Tag Archives: Ralph Nader

Brief PLI history

(Slowly rebuilding web site.  Thanks for patience)

Political novices Ed and Joyce Koupal incorporated People’s Lobby Inc. as a 501 (c) (4) and then used its unique grassroots initiative process to help reform the political system.

On its second attempt a loose knit band of volunteers led by Ed and Joyce qualified the Clean Environment Initiative of 1972, and then led Gubernatorial Candidate Jerry Brown and Common Cause to enacting the Political Reform Act of 1974. In the process, People’s Lobby became a training center for those interested in using the initiative for political reform. Ralph Nader sought out People’s Lobby to lead the Western Bloc, a coalition of 18 states who launched initiatives from 1975 onwards to slow the development of nuclear power plants.  The nuclear industry spent millions to thwart the Western Bloc Safe Power initiative campaigns, but as the campaign educated America  the growth of nuclear reactors was stunted. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, some claim that Howard Jarvis, California’s tireless property tax reformer, learned from People’s Lobby how to finally pass the 1978 Jarvis Gann Proposition 13 Property Tax Reduction Initiative.

In 1977 former People’s Lobby members, John Forester and Roger Telschow convened Senate Judiciary Hearings on establishing a National Initiative Process.  Alaska’s US Senator Mike Gravel (1969-1981) was a member of those hearings.  His continued desire to see the National Initiative Process become part of America’s political rights ushered in a merging of People’s Lobby’s rich campaign history and present day educational goals with those of the Philadelphia II and Direct Democracy, non-profits he had founded.  In 2002 Senator Gravel joined the People’s Lobby Board as its President and Ed and Joyce Koupal’s goal of a National Initiative returned as a primary mission of the organization. 

For some history on People’s Lobby from a draft book and other sources, click::

Clean Environment Initiative Smog Campaign of 1972

Clean Environment Initiative Lessons

Political Reform Act of 1974

Western Bloc Safe Power campaigns of the 1970’s

In 1977 Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on Senate Joint Resolution 67 (SJR 67) on the People’ Lobby initiated National Initiative Process, Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment

Senate Judiciary Hearings  SJR67 Voter Initiative Constitutional Amendment 1977

Opening statements Senators Birch Bayh and  Abourezk

S. J. Resolution 67

Testimony of Joyce Koupal on SJR 67 

Testimony of Roger Diamond, PL Attorney on  SJR67 

Robert Redford support letter

Pat Buchanan support letter

In 1995 former Senator Mike Gravel placed an initiative on the Washington state ballot asking their Washington state citizens if they would vote to support a national initiative process.  With Washington’s Attorney General denying their citizens the right to vote on this issues, Gravel filed a certiorari petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senator Gravel lights up Supreme Courts

For more information on Senator Gravel, Philadelphia II and his move to further the revival of the national initiative movement started by People’s Lobby, click to www.ni4d.org.

Through the 90’s the PLI Board began slowly easing back into the political scene by undertaking educational projects such as producing videos, writing columns, reporting on initiative movements, and attending conferences.

In 2002 PLI funded the three day Ed and Joyce Koupal Memorial Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia where the National Initiative for Democracy Act was vetted by 10 established scholars.  For that conference an edited version of Dwayne Hunn’s book on the Koupals and People’s Lobby was produced, Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary.

Following the conference, People’s Lobby endorsed funding the national initiative campaign with a series of additional loans.  Those loans funded the Direct Democracy and Philadelphia II organizations, directed by former Senator Gravel, for use on the NI4D campaign.  PLI’s ($450,000 + interest) funded such undertakings as: an NI4 D dinner in Philadelphia, three month Maine NI4D campaign, NI4D’s on-line voting and donations programs, staffing, administrative, and legal costs into 2003.  In 2003 former Senator Gravel resigned from the PLI’s Board, as did his appointed Treasurer and his other board member friend who served during Gravel’s tenure as President of PLI’s Board.  

During the 2002 Maine National Initiative for Democracy Campaign and afterwards some former PLI workers expressed disagreement on Gravel’s NI4D campaign strategy and management.  

As of 2009 former Senator Gravel and his organizations have made no effort, despite repeated requests from PLI,  to pay on their Promissory Notes.  


