Tag Archives: nader

Nader’s Top Ten

The Year’s Best Books

Read, Then Act

Ralph Nader’s Top Ten Book List for 2009

lists People’s Lobby’s…

  1. Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary: The Story of Ed and Joyce Koupal and the Initiative Process

By Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober.

This husband-wife team “just ordinary people,” in their words, started out powerless and in over a decade, largely in the seventies, built Initiative power to qualify reforms on the California ballot for the popular vote.  A story for the ages that strips away excuses steeped in a sense of powerlessness.  This small but invigorating paperback can be obtained from The People’s Lobby (www.peopleslobby.us) for $15, including shipping.  People’s Lobby, 1817 California St., Unit 201, San Francisco, CA 94109.



Others on the list include…

  1. Achieving the Impossible by Lois Marie Gibbs; Published by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice…
  2. Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way is the Best Hope In An Insecure Age by Steven Hill…
  3. Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in A Two-Party Tyranny by Theresa Amato…
  4. Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times by Edgar S. Cahn…
  5. Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges…
  6. The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis by Josh Kosman…


  1. Getting Away With Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law by Christopher H. Pyle…
  2. It Takes A Pillage by Nomi Prins…
  3. Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-09 edited by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff with Project Censored.

At the five day 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy ‘s Jully 31, 2010 evening reception, Ralph Nader was the featured speaker.  The last question Ralph answered during the Citizens in Charge  reception before saying goodnight was:

“In the 70s, you referred to People’s Lobby as the best grassroots organization in the nation.    Why did you say that and what ingredients do you believe People’s Lobby had that may be needed or missing today?”

Ralph then spent several minutes giving glowing tribute to Edwin and Joyce Koupal’s People’s Lobby.  Paraphrasing Ralph, he said …

“People’s Lobby was the most powerful social organizing movement I have seen post World War II…

“The Koupal’s People’s Lobby could organize an initiative almost at will…

“They were opening the Colorado office to push their national initiative idea…

“At this Global Conference on Direct Democracy, you should be studying their little blue book (Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary by Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober) and committing the details of that book to your efforts…”

Koupal Tribute

 The drive toward a national initiative process

By Ralph Nader

Claremont Courier, November 27, 1974 updated by Nader in 2002 for Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary.

Ed and Joyce Koupal, the indefatigable leaders of the People’s Lobby in California, thought Americans should rediscover those mechanisms of self-government–the initiative, the recall and the referendum, and they took their skilled signature-gathering experience nationwide to build support for a constitutional amendment establishing a national initiative and national recall.

In 1974 the Koupals were instrumental in the passage of the California initiative known as Proposition 9, the Political Reform Act providing for state campaign spending limits, disclosure of any potential conflict of interest by public officials, regulation of lobbyists and other “clean government” reforms.  In an expression of dismay over corrupt politics, Proposition 9 was passed overwhelmingly by over 3 million Californians.

Notice that it was the people who directly wrote and passed this state law, not the state legislature.  This is what an “initiative” involves — a process by which, ‘through petitions, a prescribed number of people may write proposed laws for direct submission to the voters.  Over half a million Californians signed the petition that placed Proposition 9 on the ballot.

In 1974 twenty-two states had a statewide initiative; 25 states had a statewide referendum (the process by which voters may repeal or approve a bill passed by the state legislature); 14 states had a statewide recall (the process by which voters may remove or retain an elected official).

These direct democracy measures were largely passed during the Populist-Progressive period of American history around the turn of and first decade of this century.  But they were dormant in most states, unused and almost forgotten by most citizens.  The Koupals wanted them revived to bring back democratic accountability to the people and make elected officials more accountable be­tween elections.

For almost a decade prior to 1974, the Koupals, operating out of their small print shop, perfected techniques of signature gathering.  They could marshal 10,000 volunteers in California almost immediately for a petition drive to get a measure on the state ballot.

In the 1970’s they also believed that what had been increasingly good for California should be good for America.  They wanted to test “whether the few, corporate and government organizations which hold so much of the country’s power can stand democracy in action — old-fashioned style.

Their proposed 27th Amendment to the Constitution back then read:

“The people of the USA reserve to themselves the power of the initiative.  The initiative is the power of the electors to propose laws and to adopt or reject them.  An initiative measure may not be submitted to alter or amend the Constitution of ‘the US.

“Every elected officer of the US may be removed from office at any time by the electors meeting the qualifications to vote in their state, through the procedure and in the manner herein provided for, which procedure shall be known as a vote of confidence, and is in addition to any other method of removal provided by law.”

One way a democracy withers away is by excessive delegation of citizen rights and powers to remote and unaccountable businesses and government bureaucracies.  To the extent that special interest groups buy, rent, misuse or manipulate elected or appointed government officials, democracy is overridden.

The revival of the initiative, referendum and recall in states that provide for them, the passage of similar measures in other states, and the adoption of a national initiative and recall would reduce citizen apathy and quicken citizen involvement in public matters.

The Koupals worked indefatigably and selflessly to put the people back into democracy.  More than anyone else they revitalized the use of the initiative, referendum and recall and put these vital citizen tools back into the mainstream of state politics.  They exemplified the extraordinary citizen’s citizen.”


Nader’s SJR67 testimony 1977


Hearing Before Subcommittee on the Constitution

Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate

Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment

S.J. Resolution 67

November 13 and 14, 1977

Mr. NADER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Senator Hatch.

I would like to congratulate the subcommittee for having hearings on this important issue. Too often there is a neglect in Congress m exploring basic issues in democratic decision making. Certainly this one raises a basic issue which has been debated and deliberated since the Jeffersonian-Hamiltonian exchanges.

We do not have to develop very detailed foundations for the thesis that the process of governmental decision making has become more and more remote, not only from the people but from the legislative branches at the State, local and national level as well.

This is a process of decision making that has not only extended itself into the executive branch and subexecutive branch agencies but has moved even more remotely from the executive branch with the development of quasi-public institutions at all levels of govern­ment that affect people in as real a way as a traditional government agency would affect people.

I point out to you for example the New York Port Authority which is one of these institutions that does not seem to be either under Federal or State control as it straddles the three States of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

Having said that, the point I would like to make is this. It is important to have a close understanding that the ultimate’ check on representative democracy is direct democracy.

If representative democracy turns itself into an institutionalized tyrant or is arbitrary in its decisions or insensitive in its decisions, then there needs to be a resort back to the source of power in a democracy which comprises of course the electorate.

