Philip Blumel: Those altruistic lobbyists are at it again. Hi I’m Philip Blumel. Welcome to No Uncertain Terms. The official Podcast of the Term Limits Movement for the week of October 10th, 2022.
Stacey Selleck: Your sanctuary from partisan politics.
Philip Blumel: Big political lobbies often claim to oppose term limits because term limits give more power to big political lobbies. [chuckle] Think about that. The latest example of this phenomena comes from North Dakota and US Term Limits executive director Nick Tomboulides isn’t buying it.
Philip Blumel: Hey, Nick.
Nick Tomboulides: Hey, Phil. Great to be back in the saddle.
Philip Blumel: Yeah, welcome back. Well, today I wanna talk about these [chuckle] two lobbyists organizations representing the largest industry in North Dakota which have just come out with a joint statement last week opposing measure one, which is the measure that the voters put on the ballot that would put eight year term limits on the governor and the state legislature. You’ve heard about this. And [chuckle] there’s… Both of the two farm groups. One of them represents more Democrats and the other more Republicans but both of them represent the industry of agriculture. The largest in North Dakota. North Dakota Farmers’ Union President Mark Watney is quoted in this statement as saying, “At Farmers Union, we have the long-standing policy that opposes term limits because they are a limitation on the rights of citizens to choose and elect their public officials. Term limits also put more power into the hands of professional lobbyists.” [laughter] What say ye?
Nick Tomboulides: Professional lobbyists like you?
Philip Blumel: Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: This guy is a professional lobbyist. He is argue…
Philip Blumel: Of course.
Nick Tomboulides: He’s arguably the most powerful professional lobbyist in the state of North Dakota. So here is a lobbyist and employer of lobbyists…
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: Telling us he opposes term limits because it would give more power to himself? That’s completely nonsensical.
Philip Blumel: Yeah that’s… It is and you know, it’s actually pretty typical, because what’s a big lobbying organization gonna say? That we wanna continue to keep the incumbent politicians in power that we’ve been paying all these years. And so in order to empower ourselves, we are opposing this term limits measure? That doesn’t fly. So they flip it around. They come up with this absurd idea that they’re so altruistic that they’re against this measure because it would take away their own influence. When influence is exactly what their business is. It’s what they do.
Nick Tomboulides: I’ve never met a lobbyist who’s… Yeah. I’ve never met a lobbyist interested in reducing his own influence. [laughter] You’ve got to read between the lines here.
Philip Blumel: Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: We know term limits have bipartisan support from the public, but also term limits have bipartisan opposition from lobbyists. It is much easier for a lobbyist to depend on a long-term legislator. Someone who’s in the good old boy network, who without blinking is gonna dole out all the subsidies, the grants, the carve-outs, the exceptions, the special interest deals to protect cronies like these in both of these groups. It’s much easier for them to rely on a long-term lawmaker than a new public servant who is way less detached from the voters.
Philip Blumel: Sure. You make a really good point about it being non-partisan, ’cause you’re right, these two organizations represent the same industry but from a different political viewpoint.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah.
Philip Blumel: And so here we have this non-partisan opposition from the establishment and we just saw a polling that 81% of people in North Dakota support the measure and that is also non-partisan because large majorities of both Democrats, Republicans and Independents are in support.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah. It’s amazing really. This issue has to be looked at differently from everything else in politics and that it’s never been left, right. It’s always been people versus the ruling elite.
Philip Blumel: That’s it.
Nick Tomboulides: It’s the public regardless of party is in favor of term limits and the ruling elite regardless of party is opposed. And it’s always gonna be that way and we find that farming groups in particular tend to be opposed to term limits even more aggressively than other lobbyists because a legislator who’s been in for 30 years he doesn’t blink when a farming lobbyist comes in and asks him to fix the price of crops above the market or give some special deal to the farming community. He’s in their pocket, he can’t be removed, he doesn’t care, but a new person who is much closer to their constituents than the capital might express some skepticism. He might say, “Hey, wait a minute. Is it fair to do this? Is it fair to force my constituents to subsidize you guys? Make them subsidize big agri business?” He’ll be a lot more skeptical and that is what lobbyist fear. They fear skepticism, they fear legislators who won’t cooperate with them and that is exactly what term limits deliver.
Philip Blumel: Sure. And that’s why all the money and all these joint statements come out from lobbyist against term limits. I mean, if term limits actually assisted lobbyists, then you would find that the big lobbying organizations would be funding US Term Limits and yet none of them do. I mean, we’re not gonna turn away any checks of course, [laughter] but they’re not forthcoming is the point.
Nick Tomboulides: It hasn’t happened yet. It hasn’t happened yet.