“Ordinay People…” Why on Nader’s Top Ten

Ordinary People Doing the Extraordinary, The Story of Edwin and Joyce Koupal, Founders of People’s Lobby.  By Dwayne Hunn and Doris Ober.      Ralph Nader’s take on the book was…

The Year’s (2009) Ten Best Books

Read, Then Act


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 $13.00, shipping included in that price. Check to People’s Lobby, c/o Marlene Hunn 1817 California St., Unit 201, San Francisco , CA 94109, 415-673-0369.

You may call 415-673-0369 to order the book.

Print and mail this form or insert your own order form and where the book(s) should be sent with $13. per book.

Beyond a purchase, why not consider setting up a…

  • Talk about the book.
  • Tell fun stories about working with Ed and Joyce Koupal and how their People’s Lobby (PLI) revived the grassroots initiative process, including how they pulled Nader through PLI’s doors.
  • Discuss reforms being called for on the initiative process.
  • Explain how People’s Lobby’s (PLI) launched the drive to establish a national initiative process and held three days of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on Senate Joint Resolution 67 to do so.
  • Dissect the failed National Initiative for Democracy Campaign of 2002.
  • Reveal how 2008 presidential candidate and former U. S. Senator Mike Gravel milked PLI of over $450,000 dollars (not including the promissory note interest signed off on and written by Gravel).
  • Show some Power Point slides that touch on the above
  • Answer your questions about PLI’s present day activities.
  • Maybe opine on why Nader admired the Koupals so much.

Why might this book be of interest to you or your friends?  Because:

  • People’s Lobby was the grassroots initiative factory that used NON-PAID volunteers to qualify two Clean Environment Initiatives.
  • Prepared California and its Assembly to usher in an era of environmentalism by failing to pass two Clean Environment Initiatives into law.
  • Established California’s Fair Political Practices Commission by passing California’s Political Reform Act with 70% of the vote.
  • Beat BIG CORPORATE AND PR money in doing so.
  • Directed the 18 state Western Bloc Nuclear Moratorium Campaign, which in many ways demonstrated a national initiative process and educated the nation on the dangers of nuclear power.
  • Held three days of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on implementing a National Initiative Process (leading to Senate Joint Res. 67 of 1977).
  • Funded and field-directed the Maine 2002 National Initiative for Democracy Campaign kickoff.
  • Sponsors today’s American World Service Corps (AWSC) Congressional Proposals and Fair Tax Bracket Reinstitution Act Proposal (FTBRA).

So, consider bringing together some  people to gain insights into what Ralph Nader calls,

“This small but invigorating paperback….”

“A story for the ages that strips away excuses steeped in a sense of powerlessness. “

Learn how the Koupals’ People’s Lobby:

Used to lecture (and tick-off) not only Nader but also Jerry Brown and other political luminaries (Reagan, Roberti, Lowenstein…) and institutional powers such as PG&E, Southern California Edison, nuclear, oil, auto…who instituted special training programs on how to handle Edwin Koupal.

And is working today to implement its citizen-initiated:

American World Service Corps (AWSC) Congressional Proposals and Fair Tax Bracket Reinstitution Act Proposal (FTBRA) to revitalize America’s character, economy, and standing in the world.


Response to Denver Post

Response to Denver Post March 26, 2000 column by Bill McAllister

Broder:  Initiative process bypasses Constitution

From Dwayne Hunn  4-28-00

Sent letter/guest opinion response:

California, like Colorado, has seen much of its significant legislation crafted through the direct democracy hands of “The people.”  In Bill McAllister’s March 26 column “Broder:  Initiative process bypasses Constitution,” McAllister points out that author and columnist David Broder “trashes the initiative process as practiced in Colorado and especially California.”  Broder refers to the initiative as “a radical departure from the Constitution’s system of checks and balances” and laments that it has become a playground of special interests.

I expect Broder has not been a ‘man of the streets, a working-Joe Sixpack’ for a long time.  If he were, he might learn that for the involved-Joe the initiative is one of the nation’s most important checks and balances.  For Broder, whose profession introduces him to corporate execs and politicians, the initiative process form of law making may seem too rambunctious compared to those laws formed in committee rooms along lobbyist trodden marbled hallways.  Broder recognizes and fears “special interest money” in initiative campaigns, does he recognize and fear it along marbled halls?

In 1974 Californians, thanks to the leadership of Peoples Lobby, passed what was among the toughest campaign reform law in the nation and established the Fair Political Practices Commission.   Politicians wouldn’t reform so a band of volunteers, joined by Common Cause and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, did it to them.  In 1978, after 16 years of low-budget trying, Howard Jarvis, who like hundreds of other groups over the years attended People’s Lobby’s initiative training sessions, convinced Californians to pass Proposition 13, which he described as the second American Tax Revolt.

