09 July 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment - Part I: 48 Bucks

Question: What does an Oregon Ballot Measure have to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger, voter registration fraud in Florida and Nevada, Jack Abramoff, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Republican National Committee, wildly various ballot petitions this year in Idaho, Missouri and South Carolina, AND Grover Norquist?

Plenty, as it turns out.

Friday, the umpteenth reincarnation of "Term Limits" was placed before the Oregon Secretary of State by petition, with great hullabaloo. If the signatures are verified, then we, the voters of Oregon, will vote once more on whether or not to impose mandatory term limits on the time that any person may spend in our legislature.

The last time this was voted, it was overwhelmingly approved, but was set aside by the Oregon Supreme Court a few years ago for violating the rule that only one item in the state constitution might be altered by any one ballot measure (called 'propositions' in California, 'questions' in Maine, etc. but it is well to remember that a century ago, Oregon invented the citizen initiative process.)

Part One: 48 Bucks.

It is, in essence, metaphor, but it is a good place to start:

When Paul Jacob was a young man in the early 1980s, he was a vehement opponent of draft registration, and vigorously lobbied for the "all-volunteer" armed forces. When it came time for him to enter the post-Vietnam draft, he refused to register, slipped outside the law, and was captured, prosecuted and convicted by the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration. In 1984, he spent five months in a Federal penal institution for his criminal evasion of the draft, the longest term served since Vietnam.

It is significant that Jacob did not object to the draft on the basis that he was a conscientious objector to war, or that he was adamantly opposed to the unjust and unlawful (as opposed to illegal) nature of the Vietnam war -- with which he was not involved.

No: he objected to any demand that society or government might have on him, personally, to serve in time of war.

Fast forward twenty years: Paul Jacob is now a spokesman for, and the chief mouthpiece of the U.S. Term Limits Foundation, one of those odd groups whose donors are unknown, but who contribute huge amounts of money and resources to imposing term limits on a state by state basis. And his commentary is syndicated on over 100 radio stations. He has a regular column featured on right-wing mega-site townhall.com.

Formed in 1992 (actually the renamed Citizens for Congressional Reform), USTL originally had a lot to do with the term limits plank of 1994's Republican "Contract With America" until their fundamental issue -- term limiting members of congress -- was overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1995 decision "U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton."

According to www.oregonfollowthemoney.org, as of May 27, 2004, "The Citizens' Term Limits Restoration Act" (Oregon committee members -- remember these names -- Leigh Anna Foxall, Paul R. Farago, Ted Piccolo) had raised $112,287, almost ENTIRELY from US Term Limits (DC): $104,239 (93%); US Term Limits (IL): $3,000; Paul Farago: $47.94.

You will note that the entire Oregon in-state contribution was less than $48.

USTL would shovel in six more figures before the Oregon committee would throw in the towel. This year, many of the same players would accept ANOTHER six figures in "contributions" to qualify a similar ballot measure. Their collected signatures were turned in on the statutory deadline, Friday, July 7th.

According the C&Es filed with the Oregon Secretary of State's office, USTL got the ball rolling with an initial check for $60,000. Another $40,000 was ponied up by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform.

In 2004, nearly a quarter of a million dollars was chipped in from out-of-state 'foundations' to force Oregonians to vote on their agenda. Oregonians didn't sign their petitions in numbers sufficient to qualify the measure.

But they're back with hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Governor "Kulongoski criticized measures aimed at cutting taxes and imposing term limits -- which he says are backed by out-of-state interests."

Yes. Oregon has long been a laboratory for cranky zillionaires to perfect their electoral Frankensteins. The amount of money that pours into the state over "local" issues is often astonishing. So, while the focus is on the Term Limits crowd, what is happening is, in many ways, typical of the manner in which home rule is being poisoned by out-of-state money -- and, as Follow The Money notes, over 90% of all races are decided by who has the most money. The voting part seems to have less and less to do with it.

Well, never fear. US Term Limits (and their PAC Term Limits America, founded and funded by Howard Rich) is willing to drop six figures any time that the Usual Suspects ask.

And, as in 2004 (and 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996, 1994 and 1992), the vast majority of all monies have come from shadowy right-wing contributors from out of state.

As of the May 2006 Campaign finance filing date, the Oregon Term Limits group had received $156,497.25. Of that total, they claimed to have spent $145,499.64.

