27 October 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment Part XXVIII: Howie Goes International!

For good or ill, the Howard Rich/Americans for Limited Government story is breaking out like a bad case of hives. The Guardian in England, the Nepal National (in Himalayan Nepal) and the Irish Sun (in, one would presume, Ireland) are carrying the following AP story:
Ballot Measures Seek Limited Government
Thursday October 26, 2006 7:31 PM

AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - He lives in New York City; his name is on no ballot. Yet real estate investor Howard Rich is a key reason why citizens in distant states will be voting Nov. 7 on bitterly contested initiatives that would limit state spending, impose term limits and curb land-use regulation.

Rich is a libertarian who vigorously champions the cause of limited government. He is the driving force behind a network of groups that has promoted ballot measures in at least 14 states this year.

Several of the campaigns were derailed by legal and signature-gathering problems. But states where Rich-backed measures did make the ballot - often with most of their funding from his network - include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington.

His adversaries view Rich as a menace, deploying large sums of money to export a potentially harmful ideology to states where he has no personal stake. Others see him as a committed political philanthropist, acting on his convictions in ways that are a legitimate part of U.S. democracy.

Rich declines to provide financial details of his efforts and his donor list. The liberal Ballot Initiative Strategy Center - a critic of Rich - said this week the total spending by his affiliated groups on 2006 ballot measures has exceeded $13.2 million.

Agreeing to answer questions only by e-mail, Rich said he had followed all campaign finance rules...
Alas, this doesn't seem to be entirely true.

Today, the Center for Public Integrity broke this story:

Proposition 90’s Never-Again Donors?
One-Time-Only Contributions to California Campaign Circumvent Disclosure Trigger

WASHINGTON, October 26, 2006 – More than $3 million in contributions to California’s Protect Our Homes Coalition, the chief backer of Proposition 90, appear to have been orchestrated to circumvent state disclosure laws, the Center for Public Integrity reported today.

The contributors are all out-of-state political funds headed by or otherwise connected to Howard Rich, a political activist who lives in New York City and has been leading the charge for takings initiatives that will be put before voters in five Western states on November 7. Like the other initiatives, Proposition 90 would compel governments to pay property owners for environmental and land-use regulations (including zoning rules) that could reduce the value of their holdings.

Campaign finance reports filed by the Protect Our Homes Coalition revealed an unusual pattern of large, one-time infusions of cash from interrelated out-of-state entities that to date have not publicly disclosed their sources of funds.

The Center for Public Integrity’s review of public filings shows that five political funds connected to Rich have poured — in single, successive donations — more than $3.3 million into the Protect Our Homes Coalition.

For the full story, go to www.takingsinitiatives.org .

Yesterday, they broke THIS story:

Tax-Exempt Group Backing ‘Takings’ Initiatives Operated Illegally, Center for Public Integrity Reports

WASHINGTON, October 25, 2006 – A Chicago-based tax-exempt organization that has been bankrolling takings initiatives in more than a half-dozen Western states — including all five with measures on the ballot this November 7 — continued to dispense millions of dollars even after its authority to do business had been revoked by Illinois authorities, the Center for Public Integrity reported today.

The tax-exempt organization, Americans for Limited Government, Inc., has given at least $2.5 million this year to groups pushing the ballot initiatives. But much of this activity came during a period when it had no legal standing to operate from Illinois, the Center’s Takings Initiatives Accountability Project reported. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White revoked the nonprofit’s certificate of authority to do business in the state on February 1, 2006, citing its failure to file an annual report as required by law.

In the eight months that Americans for Limited Government operated illegally in Illinois:

  • It was the largest donor ($892,000) to the Arizona HomeOwners Protection Effort, which is backing Proposition 207.

  • It was the largest donor ($168,778) to People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land (PISTOL), which is backing Question 2 in Nevada.

  • It was the largest donor ($260,000) to the Property Fairness Coalition, which is backing Initiative 933 in Washington State.

  • It was the largest donor (more than $2 million) to America at its Best, a tax-exempt organization in Virginia that was the second-largest donor to both This House Is MY Home, the chief proponent of Proposition 2 in Idaho, and Missourians in Charge, which backed a failed takings in that state.

The organization’s authority to do business in the state was not reinstated until September 22.

