03 August 2006

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

Follow the Money

i. the tube of mystery

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It lists one donation:
PO BOX 1678

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

PO BOX 6210 OMAHA NE 86106

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

part ii. How Green Was My Spring, or The Long Way ‘Round The Bed

Like the Platte River that bisects and defines the Nebraska plains, the money flows in from the West; and it exits to the East at Omaha -- like the Platte -- headed for Spring Green, Wisconsin -- unlike the Platte.

The legal disclosure documents filed with the Nebraska Accountability Office give this address:
PO BOX 279
And the papers filed with the Nebraska Secretary of State give this address for Renewal Voter Outreach, LLC:
Corporation Member

P O BOX 279
(Former State Tax Commissioner John W. Biehn, now in private practice in Lincoln, filed the papers and is the listed agent, the only other name on RVO’s public record.)

Tracking down Ms. Graves becomes a daunting task. First, who is she? Secondly, how is she connected to the two petition drives, and, more importantly, how is she connected to the money flowing from Montana?

Let’s review: $380,000 has gone to SOS Nebraska and another $355,000 has been donated to NE Humane by America At Its Best in Kalispell, Montana.

Between 6/28 and 7/11, AAIB will send three more checks to NE Humane totaling $480,000. Of that total, $435,000 will be paid to RVO, still using the PO BOX 6210 Omaha address.

Without throwing more numbers at you, we know that the vast majority of money given IN Nebraska has gone to the brand new “Nebraska” company of Leslie Graves, in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

We already know that America At Its Best is funded entirely by Howard Rich and friends of the peripatetic “Americans for Limited Government.” And we know that AAIB is led by Laird Maxwell in Boise, Idaho, but that monies have been disbursed to Laird Maxwell’s Idaho “This House Is My House” initiative from AAIB in Kalispell, and to Nebraska from Duncan Scott’s law office in Kalispell.

In Idaho, the “House” initiative has been mysterious because the money came from AAIB in Montana, and no one knew where AAIB was getting its money. But Missouri documents reveal that America At Its Best in Boise, Idaho sent $640,000 to “Missourians in Charge.” (While Howard Rich’s “Fund for Democracy” contributed another $1,658,000 to the failed Missouri petition drive “Stop OverSpending Missouri,” but that’s a tale for another day.)

Why the attempt to deceive? And, while it’s difficult to track the huge (relative to what these states usually see spent on initiative and referendum campaigns) amounts of cash involved, who is behind it -- and behind Howard Rich -- and why?

What is their connection?

Well here’s one: William Wilson, the treasurer and on the board of Americans for Limited Government is also on the board, treasurer or both (I’m quoting TPM Cafe here, to give credit to “mrs panstreppon,” whose legwork gave us the clues to crack this code. This information has all been verified independently, and we’ve carried it much further, but credit where credit is due:)

William A. Wilson, NAWER treasurer, is the owner of Associated Public Affairs Professionals, a consulting firm which was paid $15k by Gary Bauer's campaign in 2000. Wilson is associated with numerous conservative organizations. Here's a partial list:

US Term Limits
US Term Limits Foundation
Term Limits America PAC
America At Its Best
Council For Responsible Government
Parents In Charge (formerly Legislative Action Drive)
SocialSecurityChoice.org Foundation
She leaves out “Americans for Limited Government,” and there is the connection. Wilson’s address is his home address (we’ve looked at it on satellite -- it is about six blocks from the golf course at the Fairfax Country Club of Fairfax, Virginia), and it is the same on America At Its Best. According to Guidestar:
FAIRFAX , VA 22032
  • This organization is a 501(c)(4) Civic Leagues and Social Welfare Organizations
  • This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.
No 990s were available, and full disclosure of board members is only available to premium members. (Which is beyond our humble budget for this project).

If you go to the ALG, website, you will find Board Member William Wilson (It’s the same Wilson. We’ve cross-checked).

We will deal at length with Laird Maxwell and Duncan Scott another time. But, America At Its Best seems to exist, at this point, solely to launder monetary contributions. The cross-connections with Howard Rich and friends are voluminous (detailed in Parts III and IV).

