, so lawyers, school teachers, men are just more likely to say that they would be interested in politics. And women usually take… There’s lots of researches show… So you would have to ask a women many more times to run before they finally say, “Okay, yeah, I am qualified, I should run.” So that was my take on that.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, I was talking to someone about this issue recently, and they were saying, “Well, women don’t get elected as often as men.” But what I read in your paper is that women get elected at the same rate as men, the difference is that women just don’t run as often. So it’s about getting a woman to throw her hat in the ring, that’s the difficulty, that’s why we have the disparity where, what is it? Like 25% of legislators are female?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Yeah. The legislatures are actually… It’s a little higher now than when I wrote my paper. It’s closer to 30%. But across the board, research shows that when women run, they win just as often as men. A lot of those previously held stereotypes about women not being qualified are diminishing especially with folks like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton running for executive office has shown voters everywhere women can do this. So those have broken down those stereotypical barriers that we thought, well, maybe it’s voters, that voters don’t wanna elect women. But that’s not really the case. Congressional literature shows it’s not the case. State level literature shows is not the case. I couldn’t speak to locals since that’s a little bit more complicated and dicey with all the different localities, but yeah, women win just as often.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. And is it true that Nevada, I think, has a female majority state legislature and that also happens to be a term limit state? So I think that’s a good notch in the belt for this research. Would you expect a similar impact if term limits were enacted at the federal level for Congress?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Yeah. That one’s tough to say too. I think there has been, if you look at the term limited states and the state legislatures that have moved closer to parody, there is definitely a lot of overlap. Is it correlation? Maybe. I think there’s some causal argument though there too. In my paper, I’m saying more open seats will encourage us in the congressional level. I don’t see why not. We see a lot more diversity in candidates. I think we see movement in women and especially people of color who are checking incumbents in their primaries. So there’s been a lot more of that happening. So I think people are… Especially women, are more willing to check the system in that way. So I think there’s people who would run if theoretically there were term limits for Congress.
Nick Tomboulides: Interesting. Yeah. Because there are a bunch of different groups that are organized to help more women run for office. I know She Should Run, EMILY’s List are just a few of those and there are a few more that I can’t remember at the moment. Have you shared any of this research with them? Because for me, it’s always been like pulling teeth to get these groups to come out for term limits. It seems like your paper produces a very compelling argument for that, if term limits can encourage more women to run. So what has been the response from those types of groups?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: A lot of the theory in my paper surrounds these groups indirectly. It’s like, there’s a learning period. So you can’t just look at the first enactment of term limits and realize, Well, we don’t have any more women. It’s like, ’cause these groups like EMILY’s List, She Should Run, or Susan B. Anthony, all those groups want more women to run. Elise Stefanik did a really good job starting the women’s pack for, I think it’s elevate women to encourage more Republican women to run. So my take in that, I don’t necessarily study directly is that these recruitment groups are doing good things for both parties and they do fill that gap of finding women to run in these open seat positions.
Philip Blumel: 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, one count of campaign contribution fraud. That’s 28 charges listed in the indictment against former us Congress member, TJ Cox of Fresno, California. Hey, and let’s add one more, opposition to congressional term limits. Cox lost his seat in 2020 to current representative David Valadao as the financial shenanigans were coming into the light. He was arrested on August 16th this year after the FBI investigation that led to the 28 count indictment. The federal indictment accuses Cox of using a series of business entities to funnel money to himself and losses to his business partners. The FBI says he skimmed money from these businesses to create secret accounts that he used to pay his personal debts, private school tuition and such, and funding of his political campaigns. He documented imaginary board meetings of his companies and lied on applications to secure loans. Between 2013 and 2018 he allegedly siphoned off over $1.7 million for himself. Some of this made its way into his campaigns for Congress. He allegedly distributed $25,000 to relatives and businesses so that they could contribute to his campaign. The IRS has a beef with Cox as well with over 145,000 in unpaid federal income taxes.