Yes, Broder is right.  Today it is harder to find volunteer driven initiative campaigns.  Now professional initiative factories charge $1.00 + per signature and retain PR firms producing “slick television campaigns” that Broder fears.  Haven’t candidates, political action committees and corporations “slick campaigning”  us for decades?   Where in America’s political world does money not play a big and bigger role every year?   If money were a reason to cut down the initiative process then we should have buzz sawed most of our groveling-for-campaign-contribution representatives long ago.

The initiative process has often been the involved voters’ last check and balance to peacefully accomplish “significant” changes in the political process.  Even responses like this may not be printed in our check and balancing large papers because — why?  Maybe because they are owned by corporate, increasingly linked special interests who prefer the tidy view of Broder’s concept of representative government unhindered by direct democracy pressures from the people.

In the 70’s a few involved citizens warned  our leaders against building a reliance on nuclear power.  Moneyed interests trotted out experts to lecture the people on how little they knew and how it was best to leave these decisions to well educated representatives in Washington.  In 1976 Ralph Nader urged People’s Lobby to spearhead the 16 state Western Bloc Nuclear Moratorium initiative campaigns.  Those volunteer, activists-lead campaigns lost to much better financed special interest campaigns but, in defeat, Americans learned more than their representative form of government had told them about nuclear power.  From 1978 no new nuclear construction license permits were issued through October 1999.   Would such have happened as quickly without the initiative process?  Would the controlling railroad interests in California’s legislature have been driven out without Governor Hiram Johnson giving Californians the tools of Direct Democracy in 1911?  NO!

Broder pans Philadelphia II’s national initiative proposal as “ a system that promises laws without government.”  Yet it does not replace representative government.   The proposed national initiative process relies on debate, discussion, time and the votes of the people.   It is not “instant gratification,” as Broder portrays.

Our Constitutional powers emanated from the people.  So why shouldn’t Broder support giving the people another tool of democracy?  Americans have always been good at using tools to tinker and improve life.  So why not look at Philadelphia II’s Direct Democracy proposal as another tool that we can fashion to make the nation better?  http://peopleslobby.tripod.com/dirdeminit.htm

 “Final responsibility rests with the people.    Therefore never is final authority delegated. “

People’s Lobby’s motto has applied to Americans since our Constitution and applies here.

Dwayne Hunn, Phd., worked as a volunteer for People’s Lobby and is presently a board member.  Philadelphia II’s Direct Democracy Initiative can be reached at www.peopleslobby.us
From: Dwayne Hunn

To: Letters to Editor, letters@denverpost.com and bmcallister@denverpost.com


Response to Broder’s “Snake…”

Response to David Broder’s:   Dangerous Initiatives: A Snake in the Grass Roots,  April 27,  2000

David Broder’s “Dangerous Initiatives: A Snake in the Grassroots” implies his disdain for state initiatives and the budding national initiative process movement, dubbed Philadelphia II. Broder has concluded that if a national initiative process were established 1) money, 2) whimsical political urges and the 3) complexity of law making would subject Americans to “a system without government.”

  1. Money. Over the last century we accepted the definition of corporations as people and political expenditures as free speech (Buckley v Valeo 1976). Consequently, money will continue buying power and planting perceptions in every venue of life.  Hopefully, the nation will build on the majority opinion expressed below from the Nixon v. Shrink Missouri PAC (Supreme Court 1/24/2000) and soon take a few more steps toward controlling today’s excessive campaign expenditures:

“To the extent that large contributions are given to secure a political quid pro quo from current and potential office holders, the integrity of our system of representative democracy is undermined….

“Of almost equal concern as the danger of actual quid pro quo arrangements is the impact of the appearance of corruption stemming from public awareness of the opportunities for abuse inherent in a regime of large individual financial contributions…

“Congress could legitimately conclude that the avoidance of the appearance of improper influence ‘is also critical … if confidence in the system of representative Government is not to be eroded to a disastrous extent.’ ”

Such Court decisions will help Philadelphia II’s proposed National Direct Democracy Initiative process restore some integrity to campaigning, since its Section M proposes:

“It is the intent of this law that only persons are entitled to contribute funds or property in support of, or in opposition to, an initiative.  Contributions from corporations, industry groups, labor unions, political action committees (PACs), and associations are specifically prohibited.” (http://peopleslobby.tripod.com/dirdeminit.htm)

Laws, however, are not a cure-all.  Money will always find a means to influence laws, parties, representatives, perceptions — and initiatives.  Where does money not influence our lives?  The initiative process, however, is designed for “We the people..,” which means it offers itself for the moneyed as well as for the blue-jeaned activists.