As the witnesses will no doubt inform you today, there has been a considerab1e history at the State level with initiative referendums and the Chairman certainly has had experience in that area, both personally and coming from the State where the first initiative I amendment was enacted at the State level in the late 19th century.

It is often said that while it may work at the State or local it simply cannot work at the national level. That is not entirely an insupportable assertion. If it is going to work at the national level, there has to be a correlative series of reforms in order that the severe imbalances in access to money and access to communications do not turn this instrument into simply a tool for oligarchic power.

This is the principal emphasis that I would like to make this morning. Unless something is done about access to mass communica­tions, the display of first amendment rights, which is the funda­mental substructure of any democratic initiative, will not be possible even in a remotely effective way. The people who exercise these rights must have comparable access to the technology that can dis­seminate the words and beliefs exercised under our first amendment. That means that not only must there be campaign finance standards as envisioned in the background materials to this proposed amend­ment to the Constitution, but there also needs to be, particularly by implementing statutes, a resolution of the access problem to the mass media. Indeed, even in the traditional campaign financial forum dis­cussions, it has been said by observers and students of this problem that the financial aspects are not the exclusive focus of reform. It has to also involve the access to the communication system.

Senator ABOUREZK. May I interrupt?

That all should be done in separate legislation, implementing legislation and not in the amendment itself; is that right?

Mr. NADER. Yes.

Senator ABOUREZK. Yes, that’s my view.

Mr. NADER. It would have to be done with an implementing statute.

Senator HATCH. Let me interrupt. Mr. Nader, you seem to be saying that in your opinion this particular joint resolution would not work if you do not take care of those two problems—basically the campaign finance standards and the resolution of access problems to the mass media; is that right?

Mr. NADER. It would not be free to work as well as the concept would imply. I can imagine in some instances it would work.

Senator HATCH. Certainly.

Mr. NADER. If for example there is a great fear of a particular health epidemic and there needs to be something done about it

can imagine it working just as it does now.

But obviously when you deal with issues of the distribution of power in our society, you have to have some fairness in the access to the communication system that is grantedly controlled by a very small handful of people and companies in our economy.

I would like to illustrate a point. For example, if there is a national initiative launched to overrule a populist piece of legislation that

Congress has enacted and the President has signed, if a national initiative was launched by the corporate institutions of the country and through their access to shareholders and to the mass media they could easily gain the requisite signatures and easily dominate the communications system. So, I think it is a little naive to think that only the people can really get the people behind them. Basically through such threats as mass loss of jobs which the companies can disseminate throughout the country or the increased cost of certain proposals that Congress has enacted then they could, lacking a countervailing source of information, obtain sufficient support for this kind of initiative.

That is not to say that the people cannot make up their own minds in an intelligent manner. The whole theory of democracy is that the broader the audience, the broader the value systems that are taken into account and the more likely will be the best decision for the society as a whole. While people can make mistakes like corporations make mistakes, to the extent that they can express their own interest as a people then they are expressing the broad values and interests of our society.

It is important to note that even with the expression of this popular interest there are still safeguards which this amendment does not disrupt. You have the safeguard of the initiative being declared unconstitutional. You have the safeguard of a two-thirds override with Presidential concurrence. And you have of course the safeguard of another initiative coming along and repealing the old initiative if, in the light of experience, it has not worked out well.

I think there needs to be more discussion, Mr. Chairman, of the side effects of this kind of national initiative proposal. One of the great needs in our society is the location of leadership. How do leaders arise in our society?

If there is principally one way that leaders arise in our society politically and that is through the formal political machines, the formal political parties, then we are going to deprive ourselves of some very basic reservoirs of leadership in the country. You just have to look at the composition of the Congress, for example, to see that one-half of the U.S. Congress comes from far less than 1 percent of the population called lawyers. One of the reasons that is true is that not only do lawyers tend to be trained for politics from law school on, but they have the time to be in politics. They have been able to combine both a practice and politics. They are viewed by society as perhaps the last remaining specialists who can be generalists as well and can be viewed as generalists in their commentary on public policy. Whereas people will say, “What does that architect know about politics?”, very few people will say, “What does that lawyer know about politics?”

But it is clear that the Congress does not draw from the broad base of leadership potential of our society.

In contrast, with the increasing development of initiatives and referendums and recalls at the State level, we have seen people who ordinarily would not be part of the political process come to the broader political process known as the initiative referendum o recall, and to get experience and to train themselves and put them selves forward as alternative leaders in our society.

That is one very important side effect of this process and in fact it may be just as important as the direct effect of this process. It opens many more opportunities for local, State and national citizen leadership and involvement than has been the case.

Imagine in the last 10 years the lack of leadership in our country of 250 million people compared to the leadership that our country drew forth before 1800 when the population was under 3 million. I think most of us in this country would agree that the leadership that came forward in the late 18th century in our country has not been exceeded in the 20th century in our country.

The second side effect that I think is important is that it puts a responsibility on the people. It is not only important to give people more rights and more opportunities to participate in decision making. It is also very important to put a civic burden on the people and to in effect say to them that they have no longer any excuses about not participating or deciding the future of their society and that they can no longer say, “You cannot fight city hall” and shrug off their responsibility. They can no longer say, “What is the use of trying everything is all locked up or rigged anyway?”

What the national initiative concept does, as well as State and local analogies, is to say to the electorate, “Listen, you have nobody to blame but yourself because you now have a direct tool of decision-making, namely the ability to propose and write your own laws.” That is very important.

The best antidote to cynicism in a civil sense is to endow the cynics with power. When those cynics are the electorate and the endow­ment of power is effective, then the issue of citizen obligation can come to the forefront as the dialog in our country and not the nagging issue of powerlessness.

I would like to add one more point because I know there are time limitations. Many of the people here have come a long way to testify today.

It is not likely that the proposal will be successful, as the Chair­man knows, in Congress unless it achieves a much broader awareness and support level throughoutthe country.

I think it is important, for example, for some of the national pollsters to develop specific polls on the subject and keep them up-to-date. It is also important to enlist many of the neighborhood and community organizations at the local level into this effort.

I want to caution, however, the need for thinking through a rather comprehensive supplementary statute in order to make sure that this opportunity, as some others in the past, does not get captured unfairly by the very special interest groups, particularly the corporate struc­ture, in the country

This is not to say that the resulting reforms in a supplementary statute will prevent a corporate-sponsored initiative from ever win­ning. It is to say, however, that there will be contention in the marketplace of ideas that is not obstructed by how deep your pocket is or how thin your pocket is.

This is, I think, the basic operational safeguard that the subcom­mittee should pay attention to in the coming months.

Thank you.

