21 July 2006

Moon Day or, A Secret History of Neil Armstrong

It's the 37th Anniversary of "The Eagle Has Landed"
Reprint from Friday, July 22, 2005

I'm going to go a little way out here. But don't worry: it'll all come out in the wash.

Today will be "Moon Day" when we finally wise up and make it a holiday. Actual Moon Day was on Wednesday, but if it were a 'legal' holiday, this would be the Friday for the three-day weekend. Because, whether anyone else on Earth goes along with me, July 20th is a humankind holiday. It is, perhaps, a holiday that transcends species entirely. The shared recombinant DNA of the entire planet can celebrate the moment; perhaps, if the Gaia Hypothesis is correct, it is a sacred day for the entire, living, sentient planet.

And for the last two days, I've been trying to write this column. By Wednesday's end, I had a middling-piece, but it just was all; wrong. It tried to weave various histories, but it was missing the personal piece.

A funny thing about my writing: ever since I started writing in college, I have had a little technique that I call 'composting.' I read the material, or, in the case of fiction, think about the characters, and immerse myself in the subject, and then I just drop it. I forget about it, but I've always felt that terra incognita towards the back of the brain, perhap the subconscious, perhaps the soul (but then, what is the subconscious, if it's not the soul in scientific drag?) churning and doing SOMETHING, but what, I don't really know.

And then, at some mysterious point (usually a deadline) the oven timer goes off; there is a silent, mental chime, and whatever it was I was going to write about is "done."

For the past two days, the oven's been baking, and no words have been present.

The moon landing was a very personal experience for me. You know the landing itself: either you witnessed it, or you heard about it, or you read about it.

But it was one of those 9/11 moments: everyone knew where they were when it happened. It is a secret music that each of us carries. We all know the song playing on the radio, but each of us has a "secret" version: we remember a moment that is associated with that song, with that moment.

My secret moment was a life-long fulfillment: I am old enough to remember Sputnik, barely. Mostly I remember the tremendous agitation among the giant adults who supervised me. I had just learned to walk, recently, and I only really remember the emotions: the USA was behind the USSR. They were in space, and shortly thereafter, a month later, the USSR launched Sputnik II, with a dog namd Laika.

The USA was in a state of total shock (here, in Oregon, the Eugene Astromical Society was founded that year as a Cold War Sputnik watching group -- who knew what perfidy the Soviet Communists would rain down from space. It bore watching).

The USA rose to the symbolic challenge: we launched our reply, Explorer 1, four months later. (Explorer 1 discovered the earth's magnetic "shield" against the deadlier elements of the solar wind, the Van Allen belts.)

Thence the launching of monkeys and dogs, and then the USSR sent the first man into space: Yuri Gagarin. I well remember the consternation that caused. I was living with my grandparents in their Victorian Gingerbread house, in Kearney, Nebraska. If you've been to Harry Truman's house in Independence, Missouri, you'd recognize my grandparents' house, a slightly less accessorized version of the same model, but eerily similar in design, ornamentation and layout.

A lot of people used to tell my grandfather that he looked a lot like Harry Truman -- a "compliment" that he hated, having been a life-long Republican working for the Union Pacific.

The KEARNEY DAILY HUB had a picture on the front page, and the long discussion about the "space race" would continue for years thereafter.

The first Mercury shots were sources of unalloyed wonder, but through the 'Sixties, our space program was continually a day late and a dollar short.

In 1963 or 1964, a college buddy of my Dad's stopped by at our little ranch-style house (painted fuscia, to the consternation of the neighborhood), on his way back to his job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He had a thick three-hole punch binder filled with Surveyor photos. Slow motion deliberate crashes into the moon, trying to find the best landing site; trying to understand that enigma that has fascinated ever since eyes have existed to see it.

Throughout my elementary school education, I was stricken with bouts of Gemini Flu. No one ever noticed that I went into my "sick" routine ("I don't feel good. Do I have a fever?") on the day of Gemini shots. I never had many sick days, and usually, dutifully attended school and only had the very occasional tardy -- invariably because of some Emergency Beyond My Control: my bike got a flat, or a group of Laramie bullies (my age) I cornered me, and proceeded to stomp my schoolbooks, stomp my bike, and then stomp on me. My illness was inevitably accepted -- especially in later years when I made sure that I heated up the mercury at the bottom of the thermometer to around 100 F by using the bedside lamp.

And I would follow the non-stop coverage of the Gemini mission from the fold-out hideabed in the study, while remaining too sick to go to school. Usually, Walter Cronkite would explain the goings-on. There were no remote controls in those days, and you had to manually switch the channel. I thought Huntley-Brinkley on NBC were boring, and ABC's string of anchors were pretty dull, except for Jules Bergman, who really did the science explanations better than anybody else.

When Grissom, Chafee and White died in the fire on the launchpad simulation (Apollo 1), I grieved with the rest of the nation.

When we began to pass and pull away from the USSR, I was patriotically thrilled.

And then the flights around the moon. The famous Christmas Eve reading from Genesis, which was very, very cool. The Madeline Murray O'Hare law suit, which I agreed then and agree now was correct. It was definitely an "establishment of religion" but it sure as heck was totally cool. Ironically, we were back at my grandparents' home for Christmas that year, and I watched the Earth as seen from lunar orbit on Apollo 8 in the same place I'd seen the newspaper announcing Yuri Gagarin's space flight what seemed a million years earlier.

I had been watching the space race from earliest childhood. And the landing on the moon seemed within our grasp.

It WOULD happen. It wasn't just crazy science fiction.

It's hard to remember that there was a time (reported to me, because I wasn't there) when all sober, reasonable people knew that the idea of going to the moon was sheerest lunacy.

And, until 1969, they were entirely correct.

But those who dreamed of going to the moon were either wildly imaginative, dangerously delusional or suffering from delerium tremens, or all three.

The science fiction writers who came of age in the 1940s have reported that it was not uncommon for them to be accosted by total strangers -- seriously sober and reasonable people -- who were happy to share their unshakeable opinion that anybody who wrote stories about going to the moon was a couple sandwiched shy of a picnic basket.

