here for PDF format
of Meeting with David Durenberger
8301 Creekside Circle
#920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, November 4,
Verne C. Johnson, chair;
Chuck Clay, Jim
Hetland, John Mooty (by phone) Jim Olson (by phone); John Sampson (by
phone) Clarence Shallbetter, Paul Gilje, and David Durenberger, guest
Introduction of David Durenberger--The
chair introduced Durenberger, who served as a U.S. Senator from 1978 to
1995. Earlier he had been chief of staff to Minnesota Governor Harold
LeVander. Currently he is senior health policy fellow at the Graduate
School of Business,
of St. Thomas.
Durenberger is a recognized national expert on health care policy and
finance. During his remarks and in the discussion with Caucus members
the following points were made:
balancing moral values and the guarantee of popular sovereignty--Durenberger
believes the separation of powers as provided in the U.S. Constitution,
even in this crazy time of selecting Supreme Court judges, is serving
well. Moreover, it is the press, the 4th estate, which really ensures
success of our experiment with popular sovereignty, which is the
difference between us and the rest of the world democracies.
was in the Senate he was confronted with a whole host of proposed
constitutional amendments, but he said he rejected them all. Basically,
our constitutional system is in good shape, and while he'd make some
changes in our process, he'd not tamper with the constitution.
2. Two-party system should be preserved--It
takes a celebrity factor, such as a Ventura, to intrude. But he is
fundamentally satisfied with continuing to rely on our two-party system.
3. Shorten campaigns--Durenberger
would like to limit the length of campaigns to eight weeks before the
4. Strengthen the parties--While
Durenberger is very dissatisfied with the current Republican Party, his
party, he believes that it is essential to broaden the base of both
parties. The Democrats can get away from the far left and the
Republicans, the far right, in their fund raising.
5. The scandal of buying your own seat--He
acknowledged that court cases have made it possible for individuals to
pour unlimited amounts of money into their own candidacies, and he wishes
something could be devised to change that.
6. Imposing some responsibility on the ultimate
recipients of campaign money--Ultimately
it is the television companies that make huge amounts of money from
campaign finance. There should be a price for that benefit, he said, such
as requiring that debate time be made available so that voters can see the
prime contenders squaring off.
7. The media promote the antithesis of
community--He's concerned with
the types of interviews conducted by media personalities today that seem
to divide communities rather than unite them.
8. Diversity no longer respected?--Durenberger
and Caucus members engaged in discussion over the extent of diversity in
communities. He acknowledges that people of similar economic levels have
lived in close proximity, but now it seems as if people with belief in
similar causes also are living near one another. This question relates to
the ability to establish boundaries of congressional districts that would
create more competition and be fair to various interests.
9. Critical importance of leadership--Durenberger
said he sat with Sen. Norm Coleman on a flight back to the Twin Cities
this morning. The two discussed the importance of leadership, and
particularly the efforts that Coleman, when as mayor of St. Paul, was
willing to "take some hits up front", that is, Coleman, as a leader, was
willing to take risks early in his tenure, to bring about significant
accomplishments, such as the bringing of the Minnesota Wild to St. Paul.
It is rare, Durenberger said, to find leaders like that today. Some
people have leadership characteristics but are held back by campaign
pledges, he said.
10. Forthcoming referenda on gerrymandering--Asked
about two states, California and Ohio, and their upcoming votes on
constitutional amendments for redistricting commissions, Durenberger said
there ought to be a better way to draw boundaries but that he has not
followed the details of the
and Ohio proposals.
11. Senate not as polarized as the House?--Verne
noted that some people point out that the polarization is not as great in
the Senate, which is unaffected by drawing boundaries. Durenberger
replied that the difference between the bodies lies in the defining of the
national interest. It is much more difficult to define national interest
if you have only the House. He went on to characterize that regional
interests seem to be dominant in Congress today, not national interest.
Republicans in the southwest and southeast now are directing the
Republican party. Thus national issues are being defined by a region of
the country. Leaders in the southwest and southeast are a different type
of American than you might see in a national American. They are much
more parochial than the Republican and Democratic leaders of the past.
about the causes for change in the relevance of the Republican Party,
Durenberger mentioned major challenges to the nation in the 1970s,
protests. These developments caused many people to determine that they
had an opportunity to determine what is right and what is wrong. People
who particularly felt that way after the Roe v. Wade decision have taken
over the Republican Party. Durenberger said that former Gov. Elmer
Andersen, before his death, advised Durenberger not to worry, that these
things will take care of themselves over time.
12. Campaign finance approaches now--The
importance of money in campaigns has grown to such an extent, Durenberger
said, that each senator now his his or her own PAC. Formerly you had
senators who were known as entrepreneurs in certain areas, such as health
care. Now you have senators who are known as entrepreneurs in raising
campaign money. That means the senators are working with a much narrower
base of supporters. Asked whether he has specific ideas for broadening
the base of support, Durenberger said that somehow the special interest
groups must be curbed. Interestingly, the people who fight campaign
reform now are the pro-life, pro-choice, anti-gun-control and other
special interest groups. Clarence asked whether the people with a strong
moral interest recognize that they are in allegiance with the money
launderers. Durenberger said no, other than Ralph Reed. Clarence and
Durenberger agreed that the fervor of the people with moral interest won't
change, so that the effort to change ought be concentrated on the campaign
13. Leadership by "20-20" legislators--Durenberger
highlighted efforts by a group of Democratic and Republican members in the
Minnesota Legislature to seek a middle ground during the 2005 session. He
said such leadership will help a great deal. Members of the caucus said
we need to identify--and probably communicate with--people were part of
the 20-20 group.
14. Instant run-off voting--Durenberger,
asked about the idea surfaced by Tim Penny, said he hasn't give it a lot
of thought. Verne said that instant run-off voting, or IRV, is claimed to
help people in the middle who feel disenfranchised. Verne asked that we
get more information on this program. Paul noted that "Fairvote" is an
organization dedicated to promoting IRV.
15. Energizing the middle--Asked
again about helping energize the broad middle, Durenberger said why not
focus on the people. Find 25 people who are wanting to change. This
discussion caused caucus members again to say that we need to learn more
about the 20-20 group in the Legislature.
16. Increasing voter interest--Asked
how more people might be encouraged to participate as voters, Durenberger
said a big part of the solution has to do with leadership. The people
want to support elected officials who function truly as leaders.
Leadership affects leadership, he said. Returning to Durenberger's
comments about Norm Coleman's leadership in St. Paul, John M. noted that
Coleman was able to bring something to the city that it never had. Verne
noted that Pawlenty has been constrained in his leadership by his campaign
pledges. Durenberger said that Republican leaders in Indiana and Idaho
have been successful in bringing about changes despite no-tax pledges.
17. Are Republicans in Washington thinking more
opposition candidates than their own?--Asked
about the general mood among Republicans in Washington concerning the 2008
election, Durenberger said they seem to be discussing more who will be the
Democratic front-runner than they seem to be discussing who their own
leader should be. Durenberger said the Republicans believe Hillary
Clinton will be the Democratic candidate and they will need someone like
John McCain to beat her.
thanked Durenberger for taking the time to meet with us today. Verne said
we will be circulating a summary of the meeting to our other electronic
participants, after giving Durenberger an opportunity to suggest changes.
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.
Click Here to
see a biographical statement of each.