Eric was the founding board member of the 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 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, 5 Supreme Court Justices stopped this movement. The Justices asserted that states did not have the right to determine the conditions under which their representatives in Congress should serve. Term limits governing state legislatures remain in force. As a result, fifteen states currently have term limits on their legislative representatives.
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.
Over the course of this campaign O’Keefe and the group came under fire and were eventually taken to court. O’Keefe and ALT prevailed in the case. Regarding why he and ALT had been sued and the reason issue ads were so affective, O’Keefe said, “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.”
Other and Past Involvement
- Board of Directors of Wisconsin Club for Growth – a national group of policy advocates who believe “prosperity and opportunity come through economic freedom.”
- The Institute for Humane Studies – associated with George Mason University, IHS supports the achievement of a freer society by discovering and facilitating the development of talented students, scholars, and other intellectuals.
- Citizens in Charge – works to protect and expand ballot initiative rights.
- Part owner of Votenet – In 2001, O’Keefe assisted rebuilding the troubled business.
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: “New committee will shield judges from their records”