Eric O'Keefe

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Eric O'Keefe
Citizens for Self-Governance
Date of birthDecember 14, 1954
Place of birthDetroit, MI
Personal website
Eric O’Keefe is a political strategist. O'Keefe is most well known for his support of term limits and for his current involvement with the Campaign for Primary Accountability.[1]

In recent years, he has claimed that politicians became less accountable and less responsible starting when state governments took over the printing and distribution of ballots from private political parties.[2]

Starting in 2008, O'Keefe has argued in several papers that those who support limitations on the size and power of government should adopt what he refers to as the "Seven Capacities" approach to achieving accountability and limits on government.[3]

Past experience

He is a founding board member of a term limits advocacy group, U.S. Term Limits. He drafted the plan for a term limits sweep across the country in 1992 and 1994. By early 1995, voters in twenty-three states had limited the terms of their U.S. congressional delegations through the ballot initiative process.

In the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, five judges on the Supreme Court nullified the preferences of those voters, asserting that states do not have the right to determine the conditions under which their representatives in Congress will serve. However, term limits governing state legislatures remained in force. Fifteen states now have term limits on their legislative representatives.

He is the past chairman of the Sam Adams Alliance, a former organization that cultivated citizen activism.

Americans for Limited Terms lawsuit

O'Keefe served as president of Americans for Limited Terms (ALT) from 1996 to 2000. In congressional election cycles in 1996 and 1998, Americans for Limited Terms ran issue ads in a number of congressional districts, advising voters about the positions on term limits held by their congressional candidates.

One of these ads generated a lawsuit against ALT (ALT prevailed) claiming that the ad was "express advocacy" rather than an "issue ad."[4]

In 1996, ALT ran a $24,000 radio ad campaign in a Wisconsin race that showcased the opposition of State Assemblyman (D), David Travis to term limits.[5] Travis and the elections board responded by suing Americans for Limited Terms stating that the ads were "express advocacy" instead of "issue ads."

O'Keefe was quoted in an article defending his position,

There's an effort by incumbents to clamp down on issue ads because it's the only area of campaign spending that's tilted against incumbents. In my view it's among the most important campaign spending because it's an outlet for dissenting voices. It's extremely vital in democracy.[6]

Other involvement

O'Keefe talking about the history of political parties in 2007

O'Keefe serves on the Board of Directors of Wisconsin Club for Growth, the Center for Competitive Politics, Citizens in Charge, and Citizens for Self-Governance. Prior to 2007, O'Keefe served on the board of directors of Americans for Limited Government. O'Keefe served on the Board of Directors of The Institute for Humane Studies until 2013.

In early 2008, O'Keefe argued that a commission recently created in Wisconsin to monitor judicial elections was itself partisan, and therefore unreliable as a judicial watchdog group.[7]

In 2001, O'Keefe assisted in cleaning up a business, Votenet, of which he was a part-owner. Votenet, as court records show, was victimized by two of its employees who were later convicted and imprisoned for their financial fraud. Although an attorney recommended that the company declare bankruptcy in order to step away from the financial destruction caused by the felonious employees, O'Keefe recommended against that course of action, enabling the company's creditors to be repaid and the company ultimately to stay in business.[8]


O'Keefe wrote a book, Who Rules America: The People versus the Political Class, which focuses on the country’s founding principles to make the case for term limits, and won praise from Milton Friedman. With Aaron Steelman, he co-authored "The End of Representation: How Congress Stifles Electoral Competition."[9]

External links