REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM the Jan. 28, 1999 edition of THE MOUNTAIN EAR NEWSPAPER OF CONWAY, N.H. (603) 447-6336. All rights reserved. Copyright Mountain Ear newspaper.

By Gabrielle Griswold

IF, AS SOMEONE once said, "Politics is the art of the possible," how possible is reform of the political system itself when reform seems indicated?

Definitely possible, says Jackson resident and potential presidential candidate Jeffrey Blair Peters, who aims at achieving reform through a third political party created to attract Americans of the moderate majority disenchanted with the current state of the two-party system. Peters, who expects to run for president of the United States in the year 2000, has not until now publicly announced his candidacy.

Last week he granted his first-ever media interview to The Mountain Ear. During that interview he explained his belief that "Our democracy, our government and our country have been stolen from us by big money and special interests. Itís time the people were heard." At present, he feels, the silence is deafening.

"In both 1996 and 1998, the majority of the American people didnít vote," he noted. "In the l996 election, 51 percent of people didnít vote; in 1998, almost two-thirds of the people didnít vote. That silent majority is the target of our efforts. We want to see them stand up and take back their country."

Peters sees creating a third party to run alternative candidates as the way to give the silent majority a voice. The party he and his wife, Catherine, have co-founded has been registered in all 50 states under the name of We The People (WTP), The Peopleís Party, or variations thereof (having no connection, past or present, with 1992 presidential candidates Ross Perot or Jerry Brown).

While Peters has not yet filed papers with New Hampshireís secretary of state as a year 2000 presidential candidate, he is already working on WTPís campaign, the first portion of which involves creating public awareness.

"In 1999," he told us, "the focus is on bringing people into the fold." To that end, a We The People campaign bus will travel from Jackson to Jacksonville, Fla., starting the second week in February and featuring a stopover in Philadelphia where the WTP nominating convention will be held in the year 2000.

Also planned is a WTP citizensí action initiative on clean money campaign financing during the week of April 7-14, when handbills demanding public financing of congressional and presidential elections will be distributed in Washington, D.C., at the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court.

"As a grassroots, from-the-bottom-up, non-profit citizens membership organization," Peters explained, "no issue or candidate is approved by We The People until 60 percent or more of our supporters approve it. To find out what our fellow citizens feel are the priority problems facing our country, weíll also be holding public referenda in May, to which every citizen can respond by mail, phone or computer.

"Right now," he stressed, "our priority issue is campaign finance reform. Weíre running an alternative campaign because we believe the current finance system is broken and needs to be fixed ó and we know the incumbents wonít fix it."

"Today," he noted, "the average cost to win a seat in the House of Representatives is $600,000, in the Senate $6 million, and in the Oval Office of the White House $100 million. In 1996, the combined presidential and congressional campaigns cost $2 billion. A Time magazine article showed that, after those elections, $125 billion was granted to party supporters in tax loopholes, tax subsidies and government contracts ó basically as welfare for the wealthy. Thatís a return of 50-to-one on their investment! It used to be a bad joke that we have the best government money can buy, but thatís become the sad reality."

With media coverage the most expensive part of any campaign, Peters supports ongoing efforts to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to set aside free time for all viable candidates from September to November in election years.

As well as promoting clean money campaign reform for all congressional and presidential elections, he also advocates shorter campaigns. "Our elections go on too long," he believes. "We want to cut the time of election campaigns." Thatís one reason why Peters will not officially file papers until the year 2000. Another reason is that "Since our goal is to do whatís right for the country, if we can attract somebody with higher name recognition than mine, Iíll step down in his or her favor."

Other WTP goals include:

  • Full employment for every American who needs a job to make ends meet.

  • Making it easier for voters to vote by following New Hampshireís and Minnesotaís lead in allowing people to register as late as election day itself, and by following Oregonís example whereby votes can be mailed in two-to-four weeks ahead of time.

  • Modernizing the political system so that voters can also vote by phone and computer, using personal identification numbers (PINs).

  • Changing election day from Tuesday to a weekend, with polls open from Saturday morning through Sunday evening, to facilitate voting for working people.

  • Returning responsibility for running presidential debates to the League of Women Voters, instead of leaving it in the hands of a commission comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats, since "They donít want to let anyone else in."

  • Launching a nationwide write-in campaign for the office of President, because "Can you think of a better way of showing that youíve had enough of the existing parties telling you who the candidates will be?"

CREATING a successful third political party has precedents in American history, Peters pointed out, In 1801, Thomas Jefferson set up the Democratic party because at the time the Federalist party was the party of big government and he wanted to return government to the people. Only two generations ago, Abraham Lincoln was one of the founders of the Republican party when the existing two-party system consisted of Whigs and Democrats. Most people today arenít even aware that Lincoln set a precedent for a third party coming onto the scene and fielding a winning presidential candidate. "But," Peters continued, "if Jefferson and Lincoln were alive now, I donít think theyíd be proud of present-day versions of the Democratic and Republican parties, with their partisan politics and reliance on character assassination."

Basically, Peters says "We The People see the Democratic party as controlled about 20 percent by the left and the Republican as controlled about 20 percent by the right, with no one representing the 60 percent majority in the middle. We want to become the common sense alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties, and return to the message of our Founding Fathers, putting the country first. We want a government thatís user-friendly."

With a background in both business and politics, the tall, personable, 50-year-old Peters feels he brings an entrepreneurial spirit to that initiative. He has been an independent consultant to the World Bank, assistant vice-president of Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, executive director of the U.S.-Mexico Quadri-partite Commission, and from 1979 to the present President/CEO of his own real estate, finance and new business development company.

Starting out as an Independent, his past political affiliations have been with both the Democratic and Republican parties. Currently, he is serving on a committee of the New Hampshire Citizensí Alliance which has drafted a bill promoting clean elections legislation for this yearís session of the New Hampshire Legislature. That bill has already been submitted and is due to be signed by its sponsors this week.

Unless a We The People candidate with greater name recognition surfaces, Peters is prepared to launch his presidential campaign during next yearís New Hampshire primary. Like Abraham Lincoln, if he doesnít win in the year 2000, heís prepared to try again four years later.

"In a three-party race," he says, "you can win with between 34 and 40 percent of the vote. Even with only half the two-thirds of people who donít vote now, we could win in 2000 or 2004." Thus, for the balance of 1999, WTP emphasis will be on reminding the American people that, in a democracy, we have both the right and the responsibility to make our voices heard.

"The only time you and I are just as powerful as the President is on election day when you and I and he each have one vote," Peters notes. "We The People want to see the country returned to government of, for and by the people, as described by Jefferson and reiterated by Lincoln. We want a government Jefferson and Lincoln could be proud of. I believe the American people will see the corruption of our present political system," he concluded, "so we want to be the alternative that isnít there now."

Editor's Note: The following was received as a followup to our article and was reprinted in a subsequent issue of THE MT. EAR.

Ms. Nina Perry
Editorial Supervisor
The Mountain Ear
P.O. Box 530
Conway, NH 03818

February 2, 1999

Dear Nina,

In compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act and regulations, I wanted to confirm that I am not, at this time, a candidate for President, nor did I make or authorize any statement referring to myself as a Presidential Candidate in my interview with Gabrielle Griswold.

In the text, Gabrielle made the appropriate distinction that I was a "potential" presidential candidate. However, the three highlighted quotations refer to me as the "We The People Presidential Candidate" which is inaccurate and not correct.

None of the above clarifications detracts from my strong satisfaction with the positive thrust of the article, for which I am extremely grateful.

Respectfully yours,

Jeffrey B. Peters