10 July 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment - Part II, Kids! Make BIG Money as a Political Consultant!

The fact that's flying under the radar in state after state is that our "political consultants" (that's an euphemism for a much darker but more accurate descriptive) know no borders, nor, in many cases, loyalty to any ideology other than that of the almighty dollar -- or euro, as the case may be.

Yesterday, we dealt with the $150,000 plus that slushed into Oregon to put a term limits initiative on the ballot. Today we'll see how that money went right back out of the state -- for the same reason.

Part II. Kids! Make BIG Money as a Political Consultant!

On June 22, 2006, the AP reported, in part:
Michael Arno, owner of Arno Political Consultants, said Wednesday the company is reviewing its payment methods and will bring them into compliance with Oregon's law, known as Measure 26.

"If there's a problem with it, we will err on the side of caution," Arno said in an interview from the company's office in Rancho Cordova.
Rancho Cordova is a suburb on the Northeast corner of Sacramento, California.

The comment was oddly familiar. It was akin to his comments made in 2004, when an Arno subcontractor was accused of voter registration fraud in Florida, as Arno worked on behalf of the Republican National Committee to register voters on Florida campuses. It was also a lot like the statements he made in Massachusetts in 2005, when Arno petition gatherers were accused of doing a "bait and switch" by gathering signatures on a wine and beer petition and then asking signers to sign a "backup" petition, which turned out to be an anti-Gay Marriage petition that Arno had been hired to get on the Massachusetts ballot.

2005 had been a lucrative year for Arno Political Consultants. In California alone, they'd pocketed a cool $3.78 million dollars as one of the two subcontractors for Arnold Schwarzenegger's "back door the legislature" ballot initiatives, run by a shadowy group of Schwarzenegger cronies and operatives calling itself Citizens to Save California.
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
Mar 07, 2005 by David M. Drucker, Staff Writer

Committee spearheads governor's reform efforts

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has turned to an independent committee led by seven of California's most influential and prominent business advocates to drive his efforts for fiscal and political reform.

The group, Citizens to Save California, has supplied most of the funding and manpower for Schwarzenegger's statewide push to get the 600,000 signatures to qualify each of his proposed constitutional amendments for a November special-election ballot.
The group was so closely aligned to Schwarzenegger that California election oversight officials ruled that it was essentially an extension of the Schwarzenegger campaign machine, and subject to lawful contribution limits.

Luckily for CSC, a conservative Sacramento judge ruled that, due to a technicality, the CSC was "independent," and they spent both an astonishing war chest of money, and their PR time making public pronouncements about how above-board and up-and-up the whole deal was. But, they openly coordinated with Arnold.

In this toxic political soup. Arno Political Consultants was only mentioned as one of the two contractors hired. The campaign was so huge that it took two companies to scare up the required number of signatures.

According to some reports, signature gatherers were paid $2 per signature and more.

CSC poured tens of millions into the ultimately failed campaign. But Arno did their part, to the tune of $3.78 million. Between California and Massachusetts, it was a good year, financially.

But this was all par for the course for Arno Political Consultants. Since its founding in 1978, it had acted as a facilitator and highly lucrative contractor for Republican and far Right agendas and candidates.

According to Max Blumenthal, "Nader's Dubious Raiders", The American Prospect Online, Jun 25, 2004.
Nader's bid for the Arizona ballot began this spring when members of his campaign sought a contract with Arno Political Consultants, a California-based Republican consulting firm that has handled past ballot-qualification efforts for GOP icons like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as anti-immigrant groups like U.S. English. Arno's client list also comprises a virtual Who's Who of the corporate cartels Nader routinely rails against, including Occidental Petroleum, Phillip Morris, and Wal-Mart. Arno Political Consultants rebuffed the Nader campaign's request. "I thought it would be bad for us to go in with anyone like Nader," said the company's co-director, Michael Arno. "And even though I don't know [George W.] Bush personally, I have a relationship with some of the people close to him, so I didn't want to be part of anything that could be seen as nefarious. I have too much respect for the process."
This year hasn't been as kind to Arno's company. Over the state line in Nevada, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported this denial:
Michael Arno, owner of Sacramento-based Arno Political Consultants hired by TASC to collect signatures, said allegations that his contractors committed fraud are baseless.

"This is absolutely false," Arno said. "There's going to be no proof of it."
The allegations?
State officials are investigating a discrepancy between the official version of the Tax and Spending Control for Nevada petition filed in December with the secretary of state in December and the version circulated on the street for signatures.

Opponents of the measure say the typo would have a $1.3 billion effect on the state budget, making the two versions different enough to disqualify it for the ballot.

If TASC doesn't sound familiar to you (Tax and Spend Control), perhaps it's because it was called TABOR in Colorado, and in Missouri, where it failed to make the ballot this spring, and in Oregon's Initiative Petition, "IP 6 Constitutional State Spending Limit."

TABOR stands for "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights," and is another Grover Norquist/Howard Rich special. In Missouri, yet another Howard Rich astroturf organization the "Fund For Democracy" poured $295,000 -- between January and March -- into getting TABOR onto the Missouri ballot for 2006, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The effort failed. Another contractor out of Michigan was used (National Voter Outreach), but the modus operandi was the same: virtually all funds came from well outside Missouri. And were spent on non-Missouri operatives.