In 1972 California People’s Lobby with $9,000 and about 50 dedicated volunteers qualified the Clean Environment Initiative, which then served as a precursor to the nuclear moratorium movement.  In 1974 it led the triumvirate of Common Cause and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown to gain a 70% vote for the Political Reform Act, which enacted the nation’s toughest campaign reform laws and established California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.  In 1976, urged on by Ralph Nader, it spearheaded the 16 states Western Bloc Nuclear Moratorium campaign.  The Western Bloc campaign is the closest this nation has come to a national initiative campaign.   Although over the next half dozen years all the initiatives lost to much better-financed corporate campaigns, Americans learned about nuclear power so that after 1978 no new nuclear construction license permits were issued through October 1999.  In 1977 Peoples Lobby assembled the 1977 Senate Judiciary Hearings on its proposed National Initiative process.  Those substantial political impacts were achieved using initiative tools under the leadership of an ex-used car dealer and his wife and volunteers who ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and boiled potatoes.

If real or perceived influence-buying money were a reason to do away with the initiative process, then we should have axed an astronomical percentage of our lawmakers long ago.  The way one controls money, connections, power – all those sometimes-corrupting influences – is the same way democracy grows in emerging nations.  You grow it by giving people empowering tools.  You give the people more and better teachers, schools, journalists, newspapers, and electoral opportunities and responsibilities.   The result is not just more jobs, health and wealth but a smarter populace whose constantly improving critical and analytical thinking skills insures the nation’s continued economic growth and good health.

  1. Whimsical American voters? In the 24 states that have the initiative process thousands of initiatives failed to get enough voters’ signatures to even make it to the ballot. From 1898-1998 those states saw 1,902 make it onto the ballot.  Of those, the people chose to pass 787 of them, or 41%.  In debating, learning and voting on those issues, citizens expressed their constitutionally guaranteed right to peacefully endorse or change facets of their governance.  The arduous initiative process and electoral debate guaranteed that their decisions were not whimsical.  In the process, involved Americans learned not only about their government but how they, the people, can change it with their own hands — just as their forefathers did.  And they can do it without throwing stuff in the streets or blowing up buildings.
  2. Too complex?  Probably 500,000 pages of legislation pass every session of Congress.  They are loop holed and pork barreled.  Congressional representatives are so busy going to meetings, hearings, lobbyists’ parties, addressing constituents petty and real concerns that they spend a lot less time studying the laws they pass and their effects than does the average initiative voter.    It’s a good bet average voters have as much or more common sense to dissect complexities as many of those being paid to represent them.

“At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, no voice was raised in support of direct democracy,” Broder has claimed.  Wait a minute!    Has Mr. Broder missed the point of that unconventional meeting?  Weren’t we then stuck under a government that was powerful, moneyed, whimsically taxing, and whose laws, to our simple forefathers, were complex?  Our forefathers didn’t have any legal authority to call a meeting and set up a government, did they?  Nonetheless, they unconventionally met and pulled together some primary principles that defined who they, and thank God, we, would be. In the course of spirited discussions, they fashioned principles around words such as: “We the people empower those to direct our affairs. We the people can dispose of those who wrongly employ that power.  Therefore, we the people can do anything in between employing and dethroning.  Furthermore, we the people don’t believe that because you wear fine clothes, have money, power, influence and say you are smarter than we are that you can run our lives better than we can ourselves.”

Mr. Broder, our forefathers used their initiative based on these first principles to directly democratize our Constitution that stands today.  By doing so they supported and lived “direct democracy.”  They supported it so deeply they put their lives on the line to pass it  to us.  As Founding Father Madison said, “The people” have the power to “just do it!”  We, “The people,” retain that power today – with or without spiffy athletic shoes.

Our People’s Lobby logo restates what has kept America’s democracy great, “Final responsibility rests with the people. Therefore, never is final authority delegated.”   Therefore one shouldn’t weaken the initiative process but consider well-reasoned approaches to spreading such an empowering tool to all Americans.  Americans like building a better mousetrap.  Give them the tools and additional responsibilities and they tinker and improve things. By plugging an educated and technologically attuned peoples’ direct democracy tool into our representative powered political grid, we strengthen our nation’s grass roots.

