SENATOR GRAVEL ASSUMES LEADERSHIP OF "PEOPLE’S LOBBY"!
SLATED TO CONDUCT NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NATIONAL INITIATIVE
By Elliott Jacobson
Arlington, Virginia – June 3, 2002. Former United States Senator Mike Gravel (D. Alaska 1969-1981) announced today that he had accepted the leadership of "People’s Lobby", a United States 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
Founded by Edwin and Joyce Koupal in 1968, the original mission of "People’s Lobby" was to promote citizen initiatives in California. The mission has recently been expanded to include responsibility for conducting the national campaign for the National Initiative for Democracy. Following changes in the makeup of the Board of Directors, including the addition of four new members; Senator Gravel, David Parrish, John Sutter and Don Kemner, Senator Gravel was elected President and Jim Berg Senior Vice President. The Senator said "I am honored and happy to accept the Presidency of "People’s Lobby", an organization with a long and distinguished history of promoting self-governance through the initiative process in California." The Senator continued "The Koupals are the Father and Mother of self-governance in the United States and it is their banner that we will pick up and carry in the long journey toward the permanent establishment of a National Initiative process at every level of government in our nation."
The campaign for the National Initiative to be mounted by "People’s Lobby", will persuade the American People to empower themselves as lawmakers by amending the United States Constitution and establishing a federal statute creating a "Legislature of the People." In addition "People’s Lobby" will foster the growth of democracy in human governance and lobby American citizens to vote for the National Initiative in a national election to be conducted by the California nonprofit corporation Philadelphia II.
"People’s Lobby" was the first grassroots organization in modern California history to organize and successfully run initiative campaigns, train other citizens groups to do the same and place on the Congressional agenda a proposal to implement a National Initiative process. Among its successes are the qualification of the Clean Environment Initiative of 1972, leading Calfornia’s governor and Common Cause to enacting the Political Reform Act of 1974, joining with Ralph Nader in leading the "Western Bloc", a coalition of 18 states in launching initiatives to slow the development of nuclear power plants despite the millions spent by the nuclear industry. Finally, "People’s Lobby" tactics and campaign ideas helped Howard Jarvis in his tenacious efforts on behalf of property tax reformers and Proposition 13.
People’s Lobby is entirely non-partisan and has neither a direct or indirect connection to any political party, labor union, business or religious organization.
Board of Directors
People’s Lobby, Inc.
Senator Mike Gravel
After serving four years in the Alaskan State legislature, the latter two as Speaker of the House, Mike Gravel represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969-1981.
Senator Gravel served on the Finance, Interior, and the Environment and Public Works committees, chairing the Energy, Water Resources, and the Environmental Pollution subcommittees, and was a prime mover in many of the critical issues of the day, including:
Cannikin Nuclear Tests
The Peaceful Atom
The Pentagon Papers
A Greek Relationship
Law Of The Sea
| Red China
Native Claims Settlement Act
The Alaska Pipeline
Like many entering public service, Senator Gravel was idealistically committed to improving society. Holding public office, he soon learned the real requirements for political survival in our representative system of government. In this system, as a matter of necessity, the people’s interests are subordinated to those of powerful special interests. During his years in office, Senator Gravel increasingly came to understand that fundamental solutions can only be brought about by the people. It is the confluence of this realization, his experience as an elected representative, and his idealism that has equipped Senator Gravel to craft a process that will empower the people. In the early 1990’s, Senator Gravel founded Philadelphia II and Direct Democracy, the nonprofit entities charged with bringing this process to fruition.
Senator Gravel’s approach is rooted in a simple and complete faith in the people’s ability to play a constructive legislative role in their own self-governance. He does not naively dismiss the negative elements of human nature, but is convinced that an improved structure for governance – direct democracy – will call forth the better side of our nature.
Senator Gravel’s business activities have encompassed real estate, finance, and energy. He enlisted in the U.S. Army (1951-54) and served as an adjutant in the Communications Intelligence Services and as a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps.
Mike Gravel received a B.S. in Economics at Columbia University, New York, and holds four honorary degrees in law and public affairs. He lectures and writes about governance, capitalism, energy, environmental issues, and direct democracy. He is married to Whitney Stewart Gravel and has two grown children and three grand children.