It was a shameful thing to write science fiction (or sci-fi), because the idea of traveling in space was nutty. So only kids and nuts would read the stuff. Many parents issued blanket prohibitions against their kids reading SF, considering it a sort of literary pornography. It enfeebled the mind, it was immoral -- possibly due to the profusion of exceptionally busty women on the covers, usually wearing the skimpiest spacesuits this side of Frederick's of Hollywood.

And, happily, when they landed on the moon, the science fiction writers were honored guests. They had weathered the long trek from outcast status to hero status.

I read a lot of SF. It only seemed natural in a "Space Age." And, I read a lot, anyway. I had a subscription to SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, and thought I was going to be a scientist "when I grow up."

So I was keenly aware of just what a profound moment in the life of a species, in the life of a planet that the moon landing represented.

In Arthur C. Clarke's novelization of 2001-A Space Odyssey, he makes the point (using different language) that the Black Monolith buried on the moon was the perfect pons asinorum. Pons asinorum literally means "bridge of donkeys" and it was a test meant to separate the teachable from the idiots. It's an idiot test. If a species can't develop space travel to their nearest neighbor, then they're not interesting to us. The test of the black monolith is a sort of galactic SAT on a pass/fail system.

To have actually travel the terrible void that separates the Earth and the Moon in a series of tin cans powered by special lighter fluid was a lot more than just a symbolic "war" between the world's two super-powers. It was a happy accident that their vanity had channeled the pot-World War Two rivals into a strange quest -- John Kennedy's stated goal of landing a man on the moon and bringing him safely back by the end of the decade (the 1960s).

For awhile, it looked like we were going to make it easily. And then the Apollo 1 fire.

Here is my secret history of the Moon Landing.

Grandpa had died the previous winter. The whole extended family had taken over the Fort Kearney Hotel, then. The joke made the rounds about when our Great Aunt had asked my Grandfather if all that weight wouldn't make the moon fall out of the sky. And he'd just looked at her, disgusted. (You had to have been there.)

We had moved to our new, dream house the summer before, during the Mexico City Olympics. My brother and I occupied the basement, with our own bathroom. We had a two car garage. I was about to enter the ninth grade, the "senior class" of Laramie Junior High. We'd be the high men on the totem pole, as the then-current colloquialism went.

And "we" were landing on the moon. By "we" it was hard to pin down: was it us kids? we USA folks? Americans, North and South? Or was it everybody? By the end of the day, I would realize that it was everybody. But at the time, I was in an exultation of State: The United States of America had won the race to the moon.

We're Number One! But it was far more than that. I wouldn't realize it until Apollo 13, but even then, I had a feeling that this was a Day for the Ages.

It was a perfect summer day, with clear blue skies and gentle sunlight. It was "hot" by which I mean that it might have been in the eighties. I had finished my pony league season, the highest point of my baseball career. In the last game of the season, at my last at-bat, I had hit the center field fence halfway up -- which would be the best I ever got. I never hit a home run, and I have often reflected on the little twist of fate involved: had that ball carried another couple of feet, I'd have won the game for my team, and we'd have been in the playoffs.

It would have been Michael Jordan moment. Instead, I only managed a stand up single, and was thrown out (sprinting was never my forte) on the only stolen base attempt I was ever given by any Third Base Coach. Such is life.

I didn't know it then, but that's as close as I'd ever get. It was the best summer of my childhood, but I wouldn't know that until much, much later.

It's funny how we never realize that the best moments of our life are happening when they're happening. Only years later do we understand that we'd been on a mountaintop but never realized it.

My brother had finished his career in little league, and the sponsor of the team, the "Circle S" motel across from the Wyoming "War Memorial" stadium, invited all the families to his cabin near Jelm, Wyoming, thirty miles west of Laramie.

They had a bar-b-que, and the obligatory gallons of potato salad, the beans, the hamburgers and hot dogs, the relish and mustard, and lots and lots of catsup. They spelled it "catsup" but everyone pronounced it "ketchup" for reasons that were mysterious then, and remain so today.

There was a mini-bike that all the kids were supposed to take turns riding, but the line was too long, so I hiked out in the woods, through the Ponderosa Pine and the sagebrush, with the meadowlarks calling, along the dusty dirt road the minibike roared back and forth on. I was always looking for arrowheads, but I never found one. instead, I found a couple of those old green-glass insulators from a nearby power pole, which I took as a souvenir. The linemen had probably just dropped the old ones and replaced them.

And the clock ticked. There was a radio on in the cabin, and I listened to the reports from the moon. The men were playing penny-ante poker, joking and yakking above the tinny sound of the radio, and the mothers were in the kitchen, cleaning up the remains of the day, chattering about this and that. The only subject that was missing from the day, oddly enough, was baseball, or the team, or the little league season.

When it was time for us to get back for the moonwalk, I told my parents, neither of which were very much interested.

I was astonished.

This was, perhaps, the most profound piece of history I'd ever witnessed, far more profound than any voyage of Columbus or Magellan; mor important than wars or elections. And the adults were oblivious.

Perhaps it was because I was peculiar -- I've always been a "collector" of history -- or just because this was the final payoff of a national odyssey that had begun barely after I'd been born. It was that home run I'd missed weeks before, but in a much larger sense.

What was astonishing to me was that, in a room, full of businessmen, civil servants, professors from the University of Wyoming, housewives, filling station owners, etcetera; in this whole cross-section of Laramie society, what was important was penny-ante poker and sharing recipes for potato salad.

The strange sense of disillusionment that I felt then is still with me: they didn't know, and they didn't care. Just another day, another picnic in the woods.

So, I took that youthful strategem that we all learned so well: I began to pester them, a gadfly stinging their good time, just at the edge of being swatted, until they finally became so annoyed, or disgusted, and reluctantly left the party.

We drove east, back to Laramie, in the sunset of a perfect July day. We got back in plenty of time, and I watched the CBS Eye himself, Walter Cronkeit, as he wiped a tear away and, later, after Neil Armstrong blew his line: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

At the time, I simply accepted its absurdity. It was profound BECAUSE of where it had been spoken. It didn't matter what Neil was actually saying. We got it. It was supposed to be "one small step for A man" but Neil was evidently so nervous that a couple of words dropped out.