Dwayne Hunn, Phd., worked as a volunteer for People’s Lobby and is presently a board member.  Philadelphia II’s Direct Democracy Initiative can be reached at www.peopleslobby.net

To: letterstoed@washpost.com

From: Dwayne Hunn

‘God’s angry man’ told us so

Published Marin Independent Journal, October 26, 1994


‘God’s angry man’ told us so

Since IT’S NEARING election time, I wandered to Ross Perot’s  Autumn ’94 “Let’s get ’em!” Marin Civic Center rally. Then I went to a Kathleen Brown meeting, where they scrutinize for spies as they manufacture and hand out yard signs. I went because I once did some political stuff.

Whether I worked for brother Jerry Brown or in­troduced George McGovern to a crowd of 15,000, my political work taught me that awe and adulation ain’t deserved for most who play the game. There’s only one political guy I look back on and always up to.

Leading jazz bands was his love. Selling used cars was one of his jobs.

When his car dealership owner went to jail, Ed Koupal threw such a giant “Jail Sale” that Sacramento’s dealers forced Ford to squelch his “marketedly incorrect” but hugely successful gambit. When Reagan cut state budgets by closing homes for the infirm, Ed mounted a recall that stunted Ron’s early presidential aspirations.

When Ed gagged on L.A.’s smog, he formed People’s Lobby, revived the dormant initiative process for grass roots organizations and, with a $9,000 budget, put the Clean Environment Initiative on the 1972 ballot. When big money nuked our efforts to lower the lead content in gasoline, reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions in diesel fuel, ban DDT and stop construction of nuclear reactors, Ed taught us to get even by leading the 1974 Political Reform Initiative to a 70 percent victory.

Common Cause and Jerry Brown joined that crusade. Back then, candidate Jerry didn’t sound like Edwin Koupal.   Today, minus  Ed’s pork-chop sideburns, humor, fun and commanding presence, Jerry often echoes him: “Only Nader deserves to stay in Washington.”

To Ed, political icons weren’t good enough. Once, Ed chewed into Nader: “If you wanna get something done, don’t waste time trying to reform the system or begging politicians to do it right.

‘Write your own damn laws. Recall the bums and put the really_ _ _ _ _ _ ones in jail.”

Nader said, “Show me.” Ed organized Western Bloc, a coalition of 15 initiative states to stop nuclear reactor construction.

Western Bloc instituted the National Initiative, Referendum and Recall (NIR&R) as the 27th (then) amendment to the Constitution. It picked up 55 co­sponsors and support from Jack Kemp and Recall Ronnie. Unfortunately, columnist Tom Wicker was prophetic: “No one need worry, however, about Congress taking plenty of time to study these particular reforms, striking as they do at Congressional power.”

When Ed Koupal, “one of God’s angry men” left for heaven in 1976, most of the 50 “long-haired, crazy and radical People’s Lobby mules” took refuge from a political scene that had lost the only guy they knew deserved awe and adulation. Today, the direct democracy tools he wanted constitutionalized still seem needed.

Some politicians skirt the need, saying, “The initiative process is too complicated for regular folk! A National IR&R would be ghastly!”

“Too complicated” for the regular folks who employ highly paid politicians? If our employees can’t “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid), maybe we ought to add a jazz man’s song score that will at least make them dance.

California’s initiatives are judicially limited to one subject and are generally from two to 20 pages. “Keeping it simple, stupid” is easier in initiatives than in those 1,500-plus-page Congressional omnibus pork bills. Few legislators read those bills. Knowing only generalities, they vote as their specially interested parties dictate.

Democracy ain’t a box of chocolates. Today’s world is harder to chew and digest. So if you’re growling a lot, consider exercising the National Initiative and abiding by the People’s Lobby adage, “Final responsibility rests with the people, therefore never is final authority delegated.”

Dwayne Hunn, a resident of Mill Valley, is working on a book about the National IR&R and will be teaching at the University o[ San Francisco. People’s Lobby‘s mailing address is 5075 Charmian Dr., Santo Rosa 95409.

“Dream bigger.”

Raising the nation’s public policy IQ…Adding the National Initiative to Democracy’s Toolbox.
People’s Lobby Newsletter – Special Issue – May/June 1976


BY DWAYNE HUNN,  Member of People’s Lobby 

“Dream bigger!”


