- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2001

According to Doug Bandow, Americans “spend too little on campaigns” not too much (“Stifling free speech,” Commentary, March 25). I agree.

The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. But only those who own or control the press have such freedom. Since most of the press is known for its liberal bias, those of us who have conservative views have been able to express ourselves vicariously through contributions to political parties and Political Action Committees that promote our positions. A ban on soft money would prevent many of us ordinary citizens from participating in this important part of the political process.

Mr. Bandow says, “the biggest campaign problem is the dominance of government by a permanent political class.” As one solution, Mr. Bandow briefly mentions term limits, which career politicians of both parities resist “to the death.” Still, term limits would solve the campaign reform issue without limiting campaign spending and free speech.

Several years ago, there was considerable public support for term limits. Several states passed laws limiting congressional terms only to have them declared unconstitutional. Interest in term limits waned after Republicans won control of both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, it is time for us to reconsider limiting Congressional terms for the “permanent political class.”

The main argument against term limits has been that they would deprive the political process of experienced legislators. Most plans for term limits have restricted House members to six years, but allowed senators twelve years. While two terms (12 years) seems adequate for senators, three terms (six years) for House members is not nearly long enough.

A more reasonable plan would permit six consecutive terms (12 years) for House members and two consecutive terms (12 years) for senators, with a total of no more than 30 years combined incumbency in Congress.

The key word is “consecutive.” Exceptional legislators could be advanced from House to Senate or be reelected to the same office after an absence of two or more years. This hiatus would break up self-serving political machines while allowing exceptional leaders an opportunity to serve longer in Congress. One might recall that Claude Pepper, after having been a senator, later served in the House.


CHARLES F. GIESWEIN

Silver Spring

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