14 July 2006

Mail Call, or Adding Up The Hominy

The following communication was received this evening, posted as an anonymous comment on the 11 July 2006 entry: "Addendum to Yesterday's Story."

So, I will answer it openly.
Of course had you identified yourself as a quasi-journalist we may have been able to have a different conversation. You are doing exactly what all the other so-called journalists have been doing to my company for the past five years: perpetuating a erroneous story that my company engages in any type of fraud. The stories stick because of Google, and the accusers are able to get away with it because they have a sympathetic ear with the reporters. But the fact the stories are oft-repeated still doesn't make them any more accurate. Politics through defamation is what the unions and the left have come to and it does not become your otherwise well-researched Blog to carry the water for them. Show a little courage and call -- I left my telephone number.

Michael Arno

P.S. Lesson one in writing: don't point out a typo from another writer unless what you have written is free of the same.
There are several issues in this letter, Mr. Arno. The implication is that, for nefarous reasons, I didn't want to identify myself as a 'quasi-journalist' -- and here the foul taste of ad hominem raises its ugly head. (It will become quite pronounced by the end of your letter.)

So, let's get the "insulting" portion out of the way right up front.

Since this is, ultimately, an attempt to insult, it makes no sense to engage in ever more polished and sharpened linguistic ripostes, let's just get down to archetypes and cut to the chase: Since the first 'insult' that both you and I learned was undoubtedly, "poopoo head,"

Very well then: you are a poopoo head.

We are even. We can move on.

Alas, the way that these things usually go is that you will then reply with "no YOU are a poopoo head."

We cannot help it. It is instrinct. It is etched into our genes: I would then be either required to utter it with still greater vehemence, or return with a more elaborated form of "poopoo head," like, say, "poopoo pants." Or a combination of both witty retorts.

Eventually, of course, we would learn that the proper response is "I'm rubber, you're glue, it bounces off me and sticks to you."

And so forth.

The arms race that began when we learned "poopoo head" continues to this day. So, that is the last "insult" I will fling in your direction. What you choose to do in that arena after this is your concern, entirely: I forfeit the match.

Which brings us to the present. I am not trying to insult you in my "quasi-reportage," sir. I make no secret of the fact that I find what you do repellent, and the antithesis of democracy.

But then, I'm not trying to impersonate a quasi-journalist. I have worn many hats in this game, and I am simply writing as honestly as I know how. I don't like what you do, and that's not ideological. I wouldn't like it if you were on the other ideological side of the fence. My December 9, 2004 report on your ideological opposite is at: http://www.hartwilliams.com/ava/ava0106.htm, if you don't believe me.

But, as your vocation is perfectly legal, I'm not casting aspersions. You have a perfect right to engage in your profession, as am I perfectly within my rights to report on the facts, and my interpretation of the facts -- and, as a citizen, to find this whole business of political professionals antithetical to the conception of "the will of the people;"

... just as you have a right to your dislike of "unions" and "accusers," and "quasi-journalists." Golden Rule and all that.

Again, that is perfectly legitimate. I may not hold that political opinion, but as long as you play within the rules, I am perfectly content, and adjudge you in no negative manner. Both of our "sides" of the question agreed, a long Constitution ago, that we would accept the right of the other to live. There was some unpleasantness in the 1860s, but we don't talk about that much here in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

I am under no obligation to get a "response" from you. You are perfectly free to post your own, without editing -- which I see that you did. (What journalist has offered you that courtesy, sir?)

I asked you a perfectly honest question, based on your promise: Write to us for our client list.

I wrote you exactly that. Nothing more, except courtesy.

You explained why that promise was no longer valid, and summarized the ideological waterfront that you cover.

But I asked a perfectly honest question, and you gave a perfectly honest answer.

You seem to be insulted that I didn't identify myself as a sneaky 'quasi-journalist' so that we could play the cat and mouse game of my asking questions whose answers I would then distort (I have been on the wrong end of a lot of writing myself, sir, and I do my level best not to harm with words).

I was perfectly honest with you. I was interested in your services. Could I have a copy of your client list, as you promised? I asked, sincerely. There was no falsehood in my question.

You explained that you didn't do that anymore, and that your webpage was out of date. I believe that you were being perfectly honest with me. You explained yourself elegantly, and I printed your entire response. I did not edit you, nor did I engage in post-facto commentary. I appended the (sic) which only means, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th ed. 2000):

"ADVERB: Thus; so. Used to indicate that a quoted passage, especially one containing an error or unconventional spelling, has been retained in its original form or written intentionally.
ETYMOLOGY: Latin, sic."
So, I noted that the word in question is presented exactly as it was presented to me. I was engaged in no subterfuge or distortion.