Philip Blumel: Perhaps upping his corrupt ambitions, Cox ran for Congress in 2018. Now, who knows how long he would’ve spent in Congress if the FBI had not been on his trail as the re-election rate of Congress members running to keep their own seat is well above 90%. As it happens, he only spent one term in Congress. In this case, corruption led a politician to Congress, but more commonly, Congress leads a politician to corruption. Many a politician runs for Congress with higher aims, at least to part, but ends up rationalizing and participating in the system of soft corruption that is required for permanent re-election without serious competition. Corruption is highly correlated with tenure in office, as long tenure breeds not only arrogance and security in office, but also results in greater opportunities for a corruption and temptation to fall for them. It is no wonder representative TJ Cox refused to sign the USTL congressional term limits pledge. Cox had a goal for his time in Congress, but it did not include doing the people’s business and then returning to private life. No, Cox went to Congress to be a career politician and to scam the public forever.
Nick Tomboulides: Here’s something that I’ve always wondered about, and if you can shine some light on it, great, if not, that’s okay too. But when we look at the polling for term limits, we see that over 80% of Republicans and Democrats, as of the most recent national polling we have, which was done by Scott Rasmussen, over 80% of people in both parties support term limits, and yet among elected officials, there is a huge disparity between Republican elected officials and Democrats. Of the 100 folks who have signed our pledge, among members of Congress incumbents, only three or four of them are Democrats, the rest are Republicans. I’m not saying these Republicans really support it, I’m not saying they’re not being disingenuous, but why do you think, at least publicly, Democrats are so out-numbered in terms of how elected officials feel about term limits?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Yeah, I’m not sure. It’s an interesting paradox of voters versus politicians, and then the partisan divide. My gut response is that most voters are probably not thinking about term limits like we do. We’re very deep into the term limits route and then they’re kind of like, “Oh, this is one question of many in a survey. Sure, that sounds great.” I couldn’t tell you why Republican versus Democrat politicians feel that way. I know Congress itself is, the party structure is such that Democrats as a party don’t have term limits for House or Senate anything, leadership, chairs, whereas the Republican side does. Again, I don’t know if it’s necessarily an ideological lean towards replenishment and replacement or what, but that is an interesting divide.
Nick Tomboulides: We think there might still be some battle scars from the early 1990s battles over term limits, involving Newt Gingrich, the Contract with America, whereas Democrats view term limits as synonymous with the Republicans, even though that’s not borne out by the data. The data show us that there might be a small difference in how Republicans and Democrats think about it, but overall, super majorities of people, even independents are in favor. So that’s the best theory we could muster. Who knows? Let me ask you this, how about enacting term limits, any feelings about how we go about doing that? Because our organisation is involved in a parallel effort to propose an amendment through Congress, where you need a two-thirds majority, but in many respects that’s getting the chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders. But we’re also going state by state and asking state legislatures to pass resolutions for an Article V Convention, a single issue convention on term limits for Congress. Have you looked at these mechanisms at all, proposing the process in Congress or the Article V Convention? Any comments on that?
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Yeah, my big take of here is the founders designed the Constitution to be hard to amend.
Nick Tomboulides: No kidding. [chuckle]
Dr. Samantha Pettey: Hence the, what do we have? 27 Amendments, not very many, and two of those include the prohibition and the repeal thereof. So we really have 25, and then if you cut it down, in the Bill of Rights, there’s another 10 that came immediately. So we have like 15 real amendments to be passed, so all of this is just super tricky. My inclination is that the ones that have passed, do tend to be things like term limits, like the term limit on the President, things like that, so if it’s going to happen, there’s room for that. My inclination though, as you say with Congress, probably not gonna happen. The state legislatures, like a State Convention, I can see it more easily happening, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Most of the states have been also becoming more polarized and more… I hate saying more blue or more red, but people are moving that way. There’s super majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in states, but as you previously noted, Democrats, for whatever reason, aren’t necessarily as in favor of term limits as Republicans are. So I just think even the two-thirds bar of getting that would be hard. Maybe easier than Congress, but still a hard thing to do.
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’s 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 5: USTL.