No on 45: We prefer democracy

T.A. Barnhart

First, the most important thing about Measure 45, the one thing every Oregon voter ought to know: This is not an Oregon-based ballot measure. This is another of Howard Rich's bastard children, paid for by Illinois-based "U.S. Term Limits".

From the "No on 45" website:

Measure 45 is being promoted and bankrolled by an Illinois-based special interest group called U.S. Term Limits. U.S. Term Limits, which has pushed similar initiatives in other states, spent about $510,000 on the petition drive to qualify Measure 45 for the Oregon ballot. Recent reports filed with the Oregon Elections Division show U.S. Term Limits has contributed nearly $1.5 million more so far in order to convince voters to support Measure 45.

Here's a view of the C&E for "Restore Oregon's Term Limits Committee" as of Oct 1 (no further contributions reported on Oct 25th C&Es):


Howard Rich is the President of USTL, and he's spending millions across the United States to eliminate the right of local voters to choose who they can vote for. He's pushed term limits in other states, as well as being behind TABOR initiatives (M41/M48). So when considering term limits, think first about being took by a "East Coast city slicker". Maybe you should listen to the Woody Guthrie song, "Philadelphia Lawyer".

Or better, listen to the ads for M45. Of all the slick-trick ad campaigns being run this year, none comes near those pushing M45. I hear this one every morning on Air America/Thom Hartmann; it's deceitful, full of crap and very damn effective.

Listen for yourself (mp3): You may find yourself persuaded.

But let's take a look at what they're saying:

One million voters enacted term limits here. Ten years later, Salem's lobbyists and politicians conspired to kill term limits.

Yes. And then (get ready, conspiracy theorists), the Oregon Supreme Court joined the conspiracy and found that term limiting members of Congress kind of violated the U.S. Constitution. Those darn sneaky lobbyists and politicians! And activist judges. How dare they tell 1 million voters they were wrong?

And when term limits went away, the problems came back. Partisan bickering, two massive tax hikes rejected by voters.

Ok, skipping the part where "massive tax hikes" being "rejected by voters" is a problem (not sure they meant to blame voters for rejecting tax increases), the partisan bickering was not a result of term limits being removed. Let's remember Salem before term limits.

Democrats and Republicans passed the Oregon Health Plan, funded education, agreed on gun control measures, held Legislative sessions that ended about the same time school did, treated one another with respect. It was awful. They did fail in one tragically signficant way, however: they were unable to find an answer to the (perceived) problem of property taxes. This, in addition to the refusal of voters to consider a sales tax, much less any other effective change to the tax status quo, allowed M5 to sneak in the back door of a hectic election year. (Which included a fight to protect a woman's right to choose.)

Then we passed term limits and kicked out anyone who knew what the hell was going on with state government. That's when the lobbyists took over, along with the people we now recognize as their favorite customers: neocons and religious fanatic christianists. The Legislature became a sounding board for fanatics seeking to beat the devil out of the sinful liberals who'd infested Oregon for far too long. Civility disappeared because God does not require His Saved to show respect to the Damned. And when the faith-based fanatics lost their appeal to voters, the hard core neocon corruptionists like Minnis and Scott slimed into the place.

This is the fair fruit of term limits. We replaced the wisdom and experience of John Kitzhaber with the mendacity and self-righteousness of Karen Minnis.

Now, term limits are on the ballot again. A fair limit that lets lawmakers serve, then step up to new challenges. It lets in new people, and fresh ideas.

How fair is it to Corvallis and Philomath that no matter how well Sara Gelser serves us in Salem, in 14 years, she's toast? How fair is it that we lose the option to decide in a democratic process whether or not we want her as our representative? Is it up to the voters in Portland, La Grande or Pendleton to decide who we can choose as our state representative or state senator? Term limits does not bring in fresh blood; it wipes out the liberty to choose who we want from our community to serve us. Maybe Howie Rich never gets to meet his state representative, but anyone in HD 16 can have coffee with Sara just about any week.

They call our Legislature "a national laughingstock."

Ok, who the hell are they? Howie Rich and his friends? Rove and Grover Norquist? The guys at the ad agency what wrote this crap? I have not seen any state legislatures so enveloped by the love and good-will of their citizens that they have time to look at our legislature and have their little laugh. There's no attribution for this quote, just the words. Politicking is just so much easier when you get to make your shit up and toss it around like chimps tossing poo.

Let's get serious about fixing it.

I agree: Let's get serious. We do have tremendous problems with how we elect people to all state and local offices, but you can generally count on this: The easier the solution, the more likely to failure. Term limits is easy: Throw the bums out. But we know from experience it results in disaster: the lobbyists and fanatics take over; democracy gets shot to hell.