Neither story seems to back up Howie Rich's claims of squeaky cleanness. Neither is there any reason to accept his assertions of philanthropy, given his unending prediliction for secrecy and byzantine schemes to move mystery money through a seeming army of foundations, organizations, sub-organizations and state-by-state lieutenants.

In fact, the last story was greeted with THIS shrill, over-the-top press release:
Thursday, October 26, 2006
George Soros-Funded Front Group Launches Defamation Campaign Against ALG

Center for Public Integrity makes false, desperate claims to block protections for homes, businesses, and churches across America

CHICAGO, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is for immediate release from Americans for Limited Government:

Yesterday, a George Soros-funded front group sank to new lows by launching a desperate attack on Americans for Limited Government, a group that supports movements to protect property rights across the country.

On its website, the ironically-named Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a thinly-veiled, radical left attack machine, claims that ALG has been operating "illegally" for late renewal of a license. Unfortunately for CPI, however, ALG was never required to have the license they refer to in the first place.

"They might as well have accused us of not renewing our underwater basket- weaving license," said John Tillman, President of Americans for Limited Government. "That's how ridiculous this attack is. For people who are desperate to distract from the issues, however, it's par for the course."

Americans for Limited Government is a Delaware non-profit corporation in good standing and, as such, has never had any obligation to register with the Illinois Secretary of State. In 2002, Americans for Limited Government registered with the Illinois Secretary of State as a foreign corporation as a formality, even though, as noted, it was not required. "Apparently," Tillman noted, "no good deed goes unpunished -- at least not when you've got people who are paid to sling false accusations your way."

This registration, which ALG was under no obligation to have in the first place, lapsed when renewal notices were not forwarded to the correct address. Margie Johnson, who handles the re-instatements at the Illinois Secretary of State, said that this is a common situation. "This is a routine thing," she said. "I couldn't even tell you how many we get a year, hundreds if not thousands. The only penalties are for the late filing fees....otherwise, the state takes no action and there are no other consequences. The only bad thing that could happen is that someone else could take your legal name while you are lapsed."

Johnson also noted that "once a corporation files its re-instatement, it's reinstated in good standing with no lapse in continuity." Any and all contributions made by Americans for Limited Government have thus been perfectly legal, regardless of its corporate status in Illinois. In addition, the Americans for Limited Government Research Foundation has also applied for reinstatement and expects to be granted reinstatement shortly.

"Plain and simple, CPI has a huge disdain for the voters and is desperate to stop them from having a say," Tillman said. "They would rather side with government bureaucrats than with the people across the country whose homes, businesses, and houses of worship are threatened by unjust government takings, and they'll resort to lies and personal attacks to do so. That's just sad."

For a list of the other inaccuracies on the Center for Public Integrity website, visit http://www.getliberty.org/ . For more information, e-mail John Tillman at jtillman@getliberty.org.

Source: Americans for Limited Government

CONTACT: John Tillman, Americans for Limited Government,

Web site: http://www.getliberty.org/

Even the usually unflappable Tillman's sound bites seem a tad hysterical. Given the purple prose, and the shrieking paranoia of the press release, we may well have established what Heather Wilhelm, the ALG communication director, has been up to lately. It was, after all, right after an August screech much like this one to the Lincoln Journal Star (Nebr.) that Ms. Wilhelm vanished from sight. Sandlapper spoke of this at DailyKos on Tuesday.

Simple PR 101 suggests that you never let em see you sweat. Certainly you don't unleash a torrent of invective this Over The Top if you're clearly in the right. Oh, and while we're on the subject of credibility:
"The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based organization that does investigative reporting and research on significant public issues. Since 1990, the Center has released more than 300 investigative reports and 15 books. It has received the prestigious George Polk Award and more than 20 other journalism awards and 16 finalist nominations from national organizations, including PEN USA and Investigative Reporters and Editors. In April 2006, the Society of Professional Journalists recognized the Center with a national award for excellence in online public service journalism for the fifth consecutive year. In October 2006, the Center also was honored with the Online News Association’s coveted General Excellence award."
Funny, I hadn't realized that the George Polk Award (which is, frankly, quite a bit more prestigious than a Pulitzer, no matter what Columbia University says) was handed out to "thinly-veiled, radical left attack machine"s. But you know how smart those Phillips Fellowship winners are. So, I guess it must be true if Howard Rich's press flak says it's so.