So, we know WHERE the money is slushing into Nebraska from. But we don’t know where it is going. Let’s return to “Renewal Voter Outreach” and the sole member listed in the Nebraska legal records:
P O BOX 279
At first it seems intensely murky:

It is a common enough name that one must be very careful that one gets the RIGHT Leslie Graves. But the giveaway ended up being very simple. She has kept the same email and mailing address for several years (at least since 1998):
P O BOX 279
From the RVO webpage,

Renewal Voter Outreach is hiring people now to circulate initiative petitions in Nebraska. Please read our FAQs and then call 1-800-989-8521 or email us to learn more.

[The link on the email reads: mailto:LBGraves@aol.com]
That email address is the key to Ms. Graves’ past.

Leslie Graves has, for the past several years, been involved with a ministry founded under the aegis of Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life. You might remember Pavone. He was the priest who became the spokesman for the Terri Schiavo parents and relatives in the last week of the controversy in 2005. When Ms. Schiavo died, Pavone was the media spokesman for the family and the Catholic Church.

The VILLAGE VOICE reported in 2001


Over the last 12 years, Pavone has transformed his organization, Priests for Life, from a fledgling nonprofit into a multi-million-dollar operation. Its main purpose is to urge priests to be more militant in their pro-life activism. The organization also urges voters to pick antiabortion candidates and has launched a campaign to draw women who've had abortions back into the church. Pavone, who worked in Rome for two years, has been called the pope's "vicar for life" and serves on the Pontifical Council for the Family, which coordinates the Vatican's policy on abortion issues.
For several years Leslie Graves edited the “Rachel’s Vineyard” newsletter, and was a fixture at their seminars.

Here is her bio, evidently recent, although this seems to have been a 2004 workshop in Madison, Wisconsin:

Saturday, 10:00am - Workshop I

B. Philosophical Foundations of the Pro-life position - Leslie Graves

Leslie Graves facilitates Rachel's Vineyard weekend retreats for healing after abortion in Madison, Wisconsin and trains new Rachel's Vineyard teams throughout the country. She is the author of the newly published "Rachel's Vineyard: A Guidebook for Gardeners". Leslie taught contemporary moral issues for the University of Wisconsin philosophy department in the late 90s, where she won the Oliver Prize in 1998. She has published articles in the philosophy of science and art. Currently sidelined due to injuries, Leslie rowed as a Masters athlete for Nike in 1997 and 1998 and was featured in an ESPN documentary. Leslie says that her journey toward embracing the sanctity of life came after many years in the desert following her own experience with abortion.
There are multiple references to her email address LBGraves@aol.com and her mailing address: http://www.abortionrecoverydirectory.org/Wisconsin.html
Organization Name: - Rachel's Vineyard of Madison
Abortion Recovery Director: - Leslie Graves
Address: - P. O. Box 279
City: - Spring Green
State - WI - Wisconsin
Country: - USA
Zip: - 53588
AR Director Phone #: - 608-588-7834
Email: - LBGraves@aol.com
Hours of Operation: - varies
Website: - www.rachelsvineyard.org
Meantime, Rachel’s Vineyard is directly affiliated and/or controlled by Fr. Frank Pavone:

Frm their website http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/welcome.htm :
Dear Friends:

You have found a safe place to come with your pain -- a pain that you often feel will never go away. (sic) Here at Rachel's Vineyard, you will meet people who understand, because they are in the same position that you are. You will meet people who care about you and about the child (or children) you have lost. You will meet people who know the way of healing, and are ready to welcome you into that journey that leads to mercy and peace.

Whatever your religious faith may be, Rachel's Vineyard will assist you to find God's mercy for your abortion(s). Rachel's Vineyard can provide you the individual attention you need, as well as the retreat experience, by which you walk hand in hand with others on the road of healing.

Welcome to a new chapter of your life!