We can forgive him for that. Here was a fundamentally NON-stage center person in the sharpest spotlight, with the biggest audience in the history of "mankind," and he had just enough stage fright that he flubbed his line.

No matter.

Neil was that fellow we'd been looking for all those centuries: he was the Man in the Moon.

If Cyrano de Bergerac had beaten him to it, Cyrano was hiding that day. Green cheese suddenly dropped out of our lexicon. The mystery had vanished in the face of the majestic fact.

We'd made it. We'd gone from the savannahs of Africa, domesticated animals, learned agriculture, built civilizations and empires that rose over and over again, and the cumulative effort, the collective effort of millions living and dead had placed two fragile human beings on the face of the moon that had inspired our wonder and curiousity ever since we first looked at the heavens and asked: What is that?

And, in the years since, I have celebrated that moment every year for the past thirty-six summers, and like those parents, oblivious and happy with their beer and their potato salad, we have still not embraced the epiphany of that moment.

So I spent the last couple of days celebrating Moon Day. It is my holiday until enough others accept it that we celebrate it as a "holy" day.

Because such moments come very few times in the life of a species, and, if one is very, very lucky, once in our brief lifetimes.

And I don't blame the adults. They didn't realize that it was a peak moment, just as I never realized that I'd gotten as close to a home run as I'd ever get.

Each of us, who was alive then, has their own secret music: we have personalized the moment; we remember where we were and what we were doing. We remember, but our memories are seldom jogged. And it's a shame.

Now, as we watch the weather satellite images to see whether we should evacuate, or when storms are rolling in; as we use our "space-age" materials and computers; when we're hooked to bio-telemetry devices to do computer diagnostics on our bodies; when we see a satellite catch the sun, far above the sunset, when we watch old episodes of "Leave it to Beaver" on our satellite dish service's basic channels, we don't really remember that moment when we first touched the man in the moon.

But I still do.

Happy Moon Day.


19 July 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment: Part V, The Locusts

This all sounds like the wildest sort of conspiracy theory, of course: that a group of wealthy pseudo-libertarians and their sympathizers have been hot-wiring elections all over the US by hiring low wage, migrant workers to fill petitions at $2 to $2.50 a signature, and, when the ballot measures are approved, the money is transferred elsewhere, and the workers move on to other, more fertile fields.

It seems as unimaginable as a biblical plague of locusts, as the petition contractors move their swarms from state to state, clashing with the locals, with accusations of scandal following in almost every case. Why haven't I heard of this? you're probably asking. Why doesn't the media cover this?

Well, they do. The problem is that in each state, the state media cover the story while it's hot in their state. They cover it -- generally in the spring or early summer, when petition-gathering is a visible story at the malls, the markets and the gatherings -- and then, as is happening now, when the petitions are turned in, the local media turn their attention back to fires and particularly gruesome car wrecks.

In the West, the paradigm is invariably one or two big newspapers in the big city, and then an army of marginal small-town papers and television stations, barely able to keep up with the farm news, the state fairs and the PTA meetings that form the bread and butter of their coverage.

But what happened in Oklahoma during the winter and early spring is a perfect example of what's going on here. What? you ask. Oklahoma? I hadn't heard of that.

Of course not. We remain a highly provincial nation. You might know who won your state's high school football or basketball championship. But it's doubtful you have any idea of what happened one state over. The same holds true for most state issues, as anyone who's ever been stuck in a motel room, waiting for the local weather report for tomorrow's journey can attest.

If you're driving on I-80 from the east in Iowa, you'll hear about "the Quad-Cities." In southwest Washington state, it's the "Tri-cities." In Southern California, they talk about "the Inland Empire," in Texas, events often happen in "the Metroplex." To an outsider, it is perplexing. (You won't find any of them on a map, so don't bother.)

So, when these locusts appear in the Quad Cities, or the Tri-Cities or the Inland Empire, the chances are that you'll hear as much -- and know as much -- as you do about the state championship in the next state. The story never gets the kind of national traction that cues the press into that sort of wild feeding frenzy that big stories get. There's no competition for the "scoop," no daily revelations, no investigative reporting, except for the occasional talented reporter who digs up the facts and the story gets a few days' play. Then, it's back to covering school board meetings and kiddie porn charges.

And that's what the friends of Howie Rich are counting on.

Oklahoma is a good example. There, the local bloggers, the political groups and the local media got on the story. And they did a pretty good job of uncovering the story. Much of what I've written so far was caught -- like the Capitol Weekly reporter quoted in Part III -- for OKLAHOMA.

In December, newspaper readers in Oklahoma were greeted by this story over their Cheerios:

Outside groups pay to influence Oklahoma taxes

By Ryan McNeill
The Oklahoman

Nearly all the money raised by an organization pushing a taxpayer bill of rights is from out-of-state groups, despite a grassroots direct mail plea for money.

Oklahomans in Action Inc. reported raising more than $350,000, most of it in large donations from groups such as the Colorado Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union.

When its next campaign finance report is filed today, Oklahomans in Action will likely report spending and raising about $500,000, the group's chairman said.

"The groups from out of state? Thank God for them," Oklahomans in Action Chairman Rick Carpenter said. "If someone wants to come in and help Oklahoma solve some of its governmental problems, then we'd be stupid not to take it."


"This is not a grassroots initiative in Oklahoma," said Gary Jones, president of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association....

This sounds eerily familiar. Compare to the Montana story:

$230K spent on ballot petitions
By MIKE DENNISON - 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.

"You see how the money is doled out, but you don't know where it came from," said Eric Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the state's largest employee union. "I think the public ought to know that."

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 .... "We need to bring in (outside groups) to help coordinate our local people," Butcher said. "If we're going to have to go against their national effort to try to block this, we certainly need to be prepared to do what it takes to accomplish our goals and objectives."

Compare it to the Nebraska story:

Petition drive to limit spending gets $100,000 donation (G.I. Independent, 6-02-06)

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.

America at its Best is listed as having a Boise, Idaho, address that happens to be the same address as a group called Idahoans for Tax Reform. The chairman of that group, Laird Maxwell, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

His group received money for an effort it was spearheading in Idaho from an America at its Best organization based in the Kalispell, Mont. law office of former Republican state Sen. Duncan Scott from New Mexico ....