Philip Blumel: Right.
Nick Tomboulides: In our entire history as an organization I’ve yet to have a single lobbyist knock on my door and attempt to give me a check. Not to say I don’t wait by the door every day, [laughter] but it hasn’t happened yet. It might in the future who knows.
Philip Blumel: No.
Nick Tomboulides: They’re always on the other side of this issue.
Philip Blumel: It’s obvious why. It’s obvious why. What do they do for a living? Their whole point is deliver influence to clients who are trying to get something through legislature or trying to have access to or influence over legislature. Their whole job is to establish these relationships, maintain them, keep the politicians that go along with them in power for as long as possible. And term limits append that apple cart. First of all they limit the amount of time that politicians stay in office. They often also limit the power of the relationships that the lobbyists have because they have to keep re-establishing new ones.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah, it was Jack Abramoff, the now disgraced former Washington uber-lobbyist who said that the lobbyists oppose term limits because a politician who stays in office for life and is a friend is worth his weight in gold to the lobbying community. Because he’s so dependable. Lobbyists prefer a lifetime subscription to one legislator. They don’t wanna have to keep re-establishing these relationships.
Philip Blumel: And that’s why well over 90% of all money from lobbying organization goes to incumbent legislators and that’s true at the federal level and it’s true at the state level as well.
Nick Tomboulides: And we’ve… By the way let me just make a quick note. We’ve chronicled this in the past. We’ve looked at state-wide term limits initiatives for example back in 2012 in California when the political class was attempting to repeal California’s citizen-imposed term limits. We looked at this in Arkansas in 2014 when the same thing occurred. And in every single one of these cases, when you follow the money, the lobbyists are contributing exclusively to whichever side is trying to prevent, weaken or abolish term limits.
Philip Blumel: That’s it.
Nick Tomboulides: And if term limits benefited lobbyist, the opposite would be true, but it’s simply not true. It’s one of the biggest lies in politics that term limits benefit lobbyists. And you need to look no further than following the money to figure that out.
Philip Blumel: That’s right. Well, this joint statement doesn’t stop with the biggest lie on politics, it also includes the second biggest. Let me read the…
Philip Blumel: Let me read. It was a joint statement so let’s read the other half of the statement. This is Daryl Lies who is…
Nick Tomboulides: Wait, the guy’s name is Lies?
Philip Blumel: Yeah, Daryl Lies.
Nick Tomboulides: He’s lying and that’s his name too?
Philip Blumel: Yes.
Nick Tomboulides: Well that’s convenient for us.
Philip Blumel: Yeah.
Nick Tomboulides: Really convenient. They really put this one on a T for us but go ahead.
Philip Blumel: [chuckle] Well, they’re being honest about this. At least on this name. Okay so North Dakota Farm Bureau President, Daryl Lies, in the same release says… [chuckle] Get this, “Why should we be forced to get rid of the very people who are so good for North Dakota? As voters we should have the right to vote for leaders of our choice.”
Nick Tomboulides: No.
Philip Blumel: Now are we talking about a referendum here? That was put on the ballot by citizens who signed petitions to put it on the ballot and will have the opportunity to vote on in November?
Nick Tomboulides: Citizens collected 46,000 signatures. They only needed around 32,000 so they went well above and beyond what was legally required because people in North Dakota are so excited about term limits, it was not hard to get them to sign a petition. They will ultimately decide on November 8th whether eight-year term limits for the House and the Senate and the Governor are added into the state constitution. So citizens have been in charge of this process from soup to nuts. Now this is a citizen-driven process. Term Limits is a citizen-driven movement. It’s so narrow and parochial for someone to say… Citizens only have a right to either vote for their 40-year incumbent politician or not vote for them. Now, quite frankly, most incumbent politicians don’t have real competition. They’re either under-opposed or totally unopposed. We know one in three state legislators is totally unopposed. So citizens don’t have that many choices at the ballot box under the status quo. But to view the power of a citizen so narrowly is frankly insulting.
Nick Tomboulides: And I would say it’s also un-American. Because there are all kinds of parameters that we’ve established that make our government more democratic and preserve our republic and some of those do restrict who you can vote for. So for example, if you’re voting for president, you can’t vote for someone who’s under 35 and born in another country. With term limits you can’t vote for someone who’s been in office for more than eight years. And these are all things that the framers of our country supported. Benjamin Franklin put term limits into the constitution of Pennsylvania. So he’s attacking the very history of our republic. He’s attacking the people of North Dakota who put this on the ballot and he’s attacking the 81% of North Dakota voters in the poll who said they want term limits on the legislature.
