Following the Money ~ Justifying Term Limits

In my last blog, I made several points why congressional term limits are import to the future of our country. In my opinion, the money angle is the single largest reason why we have career politicians and why incumbents are nearly impossible to replace short of retirement or death. 

A large “war chest” practically guarantees reelection. In fact, it’s so important that according to a snippet from a presentation given to incoming freshmen by the DCC, they show about 4-5 hours per day fundraising. Maybe this is a pipedream, maybe it isn’t, but why would the DCC show this to freshmen if they didn’t think it was important. A couple of articles that document this are https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/07/29/congress-spends-too-much-time-fundraising-but-its-less-time-than-you-think/ and https://www.huffpost.com/entry/call-time-congressional-fundraising_n_2427291.In addition, 60 Minutes aired an interview after Florida Republican David Jolly was elected in a special election and he was told his number one priority was fundraising. In fact, he was even given a number he had to hit daily. $18,000 per day was what he was expected to raise. The RNC was so adamate about this they even supplied him with scripts to follow and biographies of major donars to call. Because fundraising isn’t allowed on Capitol grounds, BOTH campaign arms set up call bank headquarters near the capitol so congressional members and staffers can stop in to spend a few hours a day on the phones. 60 Minutes exposed this story several years ago, however, there is nobody up in arms about this. I don’t even remember this being a blip on anyone’s radar. The machine just keeps going the way it’s been and no new ideas come to government; status quo, just like everyone on Capitol Hill likes it. 

Here’s a great perspective including some of the 60 minutes footage on the shameful fundraising tactics taken up by our Representatives and Senators. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf2OEwYvvKkIt’s very evident to me that there is no denying that fundraising done by incumbent congressmen (and women) on both sides of the isle is out of control. How can they be working toward the good of our country when they are spending so much time and energy trying to win the next election. Term Limits would be a great start to quell the focus put on fundraising and they would free up our Representative’s and senator’s time to do what they were elected to do; work for We The People to make this a better country for everyone.Another indicator of how much of an advantage the incumbents have with regards to money is the Super Pacs. In 2010, the supreme court decided to allow the formation of so called “Super Pacs” (political action committees). An individual has a donation limitation of $2800.00 donation to each candidate or candidate committee per election. They can give up to $35,500 per year to a national party committee with an additional 106,500 per year for certain additional conventions, committees and legal proceedings. Super Pacs are not limited to the amount they can collect or spend to help candidates or work against other candidates. The decision of the supreme court has all but made the individual inconsequential in todays elections. Unfortunately, this benefits the incumbent much more than the challenger and does nothing to guide the Congressman to do the right thing for the people.To make matters worse, when it comes to campaign finance reform, we have the fox watching the hen house. In September of 2017, a bill (S.1880) entitled We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017 was introduced. The bill covered congressional finance reform banning certain foreign controlled, influenced and owned companies from being able to contribute to campaigns. It covered campaign disbursement reporting, Super Pac fundraising, bundled contribution disclosures, Establishment of a Federal Election Administration, Lobbying registration reforms, conflict of interests, public financing of elections and other things. 

It was read twice and forwarded to committee where it has sat dormant for the last three years. While I don’t agree with everything the bill contains, (and I believe there are some things that are designed to sway local political landscape such as a “redistricting clause”). I think there are some good items contained in the bill. I also think that if our congressmen and congresswomen weren’t spending so much time fundraising, maybe they could roll up their sleeves and get some real work done. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1880/text is a link to the bill if you care to do some research on your own.As a Constitutionally minded conservative, I find it appalling that people who have been in office for 20, 30 or more years are suddenly going to solve this great country’s problems. To me, it’s wildly apparent that there is no way the current group of long-standing Representatives and Senators can cross the isle and work together in a meaningful way. To make matters worse, elections do not level the playing field because most challengers simply do not have the funding to compete with the incumbent. In my mind, it would be great to see a law passed that the incumbent would have to level the playing field by contributing to their challengers’ campaigns, so all parties had a similar amount of money to campaign with. Just think, if this were law, how much time would be spent fundraising then? Unfortunately, we all know congress will do nothing to level the playing field for the challenger. Everything they do is to keep the current status quo. If you agree that Congress and the House is no longer working fervently in the best interest of this country, then It’s time to get involved. Go to http://www.termlimits.com and sign their petition. Another great resource is http://www.conventionofstates.com. I would offer you this, either you believe DC will fix itself or the states will have to fix it. The status quo is unsustainable.

Term Limits

Why It’s Time For Congressional Term Limits

Our founding fathers saw the wisdom in creating a new type of government.  One “Of the People, by the People, for the People”.  I, along with 82% of American’s* feel that term limits have become a necessary vehicle to quay the apparent unending cronyism and corruption in Washington. (*according to McLaughlin & Associates survey).  They saw the wisdom in the citizen sacrificing time away from his or her job, business, family, every day life in the quest of governing.  Doing their part to contribute to society and then return to their former lifestyle.  Our government was never intended to be a resting place for career politicians to develop the elitist mentality and means of governance it has become.

