Mark Udall is now my Senator in Colorado. He’s the son of Mo Udall, who was an Arizona congressman, and nephew of Stewart Udall, who was Secretary of the Interior under presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
Mark’s brother Randy runs the Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Aspen. In 2004 I asked him if he’d endorse the National Initiative for Democracy. I mentioned that its author, former Senator Mike Gravel often says “There are NO exceptions to ‘power corrupts’ including myself when I was Senator.” Randy said “Oh yes, I know that from growing up in a political family,” and signed up immediately with the endorsers of the National Initiative. In 2008, his brother Bradley, director of Western Water Assessment for CIRES at the U. of Colorado, also signed on. Both are upstanding citizens.
My story with politician Mark Udall is much different, and revealing:
I met Mark Udall at the April ’96 Boulder County Democratic Assembly, when he was just entering Colorado politics. We had breakfast awhile later and I was impressed with Mark’s compassion and his mountain climbing exploits.
In Spring of ’99 I went to then-Congressman Udall’s “town meeting” at Casey Jr. High in Boulder and said something like:
“The US Government is the main holdout to all the following international treaties:” [See the current -and longer- list] “Polls and common sense indicate that Americans are for most or all these things by a wide margin. Considering this, would you support former US Senator Mike Gravel’s proposed National Initiative for Democracy which would give us a vote on such things?”
Mark said he was a representative and supported representative government, but he would look at the proposal and give me a formal response.
Later in the meeting Mark said “Folks, I’d like to introduce my mother who’s in the audience today.” As all eyes went to her she looked straight at me and gave me a big thumbs-up. Later I went up and asked if that was for me. She said “Oh yes, I thought that was a very good question.”
I gave Mark’s people a copy of the Initiative but didn’t hear back, even after a couple of phone calls. I called into a KGNU local radio show Mark was on in the fall and asked when I’d get a response. He said “January first, 2000.”
I returned from Mexico about the 10th of January and nothing was in the mail. I called his office 3 more times about a week apart; no response.
I remembered Mrs. Udall’s friendliness and called her; I left voicemail describing Mark’s non-response. I came home to a message on my machine from one of Mark’s people that was a bit threatening. I called this person and she chewed me out, saying “You can’t call the family of a US Congressman!” I said “What country do you think this is? The hell I can’t!”, hung up and called Mrs. Udall again.
Mrs. Udall told me: “Call me anytime. I called the office not because I was annoyed but because you deserve a response. And please call me by my nickname, Sam.” It was a very nice conversation. I finally got a response from Mark soon after:
It was basically a high school level essay on the evils of democracy when exercised by people as well as representatives, never mentioning any of the particulars of the proposal.
Awhile after the 9/11 attacks I sent Mark an email asking him to reconsider. The plane that crashed in Pennsylvania might have been heading for the Capitol, so wouldn’t it be good for Congress to share legislative power with the people for security?
I got back another letter -signed by Mark- which grossly misrepresents what we and Senator Gravel are proposing. Here is the misrepresentation:
“But I do not think the case has been made for abandoning the current system, with its checks and balances between state and federal authority and among the branches of the federal government. I also continue to have serious reservation about the details of the plan, which would convert the United States from a federal union of states into a unitary nation where vast effective powers would be held by a single new body (the “Electoral Trust”).”
(Email me, evan (at) vote.org for Mark’s original signed email.)
There is simply no truth to any of this statement. We have never proposed to change any branch of government at any level, we just add another method for legislating, much like initiatives existing in 24 States, but better. Anyone can see this at Vote.org, or from all the brochures, etc. I’ve produced in 20 years of promoting this concept.
The difference here between Mark and his brothers is that his brothers are citizens who believes in “Government by the People” (the dictionary definition of democracy) and Mark is a politician who believes in government by him. He blatantly misrepresents our proposal to keep all that power. In historical perspective, he is merely another aristocrat who has usurped the power of the people for himself.
Until my longtime friend and now Congressman Jared Polis came along, ALL my representatives since the 1980s claimed that we want to “replace” representative government with initiatives! They must have agreed on that party line. Ironically, that party calls itself “Democratic.” Jared Polis is the exception to all rules, and has committed to introducing a bill for national ballot initiatives later in 2009.
Mark Udall has also disgraced the legacy of his famous environmentalist father and uncle by coming out for offshore oil drilling, free CO2 pollution permits for coal generating plants and increased subsidies for nuclear plants. See here for links to mainstream news reports.
–Evan Ravitz, founder, Vote.org