The fact that you seem to take exception to this as some kind of dirty stunt is purely your own projection. I assure you that I was using the term in the precise sense. Honesty demands it: honesty to the text and honesty to the reader. (That is MY profession.)

But to be as fair as possible: when you quote me and find a typo -- or any other errata -- by all means flag it with a "(sic)," and I swear that I will not in the least be offended.


My comment following your reply was "Straight from the horse's mouth," which, as we both know is a colloquial term denoting veracity. I attested to the veracity of your words. Whether they were true or not is a matter of the quality of your word, and I took you as having answered honestly.

You are the only person who knows the answer to that question. But, I wonder, what would you have said, had I identified myself as a "quasi-journalist"? I would hope that it would have been the same answer.

Since I have no interest in the mechanics of what you do, and am perfectly familiar with them, I didn't need to pester you with a bunch of questions about the conduct of your petition-gatherers. That was not the point of my article.

As a brief aside, at least one that did the canvassing in Nebraska dealt with worse than you seem to have in California, Nevada and Oregon, and, as near as I can tell, it's been an ugly season for petition-gathering just about everywhere. That wasn't the focus of my story, and so I only asked you to characterize your clientele, and you did that in a necessary and sufficient manner.

So, there we have it.

As regards "politics of defamation" and "unions" and the rest of it, I take it that you didn't do anything wrong, and don't have to apologize for it (by implication). Fine. I merely pointed out that you've been doing a lot of denials ina lot of places over the past couple of years, Florida to Massachusetts to Nevada to Oregon, certainly. Those are matters of fact. Whether the charges were warranted, or your denials were honest I don't pretend to pass judgment on.

As John Adams said: "Facts are stubborn things."

If you are unjustly hounded by slanderers, that's not my obligation or concern. (You know several P.R. firms, I'm sure, and that's their job.) I'm just tracing out the wiring of a golem machine of politics that delivers signatures on petitions. To be fair, you don't state on your website-- as one Canvassing company does -- that you have been so successful that you offer a guarantee on the number of signatures delivered.

I wrote what I wrote, and I stand by it. I presume that if there was something that was egregiously false, or in dire error, you would point it out to me. I have always been willing to make legitimate corrections. (I don't get many requests, however. I even do my best to spell people's names correctly.)

Really, there's nothing more to say after that, except that your job is to do 'political consulting,' and my job is to write the truth.

And, after thirty years in this business, I appreciate your advice on writing. It is always wise to appreciate good advice.


"Ed Waldo"


13 July 2006

Appendum the Addendum

One little item showed up today during fact checking. Yesterday I reported that a mysterious $330,000 had been spent to qualify three Americans for Limited Government-type initiatives in Montana. Turns out I was off by over $250,000.00.

Seems that Tuesday was time to file financial reports for the Montana campaigns.

The Billings (Montana) Gazette reports:
$580K spent on signatures

Gazette State Bureau
Wednesday, July 12, 2006

HELENA -- Groups supporting a trio of ballot measures that would limit the reach of government have spent an unprecedented $580,000 on paid signature-gatherers in their attempt to place the measures on the November ballot.


Financial support for the three measures -- which have yet to be validated for the November ballot -- also continues to come primarily from a single source: Montanans in Action, a new political/education nonprofit group that won't reveal specifically where it gets its money.

Reports filed this week show that Montanans in Action has spent nearly $633,000
The Gazette also notes that's over 92% of the money spent on all three ballot measures.

Gee, when you add $633,000 and the $600,000 that Montanans in Action donated to the California Proposition 90 campaign, that's 1.23 million bucks that all sort of ended up at the farm/ranch of a Winifred, Montana fellow who hasn't even bothered to put in an extra phone line or hire a staff member.

Remember that the ONLY thing we know is that Americans for Limited Government "loaned" the appropriately acronym'ed MIA $49,000. Guess they repaid the loan, right?

The story goes on to say that an opposition spokesman says that not only doesn't anyone know where the money is coming from, but that there's no proof to the claim that it's a "grass-roots" Montana campaign. The leader of MIA says that it is, but continues to refuse to provide any proof that he's not lying. (click on the headline for the whole news story.)