CANNIKIN NUCLEAR TESTS
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Pentagon was in the process of performing five calibration tests for a nuclear missile warhead that, upon investigation, was revealed to be obsolete. Yet the tests, the detonation of nuclear bombs under the seabed of the North Pacific at Amchitka Island, Alaska – an earthquake prone area – were scheduled to continue. These tests created large caverns under the seabed, encapsulating nuclear wastes with life-threatening properties that would last more than a thousand years. These caverns could rupture during an earthquake, spewing contaminated wastes into the food chain of the North Pacific, which is a major source of food for the planet. Mike Gravel opposed the tests in Congress and went beyond his role as a Senator to organize worldwide environmental opposition to the Pentagon’s tests. The program was halted after the second test, limiting the expansion of this unusual threat to the marine environment of the North Pacific.
“THE PEACEFUL ATOM”
Nuclear fission was considered an environmentally clean alternative for the generation of commercial electricity and was part of a popular national policy for the peaceful use of atomic energy in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. Mike Gravel was the first in Congress to publicly oppose this national nuclear policy in 1970 and used his office to organize citizen opposition to this policy, successfully persuading Ralph Nader’s organization to join the opposition. Senator Gravel’s initial efforts, and later those of the environmental movement that had coalesced in opposition, contributed to making the production of commercial electricity through nuclear fission uneconomical. The importance of this change in policy, confirmed by the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters, was to limit the uncontrolled threat to our planetary environment by the continued production of nuclear wastes and the proliferation of bomb-grade nuclear materials.
In May 1971, Senator Gravel began a one-man filibuster that continued into September, forcing a deal to let the draft expire. The drafting of the nation’s youth had been defense policy since 1947. In order to save face and break the Senator’s filibuster, the Nixon administration agreed to let the draft expire in 1973 if given an extension in 1971.
THE PENTAGON PAPERS
Daniel Ellsberg attempted to secure the release of the Pentagon Papers through a member of Congress in order to provide legal protection for his actions in releasing this top secret historical study that detailed how the US had ensnared itself in the Vietnam War. Since other Congressional leaders Ellsberg approached had failed to act, he turned to the New York Times and Washington Post, which published excerpts of the study in June, 1971. A Justice Department injunction and a Supreme Court decision at the end of June put the publishers at risk. The day before the Supreme Court decision, in an effort to moot their action, Mike Gravel officially released the Pentagon Papers in his capacity as a Senator communicating with his constituency. Since the Supreme Court had successfully intimidated the Fourth Estate, Senator Gravel sought to publish the papers in book form, but was turned down by every major (and not-so-major) publishing house in the nation – save one. Beacon Press, the publishing arm of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, faced down the Nixon Administration by publishing The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers.
The Justice Department brought legal action against Beacon Press and against the Senator’s editor, Dr. David Rotberg. Mike Gravel intervened in the case, using his Senate office as a shield for Beacon Press and Rotberg. Decisions at the Federal Court and the Court of Appeals protected the Senator from prosecution but left Beacon Press and Rotberg at risk, so, against the advice of his attorneys, Gravel took the matter to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court rendered a landmark constitutional decision in the spring of 1972 narrowly defining the prerogatives of an elected representative with respect to the speech and debate clause of the Constitution. Senator Gravel’s defeat before the Supreme Court placed him at risk of prosecution, along with Beacon Press and Rotberg. With Watergate afoot, the Nixon Justice Department lost interest in the prosecution of Ellsberg, Gravel and Rotberg. However, the Court’s decision did set the stage for its later decision on the Nixon Tapes forcing Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency.
In the 1970’s, Elias Demetracopoulos, an exiled Greek journalist living in Washington D.C., recruited Mike Gravel to use his position in the U.S. Senate to speak out against the Nixon Administration’s support of the Colonels in Athens. Both the Greek Junta and the Nixon Administration were trying to silence Mr. Demetracopoulos’ effective leadership in building American opposition to the military dictatorship in Greece. Senator Gravel was an outspoken ally in this effort and gave Demetracopoulos personal succor. The Senator also counseled with Merlena Mercouri and her husband, Jules Dassin, in their mutual opposition to the Junta, and used his influence, publicly and privately, to side with the Greek national position on the Cypress Question.
The decade of the 1970’s saw the awakening by federal and state legislatures to the need to control environmental pollution. His service on the Environment and Public Works Committee throughout his Senate career placed Mike Gravel in a leadership and co-sponsoring role in every piece of meaningful environmental legislation dealing with air, water, waste, and energy that emerged from the U.S. Congress during this period.