When incumbents get re-elected 98.1% of the time, there is really no choice for voters. Yes on 45 – let's respect the choice of 1.4 million Oregon voters – for competition in politics.

The re-election of incumbents is not the result of a lack of competition or choice. Jason Brown is running his ass off against Brian Boquist in HD23; if the voters in the district choose not to get educated about Boquist, or if we actually respect their decision and assume they did make an informed decision, then their choice to re-elect the incumbent was their democratic choice to make. Who the hell is Howie Rich or any of his Oregon minions to say otherwise? In a few districts, serious challengers are hard to find but that's invariably because the incumbent happens to represent district voters damn well. Just ask the folks in HD11 who happily re-elect Uncle Phil Barnhart, or Congressional District 5, where Greg Walden appears to be the person voters want in Congress (god help us). It's a conservative district; they elect a conservative to Congress. I don't like "Waldenbush" but I respect the voters.

I'm hoping that sufficient of the 1.4 million Oregonians who voted for term limits last time have wised up. I hope the House Dems have done enough to get out the message that more than anything, it's Minnis and Scott's corrupt and anti-democratic methods which have fouled up the Legislature so badly. We need to make challenges on incumbents more viable, but simply chopping their off at the knees is pointless. A term-limited politician usually has a bucket of money on hand; here in Benton County, former candidate and cheating-lying buffoon Jack Burright just handed over $28,000 to a write-in candidate. That's how an incumbent will ensure his or her replacement continues their legacy — for good or ill. That's the biggest problem, and we know it: Money. M45 does nothing about that problem (and M47 does way too much).

Vote for democracy and choice — your choice. Vote No on 45 and send Howie Rich the message: We'll make our own damn decisions our own damn way. Vote democracy. Vote No on 45.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks, TA for a great argument. Term limits are a mess. Probably the best argument I can come up with to oppose 45 is that our current mess in the legislature is the direct results of term limits. To illustrate the point, remember that the last four Speakers of the House have had only one or two regular sessions under their belts each before becoming Speaker. Is it any wonder that some of them have failed to operate that complex system well (The last two sessions have been the longest ever). The current hyper-partisanship is the direct result of the confluence of the rise of far right ideology which is foreign to Oregon and term limits that removed the experienced members from the House. We are only just now recovering from the old term limit law with a few members with enough experience to understand how not to run the place.

    During my first term we were still under term limits and faced an absolute limit on our service in the House. That led to very aggressive, very partisan attitudes while ambitious members worked to make their marks in a hurry.

    The legislature will always be contentious with lots of big egos and strong opinions. But with a leaven of experienced members who respect each other's strengths there is a chance to work together to get the state's business done reasonably well.

    If the voters are tricked into term limits again, we will soon be back to short-termism, hyper-partisanship, quick but dumb solutions and the inability to work toward the long term stable solutions we need.

  • Anony (unverified)

    Coyote... we can pick up the conversation that didn't get finished on the previous post! Yay!

    You said that M45 was sponsored by an Oregonian.

    I said that Ted Bertholete shows his address on the SoS website as 61111 Minaret Circle in Bend. But the Deschutes County DIAL website shows that he sold his house and (apparently) moved out in July.

    So will someone from M45 please tell us which state the chief petitioner lives in?

  • (Show?)

    This is way off-topic, but can we pleeeeease stop with the "neocons"? I'm pretty sure there's not a single neocon in the Oregon House Republican Caucus.

    Remember: a neocon is basically a pro-defense big-government conservative. (Their ideological roots come from the anti-communist liberals.) The folks in the Oregon House are mostly evangelical conservatives and anti-tax conservatives.

    Of course, there are plenty of conservative thinkers who will argue that "neocon" has lost all meaning now, what with old-school paleocons (like Cheney and Rumsfeld) adopting the neocon view on "spreading democracy" (which used to be anathema to the paleos.)

    Read the wiki and then just start calling 'em "conservatives". No need for the extra-special "neo".

  • (Show?)

    This is the fair fruit of term limits. We replaced the wisdom and experience of John Kitzhaber with the mendacity and self-righteousness of Karen Minnis.

    Wow. I get it it now. The conspiracy goes deeper than I thought, or realized.

    Karen Minnis was our governor. Kulongoski was just a front.

    That's when the lobbyists took over, along with the people we now recognize as their favorite customers: neocons and religious fanatic christianists.

    And it's a god-damned good thing the Democratic Party kicks ALL those lyin', sleazy, creepy lobbyists --AND their money-- out on their god-damned assess! Amen, brother! Halleluya, sister!

    (But wait...pass measure 47, my brothers and sisters? Uh...well, wait just a second here, that's goin' just a little bit too far.)

    Who the hell is Howie Rich or any of his Oregon minions to say otherwise? In a few districts, serious challengers are hard to find but that's invariably because the incumbent happens to represent district voters damn well.