Most of the paid petition gatherers come from outside of Montana.

Montana has been, until this campaign, a state in which petitions drives are volunteer-driven. Nobody's ever seen anything like the $580,000 spent by the mystery group to qualify their proposals for the November election, flooding the state with mercenaries from other places.

So, at least $1.23 million came INTO the state, and then $1.18 million went right back OUT of the state -- in a very UN-Montana-style petition drive.

Which leaves about $50,000 still in Montana -- and that just happens to be about exactly the amount of money Americans for Limited Government loaned MIA. Jeepers.

Things that make you go "hmmmmm..."



Well, here we go again.

There's been a new and startling development in this tale. Something like that night security guard finding duct tape over the lock of the Democratic offices in the Watergate all those years ago. Wasn't even looking for it. Just trying to be diligent and do a professional job, you know. And then: blind, dumb luck, frankly.

This story has been like a cheap sweater. You start tugging on the loose threads, and the whole thing unravels disastrously -- for the wearer of the sweater, that is.

I was going to finish it up, again, and one more major surprise dropped into my lap from out of the blue. I just needed to quick check a couple of details and then ....

But that would be telling.

Hang on to your hats kiddies.


12 July 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment: Part III, Under A Western Sky

There used to be a commercial that enjoyed quite a lot of success here in the West: A group of cowboys is hunkered down around a campfire, eating chili, and someone pulls out his jar of salsa. The most grizzled old cowpoke tells the cowboy to read the label. "New York City," the cowboy reads.

And all the cowboys exclaim in horror: "NEW YORK CITY!!?!"

What that image has to do with the story to follow will shortly become clear.

PART III, Under A Western Sky

What does a lawyer's office in Kalispell, Montana have to do with two ballot petitions in Nebraska? And what does a rancher in Winifred, Montana have to do with a $600,000 donation to the Proposition 90 Campaign in California, a "protect our homes" initiative? And what does a fired former director of the National Libertarian Party have to do with a school voucher campaign in South Carolina?


It has been a brutal petitioning season in Nebraska. All the state's major papers have reported hot tempers and incidents aimed at paid out-of-state petitioners, getting paid $2.50 per signature to qualify two initiatives for the Nebraska ballot: A state spending cap, styled after Colorado's voter-repealed TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) law, and a "Must Feed" law based on the Terri Schiavo case in Florida.

The state's media have generally ignored the puzzling fact that all of the funding for the signature gathering campaigns has come from out of state. Specifically, a mysterious group calling itself by the Orwellian moniker "America At Its Best" contributed virtually the entire (and substantial) funding for the campaign.

Nebraska StatePaper.com reported on July 05, 2006:
It was also learned that an organization from outside Nebraska put up $380,000 and is paying virtually all the costs to gather signatures on a controversial petition to limit state spending. That fact flew in the face of earlier statements by Mike Groene of North Platte who spearheads the drive. During a joint radio appearance last month with Democratic candidate for governor Dave Hahn, Groene said most of the money for the petition drive would come from within the state; in fact, only some $2,000 has been raised within the state.
In an interview with another paper, Groene admitted that the people behind the campaign were term limits activists. According to papers filed with the Nebraska Secretary of State, the co-petitioner (with Groene) is an Illinois group called "Americans for Limited Government." But ALG didn't make any contributions -- at least that are apparent. All of the money came from "America At Its Best," a mysterious group headquartered in an Attorney's office in Kalispell, Montana, in the shade of Glacier National Park.

Montana newspapers picked up this story last week, as did Nebraska papers, and even the Sioux Falls, South Dakota paper -- all too late to affect the outcome of the signature drive. The initiatives appear headed to the November ballot, assisted by glowing editorials in the Omaha World-Herald, the Kearney Daily Hub and others.

(Stop OverSpending Nebraska -- "SOS Nebraska" -- 'supporters' include: Committee for State Stewardship, Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association, Nebraskan Taxpayers for Freedom, and Pete Ricketts, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate -- which must have been easy, since they didn't have to pony up a dime.)

It's too bad that the Associated Press reporter who dug up the story didn't dig just a little deeper.

The oxymoronically entitled America At Its Best is run by an Idahoan, Laird Maxwell, who also runs a group called "Idahoans for Tax Reform" who are ALSO placing a TABOR-style initiative on the Idaho ballot, ALSO with six figures of cash from an out-of-state benefactor.