LAW OF THE SEA
In the mid-1970’s, the United Nations was moving toward the codification of a legal regime for the oceans that covered two-thirds of the earth’s surface. Senator Gravel worked with UN leaders and committees, the Secretary of State, our UN ambassador and other agencies of government to secure the UN’s enactment of the Law of the Sea – despite the opposition of the Alaskan fishing industry. The momentum behind the UN effort was undermined by legislation introduced by the powerful Senator Magnuson and his Alaskan colleague, Senator Stevens – legislation that permitted the U.S. to unilaterally take control of the 200-mile waters bordering its land mass. Senator Gravel successfully delayed this legislation for two years in the hope that the UN would act first, but his opposition ultimately failed to stop its passage. Efforts at the UN lost momentum, and agreement was not reached until 1983. Shamefully, the U.S. is the only nation in the world refusing to participate in the Law of the Sea Convention.
Six months before Henry Kissinger’s secret mission to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Senator Gravel introduced unpopular legislation to recognize and normalize relations with the PRC, in the hope of bringing about a re-examination of our bankrupt policy towards the Chinese people.
NATIVE CLAIMS SETTLEMENT ACT
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was the first major political settlement of aboriginal claims, who were customarily dealt with through a much less generous judicial process. Senator Gravel co-authored the legislation and provided outspoken leadership for some of its important, but less popular, land-use features. He was responsible for removing the federal government’s paternalistic role in the management of native economic affairs after the settlement had been approved by Congress.
THE ALASKA PIPELINE
In 1973, following years of study and judicial delay, Senator Gravel introduced an amendment to empower the Congress to make the policy decision about the construction of the Alaska Pipeline. Initially, the amendment was opposed in all quarters, by state and federal officials, the labor movement and the oil industry. Alone at the beginning, Mike Gravel built support and gained allies which, in the end, helped secure the amendment’s passage in the Senate by a single vote. This accomplishment placed Alaska on a new economic footing. The pipeline has been responsible for 20% of the U.S. oil supply, has contributed substantially to the nation’s balance of payments and has yielded economic benefits that dramatically improved the quality of life across Alaska society. A recent retrospective analysis has revealed that, absent Senator Gravel’s amendment, the pipeline would probably not have been built, condemning the nation to greater foreign dependency and environmental pollution.
In the early 1970’s, Senator Gravel pioneered satellite communications through a demonstration project that established links between Alaskan villages and the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for medical diagnostic communications. He then developed a proposal for the Alaska Legislature for a satellite communications and video transmission system, which has since been implemented, making Alaska’s system the most advanced in the U.S.
In an effort to broaden the ownership of capital in our society, Senator Gravel authored and secured the passage into law of the General Stock Ownership Corporation (GSOC), Subchapter U of the Tax Code. With the hope of first using this law in Alaska, he brought about an initiative decision in the state’s general election of 1980 on the creation of an Alaska General Stock Ownership Corporation (AGSOG). As part of this effort, he negotiated a tentative agreement with the British Petroleum Company to sell their interest in the Alaska Pipeline to the AGSOC. The electorate failed to approve the AGSOC initiative. BP now considers its pipeline interest to be one of the most profitable of its Alaska holdings. Had the AGSOC been approved and the purchase consummated, it would be paying out dividends of several hundred dollars annually to every citizen/shareholder in Alaska.
The Innuit peoples populate the Arctic regions of the globe. At Senator Gravel’s instigation, and with a private grant he secured, the North Slope native leadership organized a circumpolar conference attended by Innuit representatives from Canada, Greenland, and Norway. Their periodic convocations on culture, environment, and other regional concerns now include representation from Russia.
Mike Gravel served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1963-66, and as Speaker from 1965-66, where he:
- Authored legislation that established the structure and budget for a regional high school system for rural Alaska, permitting native students to receive their education near their homes rather than travel to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ schools outside Alaska; and
- Effected legislative reforms, securing budgets to provide staffs for members and to expand research and support facilities, initiated electronic voting, and developed an intra-session hearing process throughout the state that fostered citizen participation
He authored Jobs and More Jobs and Citizen Power, and used his position as a senator to officially release the Pentagon Papers and facilitated their publication as The Senator Gravel Edition, The Pentagon Papers; Beacon Press.
