.. was for naught. As a result of widespread support, well planned campaigning, and nearly non-existent opposition, Oklahoma became the first state to impose term limits on its state legislature on September 18, 1990 (Benjamin 142). In order for a successful grass-roots movement on term limits to materialize, both funding and organization is needed, and these goals require the backing of trained professionals and activists. The term limitation drive consists of a national and several local headquarters; leaders of the latter run daily operations and plot strategy in their respective states while they are assisted with logistical support and general guidance by the former. In recent years, five key national groups have emerged in the term limitation effort: Americans to Limit Congressional Terms (ALCT), Citizens for Constitutional Reform (CCR), and Americans Back In Charge (ABIC) have supported mandatory rotation, while Let The People Decide (LTPD) and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have opposed it (Egan A1).
ALCT was established in the summer of 1989 by Republican political consultants Eddie Mahe and LeDonna Lee, and quickly incorporated Democrats in the organization to make it bipartisan. The first national group created for the exclusive purpose of advocating term limits for members in Congress, ALCT is based in Washington, D.C. in order to take advantage of the national media attention and constituency it has to offer. Despite limited association with grass- roots politics, ALCT has served as a broad advisor and spokesman for the national term limit movement. Unfortunately, ALCT began to encounter organizational problems in 1991 when its president, Cleta Mitchell, resigned in order to join Americans Back in Charge.
Since then ALCT has limited itself to direct mail fund raising and overseeing state organizations. CCR began in November of 1990 as an activity of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a nonpartisan group promoting free-market alternatives to government programs. CCR severed its ties with Citizens for a Sound Economy in February of 1991 and created two different department within itself- a lobbying group, and a tax-exempt, non-profit organization. Until its replacement by U.S. Term Limits in 1992, CCR boasted a grass-roots membership of over two-hundred thousand and called for ending incumbent advantages in elections. CCR did so by providing local groups with draft language for initiatives, valid signature gathering for such initiatives, monitoring local and state groups, and providing financial and fund-raising support (Egan B9).
ABIC developed from a state campaign committee that attempted to gather support for a state initiative limiting the terms of state legislators in the winter of 1989. The campaign committee, Coloradoans Back in Charge (CBIC), spent over three-hundred thousand dollars on radio advertising and signature gathering, and had widespread success (Benjamin 65). ABIC is active in three major areas of legal research, ballot access, and campaign strategy and tactics. The organization provides information on legal procedures concerning legislation on term limits to all local groups who are interested in beginning initiatives, and also gives advice on signature collecting to the same groups. ABIC’s main area of expertise lies with campaign advice and how to run successful campaign fund raising, use the media, and organize a volunteer network in order to gain public office (Benjamin 66).
LTPD was first instituted as a lobbying organization opposed to mandatory rotation during the spring of 1991 and remains the most renown group of its kind despite any successes and limited resources. They receive much of their financing from labor groups and manage to employ an executive director and two panels of political scientists. LTPD is most actively involved in monitoring and coordinating term limit opposition around the country, providing research to those groups, recommending speakers to advocate anti-term limit cases, and providing legal guidance through the powerful Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Arnold and Porter (Benjamin 70). Organized labor unions such as the AFL-CIO often agree with groups who combat term limits, yet they are quite reluctant to mobilize a strong opposition. The AFSCME is the most active union, and, like other term limit groups, collects valuable information about term limit campaigns within the states and relays it to interested groups.
Since the AFSCME’s time and resources are limited, they restrict themselves to offering advice and occasional funding to state groups who support their cause (Benjamin 71). No other group of Americans will be impacted by the issue of term limitation more than the representatives and senators themselves. It is ultimately the congressmen who decide whether or not the Constitution will be amended to include rotation-in-office; therefore, their opinions on the topic are of the utmost importance. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, of Texas’s 18th district, rose in adamant opposition to H.J. Resolution 2, which was a proposed amendment to the constitution of the United States limiting the terms of members of congress (Jackson-Lee 1). On February 12, 1997, Lee argued that “the issue of term limits is one that threatens the power of the American people to exercise a basic right granted by the founding fathers of our great country- the right to vote for the representative of their choice (Jackson-Lee 2). This resolution shatters the core principle of freedom and seeks to spoil a right that many sacrificed, fought and died for- the right to vote for whom they choose (Jackson-Lee 2).” In her speech, she later cited Article I, Section 2 of the constitution which provides the basic requirements of anyone attempting to become a member of the House of Representatives.
Lee then questions the constitutionality of the amendment by adding, “This language says nothing about the ability of current members of congress choosing who may not represent the people of a particular district by virtue of a member’s previous service (Jackson-Lee 3).” Just as many other members of the United States government feel, Lee thought the founders draft of the constitution has withstood the test of time on a variety of issues; if they “wanted to include a provision that limited the number of years that an individual could serve as a representative of a group of constituents, the most certainly would have done so. However, they did not [and] we are wise to follow their wisdom (Jackson-Lee 4).” Representative Bill Archer (7th District, Texas) also shared Rep. Jackson-Lee’s thoughts on term limits, and he also voted against the proposals considered by the House on February 12, 1997. He discloses that 61% of the current House membership, and 44% of the Senate were, was elected within the last six years; as a result, “the last few elections certainly demonstrate that our country is experiencing term limits naturally.” Archer also feels that since the percentage of House members serving three years or less is higher in the 105th Congress than in and other Congress elected since 1952, “clearly, the voters have demonstrated their willingness to replace members they believe are not adequately representing them (Archer 1).” Conversely, Representative Kevin Brady (8th District, Texas) believes that term limits are a good way to attain the goal of keeping government “as near to the people as possible”, and showed this by voting for H.J. Resolution 2 in order to limit House members to six terms-twelve years- and Senate members to two terms-twelve years.
From Brady’s experience in the Texas legislature and in Congress, he feels that “limiting members of the U.S. House equally to six terms provides members ample time to represent their constituents effectively, while preserving the original intent of a citizen-driven Congress.” By rotation legislation, he hopes “to ensure..new ideas and fresh citizens perspectives (Brady 1).” Another advocate of term limits, Rep. Ron Paul (14th District, Texas) actually introduced the first term limitation bill of the modern era and has voted in favor of each bill introduced to limit Congressional terms to twelve years. However, term limits only somewhat address the issue of “career politicians.” To limit the lawmaking power of such individuals, Paul aims to eliminate “perks like the pension system” in addition to mandatory rotation-in-office (Paul 1). In order to keep government “..as near to the people as possible..”, imposing term limits on legislators is clearly an invalid method to accomplish this goal. The founders purposely excluded rotation-in-office from the Constitution because they felt no need to include such a statement when voters already levy term limits on congressmen through elections (Jackson-Lee 8). Congressional privilege and power is derived from seniority. If states restrict congressional tenure they ultimately place themselves in a weaker political position of power relative to states who choose not to.