Luckily, for the diligent researcher, Nebraska has a disclosure form that states:

List all persons from whom contributions totaling more than $200 were received by the major out of state contributor during the period covered by the report and all persons who have a cumulative total over $200 for the calendar year.

I'm not going to keep you in suspense. The SOLE contributor to America At Its Best (and also a mystery to Idaho newspapers) is listed as follows:

(click here to see the Nebraska filing document)

$ 2,030,000.00


$ 400,000.00




Isn't that odd? Americans for Limited Government is the co-sponsor of the bill. Why would ALG want to hide their financial largesse by laundering their contributions through a Montana law office?

But there's something that the Nebraska Ethics Commission didn't notice about those four listings. Two of the addresses aren't Chicago addresses. One, in particular, 73 SPRING STREET, #408, CHICAGO, IL 10012 is correct (minus the Chicago, IL designation). It is a New York City address. It is also the address of Howard Rich, chairman of ALG, Foundation for Democracy and US Term Limits.

The mystery money in Idaho comes from the same source. You might have noticed that ALG's contribution of $2,580,000.00 is quite a bit more than America At Its Best's $380,000 contribution to Nebraska's political process. Well, another nice chunk of that money went to Idaho.

According to reporter Gregory Hahn, in The Idaho Statesman, June 29-2006
Idaho voters have another question to answer in November.

An initiative to change the state's eminent domain and "regulatory takings" laws qualified for the ballot Wednesday with 49,053 signatures - more than the 47,881 required by law.

Pushed by conservative advocate Laird Maxwell of Boise, the initiative would restrict governments from making decisions that lower a property's value without "just compensation" to the landowner.

"We now are gearing up for the campaign to get it passed in November," Maxwell said.


Maxwell used $330,000 from two out-of-state groups to pay signature-gatherers to meet the state's requirements. The money came from New York term-limits and property rights supporter Howard Rich and from "America at its Best," a group based in the Montana law office of Duncan Scott, a former Republican state senator from New Mexico. Maxwell is the chairman of that group.
Except that Laird Maxwell is laundering ALG/Howard Rich money across the border to himself. The Statesman got the connection right, although the contribution is officially from Americans for Limited Government. And ALG handed "America At Its Best" $2.5 million dollars to play with. On a per capita basis, Idaho got even more cash to run its petition drive than Nebraska. Six-figures have been routinely dumped into nearly every state in the West from ALG, Fund for Democracy, and/or US Term Limits. Howard Rich is the chair of all three.

In Maine, where Maine petition-whiz Mary Adams ran a drive to qualify a TABOR initiative, but which prohibits professional signature gatherers, and a six-figure contribution would be noticed, ALG kicked in a mere $20,000, but, to be fair, a lot of Maine folks chipped in, too, utterly unlike what has happened here in the West. In both Arizona and California (eminent domain measures), the actual contribution FROM that state consisted of exactly $100, as we shall see.

But we can't leave Montana just yet. On the other side of the range from Kalispell, a "staunch conservative" farmer/rancher from Winifred, Montana, without any discernable office, staff or political accoutrements poured quite a bit of cash into three ballot measures, and sent $600,000 to California to help the Proposition 90 committee. And all without telling anyone where the money comes from.
$230K spent on ballot petitions
Billings Gazette State Bureau - 06/15/06

HELENA - At least $230,000 has been paid to freelance signature-gatherers in the effort to qualify three initiatives for the November ballot in Montana, including the measure to place a constitutional limit on state spending.

The money has come almost entirely from a recently formed political education group that isn't revealing its donors, drawing criticism from opponents of the spending-limit measure....

The campaign coordinator for the three proposed ballot measures, Winifred rancher and political activist Trevis Butcher, said Wednesday he's confident the initiatives will get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot this fall.
But the Butcher of Winifred did make one interesting revelation during his non-disclosure, to a reporter from The Great Falls Tribune:
Tribune Capitol Bureau

An Illinois-based group called Americans for Limited Government helps promote spending-cap measures around the country. Likewise, the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities works to oppose those measures.

Americans for Limited Government has already floated a loan to Montanans In Action, the group spearheading SOS, according to Trevis Butcher, the initiative's coordinator. He wouldn't give the amount.
Now, supposedly Howard Rich's ALG (and I'll explain about the "Illinois" office later) only "loaned" Butcher some money to get him started. Who knows? Perhaps the bulk of the funds came from America At Its Best over in Kalispell. Lord knows they ought to still have some of that $2.5 million that ALG gave them. But one can make an educated guess as to where the money for the ballot measures came from.

