here for PDF format
of Meeting with Roger Moe
8301 Creekside Circle
#920, Bloomington, MN 55437
Friday, December 9,
Verne C. Johnson, chair (by phone); Chuck Clay, Paul Gilje, Jim Olson (by
phone), John Sampson, Clarence Shallbetter, and Roger Moe, guest
Comments by Roger Moe--Clarence
introduced Moe, a former school teacher in northwestern
who was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1970 and ultimately
served longer than anyone else as DFL majority leader. He currently is
head of his private consulting firm, National Strategies, Inc. In his
comments Moe made the following points:
1. Thanks to the Civic Caucus--He
commended the caucus for its inquiry. Moe said that he has kept abreast
of Civic Caucus meetings by reading the weekly summaries.
2. Moe's work with the Center of the American
Experiment--Moe said he and
Chris Georgacas, former GOP state chair, are co-chairing a task force for
the Center of the American Experiment that will look at the state
legislative process and may seek changes that require changes in rules,
law or the state constitution. However, no change in rules, laws or
constitution will address the problems of lack of trust and incivility,
Moe said. One can't legislate to correct those problems, he said.
3. Why the anxiety over the future of our
democracy?--Moe said he's not
so good at coming up with ideas about change as he is about what brought
about the concern. He cited this reason: Politics is a very high stakes
game in America today, with the voting public almost evenly divided
politically. The division is present nationally and in the states. If
you look at all state legislators of the 50 states you'd see they are
almost 50-50 Democrat-Republican.
4. Existence of safe districts--Moe
agrees with the concerns expressed by others that the U.S. House has only
about 20-30 competitive districts out of 435. He believes change in
redistricting is needed.
5. Public attitudes about government
understandable--The low regard
with which the public holds government today ought to be readily
understood in the context of the last 30 years. Politicians have been
running for office by ranting against government. Jimmy Carter and Ronald
Reagan both ran for office by describing how bad the system is. So its
no wonder that voters feel that way.
6. But amazing changes have occurred--Despite
the anti-government sentiment, as you look back you see major changes in
civil rights, human rights, economic growth, transportation, and other
areas. That's remarkable. Nevertheless, we get this endless barrage of
how bad government is where the candidates want to serve.
7. Change in the make-up and operation of the
recalled the predominance of older, white males in the Legislature when he
first took office in 1971. Moreover, he remembers that much of the
wrangling and compromise took place behind closed doors. Today, the group
has more younger people, more women, and more economic diversity. This is
good, because the makeup of the people reflects the population. But the
more complicated the process of decision-making becomes. There'll be
continued stress as long as some segments of the population feel they
don't have a seat. Issues are more complex today, too. We have the
Internet, but it can both inform and misinform.
8. Are we losing a non-partisan judiciary?--Moe
said he is surprised at the absence of discussion in previous summaries
about the recent Supreme Court rulings that overturn canons of ethics that
didn't permit political activity candidates for judges and for judges
themselves. All we need to do is look to Texas and the difficulty in
finding a judge for the DeLay case to see what could happen here.
9. More campaign money every election--Money
is so terribly important, and every two years more is spent on
campaigns. He sees no end to this trend. The stakes are so high. It
also reinforces in the public's mind that money determines how people will
has done a better job than most with its campaign finance laws for
legislative candidates. Our system of public financing has brought some
equity to the process.
the outside groups, such as the 527 groups, Moe said he has no answer to
the problems of financing through such groups, other than complete
disclosure of their sources of funds.
10. Problems with "surveys" tying the hands of
legislators--He knows it's not
possible to change, because of constitutional guarantees of free speech,
but Moe wishes that the questionnaires candidates receive from special
interests could be thrown away. The special interests undoubtedly base
the degree of campaign finance support on the responses the candidates
make. These questionnaires have the effect of locking candidates into
solid positions on issues before they have all the necessary facts. A
perfect example is Pawlenty's no-tax-increase pledge.
11. Establish venues that bring people
laws no longer allow lobbyist groups to bring all legislators together for
social time. So long as everyone is invited, there shouldn't be an ethics
problem, he said. Such informal gatherings made it possible for
legislators to get to know one another. He said, however, that other
realities--such as other claims on legislators' time--make it difficult to
have informal contacts. For example, more women are in the Legislature.