Senator Gravel enlisted in the U.S. Army (1951-54) and served as an adjutant in the Communications Intelligence Services and as a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps. He received a B.S. in Economics at Columbia University, New York, and holds four honorary degrees in law and public affairs.
Mike Gravel’s business activities have encompassed real estate, finance and energy. He is president of Philadelphia II and Direct Democracy, nonprofit corporations dedicated to the establishment of direct democracy in the United States and globally. Senator Gravel lectures and writes about governance, capitalism, energy, environmental issues, and democracy. He is married to Whitney Stewart Gravel and has two grown children and three grand children.
From the earliest years of People’s Lobby, Jim was a right hand supporter of Ed and Joyce Koupel, the founders. For more particulars on Jim Berg the reader is directed to read the bit of bio about Diane O’Brien.
To learn more about Jim Berg visit The People’s Lobby website.
Dwayne Hunn has been a partner in land and small business start-ups and developments. He consults on land developments, public relations, political issues and small business development while also managing properties, teaching, writing and providing telecommunications services.
Dwayne worked as a chief lieutenant to People’s Lobby founders Ed and Joyce Koupal where he had a role in most of the Lobby’s many grassroots political endeavors. These activities included qualifying initiatives for the ballot on shoestring budgets, running campaigns, training other groups to qualify and run initiative campaigns, revealing, publicizing and muckraking the questionable doings of politicians and the political system, public speaking, research and education, fundraising and membership outreach as well as assisting in running the Lobby’s printing business, which helped fund their political activities and kept their issues circulating in the public mind in the pre-internet era.
Dwayne now consults for People’s Lobby where he is working on a book that gives an historical analysis of the Koupal’s People’s Lobby and the initiative process. He also produces People’s Lobby’s educational videos dealing with politics and the initiative, which outlines Philadelphia II’s National Initiative For Direct Democracy.
Dwayne Hunn served in the Peace Corps in the slums of India as well as on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village home-building project in Sri Lanka. He has a Ph.D. in Public Finance and Administration and a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism. He has been selected to Who’s Who in California.
To learn more about Dr. Hunn visit his web site.
Don Kemner spent 21 years in ministry as a Catholic priest and high school teacher while a member of the Franciscan Order and subsequently the Servants of the Paraclete. He served as Secretary to the Servant General of the Servants of the Paracletes (Jemez Springs, New Mexico); as Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary (Barre, Vermont) and as Assistant Director of St. Michael’s House of Studies (St. Louis, Missouri). Mr. Kemner later owned and operated the Don H. Kemner State Farm Insurance Agency, Inc. (Chesterfield, Missouri) for 23 years.
Since the early 1960’s, Mr. Kemner has participated in organizations focusing on solving the problems of the non-democratic character of the political, economic, religious, and academic institutions of society. Examples include his service as a board member of the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church, and involvement in the World Federalist Association and the Institute of Peace and Justice.
This life experience led to Mr. Kemner’s association with Senator Mike Gravel and his acceptance of membership on the board of Philadelphia II in 1993. He joined the Board of People’s Lobby in May 2002.
Don Kemner’s academic background includes a collegiate major in philosophy and professional study in theology through the Franciscan Chicago-St. Louis seminary system; study in accounting at Loyola University (Chicago); business administration at Notre Dame (South Bend) and philosophy of Martin Heidegger at De.Paul University (Chicago).
Diane O’Brien is the daughter of Ed and Joyce Koupel, the creator of People’s Lobby. She is one of several children of Ed and Joyce. She was very active in support of the work of People’s Lobby during the 1960’s. Other key supporters and board members were Jim Berg, an attorney, and Dwayne Hunn, a high school political science teacher and activist. After Ed and Joyce passed away relatively early–in the late 1970’s–Diane took over as President. However, under her leadership People’s Lobby ceased operations in its primary work of using and advocating the use of initiative—in California and in the 14 western states that had an initiative process in their constitution.
From the beginning, People’s Lobby operated on self-generated funding of its operations. They functioned out of the two story home of Ed and Joyce in the Los Ani eptlrf geles area. Over the years this property increased in value so that when it was sold, People’s Lobby, the owner, realized a sum of nearly $500,000. Diane O’Brien, Jim Berg and Dwayne Hunn realized some personal income from this money. When Dwayne learned of Mike Gravel and his national initiative project, Dwayne contacted him. As a result of this contact People’s Lobby put up $150,000 which most of the cost of holding The Democracy Symposium in Williamsburg, VA in 2002
Dave Parrish is a management scientist, social scientist, engineer and sometime software developer, with extensive consulting experience at the federal, state and local government levels, as well as in the private sector. His solutions have been implemented in a broad range of subject matter areas ranging from social insurance to weapon systems, and in disciplines ranging from strategic planning of national programs to software architecting of Internet startups.