Senatorr Abourezk. Thank you very much. That is an excellent discussion of the issue and its side effects.

We did not include a referendum procedure in this for various reasons. I’m curious to know what you think about the inclusion of such a process in this amendment.

Mr. NADER. I think they go hand-in-hand.

Senator ABOUREZK. It would be your position that we should properly include it?

Mr. NADER. Yes.

Given the safeguards that apply to each one, I do not see any reason why the referendum power should be deleted.

Senator AB0UREZK. Senator Hatch?

Senator HATCH. Mr. Nader, I too have enjoyed your discussion here today.

How would you suggest, for instance, that we bring about this access to major media communication? I assume that it is for the benefit of all citizens.

Mr. NADER. There are two ways to do it. One is to require a certain amount of time to be devoted the way they do in England for elec­tion campaigns with, of course, the campaign finance limitation developed in a way where the allocated amount of time on the mass media cannot be easily nullified by simply buying up enormous amounts of additional time. I think that is one proposal.

The second would be to develop a more consistent procedural access to the deliberations of the Federal Communications Commission. That would not just apply to initiative and referendum proposals but basically it would apply to the need for the viewers, the television viewers and the radio listeners to have a mechanism whereby they can participate and make a contribution to critical FCC policy whether it relates to access to new satellite technology or to the more routine issues that the FCC deals with in terms of access to the electronic media.

Senator HATCH. You have asserted in your testimony that the decision making process is remote. I believe you have implied that this particular joint resolution would be a positive step in the direction of making that process less remote and more direct to the people.

I agree with you that there is a great deal of remoteness in the decision making process of the Government and Ii cite the fourth branch of Government, the bureaucracy, as a perfect illustration with more than 60,000 or 70,000 pages this year in the Federal Register. This frustrates almost everybody in society.

I also can think of the countless remote decisions that are made behind closed doors by, let’s say, the Federal judiciary.

My question is this. Should Senate Joint Resolution 67 be broad­ened to include the recall of Federal judges?

Mr. NADER. Not unless Federal judges are elected.

Senator HATCH. Would you prefer that they be elected?

Mr. NADER. No.

Senator HATCH. In other words, your answer to that would be no?

Mr. NADER. Yes.

Senator HATCH. Why?

Mr. NADER. I think there needs to be a branch of government that is insulated from politics, even if it is at the price of insulating them

from popular politics. Until we see that there is a gross abuse of this insulation, I think it is a good thing for society to have a branch of government that tries to make decisions on the basis of the merits and the law and the conscience of the judges.

Senator HATCH. Personally, I agree with you on that.

I do think that we may need some form of a recall approach with the Federal judiciary that resolves these problems of the tyrannical and overbearing and dishonest and unfair judge.

Senator ABOUREZK. We have an impeachment procedure.

Senator HATCH. We have that but it’s almost an impossibility tinder our Federal judicial system to impeach anybody in any reasonable period of time.

Mr. NADER. Mind you, the benefits of this insulation are so great that I think the society can take several judges that a significant portion of the people may not like.

Senator HATCH. We’ve had to up to this point.

Mr. NADER. Also if you’re going to have the ultimate constitu­tional safeguard for this initiative proposal be in the judiciary, then it seems to me you have to have a degree of insulation or otherwise the initiative process could upset the basic constitutional safeguard by simply recalling the judges.

Senator HATCH. Although I agree with you on your basic premise here I don’t think you seriously believe that judges are insulated from politics, do you?

Mr. NADER. No, they’re not wholly insulated from politics but the y are more insulated from politics

Senator HATCH. After they are on the bench than they are before? Mr. NADER. Yes, and they are more insulated from politics than a legislator by definition.

Senator HATCH. No question about it.

Mr. NADER. So, we’re not going to ever develop a system and nobody should be so naive as to expect the system that is that insu­lated. I think it is more insulated than other branches of government, however.

Second, the judiciary is not permitted to be overt about its connection with politics.

Senator HATCH. One of the points that came up yesterday, which I thought was a rather interesting point was this. I would like to get your viewpoint on it. Should this amendment be passed and should we have the right to have an initiative and, let’s say, that the rights of referenda are added to it, would you be in favor or would you not be in favor of requiring the Congress of the United States, once the percentage requisites are met, to have to consider this and vote up or down on whatever that initiative or referendum petition stood for within, let’s say, a reasonable period of time after the requisite number of votes or signatures are obtained?

Mr. NADER. That is like the Massachusetts model I think.

Senator HATCH. Yes. This way it would force Congress to vote and it might save the taxpayers money. If it is passed it might solve the problem and it might not.

Mr. NADER. I would like to think about that more. It is a difficult call to make. But as long as Congress is permitted to do that anyway, then it’s easier at first glance to say no to your question.

Senator HATCH. Until you think about it?

Mr. NADER. Yes. In other words, if Congress is still free to act because they see a referendum wave coming, then it’s easier to say no to your question unless some experience is built up. This is what we do not have. We do not have national experience on this. Unless some experience is built up to warrant an affirmative response, then I don’t think so.

Senator ABOUREZK. If the gentleman will yield, it seems to me that if you did forward the issue on to the Congress before it goes out on the ballot, then I think you would have to provide an up or down vote by Congress without amendment. If you provided it for amendment they could water it down enough so that people would say that it’s not worth it and they wouldn’t want an initiative.

Senator HATCH. That’s one of the arguments. If you make it requisite that they vote on a particular initiative, then that is on that particular initiative on that particular basis with that amendment. That means that you will at least have the expression of Congress which can then be overruled by the people in the national initiative vote.

But it may also resolve the difficulties right there on the spot if Congress votes for it.

Mr. NADER. On the other hand, you may have the California model where they may, for example, pass legislation that is 30 percent of the amount that is proposed by the initiative and take the steam out of the initiative movement. This was done to some degree during the nuclear initiative. There was a direct connection between the California legislature moving with its three bills and the pendency of the election day on the broader initiative on nuclear power plant are some of us who think that those three bills, having been enacted, took some of the steam out of the vote a few days later.

Senator HATCH. It may be good or bad on a given occasion. All I’m saying is that I’d like you to think about it and submit ~what you ~really feel, after reflective thought, would be the best approach here. That appeals to me.

Mr. NADER. Let me make one more comment. Your proposal then raises the question— Senator HATCH. It’s not my proposal. I’m just throwing it up for discussion here today.

Mr. NADER. But the point you raise raises the question of two insti­tutions on a parallel track with the initiative process and the ability of powerful interest groups undermining the initiative track by going to the Congress.

