A Genealogy of Term Limit Groups*

The groups involved [in term limit campaigns] tend to have complicated genealogies.1

 1. Committee on Limiting Terms

Birth: 1985
Death: Still in operation
Founded by Representative Bill McCollum (R-FL) and other Republican members of the House who had been elected in 1980.
"The oldest national term limit organization in America."2
Largely dormant from 1992 through 1994.
In 1994, the group circulated a petition to House candidates.
Off-Hill unit is "Committee on Limiting Terms Lobby."

1a. Team 290
Birth: January, 1995
Founded by a number of members of the House of Representatives, including a few Democrats.
 Led by Reps. Bill McCollum (R-FL) and Bob Inglis (R-SC).
The goal is to get 290 members of the House to vote for a constitutional amendment limiting congressional terms.

 2. Americans to Limit Congressional Terms

Birth: February, 1989
Death: Name and trademark purchased by U.S. Term Limits in January, 19943
Founded by the Eddie Mahe Company, a Republican political consulting firm.
Former U.S. Representative James K. Coyne (R-PA) tells how he and a group of 33 other former Members of Congress developed and organized Americans to Limit Congressional Terms (Coyne and Fund 1992, 144-147).
Became part of U.S. Term Limits in the spring of 1993.4

3. Coloradans Back in Charge
Birth: November 30, 1989
Death: Evolved into Americans Back in Charge in the Fall of 1990
Organized primarily by Terry Considine, a Republican state senator from Arapahoe County, Colorado.5

3a. Americans Back in Charge
Birth: Evolved in the Fall of 1990 after the successful term limit initiative in Colorado6
Death: Still in operation as part of the Term Limits Legal Institute/Americans Back in Charge
Established by leaders of the successful term limit initiative campaign in Colorado in 1990.
Managed two "projects" in 1992 campaign cycle.

3a1. National Term Limits Campaign
Birth: Sometime in late 1991 or in 1992 as a project of Americans Back in Charge
Death: Sometime after general election in 1992
In what may be confusing, this is actually the term limit campaign part of Americans Back in Charge.
Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and directed by Shari Williams.
Worked with Citizens for Congressional Reform (later U.S. Term Limits) and Americans to Limit Congressional Terms in 1992 to assist state-level term limit activists.

3a2. Term Limits Legal Institute
Birth: Mid-1991 as a project of Americans Back in Charge
Death: Still in operation
Headquartered in Washington, DC, and directed by Cleta Deatherage Mitchell.

4. Citizens for Congressional Reform

Birth: Sometime in 1990
Death: Defunct in December 1991; not pronounced "dead" until April 1992 with a name change to "U.S. Term Limits"
One claim has group's ancestry as a research group under Citizens for a Sound Economy.7
Another claim has group's conception in discussions among the members of the board of directors of the Cato Institute.8

4a. U.S. Term Limits
Birth: April 1992 as a name change of Citizens for Congressional Reform
Death: Still in operation
Maintains a branch as a foundation, "U.S. Term Limits Foundation."
Also briefly maintained an arm to fund voter education campaigns, "U.S. Term Limits Voter Education Fund."9
In spring of 1993, the U.S. Term Limits board of directors effectively took over the board of Americans to Limit Congressional Terms.
In January of 1994, U.S. Term Limits purchased the name and trademark of Americans to Limit Congressional Terms.10

4a1. U.S. Term Limits Council
Birth: Summer of 1994
Death: Still in operation (quietly)
Co-chaired by Governors William Weld (R-MA) and Joan Finney (D-KS).
Only significant public activity has been writing the forward for a term limit advocacy book (Armor 1994, ix-x).
4a2. National Term Limits Coalition
Birth: Sometime in the Fall of 1994
Death: Still in operation
This is a coalition of U.S. Term Limits and Americans for Tax Reform, the Christian Coalition, the Small Business Survival Committee, Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Taxpayers Union, and others.11
Operates mainly to pressure Congress to pass constitutional amendment limiting Representatives to three two-year terms and Senators to two six-year terms.
4a3. Term Limits Leadership Council
Birth: January 1, 1995
Death: Still in operation
Chaired by Scott W. Rasmussen, Executive Director of the North Carolina Term Limits Coalition and a founder of ESPN.12
Group consists of the leaders of term limit advocacy groups in 44 states.13
5. National Committee to Limit Terms
Birth: Sometime in 1991
Death: Still in operation14
This group's name changes regularly from "National Committee to Limit Terms" (Olson 1992, 86-87, 93) to "California Committee to Limit Terms."15
Directed by Edward "Ted" Costa of People's Advocate.
Credited with "running personal and mean-spirited ads" against Speaker Foley during the 1991 term limit campaign in Washington (Olson 1992, 93).
Uncomfortable working with U.S. Term Limits in 1992 term limit campaign in California.16
Member of Term Limits Leadership Council (see above).17