Ed Koupal, fresh from failing to re­call Reagan in 1968, came into the smog­gy Los Angeles skies like a breath of fresh air. Out of their ramshackle house, he and his wife gave teach-ins while they learned of smog. Around them gathered a group of “Crazies” and from that mind track came the first successfully sponsored grassroots initiative in California’s history. Millions of oil and nuclear industry dollars defeated that initiative, but it only toughened the Koupals and their still “crazy” but “wiser” Lobby.

The “Crazies” worked harder, laughed louder at their nastier political jokes, and vowed deeper to get the vested interests out of the political process. Because Ed felt it deeper, cared more, and worked harder, he became the super crazy, the giant among the lion cubs. By election night in November of 1974 those crazies became a power to be reckoned with in the state. Their Political Reform Initiative won with the largest plurality in California history.

Most people will remember Ed Koupal for his political accomplishments — the Clean Environment Act, Political Reform Initiative, numerous lawsuits. They will remember him when they continue to hear of People’s Lobby, that group Whitaker and Baxter Ad Agency branded as “long haired, mosquito worshiping radicals” in full page ads in 1972 that by 1974 had earned the L. A. Times title of “blue jeaned populists.”

To hundreds of blue jeaned populists he was a loved father, friend, rabble rous­er, troublemaker and joker. His wicked, cutting jokes and his quick hands kept everyone laughing, on their toes, and sometimes embarrassed. His vocabulary could make Richard Nixon’s expletive de­leted tapes a Sunday sermon in compari­son. His insights, organizing, and energy excited one to the successes that are possible in a sick political system.

Ink and paper will never capture Ed Koupal. How does one capture a man who, with no name recognition or money, builds what Ralph Nader calls the “strongest grassroots political organiza­tion in the nation”? What was it in the man that brought tears to Governor Brown? What kind of man is it that keeps his cancer down and secret till the inevitable end because he has “too much to do and no time for dying”? What kind of man chooses to die on his own terms — without pain killing drugs and life support systems? How do you measure one who plays Benny Goodman tapes, drinks wine and cracks jokes in his last days and buoys the grieving around him? The concentrated economic powers, the vested interests, and jealous sniped at him till the end. In the confines of that hospital, he confessed how they could have taken him out of his crusades. “If they would have given me a 21 piece band to conduct, I would have been out of their hair the next day,” said the grinning, diehard Dorsey trumpeter.

Burly Ed Koupal is gone now. His legacy is the accomplishments and goals of People’s Lobby. It is the footprint he’s left in the butt of many politicians. It is the hope he’s given many that the system can be changed. It is the indelible impression he has left on the minds and hearts of hundreds who were privileged to rub shoulders with him “in the trenches – out in the streets, getting signatures – where the people are.”

I spent April 3rd listening to eulogies. Listened to Tom Quinn say, “I’ve heard people say, ‘Ed Koupal is crazy, obstinate, stubborn.’ I agree. I’ve heard them say, ‘He is the most demanding and just about the nastiest man.’ I agree. The special thing about Ed that makes that okay is that Ed Koupal cared. He cared enough to do something. If you care, do, and fight enough, you will accomplish something. Ed accomplished something and now Ed’s fight must be our fight, if we care.”

I listened to State Senator Roberti say, “If Ed were looking down now, he’d be wondering what we were doing. He’d want everyone here getting signatures. His message to each of us was to churn up hell, in our own way. Ed would rather see us doing that than this.”

Hijinio Romo repeated Ed’s parting words to Joyce, “We’ve got it made – you don’t have to cry.” That, however, has not held the tears back. Those who frequented his machine-strewn house knew the loss. The loss was one of God’s great, angry men.

Society lost more, if they never knew this giant who was fighting the good war for them. Society never got to rub shoulders with him. Those of us who did – we cry because we wanted more time for more of him to rub off on us.

Ed had no time for movies. Instead, his life was an award winning movie- riddled with excitement, vigor, and courage. Ed had no time for reading books. Instead, he lived so he knew more than any college professor I had ever met.

Koupal’s words should be captured in movies, in books, and for college professors. They show where Koupal was going and where he wanted to take you and I. Culled from Steering Board Meetings, from the circuit, from company – some of these words I’d like to share with you:

During one of People’s Lobby’s many financial straits:

“I’d rather put social justice in the bank than money.”

On coming back from setbacks:

“Grass keeps growing out of free­way cracks. If you don’t drive on it for three hours, it keeps trying to get through.”

Berating us at a Steering Board Meeting:

“Dream bigger. Think bigger, and things will get bigger. No room in a strong organization for devil’s advocacy. We need positivism.”

