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Jesse Ventura on Government Reform

Former Independent MN Governor


Will not actively fund-raise for re-election: “No strings”

Maybe my success is partly about the fact that I have not had a fundraiser since I was sworn into office. No strings attached. It’s great.

I get criticized for making money on weekends. I’m an entertainer and have been all my life and so occasionally I will make a few dollars entertaining on the weekends. But I wonder what my critics would say if I was traveling around every weekend raising money for my campaign chest? That would be okay, I’m sure. No thanks. I don’t take bribes. In fact I recommend it to all politicians. You sleep well. And you don’t have to go to those God-awful fundraisers, and pretend you are aware of some lobbyist’s problem that you’ve never heard of.

And you know what? Having no strings attached is so great that if I run for re-election I will promise the people of Minnesota that I will not actively raise a dime. The people of Minnesota will know my record. If they approve, they will re-elect me. If not, they won’t. Win or lose, my conscience will be clear.

Source: Speech to the National Press Club, Washington, DC Feb 26, 2001

Open up, simplify, & demystify government

A government too complex, too mysterious, is also too inaccessible. It unnecessarily excludes the people who form it. Using the best practices and principles of the “already-tried,” incorporating vigorous citizen input, and mixing in a whole lot of common sense, the Ventura administration envisions a simpler state government and an involved citizenry.

We’ll bring reform to state departments and agencies, reigning in excessive rule making, clarifying overlapping roles, and bringing greater cooperation between departments to benefit all Minnesotans. We’ll introduce a variety of government systems and services reforms, including a simplified tax system and more one-stop government shopping via technology improvements. And we’ll support any effort to demystify government to make it a friend, not a foe.

In addition, existing laws pertaining to campaigns and elections need to be reviewed and amended to allow for full participation by credible third parties.

Source: The Big Plan: Service, not Systems Dec 10, 2000

Single House Legislature returns power to people

Many state leaders agree that a single house system of government would better serve Minnesotans. A single house would be more open, accountable and responsive. In a more streamlined legislative process, citizens would be able to understand and follow legislation. It would place the responsibility for representation squarely on the shoulders of a single elected legislature rather than on two houses that can hide behind one another to avoid taking responsibility for tough votes. A single house would bring power to the people instead of concentrating power in the hands of a few powerful conference committee members. Every amendment and every bill would be given the respect of a recorded vote. While some powerful leaders may oppose a single house, ultimately we should trust the people to decide this issue.
Source: The Big Plan: Service, not Systems Dec 10, 2000

Constitution is designed to be interpreted

The Constitution reads more like a mission statement than an instruction manual. It’s full of “majestic generalities,”; it sketches the broad principles and leaves the details up to us. That way, it’s flexible enough to adapt to changing times. And it has: More than 200 years later, it’s still working.

You’ll often hear politicians & lawyers talking about interpreting the Constitution in terms of “getting back to the Founding Fathers’ original intent.” But you know what? We can’t. The Constitution is such an open-ended framework that even in their time it had to be interpreted. Maybe that’s why they wrote it that way: because even back then, there was a lot of argument over the meaning of lofty principles like “free speech” and “due process.”

The Constitution is constantly being interpreted, mostly by the Supreme Court. We’re always looking to it for answers. But the truth is, it can’t answer all of our questions, it can only inform our decisions. That’s what it was really meant to do.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p. 90-91 Jul 2, 2000

Feds leach away states’ rights

I see indications that the federal government is on a campaign to leach away powers from the states. We’ll become a lesser nation if that happens. One of our strengths today is that our states vary somewhat in their modes of thinking, and they can experiment with different solutions to the same problem. That gives us freedom of choice. If we don’t like the attitudes prevalent in one state, we can move to another. We’ve got to be on guard against allowing this diversity to slip away from us.
Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p.202 Jul 2, 2000

Ban campaigning while earning a public paycheck

Incumbents usually take advantage of their government paychecks during campaign time. When I ran for governor, I was made to give up my job as a radio show host in order to campaign. I went without income for six months, yet my two opponents, both public employees, kept their jobs the whole time, even though they were campaigning ten hours a day just as I was.

The taxpayers essentially funded their campaign. They didn’t fund mine. Why shouldn’t they have had to take a leave of absence if they weren’t performing the duties of their office?

I want to try and pass a law that says if you’re in public office, you’re not allowed to campaign from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you want to campaign, you can campaign at nights and on the weekends. This would keep incumbents from forcing taxpayers to pay them salaries for work they’re not doing.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p. 33 Jul 2, 2000

Ban PAC funding; limit soft money; limit free air time

We need to talk about making PAC contributions illegal. Candidates pay attention to whoever coughs up the cash. If the only sources of funding they have are the people, then candidates will have no choice but to listen to us.

We also need to fix the loopholes in the campaign funding system. There’s already a cap on donations to an individual candidate, but no limit to the amount you can donate to a party. This so-called soft money is then funneled to individual candidates in the form of “issue ads.” We ought to cap the amount that each candidate is allowed to spend on a given campaign.

Some people have tossed around the idea of providing all candidates with equal chunks of free air time, free print space, and free Internet access, which they could use to state their positions, hold debates, and conduct question-and-answer sessions. We just have to be careful with the term FREE. In some circumstances, FREE may not mean what it appears to. Who exactly will pay for the free air time?

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p. 37-38 Jul 2, 2000

Government should get out of the way and let people live

There are a lot of good causes out there, but they can’t possibly all be served by government. The Constitution guarantees us our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s all. It doesn’t guarantee our rights to charity.