In Oregon, Americans for Limited Government (Rich) poured $178,077 into the IP6 TABOR measure, while Americans for Tax Reform (Norquist) chipped in $40,000.

Eric Winters, the self-employed Wilsonville attorney who contributed $450 to the Term Limits campaign -- headquartered at his home address -- also contributed $450 to the TABOR petition drive. Also in-kind.

And, out of overwhelmingly out-of-state contributions of $232,199.31, Arno Political Consultants of Sacramento, California were paid in excess of $200,000.

Of course, the controversy is swirling in Oregon that Arno is breaking a 2002 Oregon ballot measure that passed by a crushing 3-1 margin prohibiting per-signature payment for signature gathering.

According to KATU-TV in Portland: "KATU News obtained a copy of Arno Political Consulting's employee handbook which lists how much the California company pays its signature gatherers. Payment ranges from $13 for 9-12 signatures gathered per hour to $64 for 46-50 signatures per hour, clearly laying out a formula that the more signatures gathered, the more money a person makes. (June 20,2006)

This week, The Portland Mercury reported:
Illegal Signature Gathering Continues
by Scott Moore

Originally posted Friday, July 7, 2006 at 12:20 pm

Yesterday, on the last day of collecting signatures for initiative petitions, the illegal signature gathering payments we witnessed on Wednesday continued unabashed.

The setting this time was 10 am, in front of the Greyhound station at NW 5th and Glisan. While waiting for his "employer" to show up with cash, a signature gatherer, John, who is homeless, admitted multiple times that he was being paid $15 for two full sheets of signatures-which is a violation of the law. The payment and conservative petitions he was carrying-term limits for legislators, districting of Oregon Supreme Court justices, and the "TABOR" state spending cap-were all in line with what we had seen the previous day.
We were talking about Term Limits, weren't we?

And that's the great problem. It isn't just term limits, or TABOR, or the rest. This is a highly orchestrated campaign that has extended over several years, featuring the same players in an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of interconnections, but finally, those interconnections -- which purport to restore a "libertarian" democracy, and power to the people -- are fundamentally undemocratic.

Worse, we Oregonians (and, increasingly, every state in the union) are being treated as COLONIES. Howard Rich sits in his penthouse in New York, laughing at us, while we who value home rule have to dig into our pockets, knock on our neighbors' doors, wear out our shoeleather in opposing ballot measures that were not conceived nor funded nor facilitated by Oregonians.

And that is why there is not -- nor will there be -- any discussion of the "issues" involved. When an Oregonian wants to qualify a measure for the ballot, with Oregonian money, I will be happy to debate and vote as an Oregonian. Until then, I am not a colonist, and I do not accept my home rule as emanating from east of the Mississippi River.

As a Westerner, I would hope that you would feel the same about YOUR state. And as an American, ditto with YOUR state. Moreover, as a democrat (small 'd') anywhere in the world, take this as a warning, and as a call to action. You cannot have democracy without home rule, and these Machiavellian dodges are the antithesis of democracy, no matter how neatly dressed in drag as "citizen action." You can't put lipstick on a pig and change the fundamental nature of the pig. It's still a pig.

So, whether you live in Oregon, or the USA, or are a citizen of the world, the important thing to keep in mind is this: in all of the reports I've sifted through, state by state by state, one thing has become clear: they prey on our provincialism. Oregon doesn't know that Arno is in a scandal in Nevada, one state over. Nor that Idaho is facing the same money/political machine. Nor do those neighbors know that Oregon is in the same sour soup.

We can no longer afford the luxury of allowing our awareness to stop at our provincial borders. Because these anti-democrats don't, and they prey on our tunnel-vision.

So: Aron Political Consultants is the hired gun for not one, not two, but THREE ballot measure petitions:

From the excellent website "Our Oregon" (which you should immediately go to after reading this)
Using Arno Political Consultants (an out of state signature gathering firm)

IP39 (Term Limits)
IP57 (Eminent Domain)
How much money was spent of Norquist's and Rich's money to hire Aron Political Consultants to try and put Term Limits on the Oregon ballot this fall?

Of the more than $150,000 contributed so far by these two (and more will come, I promise, if the Term Limits initiative makes it to the ballot), Arno Political Consultants of Sacramento, California* has been paid, according to the May Contributions & Expenditures report filed with the Oregon Secretary of State, $100,846.75. (Several thousand more went to a San Jose data firm, etc.)

The money left the state almost as quickly as it came in.

And the aggregate for all three measures follows the same pattern.

[* NOTE: In one filing, Rancho Cordova, CA is mysteriously identified as Rancho Cordova, OR, even though the Term Limits people have paid over $2000 for C&E filing software to an Oregon company, Prime One Software of Portland.]

There is not space here to pay much attention to the report that Arno has outsourced a large part of their signature verification operation to Poona, India. It will have to wait. Indeed, there is much, much more.

There is one final grace note. According to a report aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Michael Arno says that he's not going to do business in Oregon anymore. Complying with the law costs too much money, he said.

Tomorrow: Who are the "Oregon" petitioners? And how has this process been promulgated in South Carolina, Missouri, Nevada, Idaho, etc?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am not a colonist, and I do not accept my home rule as emanating from east of the Mississippi River."

BwaHaHaHaHaHa. What about Washington DC?

10/28/2007 07:30:00 PM  

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