6. Americans for Limited Terms
Birth: First sighting in 199418
Death: Still in operation
Founded by two former or current members of the U.S. Term Limits Board of Directors.
One of the founders has been credited with contributing all $30,000 spent by U.S. Term Limits Voter Education Fund in May 1994 House special election in Oklahoma.19
Takes credit for aiding in the defeat of House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA), Jack Brooks (D-TX), and Neal Smith (D-IA) in 1994.
Working with U.S. Term Limits, spent $380,000 on issue advocacy in 1998 congressional race in Utah's Second Congressional District because Rep. Merrill Cook refused to sign USTL's pledge (Magleby 2000).


Armor, John. 1994. Why Term Limits? Because They Have It Coming. Ottawa, IL: Jameson Books, Inc.

Bockwinkel, Sherry. 1994b. "National Term Limit Group Causing Havoc in Movement." LIMIT Watch, October-November.

Coyne, James K., and John H. Fund. 1992. Cleaning House: America's Campaign for Term Limits. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway.

Jost, Kenneth. 1994. "Well-Funded Group Backed by Libertarians Directed the Campaign to Pass Term Limits." CQ Researcher, 18 November.

Magleby, David. 2000. Outside Money.http://www.byu.edu/outsidemoney/mono.htm. Visited: 23 March 2000.

Olson, David J. 1992. "Term Limits Fail in Washington: The 1991 Battleground." In Limiting Legislative Terms, ed. Gerald Benjamin and Michael Malbin. Washington, DC: CQ Press.


James K. Coyne - Former President of Americans to Limit Congressional Terms (ALCT) and former Republican U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania, Phone Interview, May 1993.

Edward H. Crane - President of Cato Institute, In-person Interview, Washington, DC, June 1993.

Shari Williams - Executive Director of Americans Back in Charge (ABIC) and former campaign director of Coloradans Back in Charge, Phone Interview, May 1993.


*This information appears as an appendix to my Ph.D. dissertation completed at the University of Oklahoma in 1995.  I have made a few additions since 1995, particularly to the entry on Americans for Limited Terms (my last update was on March 26, 2000).  I am working on an article-length update of this information to be published in a political science journal.


1James M. Perry, "Advocate Groups for Congressional Term Limits, Though United in Cause, Clash Over Strategy, " Wall Street Journal, 25 August 1993.


2Letter to candidates for the United States House of Representatives from Representative Bill McCollum of the Committee on Limiting Terms Lobby, undated (but before August 31, 1994).


3Jon Margolis, "Libertarians Buy a Piece of Term Limits Movement," Chicago Tribune, 26 May 1994.


4Personal Interview with James K. Coyne.


5Information on Coloradans Back in Charge drawn from a press release issued on November 30, 1989.


6In a personal interview, Shari Williams, executive director of Americans Back in Charge, related how she was beseiged by calls from persons in other states wishing to learn more about term limits.  She told the callers to wait until after the 1990 campaign was completed and then she would get back to them.


7Perry, "Advocate Groups for Congressional Term Limits."


8Personal interview with Edward H. Crane, President of the Cato Institute.


9Susan B. Glasser, "DCCC to File Charges in Okla. Special," Roll Call, 16 May 1994.


10Margolis, "Libertarians Buy a Piece of Term Limits Movement."


11See Ronald A. Taylor, "Term Limits: More Talk, Less Action," Gannett News Service, 30 December 1994.


12Michael Wilkins, "Charlotte Resident is Pushing the Limits," Charlotte Observer, 4 January 1995.


13David Hess, "Gingrich Would Fight 3-Term Idea," Charlotte Observer, 12 January 1995.


14See "Term Limit Leaders Challenge Congress," PRNewswire, 22 February 1995.


15Dan Morain and James Bornemeier, "Secretive Group is Major Supporter of Term Limits," Los Angeles Times, 28 October 1992.


16Morain and Bornemeier, "Secretive Group."


17"Term Limit Leaders Challenge Congress."


18There is considerable controversy over the origination of this group.  I believe it is an extension of U.S. Term Limits' effort at "voter education" in two special elections in Oklahoma and Kentucky in the spring of 1994.  Sherry Bockwinkel of LIMIT in Washington agrees (Bockwinkel 1994b, 1).  However, unconfirmed reports suggest that Americans for Limited Terms was proposed by the U.S. Term Limits leadership in 1993.  Jost (1994, 1024) discusses Americans for Limited Terms.


19Paul Jacob, "Educating the Voters [Letter to the Editor]," Roll Call, 26 May 1994.


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