Congress is very susceptible to campaign finance and powerful politics. I find it a little bit worrisome that that alternative could

use to undermine the initiative track.

Senator HATCH. It might be used to bolster it. We might auto­matically pass it.

I submit to you that power politics and special interest groups will have just as much say, if not more, in public initiatives under this particular amendment.

Mr. NADER. They certainly will—

Senator HATCH. It’s a new way of doing things.

Mr. NADER. It certainly will if there are inadequate finance stand­ards and access to the media.

Senator HATCH. You’re saying campaign finance standards be applicable and be written right into this bill?

Mr. NADER. Or by supplementary statute or the implementing statute.

Senator HATCH. Would you prefer to have it written into the amendment?

Mr. NADER. No, because we’ll end up with an Indian-type constitu­tion of great detail. I think our Constitution’s level of generalities has benefitted us.

Senator HATCH. Inasmuch as you are a strong advocate of greater popular control and more direct democracy, what would be your view with regard to having Supreme Court decisions, which hold that an act of Congress is unconstitutional, be submitted to the people in a popular referendum a p proach?

Mr. NADER. If the decision is made on the basis of a statute, that could be done. If it is made on the basis of the Constitution, I would oppose it.

Senator HATCH. What is your rationale for excluding the people from some decisionmaking and including them in other decisions? You seem to be in favor of some democracy but not a total and complete democracy.

Mr. NADER. I think this amendment to the Constitution envisages opening up the national initiative to reform at the statutory level. I do not think it envisages opening up the national initiative to amend­ing the Constitution.

I think for the time being the existing way of amending the Con­stitution should be continued.

Senator HATCH. You seem to agree with me then that the reason the Constitution is such a viable document is that it is not a great detailed document and it is difficult to amend. lherefore, amendments have to have some validity and really great validity before they have much chance of success. That is probably a superior system to any others; is that right?

Mr. NADER. Also for another reason and that is that the Constitu­tion stands as a safeguard of minorities. The Constitution stands for the proposition that even if there is a majority will expressed through the electorate, that it will have certain limits in its impact and it cannot alienate or violate the rights of minorities.

Consequently, I think there needs to be a reasonable shield between the constitutional amendment process and popular elections.

Senator HATCH. Do you see any dangers in the direct democracy approach? As you know the framers of the Constitution were con­cerned about that and they considered the merits of a direct democ­racy and rejected it in favor of a representative democracy as I think you’ve characterized it, or as a Federal republic.

One witness testified yesterday that the adoption of this amend­ment would open our system to radicalism and emotionalism.

That was Professor Bachrach. He said the adoption of this amend­ment would open our system to radicalism and emotionalism if I remember his words correctly and it would be harmful to our estab­lished practice of a moderate form of government whereby con­flicting interests are channeled through the deliberative process of a representative assembly. He felt if this resolution becomes law that it will really prevent radical liberal proposals from becoming reality, many of which we have seen become reality in the past. He cited with, particularity the problems of urban decay, et cetera, and civil righti and so on.

His big concern was that this will really work to turn around a lot of the “gangs” that have been made through representative democracy rather than direct democracy.

Mr. NADER. One of the functions of the initiative is public educa­tion and public debate and the involvement of many people who don’t aspire to be local or state or national leaders.

Senator HATCH. Keep in mind that his point was that the special interest groups will at that point take over and they will brainwash the people, or at least I felt that was his point. They would brainwash the people to the point where really several of the things that are most wrong with society, which might be resolved by what he termed as “radical liberalism” will not be able to be resolved.

Mr. NADER. I would say first of all that as far as the civil rights point is concerned, that is taken care of by the constitutional barriers to any such incursions on people’s civil rights by the initiative.

Senator HATCH. But take one illustration. Pardon me if I inter­rupt you again.

Let’s take busing. That is not taken care of and a lot of people feel that we should enforce busing to restore a balance or to create a balance. In certain areas. of the country there is no question that probably it would be defeated.

Mr. NADER. First of all, that depends on how strong a stand the Supreme Court takes on the busing issue which could override an initiative.

Second, it might not be a bad thing if people concentrated on corporations and property taxes and housing policy instead of bus­ing. They might get to the basic roots of the problem.

Senator HATCH. They might not do that. They might concentrate on balancing the budget and many of these other concepts that I think I characterized yesterday, that is not balancing the budget but some aspects that may be characterized as radical conservatism.

Mr. NADER. That is a risk that you take in a democracy. These are the debates that have been considered for over 200 years.

Senator HATCH. You’re willing to take those risks, and support this particular resolution; is that right?

Mr. NADER. Of course, but I recognize that information being the currency of democracy that there must be access to mass comn­munications or otherwise you will basically have a manipulative process run amuck. If people are not able to communicate to one another through the mass media in the process of advancing an initiative and if other people, who are not a part of the initiative, cannot hear the arguments of those who propose the initiatives, then I think, without much speculation, we can anticipate abuse of this instrument of direct democracy.

Senator HATCH. I have one more question.

Senator ABOUREZK. Go right ahead. I have a natural gas con­ference and this is a crisis day over there so IL have to go over. We’re on the verge of being sold out. [Laughter.]

Senator HATCH. 1. think that’s true.

Senator AB0urezk. So go right ahead.

Mr. NADER. Think of what it would be if we had a national initia­tive on natural gas regulation.

Senator HATCH. I’m worried about that. [Laughter.]

I can offer some other initiatives on the other side.

Senator ABOUREZK. I will excuse myself and turn this over to Senator Hatch to continue the hearings. I want to thank Mr. Nader and the other witnesses very much. I apologize for having to leave but this is happening right away and the initiative will be a longer process.

Let me ask one question before I go.

What do you think of the 3 percent, 10 State requirement? Have you given any thought to where it should be more or less?

Mr. NADER. I would probably recommend a little more in terms of States so that we do not get excessive regional concentration.

Senator ABOUREZK. If you send in a letter on the other point that Senator Hatch mentioned, would you give some thought to how much more and the basis you might have for it?

Senator HATCH [acting chairman]. I will ask unanimous consent that anything that you send us be incorporated in the record.

Mr. NADER. This resolution is not without its dangers to corporate crime, dangers to bureaucratic waste, and dangers to the nullification of the people’s rights by bureaucracies and other large economic institutions. I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is how can we make it fair so that those who want to work the democratic process can have a fair opportunity to prevail.

Senator HATCH. I agree with you that if we’re going to have it, it has to be made fair. I agree with you that it should be expanded to more than 10 States and possibly broadened from a percentage standpoint. Professor Abraham of Virginia testified yesterday and suggested up to 5 percent or something like that. There ought to be some reflective thought put into it.