It’s completely mind boggling to me that our House and Senate continue, year after year, to have the lowest approval rating when the American citizen is polled.  They regularly fail to exceed an approval rating of 25% or more.  In fact, polls indicate that since March 13th, 2010, Congressional approval has not risen above 25% once and rarely hit 20%.So, I must ask myself, Why?  Why do these people, so called Congressional leaders, continue to get reelected election after election despite their seemingly endless scandals, many of which have ended in indictments?  

A quick search indicates that 60 of the current representatives in the House have been in office since 1999 or earlier.  For those keeping count, 15 republicans and 45 democrats.

Nearly 14% of our elected officials have been in office for as long as a soldier must serve to get a 40% pension, and I would doubt anyone can argue who is sacrificing more.  The Senate is slightly worse with 15 out of 100 senators (or 15%) for the same amount of time; 7 democrats, 8 republicans. There are several senators and representatives that have been in office well over 30 years.

When I look at this and start to review how we, as a modern nation, with so many avenues to capture data and understand what our elected officials are or aren’t doing to represent us, I can only assume the incumbent would have an insurmountable advantage when elections are held.

A quick internet search leads me to Open Secrets.org.  Based on the data they have compiled, in the last 10 elections (20 years), the House of Representatives has never had a reelection win percentage drop below 80% and the Senate has only dropped below 80% twice.  If you average the statistics between both the House and the Senate over those same 20 years, you get an average reelection result of nearly 90%!

I must ask, what are the real advantages to incumbents that the challenger doesn’t have?  Why do these things matter? Below is a breakdown of just a few of the very significant advantages the incumbent has under our current, broken system.

For starters, name recognition.  Incumbents have been through the election cycle, in the news, campaigning, visiting their constituents, glad handing, kissing babies, etc.  Many people know who they are; if not by sight, at least by name.  They many not agree with their policies but there is a familiarity there.  People will often vote for no change without a present, overwhelming need felt by the individual to affect change.  And without that catalyst, the incumbent has a big advantage with name recognition.

Ground game.  Incumbents are staffed.  They have councilmen and councilwomen that “owe them”.  That want to see things remain unchanged and will do everything in their power to ensure that the status quo remains.  The proverbial “quid pro quo” is incessant in our current political landscape and anything that would or could interfere with that is quickly dealt with by the “boots on the ground” of the incumbent.  Grass roots programs to get out the vote, bussing voters to the polling stations and many other things help insure an unfair advantage, especially early in the campaign, to the incumbent.

A Primary election not required for incumbents in many states.  As I understand it, because elections are conducted at the state level and the electoral college votes for the President, the state makes its own voting laws. While all other officials are either appointed or voted for by popular vote, only the President is not voted for directly, but rather the votes tell the electoral college representative who they should vote for to elect the president.  Because we are a republic, this is a key differentiator in how we elect our leader.  But I regress; so, getting back to the State Primary.  Many states do not require the incumbent to participate in a primary election, so, they have no way to get taken off the ballad prior to an election.  This is a major disadvantage to the challenger, as the primary is a great place for “Joe the Plumber” to get a first hand look at the incumbent and challenger discussing similar issues, in similar settings.

Lobbyists.  Because the quid pro quo is so entrenched in today’s politics, the lobbyist also does not want things to change.  

They will nearly always feed the incumbent.  A vote in favor of bills that help the lobbyist will generally result in campaign fund contributions, or in other instances, favorable treatment by the lobbyist in the way of preferential treatment to contractors and corporations that contribute to the incumbent.   Lobbyists live by the old saying “what comes around goes around” and they make sure they don’t bite the hand that feeds them.

This leads to probably the most important advantage of all.  CASH.  In today’s politics, having a huge “war chest” nearly guarantees the incumbent victory over the challenger.  The ability to do robo calls (which I hate), mass mailings and emailing, run campaign adds, hire campaign staff, travel, etc.  In modern politics, cash is king, and many politicians literally hold their offices by buying them.  Since the incumbents can use their position in office to generate campaign cash and get contributions from a multitude of sources, it’s nearly impossible for a challenger to raise enough cash to compete in a meaningful way.

As you can see, after just a little research, it becomes glaringly obvious that our political highway is littered with roadblocks that, despite failure to perform, make it nearly impossible for a challenger to win an election in this country and the data supports this as fact.  Regardless of what our leaders in the house and senate want you to believe, elections are not “built in term limits”.  If that were the case, then why did congress pass the 22nd amendment limiting the President to two terms?  Why do they limit the president, but they don’t have limitations on their offices?  If we are to continue to get new thoughts and ideas to bring about new laws that benefit the citizens of this Republic, it’s crucially important that we get this addressed and a constitutional amendment be passed and ratified.