Parrish’s interest in democracy was an outgrowth of his lifelong study of effective organizations. Since 1995, he has written and spoken extensively on the nature of government in the modern age. He is a director of Philadlephia II and The Democracy Foundation, and joined the Board of People’s Lobby in May, 2002.
Mr. Parrish has served as Director of Strategic Information Planning for the Health Care Financing Administration, Manager of Systems Assurance for the System Development Corporation’s Washington Office, Executive Planner of the Social Security Administration, Director of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory’s Analysis Office, and Manager of Booz Allen & Hamilton’s R&D Management Business Area. He now maintains a private consulting practice in southwest Oregon.
David Parrish received his BS in Engineering Science, MA in History, MEd, and MS in Counseling Psychology from the Johns Hopkins University.
John O. Sutter
Since participating in combat as a 19-year-old soldier, virtually all of Dr. Sutter’s adult life has been involved in the interaction of governance, the development of citizens organizations, and international affairs. He has experience setting up offices and training staff in Ansbach, Germany; Surabaya and Jakarta, Indonesia; Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia; and San Francisco; as well as closing down the American Consulate General in Shanghai under the P.R.C. (once the largest of the Foreign Service posts).
His interest in state and local governance comes from a family active in politics since the Civil War and from living in Missouri, a state with political machines on both sides. Interest in democratic governance at the national level was enhanced by his participation in the democratization of post-World War II Germany, serving as a T.A. in American National Government, working for a year behind the Bamboo Curtain in China, and working with cabinet officials and supreme courts, as well as developing the civic maturation of indigenous peoples and other citizens organizations, in Indonesia and Malaysia. His interest in the initiative process followed from having been a citizen of Missouri and then California, both states with the initiative.
During 31 years with The Asia Foundation, John served as Representative in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan and as Grant Administrator and Director of Program Management in the San Francisco home office. A full-time President of the World Federalist Association of Northern California, he has been active in supporting the Philadelphia II initiative process since 1989, having been on the Board of Philadelphia II and Direct Democracy since 1993.
A graduate of University City High School in Missouri, John received a B.S. in Public Administration (Foreign Service), an A.M. in History and Economics from Washington University and a Ph.D. in Comparative Government and International Relations from Cornell University, with a dissertation on "INDONESIANISASI: Politics in a Changing Economy, 1940-1955." (Indonesian being his second language). He also studied at the University of Vermont, Yale University, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and the University of Indonesia.
Don Kemner Interviews Professor Ted Becker
May 24, 2002
Kemner: Mike Gravel has hailed the May 1st draft of the National Initiative for Democracy as the "final draft prior to the completed text." This, of course, comes after some seven years of on-going input to preceding drafts. Having reviewed this latest draft is there anything that has struck you about this latest version which is particularly new or different?
Becker: I think the entire e-mail discussion process since the Williamsburg Conference has been excellent and productive. [Editor: Regrettably, we have no archival record of this email conversation.] It is important to do all this reformulation and tinkering so as to get it to a point that will maximize the stake many people have in it. Also, it has actually improved a lot.
One particularly important change is the Sponsors Report, that separates a lot of the legal language from the "intent of the founders." This may be crucial in the future when interpretation becomes an issue. In the meantime, it makes the actual document that people must sign a lot shorter and therefore more likely for them to sign.
Of course, no matter what language we use, no matter how clear and precise we are, we will be attacked as being both too exact and too vague. No matter how much deliberation we build in, we will be attacked as both not having enough and making it too detailed. No matter how we structure the agency, it will be derided as being too bureaucratic and providing either too much government or not enough.
My feeling is that whatever language we use, the most important thing to do is to get this movement started. As a strong believer in quantum politics and chaos theory, I have no doubt but that whatever we have started with will alter significantly over time, either because we so decide or because of factors totally unimaginable now which are and/or will be beyond our control. In fact, the more successful we become in signing people up, the more likely what we do now will change in the future.