In Arizona it's cut and dried: One Arizonan contributed $100. All the rest came from either ALG or Fund for Democracy. In other words, and, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's online campaign reports, of the $186,600 contributed to the Arizona Home Owners Protection Effort (Arizona H.O.P.E. -- clever, ain't it? Just like SOS Nebraska and Montana), 2006 June 30 Report, of the $186,600.00 received so far, $186,500 came from Howard Rich chaired entitities.
Now, whether it is Rich's personal money or he's fronting for a consortium of cranky zillionaires, Rich controls the money, which is the same thing. Both are, as pointed out in part I of this report, 501(c)(4) entities, which means that their donors don't have to be disclosed.

Sort of like "Montanans In Action," come to think of it. MIA, by the by, is listed as being one of the organizations in one of the states that ALG has a state campaign going in.

These states are in ALG's sights this fall (from their webpage):

The Arizona Home Owners Protection Effort (Arizona HOPE) plans to give hope to Arizona property owners facing eminent domain and regulatory abuse.


In California, citizens are fed up with eminent domain abuse, and we're teaming up with local activists to pass an initiative that will protect the property rights of all Californians.


In Idaho, we're working to protect property rights with an initiative that will appear on the November 2006 ballot.


Mary Adams and her crew are working to stop government waste and put the people in charge of state spending with a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.


The Michigan Stop OverSpending Committee has filed an initiative to put the people in charge of state spending. Additionally, the Protect Our Homes Committee is supporting Proposal 4, which will protect the property rights of homeowners across the state from eminent domain abuse.


Missourians in Charge has filed an initiative to secure property rights (Protect Our Homes) and empower voters to decide in matters of state spending (Stop Over Spending).


Montanans in Action has filed the Stop OverSpending initiative to give taxpayers control over state spending. Additionally, there is a Protect Our Homes initiative to protect property rights and a Citizens Right to Recall initiative to restore judicial accountability.


The Nevada Tax and Spending Control Committee is working to stop out-of-control spending in Nevada.


The Nebraka Stop OverSpending committee is working to give taxpayers a say in state spending this year.


Oklahomans in Action is working to stop eminent domain abuse and out-of-control spending this year.


Initiative 6, the Rainy Day Amendment measure, would put limits on state spending in Oregon. Initiative 49, the Neighborhood Protection Act, would prohibit condemnation of private property by governmental units intending to transfer the property to private parties.


In Washington state, Initiative 933, the Property Fairness Initiative, would require elected officials to avoid damaging the use or value of private property.

So far, we've only covered Oregon, Nebraska, Montana, Maine, Arizona and Idaho. There's a whole lot more where that came from.

In California, for Proposition 90 -- recipient of that mysterious $600,000 donation from Montanans in Action -- Arno Political Consultants of Sacramento (and subject of yesterday's report) was paid $651,236.30 to qualify the measure for the ballot. As in Arizona, exactly $100 came from California. The remainder of the $1,500,000.00 came from The Fund for Democracy of New York (FFD), according the California Secretary of State's online campaign finance reports. But there's little fillip in this one. The $100 was a "loan" from the KAL Group, which, to be charitable, one would presume to be Californian.

In Washington state, ALG has contributed over $200,000 thus far -- that we know of -- but you can't find it in the Washington state C&Es. It was given through the Washington Farm Bureau, which is the donor of record.

More money laundering? Certainly in Arizona, five donations are recorded, sequenced to look less suspicious perhaps. In California, FFD didn't even worry about it. In Washington state, the money is filtered through the Farm Bureau, and in Montana, the money appears and disappears as mysteriously as it does in Idaho and Nebraska.

on Friday, July 7, 2006, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported:
Property measure likely on ballot
Proponents deliver tractor load of voter signatures


... Nearly half the pro-933 cash contributions have come from Americans for Limited Government, a Chicago* organization founded by New York landlord Howard Rich, who also advocates for term limits and conservative issues. The group, which has contributed $200,000, is bankrolling ballot measures in 12 states.
[*There seems to be either two offices or one move involved with the Illinois ALG. There's the Wacker Drive address, and the suburban Glenview, Illinois office. The Glenview IL return address on a petition mailed to me last month was the oddity that first started my poking into these matters. What was an Illinois organization doing sending me an Oregon petition?]