I also submit, however, that there are many other things that I think the vast majority of Americans would vote on such as; bal­ancing the budget, which could be very harmful if you do it by 1980. And also impossible, or lopping off aspects of the bureaucracy, which may not be good because of the lack of reflection.

There are many other things like the development over environ­ment. There are many things that certain people think are just purely liberal issues that really need balance. I think, without total reflection, this could cause chaos in America.

I have great sympathy with this idea. I think that people across the country are going to be pretty reflective before they vote on any of these initiatives petitions and I think if we can get into this bill or into any implementing legislation the character of mass media access which you have suggested—and I think that’s a good point—then I think maybe it has some possibilities.


Let me ask one more question. Is not the cure for remoteness lou -government regulation by unelected bureaucracies and unelected judges? These two branches are not even touched by this resolution and yet they are making many, if not almost all, of the decisions in society today. This is what is really frustrating to most citizens in our country.

Mr. NADER. First of all, appropo of your earlier point, recall the Reagan sponsored initiative in California on the budget in taxatioL

Senator HATCH. We had one in Utah.

Mr. NADER. It lost.

Senator HATCH. Yes, because of the way it was written.

Mr. NADER. People are often astonished at how sensible people can be.

Senator HATCH. That has won also in other areas and we lost one in Utah which is reputed to be a conservative constituency.

Not “we” but whoever submitted it lost it. But I am submitting that there can be a number of problems here. This sword cuts both ways.

Mr. NADER. The process is also revocable. That is what’s good about it. In a few years if the consequence of the first initiative is untoward it can be repealed. It’s not like something cast in bronze.

What was your second point?

Senator HATCH. The basic question was this. Isn’t the remoteness in government c~used by the bureaucracy and the unelected bureauc­racy and the unelected judiciary? I have respect for the Federal judiciary so don’t infer from my comments that I want to bring special controls on the Federal judiciary that will bind it down and make it susceptible to politics. On the other hand we have to acknowl­edge the fact that there is an awful lot of legislation being created by judicial fiat today and certainly almost all, I think, is being created by the bureaucracy. So those are areas where remoteness is a reality.

Mr. NADER. The initiative process will affect those areas because it will affect the laws under which government agencies operate and the laws that are used to interpret conflicts before the judiciary.

Second, I think one of the consequences would be considerable reduction in certain kinds of government activity. For instance, a lot of what this town is all about is the dissemination of subsidies or indirect subsidies to commercial and industrial operations. So, that is a lot of activity.

Senator HATCH. I think it’s creating retirement programs for lawyers. I think that we have made the legal profession the most important profession in the world in this country. It’s a multibillion dollar profession and we’ve done it unnecessarily.

Mr. NADER. That is what might be expected of a Congress that is 50 percent lawyers.

Senator HATCH. That may be. I think it has resulted from advocates like yourself who are pushing programs that make everything litigious.

Mr. NADER. No. I think it largely comes from the impact of com­plexity arising out of special interest group pleading like the tax code.

We are trying to simplify the tax code and in fact we could reduce the tax code to one-tenth of the bulk that it is now and who would be the main opponents of that?

Senator HATCH. I would suggest to the contrary. The people responsible are those who have been advocating widespread and wholesale class action usage and those who have been advocating many of the litigation-type approaches here in Washington which have resulted in billions of dollars of cost to consumers without a heck of a lot of benefit.

Mr. NADER. Of course, as you know I thoroughly disagree with you.

Senator HATCH. I know that.

Mr. NADER. But I would like to point out that the class action is an efficiency instrument. It’s a wholesale instrument.

Senator HATCH. Only if it’s fair.

Mr. NADER. Certainly.

Senator HATCH. It’s not fair.

Mr. NADER. But in terms of the burden on the judiciary it is an infinitesimal fraction compared to the commercial litigation between companies and

Senator HATCH. I’m not talking about a burden on the judiciary. It is truly that. There is no question about that. A lot of litigation created here in Washington is a burden on the judiciary.

But it is far more than that. It’s a burden on the taxpayer and the consuming public and so forth.

Mr. NADER. I think the record will show that consumer legislation has saved the consumers enormous amounts of money not to mention the pain and anguish of human casualties.

Senator HATCH. I do not think it will show that. I think it will show billions of unnecessary dollars, even though there needs to be considerable legislation. I don’t mean to say that I disagree totally with you but maybe that’s a little off this subject.

Let me ask you this. I have enjoyed your testimony this morning. I think it has been articulate and I think it has been very fine testi­mony. I think it has been well-reasoned. I haven’t made up my mind on this particular joint resolution because I see some awful prob­lems both ways. I see some nice solutions both ways, but I have a tendency to want to go very slow in doing away with that which our Founding Fathers set up even though I do not consider that sacrosanct. I still believe that we ought to be very slow in making these types of wholesale changes.

But I think your testimony has been excellent. As usual I have enjoyed it very much. I enjoy you very very much.

Do you have anything else to say?

Mr. NADER. One more point. I think we can learn from the ex­perience at the State level as will be expressed by the People’s Lobby in California who will be testifying today and the Initiative Amer­ica People who have gone to many States and I think have the pulse of what many people in this country feel on this issue. So, it’s not entirely speculative. We do have a good history of initiative and referendum.

Senator HATCH. I agree on the State level but I think it may be a far cry in application when it becomes federally applicable. That may be where we run into difficulty because it’s almost impossible to foresee what kind of ramifications it will have.

Mr. NADER. There are differences, of course, but it’s important, when you deal with a State as large as California, to see what we can learn from that experience.

Senator HATCH. I certainly agree with you there.

We appreciate your testimony and the effort that you put forth to be with us today.

Mr. NADER. Thank you.

Senator HATCH. Our next witness is Mr. Don Whiting, the election supervisor of the State of Washington, Olympia, Wash. We’re happy to welcome you to the subcommittee, Mr. Whiting. We are most in­terested in your testimony.


From Washington Star, November 6, 1976


 (By Ralph Nader)

In any analysis of the recent election returns, the burgeoning Importance of Issues being decided by direct popular vote—the other elections, they might be called—deserves more than passing notice. For these referenda on con­sumer, tax, environmental, spending, energy and government disclosure sub­jects reflect the growing maturity of the citizen action movement.

Bypassing political parties and reliance on the promise of politicians, the citizen action movement Involves the patient gathering of thousands of voter signatures on petitions to place these questions on the ballot. It is a form of direct democracy.

