The notion that public service is a public trust seems somewhat naïve in today’s political climate. Today, Lord Acton’s assertion that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is axiomatic. As of this writing, Dick Morris’ Catastrophe - a book that catalogues mind-numbing abuse of power - resides atop the New York Times bestseller list. Most of that abuse flows from entrenched interests, which have normalized an atmosphere of cronyism and outright corruption among our elected officials.
Americans know that success is predicated upon fresh ideas. A baseball team will hire a new manager after a prolonged period of stagnation. So, too, people want new public servants when the economy is stagnant or when the country seems to be otherwise drifting in the wrong direction. A frequently cited antidote is that of term limitations. But such legislation is unlikely to be supported by the very entrenched interests it would seek to restrict. So such legislation simply languishes and dies. And the public continues to suffer.
A new organization called the Alliance for Bonded Term Limits (ABTL) has formed to explore a process that could put term limits into effect without having to pass term limit legislation – and, in the process, bring integrity back to the legislative branch. Their plan is to support candidates who will voluntarily bond their promises of limited tenure in office by use of their personal assets. These assets will be forfeited to charity if their promise is broken.
ABTL has now applied for recognition as a Part 501(c) (3) organization. It will exert a non-partisan effort because its founders recognize that corruption is not limited to one political party. It is a problem in all political parties. In fact, former Senate majority leaders Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) are members of the same lobbying firm. Their firm, by the way, drew eight million dollars in lobbying fees in 2008.
More than anything, ABTL is an educational organization. Its leaders are dedicated to a mission that is focused on researching facts and identifying useful courses of action. That research will demonstrate clearly that the perks of office are such that re-election has become the only priority of many of our elected officials. Furthermore, abuses of power that are fueled by a sense of entitlement among our elected officials simply get worse the longer they stay in office. Term limits are not the panacea for all of our problems. But they are an effective solution to many of these abuses.
This country does not need a new Constitutional Amendment or a new federal law to breathe new life into a corrupt Washington establishment. It needs ordinary citizens who will travel to Washington with new ideas derived from real-world experience. And it needs them to return home after a finite time in office. In other words, our nation needs the citizen legislatures our Founders expected. It needs to make extinct the corrupt ruling class of elite career politicians who have created the current economic collapse and compromised the well-being of future generations.
I’ve decided to support ABTL by making a tax-advantaged gift. I’m hoping others will do the same. And I refuse to support any politician who does not, from the onset, commit to limited tenure in office. There’s no other way to ensure such a commitment than by signing an agreement forfeiting a massive percentage of personal assets for a breach of that promise. And that forfeiture should include assets accrued before and after taking office.
It’s time to replace the glib assertion “My word is my bond” with a new one: “My bond is my word.” We all know that money talks. And career politicians need to take a walk.