    They represent us DAMN WELL! Invariably! All hail the experienced state legislators, who are doing a damn good job --have been doin' a damn fine job-- of runnin' our state. Term limits? Hell, let's make these PERMANENT APPOINTMENTS, like the Supreme Court! WE don't need no stinkin' uneducated folks comin' in WHO DON'T KNOW HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS!!

    And all this PARTISANSHIP that's been goin' on, destroying the fine fabric of CO-OPERATION that comes when we're all on the same page, all workin' together...we don't need no stinkin' political parties. It's not about bein' a democrat or a's about talkin' to one another, makin' nice, makin' the system WORK!

    (Except...we're talking about Democrats "taking back" the House. You mean, replacing EXPERIENCED legislators with folks who won't be able to find their ass in the dark in Salem? That's OK, though, 'cause Paul Romain and his hirlings will be showing 'em --with special training sessions in Maui, run by Democrats-- how THINGS GET DONE.)

    I'm sorry...but are we s'possed to "respect each other' strengths," and end "hyper-partisanship" or do we want to kick the crap out of the Republicans and "take over?"

    I'm sorry, T.A., but your message to me --as someone who doesn't like term limits, but is disgusted with the state legislature-- isn't clear at all. Is being "partisan" bad? Conservative OK...but "neo-Con" is something else?

    Lobbyists are bad...but just the wrong ones? Paul Romain's bad...unless you're working for him?

    I really don't get it. I really, really don't. Seriously.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Frank, I don't really know where you think that all your various tangential rants are coinciding, but the concept of Term Limits is based on the premise that voters are:

    1) Too stupid to vote incumbents out of office because they're easily distracted by TV ads and other shiny things that PAC money can buy, but also 2) More than able to "find their ass in the dark in Salem" and perform incredible feats of legislative insight and budget analysis.

    You give the voters an inconsistent amount of credit.

    I give them plenty of credit -- this cycle we're going to be seeing a good amount of turnover from both electoral discontent (George, Minnis, Dalto, etc) and voluntary term-limiting (Ringo, Shields, etc)

    Bottom line: When I get my ballot, I vote for whoever I damn well please. I will even be writing in a name or two. And to heck with any New Yorker who's going to limit my options.

  • (Show?)

    You give the voters an inconsistent amount of credit.

    Do I?

    And to heck with any New Yorker who's going to limit my options.

    And the Oregon voters who overwhelmingly voted for term limits last time, and may well do so again?

    To heck with them too?

    And carryin' on about some slick "New Yorker"...just seems kinda pathetic.

    I'll be voting against term limits. And I've never, ever --not once, ever, even in a weak moment-- voted Republican. I consider myself a "partisan" and certainly a "democrat"...but Clinton and the DLC, Nancy Pelosi and the upcoming Vail lobbyist free-for-all ("now's OUR turn to rake in the bucks from lobbyists" Democrats as we "take back" Congress...)

    Now's OUR chance to stuff OUR pockets with lobbyist money isn't what --or at least shouln't be what-- elections are all about. Sorry, it's not. I'm not the cynic here.

  • (Show?)

    One nitpick from a strong opponent of term limits: the Oregon Supreme Court did not strike down the original Oregon term limits measure because it was against the federal constitution (although the portion of it having to do with limiting Oregon federal officials' terms did turn out to be when the US Supreme Court ruled on the issue). It struck down the measure because forcing citizens to vote on limiting state officials' and federal officials' terms in a single measure violated the single-vote clause of Article XVII, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution -- the rule that, very wisely, says voters should never have to accept poison pills and should, instead, get to have a separate vote on each proposed constitutional change.

  • (Show?)

    We are about to prove the proponents of Measure 45 wrong and to grant T.A. his wish. If we are to win the House now, it will be by defeating three of the four Republican incumbents we have taken on (or some of the other Republican-incumbent seats in which we have very strong candidates).

    If Measure 45 passes six of the seven current House Democratic Caucus leaders will have only the 2007 session to reverse Oregon's destructive course - not enough time. Tell everyone to vote "NO" on 45.

    We have a great chance to reach the majority, but key to non-presidential years is GOTV. Whoever votes, wins.

    Turn off your computers and get out to the canvasses and phone banks that we will have in every contested race every day from now through election day. We need to turn out every supporter if we are to pull it off. We don't need term limits to get rid of bad incumbents, but we do need to burn shoe leather, add calluses to dialing fingers and make smile muscles ache.

  • Anony (unverified)

    And the Oregon voters who overwhelmingly voted for term limits last time, and may well do so again?

    Hmm... Seems that if there were such a groundswell, they could have found an actual Oregonian to sponsor the measure.

  • Silence Dogood (unverified)

    Here's the source they are using for that "laughingstock" quote. It's frickin' three years old!