Fr. Frank Pavone
Chairman of the Board and Pastoral Director, Rachel's Vineyard
National Director, Priests for Life
What is not so well-known is that Fr. Pavone traveled with Schiavo’s parents to the Vatican later that spring, and was granted permission by Pope Benedict XVI to expand his organization. The press release from “Priests for Life” begins with:
May 13, 2005

Founder Dedicates New Pro-Life Society to Memory of John Paul II

Rome, Italy -- Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, announced today from his Rome office that the new Society of Priests he has been given permission to establish will be dedicated in a special way to the memory and teachings of Pope John Paul II. This announcement comes on the same day that Pope Benedict XVI announced that he has begun the process by which John Paul II could be declared a saint.
So, it certainly makes sense that a committed member of Fr. Pavone’s flock would be deeply involved in the drafting of the Nebraska “Humane Care” amendment.

But the group that surrounds Howard Rich are not noted for their deep affection for religion. At the first meeting of the New York Libertarian Party, in 1973, when Andrea Millen (later Rich) was elected the first NY LP Chair -- Howie Rich was one of two vice-Chairs -- the party refused to take a position on abortion. According to Murray Rothbard writing in the Libertarian Forum:
The final act of the convention underlined the good sense and even wisdom of the party membership. A proposal was made for the party to endorse legalized abortion. But while a large majority of the Party favors abortion-freedo, it decided by a 2-to-1 majority to respect the deeply held beliefs of those party members who are convinced that abortion is murder - a position which, for any libertarian, is not self-evidently absurd. In short, the FLP decided not to take a position on the abortion issue. (LF Vol. V, No. 4, April 1973)
The Libertarians -- and the group under Ed Crane that would split off at the 1983 National Convention in New York City -- have never particularly taken a position on abortion rights. There is a Libertarians for Life website, so the connection seems tenuous, at best.

But Leslie Graves has a long history within the specific group mentioned. As we researched, the connection moved from tenuous to definite, and, finally, to concrete.

Leslie Graves or Leslie Key was known in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the Chair of the Wisconsin Libertarian Party and as a National Delegate for several years.

Rothbard called her a “Craniac” and wrote about her several times in the Libertarian Forum. (Please note again that Murray Rothbard had his point of view which is not definitive. Certainly his opinions were and are strenuously opposed by others of that era, but what he writes in the Libertarian Forum of the era give us one lens into the tightly interwoven group that is still connected, and running these ballot measures that we’ve been investigating.)

From page 2 of the February 1983 issue of the LF, in an article entitled “THE CRANE MACHINE EXPOSED.” (Available at the von Mises Institute webpage) some excerpts:

Edward H. Crane III The Big Boss: capo di tutti capi. Main power base: Head of the Cato Institute, which moved from San Franciso to Washington, D.C. early in the Reagan Administration to be close to the Corridors of Power. Also, Boss of: Libertarian Review Foundation, and its publications Inquiry and Update; National Taxpayers Legal Fund; and the Crane Machine in the Libertarian Party. Formerly, boss of Students for a Libertarian Society, and formerly, National Chairman of the LP. Managed the LP presidential campaigns in 1976 and 1980.
[Note: Crane is on the Board of Directors of ALG]
Howard ("Howie") Rich (New York businessman.) Top Craniac politico. Ran the disastrous Guida campaign for national chair in 1981, the equally disastrous Randolph campaign [for Alaska Governor] in 1982, and the likewise disastrous Northrup for Governor campaign in New York in 1982. Craniac straw boss (on LP NatCom.)
[Note: Rich is the Chair of ALG]
Andrea Millen Rich (Wife of Howie. Proprietor of Laissaz-faire Bookstore in New York, which has become a social center for New York Machiners. Banned the Libertarian Forum from the bookstore for being critical of the Crane Machine. (NatCom member.)
[Note: Published Eric O’Keefe’s book WHO RULES AMERICA? in 1999]
Eric O'Keefe (The Martyr.) Former National Director of the LP; when ousted, went to Alaska to help Guida run the Randolph fiasco. Present whereabouts unknown.)
[Note: O’Keefe is the Chairman of the ALG Board, under Rich]
David Boaz (Crane hireling. Vice-president, Cato Institute. Research director, LP Presidential campaign, 1980).
[Note: Boaz is still the VP at Cato.]
Robert Costello (formerly in California, now working for free-market investment letter in Chicago.)
[Note: This is the same ROBERT COSTELLO, 518 DAVIS ST, STE 201, EVANSTON, IL, listed on ALG’s 2004 990 as a Director.]

