03 August 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment, Part VIII: America At Its Worst

Follow the Money

i. the tube of mystery

We return to Nebraska, which has been a key in unraveling many mysteries of this election season. "We" because this is no longer an investigation conducted solely by one writer/researcher. Information, tips and the sharing of research have expanded to the point that this has truly become a team effort. Thanks to the several who have given freely of their time to answer impertinent questions or fill in the gaps for a clueless author. This is what the team found in Nebraska this week:

In May of 2006, a number of very interesting transactions took place as reported to, among others, the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. But even before those disclosure statements were filed, the domain name
"RenewalVoterOutreach.com" was registered anonymously with Network Solutions, Inc. on April 27, 2006:
Renewal Voter Outreach
c/o Network Solutions
P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA. 20172-0447


Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Renewal Voter Outreach ga7e38z29gq@networksolutionsprivateregistration.com
c/o Network Solutions
P.O. Box 447
Herndon, VA 20172-0447

Record expires on 27-Apr-2009.
Record created on 27-Apr-2006.
On June 6, the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee, who would soon hire Renewal Voter Outreach registered this domain name:
Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Created on: 06-Jun-06
Expires on: 07-Jun-07
Last Updated on: 06-Jun-06

Administrative Contact:
Mann, Thomas tom@lawdirectory.com
One Valmont Plaza, 4th Floor
Omaha, Nebraska 68154
United States
(402) 964-3700

Technical Contact:
Mann, Thomas tom@lawdirectory.com
One Valmont Plaza, 4th Floor
Omaha, Nebraska 68154
United States
(402) 964-3700
This wasn't so mysterious. It made sense, of course. Mann, an Omaha attorney, is the public face of the "Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee." But there was something very odd about this all. The Omaha WORLD HERALD reported:
July 30, 2006
Petition's full impact a surprise to signers


... Thomas Mann, the Omaha attorney who heads the committee that filed the petitions, said Friday that he doesn't feel the measure is overly broad.

"It's a basic human rights issue," he said ...

Mann said out-of-state authors - including a law professor who was raised in Omaha - drafted the amendment. He declined to identify any in-state contributors, but said: "There was input from Nebraska."

Mann's organization, the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee, has so far been funded entirely by out-of-state interests - $605,000 from a group with Montana, Idaho and Illinois ties....
The last quoted sentence from the story is accurate, but unfortunate. Had the Omaha WORLD-HERALD followed up on those connections, they might have unraveled the mystery.

But, already something astonishing and unprecedented had occurred: a ballot measure had (tentatively) been approved for petition to place it on the Nebraska ballot -- authored and funded by mysterious out-of-state interests. The money came from the mysterious "America At Its Best" in Kalispell, Montana, and would soon be sent to an equally mysterious company, "Renewal Voter Outreach."

There was definitely something odd in the genesis of the proposal to guarantee that no feeding tube could ever be removed from a comatose, brain-dead or otherwise completely incapacitated patient. Some called it the "Terri Schiavo" initiative. The more cynical called it the "Feed 'em 'til they rot," measure. But the "Terri Schiavo" connection was more than just casual, as we shall see.

The initiative came from mysterious sources, funded by mysterious sources. Nebraska, it seemed, was just the tube through which the money flowed, all but untouched by Nebraskans, even though it was their state and their laws that would be affected. And there was another initiative -- the "SOS Nebraska" initiative -- that came from those same shadowy backers.

We've already established that, according to the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, the co-petitioner of "Stop OverSpending Nebraska" (Kin to "Stop OverSpending Idaho," "Stop OverSpending ____" -- Michigan, Missouri, Montana, et al.) is "Americans for Limited Government." From their website (and confirmed by ALG's 990 filings with the IRS), the board of directors of ALG are:
Board of Directors: Executive Committee Members

Howard Rich, Chairman
Eric O'Keefe, Chair, Executive Committee
John Tillman
Ed Crane
William Wilson
Meantime in Nebraska, the odd transactions continued.

On May 4, 2006, "Renewal Voter Outreach, LLC" was registered as Nebraska Limited Liability Corporation number 10084392.

On May 26th, a statement of organization was filed with the Accountability office, with Thomas Mann as the treasurer of (and, thus, the only name associated with) the NEBRASKANS FOR HUMANE CARE COMMITTEE.

From the filing: "Ballot Question - Ballot Issue Humane Care Initiative"

He already had quite a busy treasury, if not a very complex financial situation:

The first filing states "THIS STATEMENT COVERS A PERIOD FROM 05/19/2006 TO 05/27/2006.

It lists one donation:
PO BOX 1678

05/19/2006 $125,000.0
And it lists two expenditures:
PETTY CASH FUND (reason) NOT GIVEN 05/27/2006 $50.00.

PO BOX 6210 OMAHA NE 86106

05/27/2006 $110,000.00.
Renewal Voter Outreach, LLC of Nebraska had been existence for a shade more than three weeks, and it was already looking like a profitable concern.

Meantime, over at "SOS Nebraska" AMERICA AT ITS BEST of Kalispell, Montana was donating to that campaign as well (using 100% ALG money, as official campaign filings indicate. See part III, "Under A Western Sky" for full details.) The Nebraska AP office filed this report, published on June 2 (the day after SOS NE's first campaign filing):
Associated Press Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. - Almost all of a $100,000 donation to a petition drive aimed at capping state spending is being spent on gathering the signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot.

The donation from a group called America at its Best was reported in filings made Thursday with the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission.