    "Oregon's Legislature isn't just a disgrace. It's a national laughingstock." -- Medford Mail Tribune Editorial, 8-13-03

    It you really want to see how screwy their reasoning is you've gotta take a quick look at this.

    And for a real hoot, look at how they talk down to the opposition: here.

  • M (unverified)

    Yeah, Silence! And the rest of us should recuse ourselves from voting on Measures 41 and 48... because it could potentially affect out services. Conflict of interest.

    And we should recuse ourselves from voting on measure 44, because it might affect how much we pay for medication.

    And I'm going to recuse myself from voting in the governor's race, because I live here and have a vested interest in how the state is run.

    (We don't govern out state by Wikipedia, luckily. Maybe you could look up the definition of "representative government" here in Article IV, section 4.)

  • Silence Dogood (unverified)


    "A conflict of interest is a situation in which someone in a position of trust, such as a lawyer, a politician, or an executive or director of a corporation, has competing professional or personal interests."

    This would certainly apply to a politician re. term limits.

    As to your own situation, that would depend on the position of trust you occupy and the matter at hand.

  • M (unverified)

    I can see how Measure 45 proponents would actually be very well suited to lob conflict-of-interest arguments.

    After all, it looks like it's being funded and sponsored entirely by out-of-state individuals.

  • Silence Dogood (unverified)

    There is a difference - in interests. Proponents stand to gain nothing from a more functional democracy other than better representation. The political insiders fueling the opposition stand to lose control of our Legislature when the power shifts from the Insiders to the People.

    M: you must me a politician or part of the food chain. Why else would you promote a red herring as an example a conflict of interest?

    By your reasoning, don't believe The Oregonian. It's owned by an out-of-state billionaire publishing magnate from New York City, S.I. Newhouse.

    By your logic, since Newhouse is against term limits and is wealthy/out-of-state, we ought to vote opposite The Oregonian's endorsements ... including YES on 45. That's good enough for me. I hope this clears things up for you.

  • Hart Williams (unverified)

    There's more to this story. Theodore F. Berthelote of 61111 Minaret Circle in Bend is listed as chief petitioner for Measure 45 as of July 18, but the link given above to the Deschutes County assessor's office reveals something very odd about the sale:

    The owner is listed as Hoeman, Marcia W. (Can't find any link to Berthelote, other than living at the same address)

    But guess who the Ted Berthelote "chief petitioner, 45" house was sold to on July 24 (Sales Code 30 UNCONFIRMED SALE)?

    Charlie Ringo. Yeah. Same one, same address. See chief petitioner for (failed) ballot measure 5 in 2004. Same home address:

    Boy, that's a SMALL world ain't it?

    The prior sale (in 2002) gibes with Berthelote's stated history of moving to Bend in 2002. They paid $459,000 for the house. They sold it to Charlie Ringo for $712,000, or a three-year profit of $253,000.

    Damned interesting stuff. Sure raises questions in my mind. Could it be an utter coincidence? Perhaps.

    Could it be a payoff? Could be that, too.

    Inquiring minds want to know. Let's see if any Oregon media takes any interest in this odd and highly lucrative transaction.

    Hart Williams

  • Hart Williams (unverified)

    The link to the Charlie Ringo SOS site didn't come through quite right. Here 'tis again.

    Charlie Ringo, Chief Petitioner

    And the Dechutes County site is here.

  • Empty Accusation (unverified)

    "Payoff" is a very serious accusation to be throwing around, so if you've at least got some kind of theory explaining why Ringo would have to pay off Bertholete, please share. Otherwise, you seem to be on very shaky ground.

    The Bend housing maret has skyrocketed in the past few years - especially in that west-side neighborhood.

    I think the bigger question is: Where does the Chief Petitioner of Measure 45 live? Are we being asked to pass a measure by someone who's no longer even an Oregonian?

  • Hart Williams (unverified)

    No. I asked a question. And it is a legitimate question to ask. Certainly it is a very strange turn of events for a petition drive shrouded in secrecy.

    That raises questions, of which I asked more than one. I didn't jump to any conclusions.

    And yes, the first question is WHERE the heck did Ted Berthelote go? The other interesting thing about the record is that "Hoeman, Marcia W." is a very uncommon name, and yet there are two "No On 43" opposition essays in the voter's pamphlet that were "provided by M. Hoeman."

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  • JHL (unverified)

    I have heard from a reputable source that Ted Berthelote moved out of state. I haven't verified it myself, though.

    But I'm sure if it's untrue, then Silence Dogood or the 45 campaign can tell us where the chief sponsor lives. Isn't that a piece of information that the voters are usually entitled to?

    <h2>Boy, for a campaign for something that got tossed out on a technicality last time... they sure aren't being careful about technicalities this time.</h2>

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