And, we find:
Leslie Graves (alias Leslie Graves Key.) Crane hireling. Former editor, now reporter, for Update. NatCom member. Boss of the Wisconsin LP, based in Madison, now rumored to be suffering a revolt from the long-downtrodden Milwaukee
Rothbard wrote more about Ms. Graves in several issues (at one point referring to her as “Madame DeFarge”), but this purloined memo reprinted by Rothbard in the August 1982 LF cements that there was a strong relationship between Graves and Crane and the old “Crane Machine.”
September 16,1981

TO: Chris Hocker, Leslie Key, David Koch,
and other Interested Parties
FROM: Ed Crane

What with all the changes going on these days I thought it would be appropriate to put down in writing some thoughts concerning the future of Update. To begin with, Dr. Hocker's new position as publisher of Inquiry probably makes it inappropriate for him to continue to be responsible for Update. This is true both because of the more than full-time job involved in getting Inquiry on its feet and headed in the right direction and because the magazine should not be directly connected to the libertarian movement (this despite the fact that it needs to become more explicitly libertarian in its editorial policy). Which means we're stuck with the lovely and vivacious Leslie Key who resides in Madison, Canada. (sic) I would recommend that she begin her responsibilities as editor of Update with the November issue. We could pay her, say, $500 a month for assuming this responsibility. David Koch has indicated he will kick in $10,000 to Update next year. If Leslie is very nice to him we might be able to talk him into $5,000 more (right, David?)....
You might recall from Ms. Glass’ bio that she was a rower. She still has a website referring to it at:


Welcome to Team Four Sisters

Team Four Sisters is a crew team consisting of Carie Graves, Leslie Graves, Tia Fisher, Alison Graves, and our coxswain, Hal Menendez. We're competing in the Nike World Masters , a two-week event that includes 20,000 masters athletes from around the world competing in 25 different sports.

Let me know what you think about my page. Send mail by clicking here.

(link is “mailto:lbgraves@aol.com”)
And they were even featured in an Associated Press article that made the national wires:


Shawnee, Oklahoma News Star
Saturday, August 15, 1998

Sisters doing it for themselves

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) -- Rowers call it "keeping your head in the boat" -- focusing on the task at hand, keeping time with your teammates and shutting out distractions.

Until this week, not only was Leslie Graves' head not in the boat, her whole body was far away from the boat, the water and any roads leading to it.

Leslie, 42, is the least famous of the four rowing Graves sisters, three of whom have been winning medals since their college days. Carie Graves, 45, was on the first University of Wisconsin women's crew team, and went on to row in three Olympics, winning a gold medal at the 1984 Games.

Alison Graves, 37, and Tia Graves Fisher, 39, rowed together at UCLA, and Alison later at Wisconsin. Leslie, on the other hand, was more inclined toward academics. She's pursuing doctorate degrees in philosophy and biology at Wisconsin.


Robert Graves, 72, now has converted the whole family to his sport.

"I can't imagine them just stopping."

Leslie gets the most cheers.

"The others are revisiting college glory days. For her, it's all new," said her husband, Eric O'Keefe. "It's been very invigorating for her. I loved her the other way also, and I never put any pressure on her to do that at all. But she feels great about it. She likes herself better now."
All of the links of the chain are now present. (Duplications and cross-checks have been eliminated for the sake of brevity.)

You see, Eric O’Keefe is the Chairman of the Board of Americans for Limited Government, who gave ALL the money to America At Its Best. America At Its Best gave all the money to SOS Nebraska and Nebraskans for Humane Care. And those two “grass roots” groups sent nearly all of their petition money to something called “Renewal Voter Outreach,” which is Leslie Graves, a\k\a Leslie Graves Key, a\k\a Leslie Key, a\k\a Leslie B. Graves. And Leslie Graves in Spring Green, Wisconsin, is Eric O’Keefe’s wife.