Sponsors of the petition drive are listed as Mike Groene of North Platte and Americans for Limited Government of Glenview, Ill. Groene, who is with the Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association and one of the leaders of the effort, said Friday that the group supporting the petition drive consists of term limits backers.

As the term limits movement matured, they began supporting efforts to control state spending, Groene said.

He defended outside money being used to fund the Nebraska effort.

"It's no different than the ACLU coming in," Groene said ....

Or the Idaho story:

Idaho's Measure, New York's Money

Boise Weekly JULY 5, 2006

Laird Maxwell disdains taxes. But he apparently welcomes out of state money.

The proponent of the newly-certified ballot measure against property takings in Idaho used a healthy chunk of out-of-state cash to get his brainchild on the ballot. In a nutshell, the measure would require Idaho state government to pay any Idaho landowner for any impact to their property value created by a new land-use law.

Except for $50 donated by Maxwell, the entire budget for This House is My House came from out of state, according to reports from the Idaho Secretary of State. $100,000 came from Montana-based America At Its Best. Another $237,000 came from the New York-based Fund for Democracy, headed by Howard Rich, a libertarian activist and major donor.


Maxwell paid $322,834 to Kennedy Enterprises, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based signature-gathering group, which fanned out across the state to get the necessary signatures to get on the ballot.

Or the Oregon story:

Initiative would put 14-year cap on total service for legislators

Statesman Journal

February 7, 2006

Oregon voters may get a chance to reinstate term limits for members of the Oregon Legislature.

Two national conservative groups provided a combined $100,000 to pay for signature-gathering for a term-limits initiative on Oregon's November ballot, campaign-finance reports filed Monday show.


"I think that the voters deserve another opportunity to vote on this," said Ted Berthelote, a retired dentist from Bend who was recruited by term-limits supporters to serve as the measure's sponsor ... "It's important because the problems in the Legislature are largely due to the effect of incumbency," he said ....

Berthelote, who moved to Oregon four years ago, said he was approached by term-limits backers who read a guest opinion column that he wrote for The Bulletin in Bend. He declined to say who would run the campaign or identify the backers.

"I guess you'll just have to find out," he said.

Campaign-finance reports revealed that $60,000 came from U.S. Term Limits, an Illinois group that has provided the financial muscle for many other state term-limits measures. An additional $40,000 came from Americans for Tax Reform, a group led by Grover Norquist that has supported past Oregon tax-limitation measures.


Patty Wentz, a spokeswoman for Our Oregon, a labor-backed group involved in initiative campaigns, said Norquist's involvement is troubling.

"This is the corrupt right-wing D.C. political machine moving their political agenda in Oregon," Wentz said.

Berthelote said voters should be concerned with what the measure will accomplish.

"It's not important as to who is backing this," he said.

Does this sound eerily like an echo-chamber? With minor variations the story runs as follows:

Out of state interests (either unidentified or merely labeled without analysis) are backing a petition drive. The petition gatherers come from out of state. So does all the money. a qualified opposing spokesperson says: "This isn't a [state name goes here] grassroots movement."

The local cranky All-American front man pooh-poohs the charges: "It doesn't matter where the money comes from. This is important to the citizens of [state name goes here]."

And there the story ends. Again and again and again and again. The story ends at the petition filing date, and at the state line. And now that state's citizens are left with an exhausting fight and a vote on something they'd never realized they wanted to fight about.

And the locusts move on.

But another friends of Howie Rich organization makes this revealing statement on their website "Parents in Charge":

["The Parents in Charge Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research organization dedicated to the study of choice in education. Founded in March 2001 by Howard Rich, Eric O'Keefe and Bill Wilson ..."]

Parents in Charge Foundation determined that Colorado was ripe for a full public debate over school choice in early 2002. The Foundation undertook grassroots education of the public on the key issues involved and engaged in all forms of media to involve the general public. As a result of the groundwork laid by Parents in Charge Foundation, legislators in Colorado enacted a school choice program in early 2003. Unfortunately, it is tied up in litigation on a state constitutional issue.

"Colorado was ripe ..."

That's not a concerned citizen talking. That's a locust speaking. But without national traction, without the ability of the lazy national press corps to hone in on the small cadre at the center of these endless astroturf groups, NOTHING further happens. Just the same story over and over and over again. And then it's back to covering the state fair, and the rancher who raised the prize bull.

Colorado was ripe indeed. Just for the sake of argument, let's presume for a moment that this website is playing it straight:

Not in Montana: Citizens Against CI-97

Pig in a poke

By Bob Bartholomew
April 20th, 2006

.... Newspaper reports from Oklahoma show that ALG has spent $150,000 to promote the SOS initiative in that state. ALG even hired out-of-staters to gather signatures putting SOS on Oklahoma's November 2006 ballot. ALG is also pushing an SOS initiative in Michigan.

The SOS initiative is modeled after Colorado's so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). Colorado voters passed a TABOR initiative in 1992 and overturned it in 2005.TABOR caused so many problems in Colorado that the state's business community led the effort to roll it back. SOS and TABOR are twins with different names.

ALG and other national groups are also pushing TABOR proposals in Arizona, Missouri, Maine, Ohio, Oregon, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

This is a well-heeled, well-orchestrated national movement to underfund state services.

After TABOR passed in Colorado, that state went from being a middle-of-the-pack state to the bottom of the barrel in funding for public services. The state fell:

From 35th in the nation for school funding to 49th;

From 23rd in prenatal care to 48th;

From 24th in child vaccinations to 50th;

Roads and streets deteriorated;

Senior citizens lost important services;

Colorado was the only mountain state to lose jobs between March 2001 and November 2005 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. TABOR was a disaster in Colorado. Why would Montana want to repeat our neighbor's mistake?

My point is not to take sides on the TABOR question. Just for the sake of argument, however, we need to ask, if the aforesaid is true, did ANY of Howie Rich's friends suffer as a result of their "success"? The citizens of Colorado seem to have. Their babies, their children, their seniors all suffered. The roads suffered from potholes. Disease prevention (surely a "common interest" of the state's citizens) suffered.