In other words, I see our document as the starting point of a movement. If we succeed in getting millions of Americans on board, there will be great pressure exerted on the present system…and it will react dynamically. Who knows what will happen then? In the long run, this movement will be looked at as the start of something big. The Abolitionist movement, when it started, did not see itself as a spark to start a Civil War. Our getting started is the landmark event.
Kemner: What are your thoughts on the fact that this enactment election will be an open "yes" or "no" vote of duly registered voters? Do you feel people will object to this? Would you feel there is merit in the fear that an employer might use such a vote against an employee?
Becker: As to the thumbs up or down by registered voters, so what? We’re trying to be as legitimate and legalistic as this system likes and is accustomed to, right? The main reproach, however, will be that we are not acting within Article V to amend the Constitution. What would they have us do to be legitimate outside of Article V? Secure 100% of the registered voters? Even that wouldn’t satisfy those who want the system to remain the same.
To repeat: my view is that we are simply putting a mechanism in place to jump-start a social/political movement to put citizens’ initiatives on the political radar screen. They’ll only try to shoot us down once we’re visible. Once we’re visible on their monitors, the movement will be started. Where it goes from there, God only knows.
Second, I don’t think that employers versus employees is the problem. Once we are viewed by the powerbrokers as a legitimate threat because of having signed up so many Americans on our ballots (how many is anyone’s guess), then the reaction can come in many forms. However, I figure that government, not businesses, will be the problem.
Can you just see: "UnAmerican Activity?"
Kemner: Let me switch to the sponsorship of initiatives under the National Initiative. Section 3 of the Amendment specifies that "only natural persons who are citizens of the United States" can sponsor or provide "funds, property or services" either for or against an initiative. What do you see as the impact of this provision?
Becker: Elimination of corporate participation and influence in this political process is the ‘thing.’. I think this is a brilliant provision, one that incorporates (pun intended) all the anti-corporate insights of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and many other great thinkers and political actors who saw the corrupting influence of giant corporations on the public interest.
Indeed, it upgrades the Tillman Act of 1907 and the Corrupt Practices Act of 1925 and makes them consistent with the U.S. Constitution as it directly empowers citizens. Thus, individual citizens will become more important deciders of key public policy than corporations. Isn’t that called "democracy?"
Of course, the global movers and shakers who are running our Country, its governments, its mass media and its governmental Agencies will not see this as some mere technicality. Our agenda is not a hidden one and their contempt for it will become readily apparent. As I noted in my prior answer, I doubt they will attack our movement via intimidating their "employees" from signing on. I think they will move through their hold on the legal establishment.
Kemner: Though not a new feature in the latest draft, the Electoral Trust continually presents a challenge simply because the ‘idea’ is so new: an agency of the federal government created wholly for the purpose of administering initiative processing and voting. How do you view this? Do you see other challenging issues about the Electoral Trust? And if so, do you see that the Amendment and Act satisfactorily address these challenges?
Becker: On the matter of the Electoral Trust, I agree that it is a sticky issue with an awful lot of folks. As I’ve said many times, it will never be perfect, so we’ll always have dissenters and moaners. I’ll go with whatever we finally approve.
As I’ve told you folks, I did spend a very productive semester in the Spring of 2002, discussing the issue of how to write a constitutional provision vs. a statutory one. Putting it into practice is hard. But the students ended up, after much study and deliberation, in doing very well (see http://www.auburn.edu/simconcon).
So, from what I learned, I personally think that it would be better in the short and long haul to ditch all the specifics and be very general. So, perhaps it might help just to say something like this:
"To qualify petitions, run and certify the deliberative process and the elections and their results, Congress shall establish an Electoral Trust as an independent, impartial, quasi-governmental agency and shall fund it so that it may carry out its tasks at a high level of professional quality."
We could then add all of our practical ideas in The Sponsors Report.
I know all the objections and appreciate them. But this would be an appealing part of our Amendment to get a maximum of signatures and a minimum of nitpicking.
And it is constitutional language, not statutory. Let posterity work out all the difficult details.
Let me add a further thought. The struggle of huge powerful interests against democratic movements is eternal. The battle of capitalism vs. communism was really a sideshow compared to this show in the main tent. It was only the penultimate scene in the Grand Game of geopolitics. The final one will be where global corporate hegemony and its special interests, yields to national and regional democracies and their public interests.