This is the same
listed on ALG’s 2004 990 as a director.

He might have just handed the check across the bed.


31 July 2006


There has been some confusion about the story (Part VII) that has been run this weekend. A lot of people 'got' it, but a number of readers didn't, so while I'm working on the story that's upcoming (hint: a lot of major dots are going to connect, and perhaps there is even evidence of an interstate conspiracy to commit fraud and other criminal mischief) I thought I'd explain it for those that were at sea.

So far, I've been concentrating on the small ex/quasi/crypto-libertarian cabal that's been running a 'secret legislature' all over the country since at least 1992. Unhappy with politicians, and unwilling to work through normal channels, they have used the initiative and referendum process that's available in 27 states to legislate THEIR agenda, all the while pretending that it's 'grass roots' democracy and the 'will of the people.'

Ironically, virtually every one that I've tracked down lives within a few blocks of a golf course, so there are definitely grass roots involved. Just not the kind we normally think of.

Part VII was meant to show you how their communications arm works, by tracking one story that the astroturf group "Americans for Limited Government" whipped into a mild media firestorm as PR for their "Kelo" initiatives throughout the country.

In Idaho, it's "This House is MY House," in Arizona, it's H.O.P.E., in California it's Prop. 90, in Washington state, it's i-933 ('i' = 'initiative'), etc.

I traced the whole Phillips Foundation scam, wherein, using their 501(c)3 status, the Phillips publishing empire gets to 'develop' young working journalists through completely tax-deductible grants topping off at $50,000 a year, to write ideologically slanted pieces that fit in well with the Regnery Publishing/Human Events/American Spectator agenda.

(One wonders where the 'suitable for publication' pieces so written are published.)

(One doesn't have to wonder that hard.)

And, finally, we see one of the recipients of that 'largesse' working for the Friends of Howie Rich and putting her 'journalistic' skills to good use in foisting off -- in the National Review Online -- as factual a bit of blatant propaganda specifically meant to whip voters into a frenzy that conveniently coincides with one of their petition drives in Oklahoma.

All the stops are pulled out, and no cheap spectacle is too vile to use. Still, one wonders how the former editor of a wine magazine who has written articles sneering at her adopted Chicago (because they're not brave like the New Yorkers she identifies herself with, coming from and being in New York, during 9/11) suddenly becomes a tearful advocate of poor black churches in Oklahoma.

Well, the wine stuff isn't her whole journalistic output: she's written astonishing "me" journalism pieces about how the French aren't to be worried about, since SHE had to visit old friends in France (between wine tastings, one presumes), and saw enough of Paris on the side to safely gauge their politics vis a vis ours. And articles on what stocks would make great graduation gifts in The Motley Fool, conveniently coinciding with HER graduation from the University of Chicago.

In 2004, she got her first fifteen minutes of fame when Michelle Malkin pumped her piece about a Syrian musician who'd been detained and released by Homeland Security, because one of the songs on his CD was about the "Mother of a MARTYR"!!!!

At press time, the Syrian musician was still playing Holiday Inns, and hadn't blown up any skyscrapers, bridges, dams or stadia, nor had he and his band hijacked any aircraft. But they WERE Arabs, after all, and one can't be too careful.

But, to serve the wishes of her millionaire employer, she is more than willing to suddenly flog the Martin Luther King cliche, to advance a property rights agenda that was written of, by and for millionaires.

Did I mention that her employer's wealth is in real estate and development?

I wanted to show you ALG in 'action' manipulating the media, all the way to conning yet another clueless New Yorker (in the NY TIMES) into writing about "bulldozers" sitting right outside the door of what is, in essence, a converted steel barn in a blighted area of the Tulsa, Oklahoma suburbs.

An Oklahoman friend of mine sent me a note that "eminent domain" was still a big issue in Oklahoma and that I didn't "get it."