Philip Blumel: It is a very pro-democracy position of ours that we support the right of the voters to set the rules of the game and to choose their leaders according to those rules. And that is the only way that we can really be protected from special interests… Established special interests who have enormous amount of power on who ends up on the ballot particularly if there’s an incumbent in the race. They know… And if you look at this quote, the second one I just read from Daryl Lies, he makes two points. Why should we be forced to get rid of people who are so good for North Dakota? That is to say why can’t we vote for incumbents and two, we should have the right to vote for the leaders of our choice. It sounds like to me that his only interest in democracy is allowing people to vote for incumbents that he supports, not for voters to set the rules of the game. Not to choose amongst the people that are on the ballot as a result of those rules chosen by the people. They want the choices on the ballot to be chosen by them and that’s why they oppose measure one.
Nick Tomboulides: Yeah and what we’ve seen… Thankfully we don’t need to go into a fantasy dream world and ask what effect term limits would have on elections. There are 15 states that already have term limits for their state legislature that have already done what the voters of North Dakota are attempting to do right now. And in those states has the sky fallen? No, quite the opposite. The elections have gotten more competitive. They see more candidates vying for office because the barriers for entry are lower and thus the voter is afforded far more choices. The voters in Florida have more choices than ever before as a result of having term limits here. And that will also be true in North Dakota. So you’re actually unlocking more democracy, more choices for the voters. And incumbency as we’ve noted here, has done far more to keep choices off the ballot than term limits have. The power of incumbent has such a chilling effect on competition. If he’s really interested in giving voters a choice he needs to step into the ballot box on November eighth and vote yes.
Philip Blumel: There you go.
Nick Tomboulides: What a scumbag.
S?: This is a public service announcement.
Philip Blumel: Nationally, US Term Limits has collected an impressive roster of state chairs. Successful and connected individuals who have taken on the task of promoting the Term Limits convention in their respective states. You can find the full list of US Term Limits state chairs on the website at termlimits.com/state-chairs. One example is Rachel McCubbin of Kentucky, who appeared in late September on Andrew Wilkow’s radio program on the Salem News Channel.
Andrew Wilkow: My next guest is Kentucky State chair for US Term Limits and a former State Director for Senator Rand Paul, Rachel McCubbin. Rachel, welcome. It’s good to have you on Wilkow.
Rachel McCubbin: Thank you Kevin. It’s great to be with you.
Andrew Wilkow: There’s so much that I would love to ask you about because you’ve been on the term limits issue for such a long time and there’s really a need for it now more than ever in so many different respects. What’s the overriding argument for why term limits should be adopted and sooner rather than later.
Rachel McCubbin: The overriding argument is that our system is broken. It really is so prejudiced towards the incumbent that it just suppresses new ideas coming into the market and it makes it almost impossible for someone to defeat an incumbent. It takes care of a lot of the corruption of special interests that sort of latch on to the incumbents. And it just clears the decks and gives us an opportunity to bring some new ideas and new flesh and blood into our United States Congress. And it’s an idea whose time has come.
Andrew Wilkow: I know there are many people some of the Trump supporters would call them RINOs that have supported Mitch McConnell for a long time. For me personally, he’s been a mixed bag. I’ve got great respect for what he did during the Trump years in terms of getting judicial appointments set up. We had I think close to 300 judges added to the circuits. And many of them in very important positions that will be there for a very long time. Not to just mention the Supreme Court which has now revolutionized where this country is headed from a jurisprudence standpoint. But even someone like Senator McConnell who’s done a good job at times being leader, there’s people that get tired of him being there and thinking he should give an opportunity for the young bucks to come along. So what is the argument for how long you’d like to see term limits in place. So what types of guidelines would… If your group had a way of saying this is our wish list, what would it include?
Rachel McCubbin: Well, it would include just a couple of terms in the House and the Senate so they could add together. But those are the types of things that would be hammered out in a convention where the States got together and worked out those details. But at the very least, it should be just a couple of terms in each house. And I couldn’t agree with you more Kevin about your comments about Senator McConnell. I’ve been involved in Kentucky politics for a long time and I have enormous respect for his knowledge and skill and the things that have occurred in Kentucky, really with Senator McConnell’s help.
Rachel McCubbin: But in my opinion, this should not be a referendum on one person. You could ask me about Speaker Pelosi for example. It shouldn’t be a referendum on starting a count down clock for Speaker Pelosi. And at the same time but also I shouldn’t avoid term limits if I have a loyalty to a member of Congress that I’m very fond of. For example Senator Paul. I think he’s doing a super job and he could do a great job for years to come. But that shouldn’t negate the argument for term limits. I don’t think that our Founding Fathers ever imagined a professional class of politicians there. People did their service, they went back to their communities and continued the professions that they had before they went to Washington. And I don’t think they could have anticipated the special interest monies and how that has corrupted the system as well.