However, the battle will not end there either. So, IF we succeed in passing an amendment to the constitution as we now have it, with an Electoral Trust, will that be immune from corporate corruption forever? Of course not.
Kemner: Looking into the future, do you feel that enactment of the National Initiative will place the People in a partnership or adversarial relationship with elected legislative bodies of government? What leads you to feel this way?
Becker: In Switzerland and in every U.S. state that has initiative, it is neither a partnership nor an adversarial relationship. It is simply a more democratic system.
Opponents of citizens initiative like to set up the straw man that we are trying to "replace" representative legislatures. That’s rubbish. We are trying simply to add another house to the legislature, The–People’s House–which springs into action on occasion to either undo something the other two houses have done or to go around their being obdurate or too unrepresentative of the public will.
So, neither partner nor adversary; just more democracy.
As for the judiciary, well, this People’s House is clearly the most democratic branch of representative government and the judiciary is the least democratic branch. Thus, hostility from judges against the people’s legislature is inevitable.
This doesn’t mean I’m in favor of the Swiss system where the courts CANNOT reverse a citizens initiative, although that is the most democratic way. However, I wouldn’t mind putting in the Sponsors Report something along the lines of saying that it is the framers’ intent that all citizens initiatives shall have "a presumption of constitutionality" that can only be overcome beyond a reasonable doubt by the judiciary.
Judicial review, as invented by John Marshall, and democracy as invented by us have an inexorable tension. However, being an Aristotelian myself, I agree with him that democracy can become a tyranny and there needs to be something like The Nocturnal Council (proposed by Plato in The Republic) to counter that. The Supreme Court comes as close to that as possible even though it doesn’t meet at midnight.
Kemner: In light of the provisions of the Amendment and Act do you anticipate that initiative lawmaking under the NI4D will become a ‘re-active’ (reform) measure or a ‘pro-active’ (force for civic maturation of the polity) measure?
Becker: My attitude towards Philadelphia II and NI4D has changed a lot since I first met Mike Gravel in Prague in 1998…and got my first real taste of it.
I have long been an advocate of national citizens initiative. I advocated it in two books written in 1976 both published by Allyn and Bacon of Boston: "American Government: Past*Present*Future" and "Unvote for a New America" (with Paul Czep, the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist of The Boston Globe). In both books, I argue that such a change in our constitution was a necessary move to democratize our system and save it from the corporate and elitist mindset that runs our country.
I also had come to DC in the mid 1970s and talked to the young guys who were running the national campaign for such a movement. It was a small office. They put out a newsletter for a while…and it died out quickly.
So, when I met Mike and heard his ideas, I was really pleased to learn that a new movement had begun…and was super impressed by Mike’s zeal, eloquence, experience and general aura of belief. BUT…going around Article V….and the "first principles" argument….made me feel that it was next to impossible. But, I still supported it. What were the options? None.
Actually, it wasn’t until the Democracy Symposium that I came around to Mike’s view. Not only do I now think we can get the constitution changed this way to include citizens initiative at the national, state and local levels, but I now think this is the best way to proceed.
Someone in our movement has used the word "audacious" to describe it. I like that. It is audacious and daring and American enough to succeed in the long run. It captures not only the imagination, but the spirit of the American people.
If we can keep the Amendment very general, ideologically democratic and clearly understandable to average Americans, I think we can build momentum to capture their patriotic support. The American people want and need this.
We just need to get it started and moving along for a short time…and something is going to happen to start a chain reaction that will astound us all.
On The Ground
Report From The Field
By Elliott Jacobson
|California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002|
|41||Voting Modernization Act|
|Voting Modernization Act of 2002|
|Transportation funding: Sales and use tax revenues.
An act to add Article XIX B, relating to transportation.
|43||Right to have vote counted|
| Right to have vote counted.
An act to ad section 2.5 to Article II, relating to suffrage
|An act to amend sections of the Business and Professions Code, Insurance Code, and Vehicle Code relating to insurance fraud.|
|45||Legislative Term Limits|
|Allows registered voters in an Assembly or Senate district to submit petition signatures to permit their incumbent state legislator to run for re-election and serve for an additional four years maximum, if a majority of voters approves. This option would only be permitted once per legislator, petitions would be filed before the end of legislator’s final term, and petition signatures would be subject to specified requirements. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: This measure would result in unknown, probably minor, costs to local governments for signature verification and minor costs to the state government.|