The government is not a parent. We can’t expect the government to always be there, ready to bail us out. When we make decisions in life, we have to be willing to live with the consequences. We can’t expect the government to help us get back on our feet every time we make a bad decision.

We’ve gotten into the bad habit of overlegislating. I believe in the America people’s ability to govern themselves. If government would just get out of the way and allow them to lead their lives as they choose, they will succeed. Government only needs to be there to support them in their efforts.

Remember that government doesn’t earn one single dollar it spends. In order for you to get money from the government, that money must first be taken from somebody else.

Source: Ain’t Got Time to Bleed, p. 16-7 Jan 1, 1999

Government service should be temporary; not a career

You’ve heard the old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? That’s what comes into play when public servants make a career of what they do: They eventually have to shift their focus from serving the public to serving their own careers. It’s not a career if you don’t get reelected! So that becomes your objective: winning the election, staying in the game. Raising money. To hell with the “public service”!

On the other hand, when somebody who isn’t a career politician takes office, everybody understands that it’s temporary. They’ll serve one or two terms, then they’ll be out. They have a life and a career somewhere else. Odds are, they themselves will be affected by the legislation they pass or the programs they implement during their term. They probably sought office because they felt strongly enough about one issue or several issues to want to do something about them. That is the mind-set we want in our public servants.

Source: Ain’t Got Time to Bleed, p. 18 Jan 1, 1999

Fought and lost on removing stupid milk regulations

Not everything was smooth sailing in Minnesota this year. I fought hard to get a stupid federal law off the books: the Eau Claire Milk Law, which regulates the prices dairy farmers can charge for their milk in relation to their distance from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I couldn’t get anybody to budge on that one.
Source: Ain’t Got Time To Bleed, p.284-5 Jan 1, 1999

Spend every 4th year removing obsolete laws

I’d like to work on having every fourth year become a year in which no laws are made, but the old laws are reviewed, updated, or deleted as needed. That way we won’t get endless, obsolete laws piling up on the books.
Source: Ain’t Got Time To Bleed, p.304 Jan 1, 1999

Put political process on TV; exposure beats incumbency

Whenever you take a stand on an issue, people will line up around the block to kick your ass over it. By having an opinion, you make yourself a target. Why do you think Congress likes to hide behind closed doors at decision-making time?

I put all the city council meetings on public TV, over the good old boys’ objections. Exposure creates an educated, involved public, which isn’t in the interests of the old-boy network. The smaller the number of people involved, the more power the incumbents have.

Source: Ain’t Got Time To Bleed, p.198 & 202 Jan 1, 1999

To change system, private citizens must get involved

While I was mayor, I learned that government is a system of checks and balances--you can’t simply walk in and change things. It takes time. I used to joke that it would be nice if a magic wand came with the job, if I could just wave it and make things work the way they’re supposed to. But unfortunately it’s not that easy. The bureaucracy is so huge that in a lot of situations all I can do is tell people the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

Government protects itself from the top down--state government is reluctant to get involved in local government, and so forth. And since the good old boys are ensconced from the top down, we have to be willing to whittle away at their network from the bottom up. That’s the only way it’s possible: in tiny local victories that eventually lead to bigger victories. The only way the system will ever change is if enough well-meaning private-sector people get involved in their local government for the right reasons.

Source: Ain’t Got Time To Bleed, p.197-8 Jan 1, 1999

Supports a Unicameral Legislature

A unicameral legislature will cut government expense, increase the legislators’ accountability to their constituents and improve efficiency. Nowhere other than in our government do we pay two groups to perform the identical job. If we eliminated one of the legislative bodies, we would also eliminate the conference committees. A unicameral legislature would limit the amount of vote trading and political protection that legislators currently practice.
Source: 1998 campaign web site, jesseVentura.org/98campaign Nov 1, 1998

Reforms must respect state's rights to select electors.

Ventura adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

In the wake of the United States presidential election in Florida, the Congress and the administration has expressed interest in federal standards for elections. Recognizing that Articles I and II of the United States Constitution grants states, not Congress, the authority to determine the manner of selecting presidential electors and conducting elections generally, most legislative proposals do not mandate federal standards. Rather, current proposals direct federal agencies or commissions to study and make recommendations concerning the election system. Nonetheless, the possibility of legislation in the 107th Congress requiring states to implement federal election standards remains. If enacted without adequate funding by the federal government, such legislation could also result in an unfunded mandate to the states.

NGA’s Position

Articles I and II of the United States Constitution grant states the authority to determine the manner of selecting presidential electors and provide that states are responsible for establishing election procedures generally. However, in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, the nation’s Governors recognize the need for election reform. NGA will continue to monitor federal legislation addressing this issue, but has not taken a position in support of or opposition to election reform efforts.
Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA11 on Aug 1, 2001

Other candidates on Government Reform: Jesse Ventura on other issues:
MN Gubernatorial:
Tim Pawlenty
MN Senatorial:
Al Franken
Amy Klobuchar
Dean Barkley
James Niemackl
Michael Cavlan
Norm Coleman


2008 Senate retirements:

Wayne Allard(R,CO)
Larry Craig(R,ID)
Pete Domenici(R,NM)
Chuck Hagel(R,NE)
Trent Lott(R,MS)
Craig Thomas(R,WY)
John Warner(R,VA)

Incoming Obama Administration:

Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
State:Hillary Clinton
HHS:Tom Daschle
Staff:Rahm Emanuel
DHS:Janet Napolitano
DOC:Bill Richardson
DoD:Robert Gates
A.G.:Eric Holder
Treas.:Tim Geithner
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MT:Baucus
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NM:*Udall
OK:Inhofe
OR:*Merkley over Smith
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Page last updated: Dec 02, 2008