Or perhaps they didn't. Some cranky All-American type spokesperson is sure to pooh-pooh these assertions. But, while the cranky all-American might have shared in the fortunes of the state, the friends of Howie Rich suffer no consequences from their (some would contend disastrous) agitation.

And there is something fundamentally anti-democratic, and anti-libertarian in all of this. If "no taxation without representation" is their battle cry, then how is it that they can meddle in the lives of literally millions of Americans in dozens of states without any personal liability, without having to face any consequences, should their ideological obsessions prove to have grievous consequences?

The luckless citizens of Colorado might beg to differ that their state is "ripe."

So, let's go back to Oklahoma, and take an early preview of the drama that's playing out across the country. Here's a quote, and then some websites to check.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Donors
TABOR-toothed tax activists embrace the holiday spirit.
by G.W. Schulz

The recent full-court press across Oklahoma to get a "Taxpayer's Bill of Rights" on the next statewide ballot has come at a price--but not a price national special-interest groups are unwilling to pay.

Complete with a giant pink, papier maché pig painted with the phrase "www.stopthepork.org" and transported on a truck trailer, TABOR activists are zigzagging the state holding regular press conferences and lobbying for the spending formula Colorado voters put on a five-year hold in early November.

Urban Tulsa Weekly reported last week that a group calling itself Oklahomans in Action had spearheaded Oklahoma's TABOR petition initiative that would allow voters to constitutionally limit annual spending by state lawmakers.

But changing Oklahoma's constitution is no short order, and OIA needed to hire a Tulsa-based group of professional petition circulators known as www.politicalactivists.org, which is contracting with a company called National Voter Outreach*, to meet a Dec. 17 deadline of 219,564 signatures.

[*Note: National Voter Outreach was also hired for Montana and Missouri SOS initiatives -- HW]

OIA filed its petition and incorporation papers in September with the Secretary of State's Office opening a 90-day window permitted by state law to gather the necessary signatures.

Funding Oklahoma's pro-TABOR effort, including, presumably, the cost of the giant pink, photogenic pig, are a number of national groups specializing in TABOR advocacy and supported by some of the nation's most vocal libertarian and fiscally conservative tax reformers.

State records obtained by UTW after deadline last week show OIA has been funded largely by five out-of-state organizations that each gave at least $50,000 to help with TABOR's move toward the next statewide ballot.

Colorado Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Limited Government and the Legislative Education Network made the contributions throughout September and October. Additional records show that OIA has so far spent $417,000 on its campaign and was $67,000 in debt by early November.

Likely the most notable contributor on OIA's donor list is D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, which gave $50,000 in September, records show ....

Sadly, at this point, the obvious target of Grover Norquist becomes the focus. But if you've read thus far, you'll recognize the following friends of Howie Rich groups along with their oft-ally, the National Taxpayers Union:

LEAD (misidentified here as "Legislative Education Network") who we've seen in South Carolina; ALG, and the "Colorado Club for Growth." The National Taxpayers Union has cropped up several times as an ally of the friends of Howie Rich: in Oregon, Oklahoma, Washington state, Idaho and others.

The Club for Growth (www.clubforgrowth.com) is another friend of Howie Rich, and Rich has a heavy hand in it. Originally founded by CATO Institute senior fiscal analyst Stephen Moore*, there was a dustup last year, with the National Director fired. The charges flew that it was because he was gay.

[* Moore continued to draw a CATO salary even as he drew a $30k salary as Club for Growth President, according to financial disclosure statements filed before Moore moved on to found yet ANOTHER astroturf group, of which he serves, naturally, as President.]

Nothing could be further from the truth, Howard Rich said, in a rare interview.

NATIONAL NEWS washingtonblade.com

Anti-tax group drops gay affiliate president
Arizona conservatives criticize May's record as legislator

Sep. 26, 2003

PHOENIX Former U.S. Army Reserve lieutenant and ex-Arizona state legislator Steve May said a conservative anti-tax group dropped him as president of its first state affiliate because he is gay. The group denies the charge.

Some Arizona conservatives had criticized the Washington-based Club for Growth for selecting May to head the week-old Arizona affiliate.

May told the Associated Press that he received a voicemail from Club for Growth national president Stephen Moore saying the group "thinks we need to make a change in leadership to someone who is less objectionable and to someone who is not a lightning rod."

May, who was traveling at press time and unavailable for comment for the Blade, told the AP last week that he was denied his position with the Club for Growth because he is gay.


Howie Rich, a spokesperson for the Club for Growth, said that May was not dismissed because he is gay but rather for his lack of support for fiscal conservative policies.

"It's my fault," Rich said. "It turns out that he has not been solid on the free market economic issues that we care about. I knew zero about his record beforehand and it is my fault for not doing due diligence."

Rich said that as a legislator, May introduced a bill to repeal Arizona' school choice tax credit measure, sponsored an initiative to raise sales taxes and supported mandates for private employers.

The Washington-based Club for Growth is a national supply-side advocacy group that until now has sought only to influence the outcome of congressional races with donations and by running ads criticizing incumbents it opposes.

The AP reported that the Arizona affiliate was the group's first foray into state-level politics.

But it wasn't the last. The CFG has expanded into state politics in a big way in the past couple of years.

The Club for Growth are yet another of the friends of Howie Rich. From the internal evidence, Rich is more than just a heavy donor (the financials are available on-line from the FEC). He's in a 'hire and fire' position. Else, why would he blame himself? And why would he be a 'spokesperson'?

Here are some Oklahoma websites to look at. Of particular interest is the sign in the window telling workers that turning anything under four pages of signatures is "unacceptable." (Oh, and you can win a scooter, too!) It's picture number 4.




The use of the pig symbol seems to be a Howard Rich specialty. It was reported that a couple of years ago, he funded a large pig that was paraded around New York state in furtherance of yet another Rich agenda item.

But Howard S. Rich got it wrong. The symbol shouldn't have been a pig. A more appropriate symbol would have been a locust.