A donation of $5000 for legal fees was recorded from "Americans for Limited Government" which has the same address as "US Tax Limits" -- which is unsurprising, since both are chaired by the same gentleman, Howard Rich (no pun intended) who also serves on the Board of Directors of the (Libertarian) CATO Institute in Washington, D.C., where Paul Jacob is located. Rich, a wealthy real estate developer, lives in New York. Interestingly, the USTL and ALG contributions come from the same address in Illinois:
240 Waukegan Road
Glendale, Illinois 60062
(a suburb of Chicago)
USTL contributed another $50,000 during the May reporting period, for a CASH aggregate of $110,000 so far in this cycle. USTL is a 501 (c)(4), according to the Oregon C&E, which means that they don't have to say where their money came from:

From Ralph Nader's Public Citizen website:
501(c)(4). Section of the IRS tax code reserved for civic leagues and other organizations operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. These groups have tax-exempt status but may not receive tax-deductible contributions. They may engage in unlimited amounts of lobbying activity, which the IRS defines as attempts to influence legislation, but they may not be primarily engaged in efforts to affect the outcomes of elections. Those groups that attempt to influence elections are required to pay taxes on their election-oriented expenditures or their organization's overall investment income for the year, whichever is less. Section 501(c)(4) groups must make their annual tax forms available to the public but are not required to disclose contributors' names.

The in-state "Committee to Restore Term Limits" had contributed $947.23 to the campaign as of the February 6 filing (and nothing since). Eric Winters (whose home address, coincidentally, is the same as the Committee's) gave $450.

Kurt Webber of Portland contributed $100, but, as we shall see, as treasurer he has already been paid that sum BACK from the committee several times over.

Which means that, for an Oregon ballot measure, thus far, USTL has ponied up $110,000, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform bunch $40,000 (From their website: P.J. O'Rourke says, "Grover Norquist is Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupcon of Madame Defarge." http://www.atr.org/home/about/ggnbio.html) and Howard Rich's OTHER group, located in the same building outside of Chicago has chipped in another $5000 (for "LEGAL FEES") as an "in kind" donation -- meaning that there was no actual cash involved.

Just like "self-employed" attorney Eric Winters' contributions were three "in-kind" donations totaling $450 as well, although he received on March 25 a cash payout of $450 for "management services."

Kurt Webber's "donation" was listed as "LR" or "loans received," which seems to have been reimbursed. By the May reporting cycle the campaign had paid him $792.25 for "2anagement services," although $42.25 of that was a "reimbursement." (The $100 loan repayment is listed separately.)

So, the entire Oregon state donation to the $156,497.25 term limits war chest has been $947.23 (or 0.00605 or 0.6% of the total for the campaign thus far).

But Oregonians on the Committee have been paid back $1200 (not including reimbursements), which means that Oregonians have actually gotten MORE money back from the "Oregon" ballot measure than they've actually contributed: at least $252.77.

There's a good libertarian "less government"/"home rule" paradigm for you: have your issues pushed and financed from out of state, and make some "political tourism" dollars on the side.

The $110,000 from Chicago, however, was cash on the nail head. Cash that we don't actually know where it came from, by the by.

Neither do we really know where the $40,000 from Norquist comes from, except that we DO know he's been caught laundering money through ATR for Jack Abramoff and skimming a fee off the top for ATR before sending Abramoff's money on. ATR is also a 501(c)(4) whose members include Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, and Richard Mellon Scaife, according to Wikipedia.

What will shock you is how much of that cash went straight back OUT of state -- over $100,000, but that's for tomorrow.

There will be more on Paul Jacob and Howard Rich, on CATO and USTL, ALG and the stealth campaigns they're running in other states -- not all about term limits, either. These two operate under a blizzard of astroturf group names. And there will be more on Paul Farago, who has been on virtually every version of this committee going back to the early 1990s, when Ted Sizemore was carrying water for Grover Norquist in Oregon, back before Sizemore was convicted. And when Sizemore was the chief petitioner for term limits.

Until then, though, it would be good to bear in mind one of the conclusions of the Thompson Report issued by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 1998:
"The evidence before the Committee shows that a myriad of tax-exempt organizations assisted Republican candidates during the 1996 election cycle, serving variously as tools of Republican candidates, conduits for Republican donors, and money-making operations for conservative fundraisers. One thing they all had in common is that they violated the spirit--and, in some cases, probably the letter--of the federal tax and election laws.

"If these de facto political organizations are not brought under control, they will be used even more extensively in future elections. It is possible, for example, that a single wealthy donor could influence the outcome of dozens of congressional races by channeling millions of dollars through tax-exempt organizations. If large donors are allowed to operate on that scale--and with no disclosure and no accountability--the campaign finance laws will be meaningless."
105th Congress; 2nd Session, Senate Report 105-167 Part 5

But what is more interesting is that, easy as it is for that out of state largesse to appear, the monies spent go BACK out of state almost as rapidly.

Tomorrow in Part II: Big bucks for signature gathering. Oregonians can't be trusted, so we use sleazy Californians.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home