Rachel McCubbin: So I think they were very wise in giving us a method to amend our constitution. It should be a very heavy lift to amend the constitution. We don’t wanna willy nilly be changing it every year. So it’s gonna be a huge job. And I don’t think we can count on the Congress to initiate that. It has to be something that comes from the grassroots up. And if you see the numbers Kevin, about how many people support term limits. It is… I’ve worked in public policy for so many years and I can’t think of another thing where you can get people on every side of the aisle to agree. But they do agree on this. 82% of Americans believe we need term limits for Congress. It’s a little higher among Republicans, a little lower among Democrats and… But still independents as well.
Rachel McCubbin: And if you don’t believe a poll that you’ve seen published. I decided to do my very own sort of impromptu poll. And literally for about two weeks every person I talked to, anything more than just a casual hello, I would just say, “Let me ask you a random question. How do you feel about term limits for Congress?” And with only two exceptions they said, “Absolutely. It’s time.”
Andrew Wilkow: So talk to us about how Andrew’s viewers can latch on to your group, stay in touch with what’s going on and get motivated and activated.
Rachel McCubbin: It is very hard to remember this. Our website is termlimits.com. [laughter] So can’t get any easier than that. You can go there and you can actually sign a petition yourself and that would… Information will be made available to your member of Congress so they start to see the ground swell of interest in their local by their constituents in term limits. What our organization is also doing is organizing State by State. So we’re working in the legislatures because we need to get a resolution passed out of a large number of our state legislatures to call on Congress to have an Article V on the Convention so.
Andrew Wilkow: Yeah. Well so I wanna think a little bit bigger than that. You said that they individually could go. I want everyone watching to not only go but then forward that link to 20 or 30 of your friends. Because if we…
Rachel McCubbin: Absolutely.
Andrew Wilkow: If we think in those terms we can start to move the needle and maybe sooner rather than later.
Philip Blumel: Well, it looks like another politician has announced that he is going to use the procedure currently being used by the Michigan Legislative Leadership to use deception in order to overturn an established and popular term limit. This example is from El Salvador. And it concerns the announcement of President Nayib Bukele that he intends to run again for President in 2024. One problem. In El Salvador, consecutive terms are banned by the Constitution. In the September 24th issue of The Economist Magazine the columnist Bellow, writes about Bukele’s big election lie under the subtitle Abolishing Term Limits Is The Road To Tyranny. The lie that Bellow is talking about is that in making the announcement he warned that his decision would be met with a lot of criticism from abroad. And he said that this criticism would be hypocritical since “nearly all developed countries” allow for re-election and it’s banned only “in the third world”. In the words of The Economist Bukele’s statement contained a whopping fib. Of 35 countries considered developed by the IMF the names of which he read out. All but the United States and South Korea have parliamentary systems.
Philip Blumel: Their heads of government are not directly elected. So Unlike Latin American presidents, these prime ministers are accountable to parliaments and can fall at any time as it’s happened recently in Britain, Sweden, and Italy. Plus of course a maximum of two terms is the rule in the United States and two consecutive ones in Argentina and Brazil for example. In fact The Economist points out, it is permanent re-election which is correlated with the so-called third world not limitation of government. In telling the El Salvador story Bellow explains why this is so. Here are the key paragraphs of that article. “In a legislative election last year, Bukele’s New Ideas Party won a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. He used that to retire a third of the judges and appoint a Supreme Court to his liking. The constitution states that alternation in power is “indispensable” but the court’s newly appointed constitutional chamber duly ruled that the bar on re-election violated the people’s right to choose whom they want. On paper this ruling applies only to a second term but it doesn’t take a Shaman to foresee that the same argument will apply in 2029.”
Philip Blumel: “For practical purposes, El Salvador has thus joined Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela in abolishing term limits. To achieve this in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez went to the trouble of organizing a new constitution and a referendum. Mr. Bukele has aped the newer fashion of getting pliant courts to do the job as in Bolivia and Nicaragua. It is no coincidence that most if not all checks and balances on the executive have withered in these countries. The problem for El Salvadorans is that if and when they tire of Mr. Bukele, it might be too late for them to get rid of him. The countries that have abolished term limits are amongst the poorest in Latin America. Those that allow a second term but only with a gap, are the richest. Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay, or amongst the fastest growing, Panama and Peru. It is permanent re-election which is correlated with the third world.”
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 it’s 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.