The petition drive, working under the name Stop Over Spending Nebraska, seeks a constitutional amendment that would tie state spending to cost of living and population changes.
Sadly, our AP writer is being coy. The ENTIRE $100,050 (received 5-15-06) was from AAIB in Montana -- save $50, which exactly matches the petty cash expenditure -- and the official filing states: "No Individual Contributions." WHY the AP writer would give himself wiggle room on clearly stated legal facts is entirely beyond the scope of this inquiry. (Although "almost all" is not the same as "all," as any tax accountant can tell you, and we are dealing with hard NUMBERS and dates here.) However, it must be noted that the AP writer didn't bother reading the rest of the document: SOS NEBRASKA makes exactly ONE contribution in that same filing period:
PO BOX 6566* OMAHA NE 68106

(reason) NOT GIVEN 05/18/2006 $95,000.00
[*Note, there is a discrepancy here between the address given here, and the address thereafter. It seems to be a typo. The documents from both ballot campaigns hereafter consistently report the post office box number as 6210. However, the postal address will become extremely significant in unraveling the mystery of "Renewal Voter Outreach."]

America At Its Best has contributed $225,000 to two Nebraska petition drives between the 18th and the 27th of May, and, of that money, $205,000 has immediately been spent with a Nebraska company that's been in existence for less than a month. Good work if you can get it.

Still, it's odd that the PO Box numbers don't match, and that SOS NEBRASKA doesn't give any reason for the expenditure. But, these documents are often filled out by activists with little experience in these forms, and typos slip in all the time.

But there is no doubt that only $19,950 of the $225,000 from Montana hasn't gone indirectly from "Americans for Limited Government" to the brand spanking new "Renewal Voter Outreach."

Within a month, even more money will appear from AAIB, and another $195,000 will be paid by NE Humane to Renewal Voter Outreach. There will still be no individual contributions.

The next filing, on 06/30/2006, reveals that (only) America At Its Best of Montana has contributed another $230,000 to NE Humane, in two installments: $100,000 on June 5th and $130,000 on the 8th. Thomas Mann is paid $4000 for "office contractual services," and Alexis Mann who is listed at the same address is paid $4000 for "COMMITTEE SPOKESPERSON, OFFICE CONTRACTUAL SERVICE" (sic). Thomas Mann seems to be heavily cross-wired in computers and law. His firm offers to convert law offices to paperless systems, and offers double-spam filtering, among its services. Here, from his website. (GOOGLE hint: look for "Thomas J. Mann," else you'll be stuck with a googzillion references to the author of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN and DEATH IN VENICE.)
Thomas J. Mann, Attorney at Law

Thomas Mann has been involved in legal software development and consulting for over twelve years.

Mr. Mann has extensive experience with practice management software and document automation solutions. He has personally worked with over 500 law firms to assist them with automated document production and practice management software. Tom also has extensive experience providing legal software training to over 2,000 attorneys and law office staff.

Tom graduated from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and is licensed in Nebraska and Illinois. He also graduated with honors from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.
There is also a photograph of Mr. Mann.

The NE Humane Committee also pays $7500 to Parsons Public Relations of Lincoln, Nebraska, $8244.30 for printing, copying and mailing, and $7424.59 for postage. In that grand old Nebraska fundraising tradition, they mail from the Boys' Town post office, so that they'll get the warm and fuzzy postmark. Thomas J. Mann's law/computer office does the same thing, coincidentally.

The address for "RENEWAL VOTER OUTREACH" is now PO BOX 6210 OMAHA 68106. The $195,000 is paid for "COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES FOR PETITION." They are paid on June the 21st, the longest day of the year. In business less than two months, RVO has a stunning economic track record for a Nebraska signature-gathering enterprise.

"SCHEDULE A - Contributions Over $250 Received from the Candidate and Other Individuals" still lists only "No Individual Contributions." It all seems rather odd for such a hot-button issue as the care and feeding of persons in a persistent vegetative state. NO grass roots? The financial summary was revised on 7/03/06 (they evidently forgot to fill it out) and, according to it, there were no contributions under $250 received, either.

So far, the whole NE Humane campaign has been a funneling of massive amounts of cash between two mystery organizations. Neither of which is located in Nebraska.

Over on the other side of the state, SOS Nebraska also filed their disclosure statements on July 31st. AAIB of Montana contributed two checks, on the same two dates: On June 5, SOS Nebraska received $100,000, and on June 15, they received $180,000.

$1865.00 in donations were received in amounts smaller than $250, but from who or where is impossible to ascertain. But at less than half of one percent of the total it probably isn't important where the 'grass roots' contributions came from.

And then, on June 20, 2006, $270,000 is paid for "EXPENSE IN CONDUCTING PETITION DRIVE" to:
PO BOX 279
It is the only expenditure SOS Nebraska makes, and the last that will be recorded until the October filing deadline, well into the election season.


What on Earth has happened? Spring Green, Wisconsin is an 'artsy' community in the pipestone region of southern Wisconsin, best known for being the site of Frank Lloyd Wright's "Talesin," the Wright-designed compound where the architect lived, worked and taught in his final years.

What does Spring Green, Wisconsin have to do with "Stop OverSpending Nebraska" and "Nebraskans for Humane Care"?

[Note: I am breaking this into two parts because the blog posting gear gets cranky above about 2,000 words. Blogger never designed their system for the terminally verbose, evidently, which means that I must, needs, adapt.]



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