16 July 2006

Terms of Unlimited Endearment, Part IV, The Friends of Howie Rich

I will try to keep this simple, in case the mainstream media tries to access and read it. (Complexity seems to utterly confound them, by all evidences.) But, simple as I can try to make it, it is a labyrinthine morass of cross-connections extending over millions of dollars and dozens of years.
"The political process no longer represents the people -- it represents money. It's been bought. While we were being sold a bill of goods about how the market 'empowers' us because we get to choose between the mint-flavored and the cinnamon-flavored toothpaste, thus expressing our individuality, we lost something important in our vision of a just society...."

Molly Ivins - 7-13-06
Our Story So Far: In Part I, we established that a shadowy group, allied ofttimes with Grover Norquist, was funding multiple ballot initiatives in multiple states. In several, like Nebraska, Oklahoma, California, Idaho, Oregon and, perhaps Montana, Michigan, Missouri and Nevada, they were supplying over nine dollars in every ten to hire professional out-of-state petition collectors, with unprecedented amounts of cash, to qualify their initiatives.

Those initiatives fall into several categories, the main two being slick eminent domain (Save our Homes) measures and slick "TABOR"-style "Stop OverSpending" (SOS) initiatives. They are also behind a Terri Schiavo style law in Nebraska, a school voucher law in South Carolina, some sort of judicial recall initiative in Montana, and others.

And, this year, as TABOR so wrecked Colorado that the voters repealed it, Measure 37 --passed in 2004 -- is gutting Oregon's land-use planning, and is now in a version being pushed in several other states, including Idaho funded with a huge influx of Howard Rich/ALG money.

In Part II, we showed you one of their initiative subcontractors, Aron Political Consultants, who qualified measures for the ballot in Oregon, California and Nevada.

In Part III, even as the regional and national media began to connect this all to a face in New York, one Howard S. Rich, a/k/a "Howie" Rich, we established that, at least in Montana, one Rich-controlled group, "America At Its Best" was laundering money into Nebraska and Idaho from an ex-New Mexico state senator's law office in Kalispell, Montana, and wondered if "Montanans in Action" was funded from the same source.

We showed you how, through several astroturf groups ("astroturf" = "fake grass roots")-- including Americans for Limited Government, the Fund for Democracy, U.S. Term Limits, America At Its Best, and others -- the money was being shuffled around to make it look as though Howard Rich was contributing less than it actually appeared.

So, while the national media attempts to catch up, never quite asking the next question (no one has yet reported on the Nebraska campaign finance document disclosing that ALG supplied ALL funding to "America At Its Best" to the tune of $2.3 million), it's time to take this to the next level.

We have a face, sort of. Howard Rich has a very few images available on the internet. And we know that he lives at 73 Spring Street, New York City, 10012. But there is still more to this story than meets the eye.

Part IV: The Friends of Howie Rich.

On July 13, Capitol Weekly published a report by Shane Goldmacher, entitled
New York developer's eminent-domain crusade comes to California

... Through a web of organizations, Rich is backing eminent-domain initiatives in Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington with $4 million --though no state has received as much financial support as California. In each of these efforts, Rich himself is never disclosed as a major donor. Instead, he steers his contributions through nonprofit intermediaries, such as the Fund for Democracy, which he is using to finance California's Proposition 90 campaign.
As readers of this column already know, the tally of states, and of cash in the Capitol Weekly is low. In fact, Rich's "Fund For Democracy" kicked off the Prop. 90 campaign with a straight-up donation of $1.5 million. (So far.) At LEAST Mr. Goldmacher didn't just stop with the "an Illinois-based organization" for ALG, which is where most media have thus far stopped. I'll tell you WHY ALG has that Chicago suburban address later on.

But WHO is Howard Rich? That's the question that no one seems to have asked. The Capitol Weekly piece is recommended -- as far as it goes. But there's a whole lot more.

In the photos from Thomas Szasz's (pronounced, "sauce") 85th Birthday Party, Howie Rich looks more than a little like Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons," sitting in a suit with a lavender shirt and matching lavender tie.


He's third from the left. The rest of the photos (with better of "Howie" Rich) are at:


There are several photos of his wife, Andrea Millen Rich. http://www.szasz.com/andrea1.JPG about whom more later. And pay special attention to the photo captioned "Ed Crane, President of the Cato Institute, gave a final toast to Tom." It's important: http://www.szasz.com/crane1.JPG

To make sense of this, it is necessary to take a little trip back in time to 1982, where a major dustup and schism within the Libertarian Party ranks was underway -- in a strange historic irony, in Billings, Montana.

The document I quote from is obviously skewed to a specific point of view.(I am not providing the "Craniacs" point of view, because it isn't important to what we're covering. Be certain that they have a point of view, however.) What you need to see is who is on Howie Rich's side of the controversy. From a report by The Libertarian Forum, vol. XV, no. 7, September 1982.
"On Sunday, August 8, in Billings, Montana, only a few miles from where the imbecile General Custer got mowed down at the Little Big Horn, the National Committee of the Libertarian Party held one of the most dramatic and significant meetings in its history. Eric O'Keefe, ex-radical turned Craniac National Director, was ousted from his long-held post by National Chair Alicia Clark. Alicia's right to fire O'Keefe was upheld by the NatCom by a vote of 17-11, after which it was approved by 20-7 Alicia's naming of former Texas L[ibertarian] P[arty] Chair Honey Lanham as interim Director for a six-month period."
[You can access the complete LIBERTARIAN FORUM in .pdf form from 1969-1984 at http://www.mises.org/journals//libertarianforum.asp ]

(The term "the Crane Machine" is prominent over several months of the FORUM, as well.)

Eric O'Keefe is a name that shows up today as the treasurer of Americans for Limited Government. It is, as we shall see, not only the same Eric O'Keefe, but the O'Keefe who's been leading the charge on school vouchers in South Carolina, under the name of yet ANOTHER group, "LEAD Foundation."

South Carolina's THE STATE newspaper carried a story on June 11, bylined AARON GOULD SHEININ, that reported, in part:
[Howard] Rich is president of U.S. Term Limits and is a major sponsor of national school choice campaigns. He is also active in the libertarian Cato Institute.

Efforts to reach Rich were unsuccessful.

