Group Seeks Term Limits
A new organization rooted in Pinehurst wants politicians to finally put their money where their mouths are.
The Alliance for Bonded Term Limits implores congressional candidates to take a pledge to serve only for a limited amount of time and back it up in the form of a performance bond.
If the candidate breaks the pledge, the money would be donated to a charity. The bond would have to be a substantial portion of the candidate's net worth -- enough to hurt if he or she reneged.
Pinehurst residents Walter Bull and John Skvarla, two of the leaders of the organization, said Thursday that too many congressmen and senators have become captivated by the glitz and power of Washington, focusing more on finding a way to stay in power than working on behalf of their constituents.
"[Congressional staffers] are convinced that the trappings of money and power once [politicians] get there completely skews their ability to exercise any common sense or any belief in the good of America," Skvarla said. "Every word out of their mouths and every thought through their heads is, 'How does this affect my re-election?'
"They don't at all really care about the good of America any more. They care about the perks and the Kool-Aid of power."
Skvarla likened Washington to a modern-day Versailles, the lavish home of French royalty. The king and 500 of his closest friends lived in the palace, completely isolated from the rest of the country.
The same can be said about Washington if a politician is up there for too long, he said, and in reality, it takes only a couple of weeks for a politician to become completely enamored with his or her surroundings and lose focus on why he or she was sent there.
Skvarla said the high-water mark for this attitude occurred after 1994, when House Republicans swept into power touting a "Contract with Amer-ica" that included a term-limit pledge. Just five of the 74 congressmen who took that pledge actually followed through, he said.
He decided then it was time to stop "flapping" about politicians at parties, but instead do some research and figure out a way to force a change.
But Skvarla argued that both parties are equally guilty of this kind of behavior, and his organization seeks to be an all-inclusive, nonpartisan grassroots movement -- one that is accepted by both sides of the aisle. The organization doesn't take philosophical or political positions -- it simply focuses on holding politicians to their word.
"My point on this whole thing [the alliance] is completely bipartisan in the sense that if the country chooses to be liberal or socialist or if the country chooses to be conservative or libertarian, that's the country's decision," he said. "Let's just have leaders up there that are not going to carve out specialties for themselves. And whatever the country decides to do, let [the politicians] come back and live with the world [they've] created for you and me."
By forcing politicians to return to the "real world" after a while, Skvarla believes the plan will foster a more common-sense approach to decision-making, rather than the vote-buying and earmarking that have become so prevalent.
Bull thinks the bond pledge could help level the playing field for challengers taking on long-term incumbents, who traditionally have a huge advantage in races because of name recognition and established organizations. But taking such a pledge could be valuable ammunition for the underdog.
Conversely, if a candidate takes the pledge, is elected, and then backs out, the change could help ex-pose the politician's real priorities.
The alliance supports limits of three two-year terms for congressmen and one six-year term for senators.
To those who argue that term limits could prevent constituents from holding onto a good politician, the alliance argues that if politicians want to stay in public service after their time has expired, they are welcome to seek another office. They just can't stay in one place forever.
Bull and Skvarla said the alliance is already starting to gain momentum. Three candidates in the next election cycle have already expressed interest in the idea. Donations are starting to roll in. The organization has even opened an office in the Theater Building in Pinehurst that is staffed by three interns and other volunteers. They said they are always looking for more.
Bull said he wants to attract young people to the movement. He also wants to keep a high-toned, fact-based discussion going rather than partisan banter.
The alliance is a tax-exempt nonprofit. Donations are put toward focused research and sustaining the organization's Web site, which went live on Saturday. Donations can be made online.
It also has a presence on the popular social networking sites Twitter and Facebook.
Bull and Skvarla hope that the alliance will have an impact on the 2010 mid-term elections.
"I want to find one honest politician who will do what they say one time," Skvarla said. "And this is the way to do it. This is the one promise a politician can keep."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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