With a majority of our legislators living within driving distance of the
Capitol, more people go home to tend to household responsibilities in the
12. Precinct caucuses/conventions/primaries--Moe
sees some virtue in perhaps a multi-tiered endorsement process to give a
candidate a second chance if squeezed out by endorsement at a lower
level. But he doesn't want to put the endorsement process after the
primary. Also he's skeptical about such changes as instant run-off
voting, because he's not sure if recent elections, such as that of Jesse
Ventura, are an anomaly or represent some real change. He acknowledged
that third parties will have an influence on the outcome. He noted that
in the Pawlenty-Moe-Penny race for Governor that Pawlenty won with 44
percent of the vote. Under certain circumstances Moe said that he could
have won that race with as little as 36 percent of the vote.
the discussion with Moe the following points were raised:
1. Are endorsement conventions the answer?--Questioned
further about endorsements, Moe was asked whether the candidate doesn't
get locked into solid positions prematurely, simply to gain the
endorsement. Moe agreed this is a problem but in an open primary some
candidates might win simply because their personal wealth enables them to
2. Responsibility of the media in campaign
finance--During discussion the point was made that more
transparency isn't likely to produce better results unless the media can
fully bright such information to the attention of the public.
3. Changing the "culture"--Moe
elaborated on his earlier point that he sees important changes that could
take place outside of rules, laws, and constitutional amendments. For
example, in the Legislature the majority and minority in the House and the
Senate are balkanized into four groups immediately and their offices are
kept separate. Moe suggested that the chair and the ranking minority
member of each committee could have their offices together. Another
possibility is that the senior members of the Legislature, irrespective of
party, would have their offices in the Capitol building.
4. Too much emphasis on full-time legislators?--Responding
to a question about a tendency to have "professional" legislators as
against "citizen" legislators, Moe said returning to a 90-day session
every two years isn't the answer. You can restructure the calendar, he
said, to make better use of time. For example, in the odd-numbered,
budget year, nothing now really happens in the Legislature until the
second revenue forecast in March. But the Legislature has been in session
since January. He said it would make much better sense to delay the start
of the session until March and then perhaps allow the session to continue
until June 15.
legislator Moe felt the Legislature should have the right to call a
special session, not just the Governor. Now that he is out of office, he
said he doesn't talk that way any more.
5. Coolness toward instant runoff voting--Moe
is skeptical about such a change because mischief-making voters of one
party could try to have an impact on the outcome in the other party. Such
voters could vote for their No. 1 choice, but then make their second
choice someone that could distort the outcome for the other side.
6. Increasing role of legislative leadership in
campaign finance--More agreed that the DFL and GOP caucuses in
the Legislature are becoming dominant forces in candidate recruitment and
campaign finance. That is a permanent fixture, he said, and is a natural
outcome of a leadership's desire to keep control of their caucus. He
acknowledged mention in our previous summaries of one case in Minnesota
where a caucus-financed campaign was far higher than appropriate.
7. An unused power that is already there--Moe
said that any elected official already has the ability to make use of a
power that could have significant impact on the outcome of contentious
issues. That is the power to convene meetings of groups at interest. If
the elected official is willing to step back for the moment, and not be so
identified with one position or another, that official could sponsor
meetings of all the parties at interest and call for those parties to come
to agreement. Such meetings could occur at the grassroots level and would
go a long way toward reducing polarization. Legislators could avoid
taking positions prematurely.
institute in a college or university could be set up to provide guidelines
for elected officials on how to call and conduct meetings with
representatives of the affected parties on all sides, Moe suggested. In
the continuing discussion on this point, Moe acknowledged his role in
reorganizing higher education in Minnesota, but that's not a good example
of the convening process. In that debate the groups, such as the
advocates for the vocational schools and the community colleges, were too
divided in their interests already.
8. The analogy of putting a puzzle together--Moe
said he often has told people that the Legislature is analogous to a
desktop puzzle. Each legislator is a part of the puzzle. The problem is
that the legislators don't have the picture from the top of the puzzle box
in front of them, so they can see the total picture.
9. State-federal shift--Moe
disagreed that there's been a recent shift of power from the states to the
federal government. The federal government did expand from the days of
Teddy Roosevelt until the 1960s. Then in the 1970s, state legislatures
came alive. That was followed, in the 80s, by Reagan's new federalism,
which really ended up being block grants with strings attached. Counties
and cities were become more effective as well. He suspects that much of
the concern about Washington taking over power is rotted in controversy
10. Give redistricting to commissions--Moe
clarified that he favors removing the redistricting power from the
Legislature--which, in Minnesota is really handled by the courts now.
Moe said he has been a part of redistricting efforts in four different
decades, 1971, 1981, 1991, and 2001, probably more than anyone else. None
of those efforts was successful, he said.
and others thanked Moe for a most engaging conversation.
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.