Most of these citizen groups are shoestring operations whose lack of funds Is made up for by determination and imagination. It is no easy task to obtain as many as 500,000 signatures of voters on petitions as the People’s Lobby (3456 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 9009) has done In California to political reform measures.

Many people have to believe in the necessity for utility rate reform and a permanent consumer organization for residential utility consumers to do what Bob Koitz and his hardy associates did in Ohio for their ballot proposals. Outspent a hundredfold by the utility and other giant corporations, the Ohioans for Utility Reform (P.O. Box 10006, Columbus, 0. 43201) put a valiant fight in what they promise to be only the first round of an enduring struggle for consumer justice.

In Massachusetts, a grass roots civic group called Mass. Fair Share (864 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116) displayed impressive organizing and publiciz­ing skill in advancing to the ballot the reasonable notion that the venerable utility gouge which made the small user of electricity pay much more per kilowatt hour than the larger industrial electricity user needed an overhaul. The entire might of the state’s Industry, commerce and many high state gov­ernment officials was thrown against Fair Share. Why, you might ask, would government officials oppose such a presumably popular issue! More out of  worry that direct democratic action would begin to challenge their powers of decision-making and, too often, the cushy relationship legislators have built up with friendly corporate lobbyists.

Direct referenda are used throughout the country for a variety of conserv­ative and liberal causes. But this instrument of direct voter expression is by no means uniform throughout the states. It is much stronger in the western states than in the south and east.

Earlier this month, over 300 issues were subject to direct vote at the state election level. The number will increase as more people perfect the petition process and more community, consumer and other civic groups deepen their roots and expand their resources.

The defeat of many consumer and environment referenda is usually caused by an overwhelming television campaign which grossly distorts the question on the ballot and raises the false specter of massive unemployment. The atomic power industry and its allies used this scare technique together with millions of dollars to reach the public in several states this month.

Consumers interested n obtaining information from the California, Ohio and Massachusetts groups can send a self-addressed stamped envelop to the above-mentioned addresses.



Western Bloc

Raising the nation’s public policy IQ…Adding the National Initiative to Democracy’s Toolbox.
Western Bloc Safe Power Campaign   

From draft book on the Koupal’s People’s Lobby by Dwayne Hunn.

Most of us held Nader in revered status, but Ed, before he met Nader, had often knocked him at Board meetings saying, “He just wastes a lot of energy putting words in the papers.  If he wants to make real changes in this nation. he ought to get on the national initiative band wagon…”

In November of 1974 Nader was about to host anti-nuclear activists from across the country for his Critical Mass Energy conference in Washington D.C.

After the Lobby-driven 70% ballot victory with the Political Reform Act in 1974, and because the Lobby had been one of the pioneers in the anti-nuclear movement with the Lobby’s 1972 Clean Environment Initiative, Ed and Joyce were invited to the conference. A rumor that drifted among Lobby mules at that time was that Nader’s staff wanted to shield Ralph from the “crazy” Ed Koupal. Shielding doesn’t work too well when you put Ed in front of audience where he initiates the tune and brings the crowd cheering his way.

They (Ed and Joyce) brought with then, besides their usual threadbare clothes, news of a California initiative petition for a statewide law that would stop nuclear power cold — possibly even result in its eventual complete shutdown in the nation’s most populous state. California environmentalists, with the official backing of the increasingly anti-nuclear Sierra Club, had launched their petition drive that same month. The goal of the effort was to put the proposal on the June 1976 statewide primary ballot.[1] For the Koupals, however, the goal was to turn a statewide initiative into a multi-state initiative, thereby  demonstrating the possibility of an entire section of the country voting on the same proposition —— a prototype national initiative.

Over a thousand citizens from at least 40 states attended the conference including more than one nuclear industry spy. When Ed recognized one industrial spy as having been his opponent in numerous debates over the 1972 Environment Initiative, he greeted the man, Hal Stroube, with typical bravado. Koupal told him he looked like a basket case who should be in a hospital, and perhaps he got that way from hanging around too many nuclear plants. According to Joyce, Stroube beat a hasty retreat and was not seen again at the conference.[2]

Ed’s talk and conference workshops on how to do the Lobby’s table method of collecting signatures went over so well that activists from Washington, Oregon, Colorado and several other states asked for help in organizing anti-nuke initiative campaigns.  Nader agreed to help finance the organizing trips through some of those states.

Over the next months Ed would take some all day and all night drives through those states and convince Lobby mules Telschow, Forester and Masche to serve as state campaign organizers.  The Lobby could only pay Telschow and Forester $99 per month and Masche, with a wife and two children $300. per month.  By the time the three returned for a 1975 Lobby Board meeting, they learned that they were to be:

spearheading a national movement known as the Western Bloc. The original goal of anti-nuclear initiatives in three states had been expanded to include fourteen western states, which would, in theory, create a solid “Bloc” of opposition to nuclear power covering nearly half the land area of the continental United States. The nation’s first national initiative drive had begun.[3]

By 1975 the nation’s best known car safety and consumer advocate started appearing at the Lobby’s door to hang out with one of California’s better used car salesmen and music makers. Nader made several visits to the Lobby and got to know Ed and Joyce, learning “what made the Lobby tick.”  He often questioned them on their special relationship and seemed intrigued as to how they made their intense political reforming work within a family and husband and wife context.

Nader was becoming enthused with the national initiative idea and saw it as a tool to address environmental and big money issues in politics. As Sonia put it, “Ralph wanted Ed to succeed with the national initiative idea because he saw it as a means to take care of environmental and big money issues…. Ed came out of a meeting with Nader and ”was jacked saying, ‘we’re going to Critical Mass and we’re going to talk about the national initiative.’”

Critical Mass 1975 was another huge conference drawing activists from all corners of the country. During the Conference a candlelight march went to the Capitol steps in honor of Karen Silkwood, a nuclear plant worker who mysteriously died in November of 1974 in a car accident shortly before she was to meet with reporters over nuclear plant safety issues.[4] Ed’s mantra, “If you want to change the country, you’ve got to be able to make and thereby change the  laws it runs on…”  now made sense to a crowd hungry to control the spread of what they considered to be dangerous nuclear power plants.

While the Lobby was gearing up for nuclear fission games, the murky and muddied political enemies it had made in Sacramento were not about to let it concentrate without dishing out some headaches.  The Lobby’s clean and hard hitting reputation caused more and more people to treat it as the peoples’ ombudsman where they could send information that caused more and more headaches for many less than enlightened lobbyists and politicians.[5]  The muddied politicians wanted to get even.  Since they had trouble sullying the Lobby name, they did what they thought was the next best thing.  They tried taking Peoples Lobby’s name.