U.S. Term Limits has the same address as the LEAD Foundation, the nation's top school choice advocacy group. LEAD also has the same address as Americans for Limited Government, the registered agent of www.scrgov.org, the Web site for SCRG [South Carolinans for Responsible Government].
And, in a 1/3/05 story, STATE reporter Claudia Smith Brinson reported:
During the 2004 elections, the Michigan-based All Children Matter paid for radio ads and mailers here that promoted candidates supporting tuition tax credits.

"Our current focus is in South Carolina," says the Web site home page for LEAD Foundation in Washington, D.C. LEAD stands for the Legislative Education Action Drive, a conservative group supporting tuition tax credits.

Several factors turned LEAD's attention south, said Eric O'Keefe, president of both. First was Sanford's gubernatorial campaign. "School choice became an issue, and it didn't seem to hurt him" during the campaign, O'Keefe said.
That O'Keefe and Rich were thick as thieves (pardon the colloquialism) in 2006 is not surprising. They were prominently linked in 1982, as well. From that same LIBERTARIAN FORUM:
But the most revealing ranting of the day was emitted by Howie Rich, possibly the top Craniac straw boss on NatCom. In her explanation of why she fired O'Keefe, Alicia had mentioned that Eric had repeatedly failed to carry out NatCom and her own directives to: expand much-needed internal education, help build state parties, and assist in fund-raising.

All these three vital areas of activity were grievously and consistently neglected by O'Keefe, despite Alicia Clark's epeated urgings. What he had done instead was to devote virtually all Headquarters' resources to campaigning, particularly to assisting the Craniac ventures of Howie Rich's Campaign of '82 and especially the Randolph race for governor of Alaska. In the course of his philippic, Howie Rich thundered that all these other matters were "peripheral," that only campaigns really counted. Evidently, ideas, principles, state parties and even financial stability could go hang. There spoke the naked, sinister voice of the Crane Machine.
The Crane being referred to here is, Edward Crane III, the founder and President of the Cato Institute, on whose board Howard Rich sits to this very day.

While you may not yet know what this means, surely at this point we can draw some conclusions. First, that these folks have been connected and working in league at LEAST since 1982 (or 24 years, now) if not longer. And, secondly, even at that early date, there were accusations that the only thing they cared about politically was winning, by whatever means necessary.

Oh, and the most vehement opponents of the O'Keefe sacking (today, Eric O'Keefe proudly lists "former National Director of the Libertarian Party" on his bios. He does not mention that he was tossed out on his ear) are listed as: "The seven opponents were the hard-core Craniacs: Herbert, Hocker, Johnston, Key, Palm, Andrea Rich and Howie Rich."

Undoubtedly, they had their point of view. But the charges leveled at them in 1982 seem eerily familiar in 2006. Ed Crane and Eric O'Keefe also are board members of Americans for Limited Government, which has been donating all that money in Nebraska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State, Missouri, Arizona and Nevada.

The first pattern that we saw emerging in these reports was one of interlocking groups funding similar initiatives through multiple astroturf organizations, all emanating from Howie and Andrea Rich's townhouse in New York, at 73 Spring Street.

The second pattern that emerges is that the same players show up over and over again on each other's boards, at each others' parties, and in each others' political campaigns. Rich writes glowingly of an O'Keefe book published by his wife Andrea's (recently sold) company, Lassaiz Faire Books in 1999, WHO RULES AMERICA? (77 pages):
"Eric O'Keefe wrote the plan that produced a term limit sweep across the country in 1992 and 1994 establishing term limits on legislatures in 18 states and a strong national movement to limit congressional terms. In this book, he outlines a new strategy for Americans to take back Congress from the career politicians."
--Howard Rich, U.S. Term Limits
Andrea has her OWN astroturf group, as well:
Center for Independent
Thought, New York, NY
Andrea Rich, President
Eric O'Keefe writes papers for Ed Crane's Cato Institute.

And they're all Presidents and Chairs and Board Members of a dizzying array of "groups" -- and so on and so forth until one becomes dizzy just trying to follow the endless interweaving of monied, ex-Libertarian radicals.

And all of them left the Party in 1983 -- O'Keefe, Crane, Rich and Rich and others -- evidently together. Crane had run the most successful campaign the Libertarians ever mounted, Ed Clarke's Presidential campaign in 1980.

Term Limits was where this series started, with Paul Jacob (whose radio spots are syndicated through ALG and who formerly headed USTL), and Rich's money coming back into Oregon to RE-introduce term limits (as they're doing in Michigan and other states as well). And USTL, ALG and, evidently, LEAD all have the same address (an office building near a golf course in Glenview, Illinois, if you use Google maps to view the satellite shot). And lord knows what else. There seem to be more organizations that this old confraternity of ex-Libertarians run than there are ex-Libertarians to run them.

The office of USTL and ALG in Illinois is, by the by, in the suburb in which ALG "President" (as opposed to Chair Howie Rich) John Tillman lives (and has his OWN astroturf group, http://www.socialsecuritychoice.org. Tillman is currently the ALG "donations" point man, and most (though not all) ALG monies are disbursed from that address: 240 Waukegon Road, Glenview IL 60025. Earlier, when O'Keefe was handling the exchequer, the disbursal address was 504 E Madison St, Spring Green, WI 53588 (phone book listing). Spring Green, Wisconsin, coincidentally, happens to be where Eric O'Keefe lives.

National Review, March 9, 1998
"USTL president Howard Rich was involved in Ed Clark's 1980 presidential bid on the Libertarian Party ticket. Cato Institute president Ed Crane sits on USTL's board of directors. ALT president O'Keefe was on Cato's board for several years. Jacob is a former national field coordinator for the Libertarian Party who served nearly six months in a federal prison in 1985 for refusing to sign his draft registration card."
Another pattern: In the case of Paul Jacob (formerly Chair, and now spokesman for USTL), Jacob has listed USTL at a Virginia address, which is ALSO the address given for yet ANOTHER astroturf organization "Citizens in Charge" or CIC -- which attempts to get ALL US states to adopt initiative and referendum laws, so that, one presumes, the endless ex-Libertarian cabal can start back-dooring the legislatures in the NEW states as well. The address is clearly a residence (as I learned from tracking it on Google Maps' satellite photos). And from the smallness of the trees it seems a relatively new subdivision in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.: 2617 Pheasant Hunt Road, Woodbridge, Virginia, 22192.