Nader introducing the Koupals at the 1974 Critical Mass Conference in Washington:

“The Koupals, who face adversity as children face chocolate ice cream.”

Between the defeat of the Clean En­vironment and the victory of the Political Reform Initiative:

“Success is failure analyzed. Success is staying power.”

Lecturing Steering Board on the need to keep a head of steam:

“If you don’t have any goals, anything to go for – you’ll go flat, go broke.”

On how Ed keeps his crusading energy:

“I get up in the morning and read the Times. I see some more people getting screwed, and I’m peeved and have to do something.”

On how People’s Lobby was and should be seen:

“The California Reporter wrote that anyone against Proposition 9 — People’s Lobby will investigate.  We’re known as bastards. We want that reputation. Want to be known as honest, but hard bas-­tards. That’s what they respect out there.”

On initiative campaigns:

“Doing good is like fighting a war. When it starts, you can’t leave the war for casualties. Nothing takes precedence.”

On public financing of elections:

“Politicians don’t trust the poor and needy – they give them food stamps. People’s Lobby suggests the same for politicians. Instead of giving them money, give them public services – give them media, office space, etc.”

On the victorious election night for the Political Reform Initiative, telegram sent to the opposition, the-Public Rela­tions Firm of  Whitaker and Baxter:

Dear Clem

The people have won. Couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks,

On KCBS, San Francisco, after the Political Reform Initiative was law:

“We voted political reform into law… We, we the voters of Cali­fornia, voted to clean up cam­paigning. Well, there are campaigns going on right now and nothing is being done to police them. The nuclear initiative campaign is run­ning in high gear and the oppo­nents of this thing are not follow­ing the law we voted in…

“The problem is Dan Lowenstein has the mind of a social worker… He believes you can reform these politicians, get them to be good… Well, we’ve been trying that since the days of Arti Samish and it hasn’t worked… What you need to do is throw a couple of these poli­ticians in jail… whomever they might be. Throw them in jail when they break the law and then you’ll see all those politicians reforming. Unfortunately, that requires more than the mind of a social worker — that takes the mind of a cop.”

On what’s wrong:

“Freedom to do your own thing is not ‘freedom’. What we need to insure freedom is accountability.

 “Our politicians confuse freedom with license. The proper business of business is business, not government. The proper business of people is government.”

On involvement:

Americans are conditioned… Conditioned to go to a movie for $2.50 a week. Yet they won’t give $100 a year to clean up politics.

 “Talk to groups with a mission in your mind, with blood in your eye. Living in this country isn’t free. If there is no accountability — there is license. Get that point across to them.”

On making points in the media:

“Don’t let your mouth overtake your mind. Talk of what you know. Talk slow and deliberately. Use as few words as possible to make your points”

Don Koch on Ed and Joyce Koupal and People’s Lobby:

“Ed and Joyce are a national resource – they are not mere humans. I challenge anyone to find anyone in the last 50 years who could’ve formed this lobby. It is fundamental democracy.

 “Don’t sell this country short. No country is capable of containing this fantastic notion that the Lobby has now. It’s involved in the second American Revolution. It’s a high stepping organization — but it’s not elitist because no one is good enough. It’s most serious requirement is money – we need  one-quarter to one-half  million dollars to swing this national initiative.

Ed again, on the national initiative:

“The erosion of public confidence is due to the misuse of money and power. We’re creating the missing institution in the U.S. We’re putting checks and balances between the legislature and the people.

 “Marking a ballot every couple years is absentee management. Therefore we need the national referendum, recall, and initiative to be passed on in sacred trust to be proficiently used.”

Ed’s often-heard parting instructions:

“Don’t let your meat loaf. We gotta get boogieen …… “

Many of us will remember Ed – his thick hands, his bushy white sideburns, his strong voice that always cut to the heart of the issue – “Let’s quit the bull-shit and get to it!” Many will remember he cared – not for himself with his two worn suits, holes in shoes, boiled potato dinners – but for a country “out there.” He wasted no time telling you he cared -he spent all of his time and energy proving it.

We loved you, Ed. We’ll miss you. Watch over your Joyce. Only in having had such a giant as you, could she carry the loss.


“Ed Koupal was a rare spirit who followed his vision with a joy and relentless energy that this practical world finds hard to understand.”

                                      Edmond G. Brown. Jr.  Governor


L.A. Times March 30, 1976


BY AL MARTINEZ  Times Staff Writer

Edwin Koupal, whose People’s Lobby gave voice to the voiceless through the initiative process, died Monday. He was 48.