What was angering the politicians?  Not only was People’s Lobby continuing to attack politicians who veered off course, but it was also attacking the recently installed officers of the Fair Political Practices Committee, the committee People’s Lobby had established to enforce the laws established by the Political Reform Act of 1974.  Now, not only the vested interests but the politicians and bureaucrats involved with enforcing the Political Reform Act and its laws were upset with People’s Lobby.

What was People’s Lobby charged with?  Not paying taxes.  The non-profit People’s Lobby’s corporate status was not suspended for not paying taxes.  The corporate status was suspended for not filing mundane governmental forms that thousands of corporations forget to file each year.

What were some of the government’s abuses of power against People’s Lobby?  The Franchise Tax Board wrote an unprecedented, seemingly personally crafted letter meant to cripple People’s Lobby.  This unprecedented letter was unprecedentedly hand delivered to the Agricultural and Services Secretary Rose Bird, Controller Ken Cory and Governor Jerry Brown.  No letter or delivery process remotely resembling this was ever done to the over 25,000 corporations who face suspension each year for failing to file their corporate papers on time.[6]

Peoples Lobby, like thousands of other corporations, forgot to file the fee. Consequently a bar, then named the Brass Rail[7],  that lobbyists and politicians would frequent by walking for three minutes out the Capitol’s side door and into the Sacramento Mall, paid the filing fee and took  the Lobby’s name.  In return, the Lobby paid the filling fee on a dozen corporations, including the then famous Helena Rubenstein Corporation.

The result of this attempt to intimidate People’s Lobby?  In a short period of time, the state backed off as the Helena Rubenstein  Corporation, or Credit Bureau of Sacramento County and at least ten others were ready to give up their functioning names to the Lobby.

Those cosmetic shenanigans meant little to Ed as he stepped onto the Critical Mass stage to inspire the crowd to fight the Western Bloc campaign, and begin what he saw as a scrimmage prior to a National Initiative Campaign.

Footnotes at page end.

Statement By Edwin A. Koupal, Jr.

at Critical Mass 75

November 17, 1975

I would like to take some time this morning to explain to all of you and to the Members of Congress here today what we as citizens have learned about the power of politics and the politics of power in the past year since CRITICAL MASS 74.

Behind you is a map of the United States. The sections of the map in red represent the Western Bloc states—states that have the initiative process and are involved right now in signature gathering or writing initiatives. This amounts to over two-thirds of the land mass of America. That’s political power!

The Western Bloc initiative petitions are precincted petitions of registered voters, people who voted at least in the most recent election in each state, people who put you members of Congress in office; people who hire you to represent them in Washington, D.C. Ours are signatures of over 1 and 1/2 million people all across America. That’s a provocative statement! And our signatures are committing various states across America to the ballot box on this all important issue of nuclear power.

The reason that we’re doing this is quite obvious. First, our political establishment in America obviously broke down on this issue, and, as many times has happened in America, the people are ahead of their elected officials.

We’ve seen the danger of atomic power. We tried to tell our elected officials before we got involved in this situation about the danger, and we did it in spite of the normal political frustrations that. so many times abound. We picketed and we boycotted and we leafletted and we appeared before committees and commissions and testified and did all of the political exercises and went through all of the frustrations that are demanded of people here in America. But the ultimate question, the one that really counts, is “do we really get what we want in the statute books?” Because in America, we are a land of law, and we deal best from the statute books. That is what really controls our society: the law.

But thankfully, in twenty-two states in America, we have a process of self government. WE the people believe that self-government far exceeds good government. Self-government is a process through which we can work around your honorable body of representative government, and bodies like yours all across America in various state capitals, when you are not responsive to the people’s needs. That is, we can write our own laws, we can go out and gather signatures, and we can go out directly to the electorate, which eventually leads us directly to the statute books with a peoples’ law. We can guide America the way we want it, without our hired hands getting involved.

.Now, to give you Members of Congress an idea of what you’re confronted with here in Washington: you have a national campaign coming up. Wouldn’t it be nice if we gave America some nice leadership on her 200 year birthday?  But wouldn’t it be even better if we gave America a 200 year gift of safe power and a better social existence?

In California, more than a million signatures have been gathered on the nuclear issue. California has qualified a safe power ballot proposition. It will be voted on during the primaries and that’s going to give some national politicians some fits because they’ve got to speak to California. There’s a geographic reality about California:  we’re bigger in area than the nation of Japan. One out of every ten persons in the United States is a Californian. We’re eleventh in gross national product for the whole planet and sixth. in budget. When the national politicians come out there and want the Californian’s vote, we’re going to want to know how they feel about the most important issue on our ballot in June, and that deals with safe power.

Oregon has qualified a safe power ballot proposition. Of course, Oregon has always led the nation in areas of safe environment and better living for people on earth.

Washington state will start gathering their signatures in January because of a kink in the law. It’s nice that the political spectrum in America has given us the right of self—government, but there are always certain little kinks to try to keep it away from us. It’s one of those things where we’ve really got it, but we really don’t have it, unless we work really, really hard in order to do it. Washington state is one of those situations.

Some of the states that are now gathering signatures on safe power initiatives include:

•   Montana. It’s over half qualified and they have until July to gather another 15,000 signatures. I think that if they ‘really got it cranked up, they could do that on a weekend and still go to church on Sunday morning.

•   North and South Dakota will be gathering their signatures in a few weeks.

•   Colorado needs 65,000 signatures. It was reported this morning that they have 35,000. Hooray for Colorado!

•   Not to forget Oklahoma. Oklahoma will be starting the latter part of December. That’s the home of Karen Silkwood, with ole’ Kerr-McGee sitting right in the middle of it. They’ve got all kinds of reasons to move on it. We’re going to get them now in Oklahoma, aren’t we!

•   Missouri’s writing its document now, along with Arkansas and Michigan.

•   Maine is gathering signatures. It will qualify – – no doubt about that. It’s a beautiful state and we’ll get it on there.

•   Iowa and Kansas. They have self- government there, but it’s not the initiative process; they only have the right of recall. I’d prefer to call it vote of confidence, or – – if you will – –  way to fire your elected employees when we, as employers, find that they are not responsible or responsive to our needs and requirements. So in Iowa and Kansas, there is a great move to find the elected officials who are not too responsive to the people’s needs in this all-important area.