Ted Cruz has introduced a bill in the Senate to limit the senators to two 6 year terms and the representative to three 2 year terms.  I would encourage you to contact your senator and encourage him / her to support this legislation.  It’s time to end the corruption in Washington and make this a government “Of the People” once again.

An Introduction

I am a constitutionally minded conservative. I believe in God, Family and Country. I believe in personal accountability. I believe one should conduct themselves in a manner that exhibits honor, integrity and candor. I believe all members of this great experiment known as America, that are of able body and mind, should be contributors to society; not parasites leaching off the societal producers. I believe the freedoms outlined by this country’s founding fathers are granted to us by the Creator himself; not by any person or government. They are freedoms in the purest sense. They don’t require you to be rich or affluent or have any special influence or know anyone in power; they just are. I firmly believe that if you want something, you work for it. You don’t steal it, you don’t expect it to be handed to you. You roll your sleeves up and work. Or you put your brain to the task and you work. Whether your business is building a product, providing a service, engineering the next great invention or simply exchanging your time in the performance of a task in return for payment, you work. You contribute. You hold yourself to a higher standard than those around you and make yourself better. I honestly can’t tell you why I believe these things or why I feel as strongly about them as I do. We moved when I was young. My mom and stepdad were trying to run a business, so we had little adult supervision. The business failed. I was faced with moving back to the city and going to an inner city public school, starting over as a junior and not knowing anyone. I recall going to visit that school. Walking in through the metal detectors, all the windows with metal grates over them in an attempt to keep out criminals and prevent vandalism. As a teenager, it was a humbling experience. My lesson here was that of self-preservation. Fight or flight. Best option for me here was flight. I never attended a single day of school there.

Having grown up in a rural community from age 8, my work ethic was already well established by the age of 15. I had been working for local farmers, performing all kinds of tasks from milking cows, putting up hay, de-tasseling corn, picking produce, putting up and mending fences. Whatever needed to be done that I could earn a dollar from. As soon as I walked out of that school, I knew I would not be attending there. I decided to drop out of school and get a job to help my Mom put my sisters through private school. My lesson here, when faced with adversity, you find a way to contribute. Handouts and government programs are the last option.

Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have some friends I had known for several years adopt me, so I could finish high school where I was living at that time. This was my first big break, and I owe much to my second family. My lesson here was to always find room at the table for “one more”.

When I completed high school, I went to work for a local sawmill. Handling boards on a green chain, sorting them out and trimming ends so they could be graded and stacked. It was hard work, but I enjoyed it. I was making $4.25 an hour and I could barely get by. I asked for a raise and was denied. Not because I didn’t deserve it and not because I wasn’t putting in the work, but because the mill owners thought I was easily replaceable. I was expendable. Guys like me were a dime a dozen. Their denial was my second big break. I left there to join the military and find another way to support myself and the family that I would soon start. The mill owner hired two people at minimum wage ($4.25 per hour each) to replace me. The mill owner may have won in principal, but I won a moral victory when I found out about my replacements. There were two major lessons I learned here; first, if you don’t like where you are or how you’re treated, find another place where you’re appreciated and can flourish. Second, it’s more important to win the war, not necessarily that specific battle.

I joined the military in September of 1987. Having a strong sense of civic duty and looking for a way to contribute, I thought the military was a good choice for me. The structure was new and different. It felt stifling at first, but I learned to thrive within the confines of all the rules and regulations. I excelled in the military by most standards, receiving many commendations, medals and advancing to the rank of Sargent. I was honorably discharged in 1992. I learned many things while in the service, but the greatest lesson learned was that many people working toward a common goal can achieve great things. This small revelation has served me very well over the subsequent twenty-six years. Leadership can be a game changer in business and in life.

In the last couple of decades, I have owned three businesses and have worked for a few manufacturing firms. I now work for and am an employee owner of a successful representative firm in the food service and hospitality business. I believe my work ethic and desire to win is the driving factor in my life and the largest contributing factor to my success. I have tried to instill this same work ethic and desire to win in my children; to be contributors to our society. Most things I have learned over the years have come at great sacrifice to me and my family. The experiences and lessons learned have shaped who I am both through success and failure. Despite the sacrifice, whenever I have earned something, there is always a very satisfying feeling that comes over me. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, pride, contribution and the knowledge that by earning that “thing”, whatever it may be, I have grown from that. Not by leaps and bounds, but in small incremental steps. Like the growth rings in a tree. As each ring encompasses the ring before it, the structure of the tree grows and becomes increasingly greater than it was before. This is how I see my life. Each small lesson, each experience, large and small, has shaped my feelings and beliefs. We are all macrocosms of our collective experiences. It is from these, my most personal experiences, that I have formed my basic beliefs and from which my commentary shall derive.

I encourage the readers to reflect on their experiences and find the source of their beliefs. By doing this, they too can have a relative understanding how they arrived at where they are today. It is only through understanding oneself that we can begin to have any honest conversation with others about the correct direction for this great country.