Death came quietly in a hospital bed to the big and determined political acti­vist, who had been described as “one of God’s angry men.”

Koupal had been suffering from can­cer, and on Sunday night decided he wanted no further oxygen or intravenous treatment.

With him at the time was his wife of 27 years, Joyce, and a friend, Faith Keating.

“He told us not to cry,” Ms. Keating said. “He said he was satisfied with what he had done and what he had stood for. We played Benny Goodman tapes and drank wine.

“He didn’t even die like anyone else.”

Koupal — ex-bartender, ex-used car salesman and ex-chicken rancher founded People’s Lobby in 1968 with his wife, and together they turned the initiative process into a grassroots force that California had never seen before.

They sent an army of mostly young volunteers into the field in 1972 to gather 339,000 signatures and qualify the Clean Environment Act for the ballot.

Koupal hailed it as “the first successful grass-roots initiative campaign in history” — a campaign devoid of special interest money.

The issue, Proposition 9, went down to defeat, but it clearly established the lobby as a force to be reckoned with.

Two years later-and now boasting 20,000 members — the Koupal organization joined with Common Cause to qual­ify a political reform initiative for the bal­lot, and it won.

In the months before his death, Koupal was pursuing yet another goal — establishment of a national safe energy initiative campaign.

He and his wife had hammered out the platform of an organization called Western Bloc and had already qualified the proposition in California, Oregon and Colorado.

Koupal was a determined and effective campaigner whose passion for causes often led him against the mainstream.

Gov. Brown said Monday Koupal “was a rare spirit who followed his vision with a joy and relentless energy that this practical world finds hard to understand.”

Koupal had worked closely with then-Secretary of State Brown on the political reform initiative, a campaign that more than any other brought Koupal and People’s Lobby into strident visibility.

He was a man of abundant drive, and those in his way found themselves in the path of a  hurricane.

“I never met anyone quite like Ed,” said Thomas Quinn, chairman of the state Air Resources Board and former assistant secretary of state under Brown.

“He was a strong human being, a dynamo, and he made gathering signatures an art. To him, the petition was the highest form of democracy, the way people could control government.”

Quinn said that when the political reform initiative campaign began, he wanted Common Cause involved in order “to keep those crazy Koupals in line. But over the months I learned that it was the Koupals who kept the campaign in line.

“Without Ed, victory could not have happened.”

Quinn and others thought Koupal brought the techniques of a salesman to politics and used them with conscience and wit.

“He became angry,” Quinn said, “when that process was perverted and told his petition-gatherers to always be honest. But he would also show me what he had learned as a used car salesman.

“When you handed someone a clip­board to sign a petition, you handed it to him at an angle so that the pen rolled into his hand. Once they had the pen, they almost always signed.”

During the course of the initiative campaign, People’s Lobby and Common Cause were often at each other’s throats.

Common Cause was slow and deliberate in its efforts, and People’s Lobby — led by the hard-charging Koupals — was an earthquake.

Koupal would angrily storm out of meetings between the two organizations during the drafting of the initiative.

A third party said at the time: “Ed is a horse trader. When he threatens to walk out he’s just bargaining. It is irritating but effective…”

Koupal was born in Eugene, Ore. In 1964, he moved his family to Sacramento and to his first confrontation with the Establishment.

“We found,” he told the press, “that we were paying for sewers, sidewalks and streets that we didn’t have. On looking further, we also found that seven houses which did have these things didn’t have to pay for them.”

The Koupals went to court to fight an oil company’s threatened takeover of their sewer district, won, and were on their way.

A short time later, they tried to re­call then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and failed.

But then People’s Lobby was born, and the Koupals’ energies ever since were concentrated on that.

What the lobby became, by one definition, was “not an organization, but two people — Ed and Joyce — with a lot of true believers who follow an honest passion for political reform…”

Koupal, among his last words to his wife, said it differently. He said, “We’ve got it made.”

He also leaves three children, Cecil, Christine and Diane. Funeral services were pending Monday.

His requiem is encompassed in an observation by Tom Quinn.

“What we have here,” he said, “is the death of a salesman . . . in the best sense of the word.”


“He worked indefatigably and selflessly to put the people back into democracy. More than anyone else he has revitalized the use of the initiative, referendum and recall and put these vital citizen tools back into the mainstream of state politics. He was a citizen’s citizen.”

Ralph Nader