Let me give you a little background on these signature gathering campaigns and the Western Bloc. This whole thing started about a year ago, after the last Critical Mass conference, Ralph Nader and myself sat down and said, “now what can we do?” We realized that at that point we really had to get to the statute books in order to really make the changes. Why don’t we try a couple of states – – Washington, Oregon and Colorado, for example – – and see what we can do?

As we got into these states – – to give you an idea of  the overwhelming necessity for you to begin to realize what’s really going on out there – – people from other states with the initiative process begged to have our organizers come in and train them to gather signatures and qualify initiatives; show them how to become a part of this massive Western Bloc movement.

We will soon have somewhere between 1 3/4 and 2 million signatures of qualified voters. That’s political power. That’s what hires you people. That’s what makes you tick. No more picketing and boycotting, no more fooling around with leaflets, no more testifying before committees. You see, that’s over now, because we’re going through the very process that built America and made America strong, and that’s the ballot box.

One more thing in closing. I want to point out that the Western Bloc – – as an organizer and a worker – – setting these states into motion, is spending less than $17,000 to do this. That shows that the people want it. You see, when people are on the move, money is insignificant. When you have to buy a candidate or sell a Ford – – or sell a Johnson or sell a Nixon – – it takes millions of dollars. But when you have an issue, it takes people. People will win!

Initiative campaigns that are people based have a wonderful synergy.  Grassroots campaigns rejuvenate the political bloodstream of America.  They force debate, discussion, thought and creativity.  In the end they educate vast numbers of American much beyond what their too often tight lipped and tightly vested representatives want them to learn.

When all the polls closed of what totaled 18 safe power,  anti-nuclear initiatives, none passed.  But suddenly American knew so much about this proclaimed  “source of power that would be too cheap to meter…blah, blah..” that few people wanted it in their backyards.  Suddenly big utilities who spent millions and millions to stop the initiatives from passing, stopped applying for nuclear construction permits.

The Lobby’s National Initiative scrimmage woke up the nation on nuclear power’s dangers.

[1]  This became Proposition 15, the Nuclear Power Plants Initiative which qualified for the ballot but was  rejected at the polls in 1976

[2]   From a David Schmidt letter to Joyce Koupal seeking editing comments prior to publication of his book, Citizen Lawmakers.  (Might be around page 33 of that letter.)

[3] Ibid. Schmidt letter to Joyce Koupal..

[4] The 19__? (get date) movie ‘Silkwood’ was made based on her life.

[5] Some examples of information coming to Lobby.  Source ‘Sonia remebers’ on People’s Lobby website. “Roberti and (Ed) he used to have long discussions about politics in general and how long a person could be effective.  It’s kind of interesting because every time I think of David Roberti I think of how long he’s lasted in the political system.  And one of Ed’s and Roberti’s favorite conversations was that you couldn’t last long because you get co-opted. You know, how long can an organiza­tion last.  Ed used to have this great line about the lung asso­ciation, ‘You know for years and years it was called the tubercu­losis association.  But they found a way to cure tuberculosis, but the organization had to live on so they called it the lung asso­ciation because no one will ever cure lung.’

“He was always very supportive of David Roberti and David always gave him inside information.  I know they talked on the phone.  He would call the office.  It was really quite a really terrific bunch of people that would call the office.  I remember Gann (Paul) used to come through and Ed would give him a bad time. And the Gray Panthers would come through and they’d always flock toward Ed and he’d always give him his two cent… They’d have a little bullshit session…

[6] People’s Lobby Newsletter of September-October 1975

[7]  Ibid. Schmidt letter to Joyce Koupal..

Critical Mass Conference

Critical Mass and the National Initiative.

Nearly 2,000 activists from across the country descended on Washington D.C. in November 1974. Most came at their own ex­pense. Some came as representatives of powerful utilities and had. to pay $100. to attend  Ralph Nader’s dream child, The Critical Mass Conference, seemed to be a success.

What was the purpose of the conference? To Nader it was to a

  1. Focus media attention on the swelling mass movement

against nuclear power.

  1. Expand the education process on nuclear power’s


  1. Exchange ideas on alternative sources of power —

solar, wind, etc.

For two of Nader’s friends and fellow political crusaders of increasing stature, however, the conference became a forum for more.

Ed Koupal, Executive Director of People’s Lobby, and his wife Joyce, formerly of People’s Lobby and now director of Stamp Out Smog, were invited by Nader to speak to the confer­ence on the initiative process. People’s Lobby, having been the prime mover behind California’s successful Proposition 9, the Political Reform Initiative that still has organized labor, big business, politicians and lobbyists in a twitter, can claim more experience with the initiative process than any group in the nation.

Little did the Koupals realize that their experience was to make a national impact at the conference and, finally, with Ralph Nader.

That impact began during Nader’s thirty minute keynote speech in which 2 of the 3 people he paid tribute to were named Koupal. The Koupals were instant celebrities. Their workshops on the initiative process were jammed. And their initiative ideas seemed to offer the first positive tools to activists loaded with facts and dangers but few successes.

An example: A noted academic, speaking to his workshop on the dangers of radiation, continued raising his voice and thus interfering with Koupal’s neighboring workshop session. Koupal, with lungs like a bull, was not to be outdone. Finally, the academic appeared and asked Koupal to keep his voice down, “It interferes with my important teaching session,” said the professor.

“Important,” retorted Koupal. “All you are doing is talking about the dangers of atomic power plants. Stuff we all know. We’re learning how to get a 100,000 signatures and stop those plants from being built. That makes these people 100,000 times as important as you.”

A cheer went up from Koupal’s class. Then everyone in the professor’s class came to hear Koupal.

The importance of the initiative process is just dawning on some of those people. It has finally fully dawned on Ralph Nader, and he is ready to put it on many more people.

Those who have worked with Nader know he is barraged daily with exciting ideas, and that he attests belief in many of them. He does not, however, help carry many of those ideas, since he already has so many that are pressing and necessary.

The People’s Lobby goal of a national campaign for a con­stitutional amendment to institute the national initiative, to coincide with the 76 presidential elections and a nuclear moratorium, has hit Nader’s elusive ‘push button.’ Nader has tabulated the costs and benefits and decided to add the national initiative to his list of crusades.

After their times together on the Mike Douglas Show, in Washington D.C., and in California, the Koupals have finally elicited a pledge of financial aid from Nader to help make the 27th .Amendment — A National Initiative and Recall  —  a reality. Nader has made sure, however, that the Koupals raise their share. He has informed his booking agent to get the Koupals honorariums and out on the campaign trail.

Harper’s Weekly Staff

Submission 12-8-74 From Dwayne Hunn