Or, perhaps we all weren't born yesterday.

Meantime, Howie and the gang are already looking forward to 2007 or 2008. In North Dakota, financials were filed on Wednesday, the 25th. And this interesting little tidbit appeared after a little digging (The earlier, summer disclosure document is all goose eggs).

(Hint: search for the initiative campaign committee name)
Name: Citizens to Restrict Eminent Domain
Previous Names: C-RED
Registration Date: 01/13/2006

Address 1: PO Box 38
City, State Zip: Bismarck, ND 58502
Telephone: 701.****

In Support of Measure: Relates to the taking of private property
Agent Name: Ms. Kari Haugland
Agent Title or Position: Office Manager
Agent Telephone: 701.****

Person Completing Report: Kari Haugland

Date Report Filed: 10/25/2006
Total Cash On Hand at Start of Reporting Period: $0.00
Total Cash On Hand at Close of Reporting Period: $6,681.55
Total Contributions Greater Than 100: $12,200.00
Total Contributions Less Than or Equal to 100: $125.00
Total of All Contributions: $12,325.00
Total Expenditures Greater Than 100: $5,643.45
Total Expenditures Less Than or Equal to 100: $0.00
Total of All Expenditures: $5,643.45

3 Contributions found:

America At Its Best
PO Box 1678
Kalispell, MT 59903
Date / Amount: 09/13/2006 $10,000.00

Berg, James
7013 79th Ave NE
Starkweather, ND 58377
Date / Amount: 10/18/2006 $200.00

Landowners Assoc of ND
PO Box 38
Bismarck, ND 58502
Date / Amount: 10/19/2006 $2,000.00
Gee. With those totaling $12,200, there must have been $125 in contributions less than $100. That means we're looking at another "grass roots" movement, assuming that every one of those contributions averaged $1, then that would be ... 127 contributors. And, true to form, the Howard Rich-financed group has given 81% of the money to start the initiative campaign. One can only guess where the Landowners Association got their money. (Recently, coincidentally, they formed a separate 501(c)3 charitable organization, so you can give the foundation contributions that are fully tax deductable.)

[It's like that deja vu thing: Why does one get such a strong feeling that one has been here before?]

Of course, Duncan Scott, our old friend from Montana is disbursing the funds, supposedly at Laird Maxwell's discretion. After all, earlier in the summer, John Tillman told the Omaha World Herald (one of the few newspapers that have looked at this story more than superficially) that all that money given to America At Its Best ... well, let the OWH editorial from August 29 recount Mr. Tillman's nonchalance:
Yet when John Tillman, the president of the activist group [ALG], was asked about the ballot proposal by the World-Herald reporters, he responded: "We have no position on the humane care measure. I've not even read that amendment."

That statement is a curious one, given that Tillman's organization gave no less than $2.4 million to support the humane care measure - the largest donation by far from any group.

So, what is going on?
Well, Laird Maxwell explains how it works in the August 27 article the editorial refers to:
Maxwell, of Boise, Idaho, heads America at Its Best, the Montana group through which money for the humane care and spending measures flowed... As for who ultimately funded the effort, Maxwell said: "People from all over the nation. I don't really know. It's a national movement. I send donors to ALG. They send donations and donors to me."
Got that? Good. Because, when asked why he gave several hundred thousand dollars to an Omaha attorney named Thomas Mann (who was the Nebraska point man for the humane care measure), Maxwell responded thusly about why he directed Duncan Scott to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mann:
Asked how he learned of Thomas Mann, Maxwell said: "Thomas Mann? Who's he?"

Reminded of Mann's position with the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee, Maxwell said he recalled speaking with Mann and his wife once on a conference call.
So, there you have it. The Center for Public Integrity is a left wing attack machine. John Tillman, normally unflappable is nervous, but may soon return to Sgt. Schultz (of "Hogan's Heroes") somnambulance, and Duncan Scott is still shuffling that good old ALG money out of Kalispell, Montana for another Kelo/Eminant Domain petition drive in North Dakota next year, or the year after. It is, as that Siamese king Yul Brynner played so famously once said, "a puzzlement."

But all is not utter gloom, chaos and despair: somewhere, far from the madding, noisome crowd, I can hear the moonbats barking softly in the chill October night. They're hearing them all over the world tonight, methinks.



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