As the mid-term elections approach, there is growing talk of one of the oldest and most bipartisan issues in the country; Congressional term limits. There is little doubt that our current unlimited system encourages incumbency, and that it distributes undue power to career politicians. And in order to be competitive, even well-meaning legislators find themselves forced to make questionable compromises, not with those on the other side of the aisle, but rather with their own parties and the powerful interests that provide critical support for their re-elections. Term limits seek to break up that power structure and fundamentally change government itself.
Unfortunately, imposing term limits requires an amendment to the Constitution. And since that requires the support of two thirds of Congress, it is an unlikely prospect at best. Voters need to know that it will take much more than campaign promises to make it a reality.
Many still remember the 1994 wave of Republicans who swept into office with personal pledges of self-imposed term limits, and a unified commitment to the 'Contract for America'. One of the key elements of the contract was a pledge to vote for a term limits amendment. In the end, they avoided passing it and the vast majority went on to break their personal pledges to the American voters. Be wary of all politicians, but particularly those making promises of term limits.
The bipartisan Alliance for Bonded Term Limits is trying to change that, and has come up with a unique solution that requires candidates to back up their term limits pledges with a substantial amount of their own personal assets. If a candidate makes a pledge and then seeks to serve longer than agreed, they are legally required to forfeit the assets to a charity of their choosing. This demonstrates to voters not only their commitment to term limits, but more importantly their commitment to their word.
I'm proud to be the first Democrat and the first U.S. Senate candidate in the nation to make such a pledge. Specifically, I have committed to donate $150,000 to the Malama Kai Foundation if I seek to serve more than two terms in office. I hope this step will encourage other candidates to follow my lead, and I am specifically calling on each of Hawaii's candidates in next month's special election to do the same. With the fourth longest serving Senator in history, Hawaii has a unique opportunity to draw attention to this critical issue and lead the nation towards a new era of citizen legislators who are eager to serve and then return home to live under the laws they have created.
Candidate for U.S. Senate-Hawaii
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