But, really, the money comes from 73 Spring Street, New York City, 10012 USA.

In Nevada, Tax and Spending Control for Nevada (TASC), another TABOR-style bill, has a rocky history. But ...

The Associated Press reported on Jul 7, 8:49 PM EDT,
Petition moves step closer to qualifying for Nevada ballot
Associated Press Writer

TASC supporters contracted with Arno Political Consulting to coordinate the signature-gathering effort. The Sacramento-based group has come under fire for similar irregularities in petition campaigns in Ohio, and has recently been criticized for paying employees per signature on a tax restraint measure in Oregon.

Firm principal Michael Arno said the allegations of fraud were "100 percent political and sour grapes on their part."
And who is funding the Nevada TASC? Anjeanette Damon reported in the RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, 12/13/2005:
... Illinois-based Americans for Limited Government has promised to match all local dollars raised in the state. And Grover Norquist's group Americans for Tax Reform also has pledged support.

"What it basically does is put politicians on the same kind of budget that families and individuals have to live by in the real world," said Heather Wilhem, spokeswoman for Americans for Limited Government.
Of course, the ALG spokesman/petitioner in Nebraska said the same thing, and not a penny of Nebraska money showed up, so the last comment must be viewed with a healthy skepticism.

There is not time today to go into Michigan, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Carolina. And I haven't brought you back to Oregon, where this series started. But there is a clear pattern here: Recruit a "front" person for either a TABOR, a Term Limits, "eminent domain" or miscellaneous (Terry Schiavo, Judge removal) initiative. Fully fund the petition drive -- using paid petition-gatherers -- as far under the radar as possible. ("Launder" the money, if you have to.) And fully fund a campaign that the people of the state in question didn't realize that they were even upset about until the New York City money from Howard Rich's multiple astroturf organizations showed up.

But the crazy thing about it all is that this chicanery (that is at least an euphemistically accurate description) is being done by "Libertarians" in the name of "returning power to the people."

However, Howard Rich lives in New York City. His old Libertarian Party cronies (and USTL/ALG Board members) Eric O'Keefe and Paul Jacob live in Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. respectively. What are they doing in Montana? Why are they stirring up fights in Nebraska? Nevada? Oregon? California? Oklahoma? (Et al)

This isn't a partisan scandal. It isn't about Democrats or Republicans (although Rich does tend to show up hand in hand with Grover Norquist quite a bit). This is about a self-appointed fellow named, appropriately enough, Rich, playing with the electoral processes of most of the Western states and several midwestern, eastern seaboard and southern states as a slightly sadistic boy plays with his plastic ant-farm.

Americans for Limited Government is misnamed: it would be more accurately called "Rich Americans for Unlimited Meddling." And the "Fund for Democracy"? And how can anyone in good conscience call themselves a "Term Limits" group, when they show zero interest in campaign contribution limits (as we shall see tomorrow)?

But any consideration of democratic process, or of "the people" by these misguided "libertarians" is sure hard to find. It seems the antithesis of Libertarianism.

Is it real democracy? Or should we, with those grizzled cowboys of the commercial recoil in horror, moaning "New York City?"

Tomorrow: The Old Libertarian connections, the Cato Institute and the sham campaign they're running in Oregon with a retired dentist and a lot of money. Virtually all from, well, NYC.


11 July 2006

Addendum to Yesterday's Story

In researching yesterday's story on Arno Political Consultants, who obtained the signatures for three ballot measures which may be on Oregon's November ballot, I wrote to APC:
Mon, 10 Jul 2006 14:29:04 -0700

Dear APC (info@apcusa.com):

On your webpage, you state:

"For a list of our more than 500 clients please feel free to contact us."

I am interested in your services, but I would like to see the list.

Might I?

Thank you in advance for your attention in this matter.


Hart Williams
I received this reply from Michael Arno, too late to include in the report:
From: "Michael Arno"
To: "Hart Williams"

We haven't updated our website in some time and no longer give out our client list. However, we tend to work on behaf (sic) of conservative/republican clients and the business community. Please feel free to call if you have any questions at (916) 638-1596 and ask for Michael Arno.

Thank you.
Straight from the horse's mouth.


Unlimited Terms of Endearment - Part 2.5

Hey. I thought that I'd wrap this up today.

The research was there. The players were there.

Easy, right? Just wrap up the loose ends.


This story just got a WHOLE lot bigger.

Stay tuned.


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?


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.