This is nothing new with this gang.

Let me ask the question now: if this is on the up and up, then why the endless mix-and-match of organizations that always claim "grass-roots" support, but often seem to have as few members as they have many dollars? By their fruits ye shall know them, and these ballot drives seem to be the poisoned fruit of the poisoned tree.

In the case of Measure 37 in Oregon, the state has already lost, by one estimate, $3.5 billion that it can ill afford, but Howard Rich and Ed Crane and their cronies don't have to pay for the consequences in the other states they're sponsoring it in. They only pay for causing the trouble. And their ideology, while strongly held, seems not to care for pragmatic considerations. An irony, when you think about it. They left (or were kicked out) of the Libertarian Party in 1983 because of their pragmatic win-at-all-costs approach, and yet, that approach is invariably applied to potentially disastrous ballot initiatives that have never been attempted in the "real" world. They are mere figments of ideology -- and, if, as in the case of Colorado's TABOR, they prove disastrous to Colorado and its voters repeal it, they shrug, turn their back on the evidence and reintroduce it, as they're doing this year in Nebraska, Washington State, Idaho, Maine, Oklahoma, Nevada, and other states.

(We will talk about that ideology another time. This is already complex enough without bringing Ayn Rand SuperGeniuses into it.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am attempting to "sample" some of the Gordian knot of connections that crop up in what can only be termed an electoral initiative conspiracy spanning decades. When you shoot a research pinball into this political machine, so many lights and bells go off that you can take your hands off the flippers. The ball isn't escaping the board any time soon.

One last example. Let's fast-forward to the 1990s. From COMMON CAUSE Magazine:
The money behind the movement: term limits is touted as a grassroots uprising. But guess who's paying the bills?

Amy E. Young

... In early 1992 Howard Rich bought C[itizens for] C[ongressional] R[eform]'s assets -- mainly a mailing list and some office furniture -- assumed its liabilities and set up shop as US T[erm] L[imits]. The group contributed $1.8 million to various 1992 state term-limit campaigns, while members of its finance committee kicked in another $119,700 in personal donations and loans. USTL's donations went for petition printing, signature gathering and, late in the campaigns, advertising. The group also provided political advice to the campaigns, emphasizing local coalition building and paid media ...

For the most part, the financial backers of these groups remain a mystery. Of the 14 states that passed term limits, only Michigan law requires out-of-state organizations that donate to political committees to disclose the sources of their funds. A close look at documents filed last year by Michigan's Vote Yes on Proposal B committee, however, sheds some light on USTL's backers. According to the records, less than half of USTL's $370,000 contribution was in small donations, while $102,940 came from the Howard Rich Irrevocable Trust; $60,000 from OKE Associates, a business partnership of USTL finance committee member Eric O'Keefe ....

They've been playing these electoral stunts for at least 13 years (odds are a lot longer, but 13 years is what can be immediately and undeniably proven).

What is their agenda? It's undoubtedly as complex as their endlessly incestuous interconnections. Certainly a big part of it is permanent tax cuts, abolishing the estate tax, separating "schools and government," (abolishing public education), shrinking government; privatizing Social Security, initiatives in all 50 states, term limits, and the unlimited "free market" accumulation of capital. Those agenda items are irrefutably part of the mix. (The visible portions of the agenda read like Ayn Rand on steroids.)

Ed Crane's CATO Institute is currently being heavily endowed with ExxonMobil money to convene "global warming is a myth" panels and symposia. And that's only one example. There's oodles and oodles more. (e.g. the ultra-conservative Scaife foundations and the John M. Olin Foundation have provided a huge chunk of CATO's funding.)

Crane, Tillman, Jacob and Rich are on record as signatories to an October 2005 manifesto entitled "Kill Malarial Mosquitoes NOW!" supporting bringing back DDT -- claiming that DDT is necessary to "exterminate malarial mosquitoes.*"

[*Which features quotes like this: "Physician-author-medical researcher Michael Crichton has said the de facto ban on DDT to control malaria 'has killed more people than Hitler,'" and "in the nearly half-century since Silent Spring was written, no connection between DDT and cancer, birth defects or any other human malady has ever been scientifically demonstrated. The only documented environmental effects of residual DDT are possible reproductive harms to raptors, including thinning of their eggshells, and even these have not been demonstrated conclusively."]

Thomas Szasz -- whose awards shows the Riches host annually, and whose birthday parties the Riches and Mr. Crane attend -- is a leading Libertarian contrarian in psychology, claiming in his manifesto: "'Myth of mental illness.' Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease) .... As Americans before us have eventually replaced involuntary servitude (chattel slavery) with contractual relations between employers and employees, we seek to replace involuntary psychiatry (psychiatric slavery) with contractual relations between care givers and clients."

And so forth. But they also like to keep a goodly portion of that agenda (and their checkbooks) hidden, as well. That much is certain.

As is this certain: There is no reasonable doubt that Ed Crane and the CATO Institute are up to their eyeballs in this electoral shell game. Howie Rich is only the masthead on this pirate ship of state. (Or, perhaps it is his wife, Andrea, who lists herself on speakers' bureaus, and evidently serves as toastmaster at many of their events.)

To quote John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006): "The modern Conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Howie Rich and his fraternity of free-marketeers sure seem to have come a long way from that Libertarian dustup of with the "Crane Machine" in 1981 and the "Craniacs" in 1982/3.

Or have they?

Let me leave you with this:
The STATE (South Carolina)
Follow the mystery money
Sat, Jul. 01, 2006

... your average Missourian apparently doesn't appreciate this sort of out-of-state puppetry. Despite being amply subsidized, Missourians in Charge failed last month to garner the support necessary to adequately petition for ballot initiatives to amend the state constitution. The group subsequently engaged the Missouri government in a lawsuit.

Even though I'm pretty sure I've never set foot in Missouri proper, it all sounded eerily familiar - a tax organization with a misleadingly local name, in reality subsidized from New York, and failing to demonstrate any semblance of the grass-roots it purports to have.

If it rings a bell for you too, there's good reason: The Fund for Democracy was set up by libertarian multimillionaire Howard Rich ...."