Yes, I know that OSU in Stillwater is doing a lot of eminent domain takings to expand. My piano teacher in Laramie, Wyoming explained it all to me before she lost her house to University of Wyoming expansion in the mid-1960s.

But this isn't about emininant domain. This is about carpetbagging. This is about a vicious cadre of selfish (selfishness is literally a virtue to them -- if you don't believe me, read Ayn Rand. They all have.) millionaires legislating for their own pleasure, by using a process that was originally designed to CHECK this very sort of oligarchic abuse through their bribery and extortion of key legislators. The "people" of the states could pass laws, therefore, that the millionaires were blocking in the statehouses.

That they would hire a young right wing journalist on the make, with Ann Coulter stars in her eyes to assist them in doing it is entirely consistent and probably not even noteworthy.

But it doesn't have jack to do with OSU in Stillwater.

And I'm sorry if I've confused anyone.

When the next piece comes out, I shall endeavor to forge the chain of willful deception and political manipulation link by link so that it's VERY clear for all to see.

Now: back to the grindstone for me.

For you: have a smoke, buy some Raisinettes. We'll dim the house lights before the next act.


30 July 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment, Part VII, Objective Journalism (concluded)

part ii. Martin Luther King in Oklahoma

In the previous column, we learned about the Phillips Foundation's program to promote "objective journalism" through the handing out of fellowships, carrying stipends of up to $50,000 for one year. From their FAQ (included with the application filed as an exhibit with their 990 tax return):
During the course of the one-year fellowship, the journalism project will be delivered in four quarterly installments with the potential to be published sequentially in a periodical or all together as a book.
This is lovely. Tom Phillips' Regnery Publishing or Human Events or even The American Spectator may or may not have right of first refusal on the piece that's been approved and written. There is no indication as to WHERE the completed fellowship piece will be published "in a periodical or all together as a book." But one might hazard a guess.

Still, given the Regnery Press' books-in-print listings, the following approved Fellows and topics aren't beyond their sphere of interest (from their 2005 press release):
  • Rachel DiCarlo: "The Great Train Snobbery: Why Liberal Ideologues are Wrong About Rail Transit, Highways, SUVs, and the Suburbs."

  • Jeffrey Jackson: "Equal Opportunity for Men: Why a Men's Movement is Forming."

  • Anna Parachkevova: "Democracy in the Birthplace of Communism."

  • Judith Person: "Murder Capital: An Examination of D.C.'s Criminal Record."

  • David Sanders: "The Reluctant Convert: Why Arkansas Has Not Joined the South's Republican Realignment."

  • Katherine Mangu-Ward: "How 25 Environmentalists Set Out to Save the Planet - and Wound Up Making Everyone's Lives Just a Little Bit Worse."

  • Cara Hughes Marcano: "A Path Out of Purgatory - How a Few State Programs are Building on the Reagan Legacy of Helping the Mentally Ill Transition from Silent Suffering to Independent Lives in Today's America."

  • Heather Wilhelm: "Unholy Alliance? Government, Religion, and Ideology in America.
You might recognize that last name. That's Heather Wilhelm, U.S. Term Limits and Americans for Limited Government's "Director of Communications," Editor (of the USTL newsletter) and/or "spokesperson" according to the narrrative you're perusing.

Human Events Magazine published an edited version of the Phillips Foundation's press release in their May 23, 2005 issue, noting:
Winning the $7,500 Alumni Fund fellowship was Heather Wilhelm, 27, a freelance writer in Illinois and director of communications for Americans for Limited Government.
It wasn't one of the $50,000 or $25,000 prizes, but the five trustees of the Phillips Foundation agreed to fund her (objective) journalism project. She has the official Robert Novak/Regnery seal of approval, in other words. She might be the next Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin. They started writing books for Regnery, after all.

The Foundation's Fellows Profile Page adds this:
Heather Wilhelm
Special Alumni Fund Fellow

Project: “Unholy Alliance? Government, Religion, and Ideology in America.” Heather is director of communications for Americans for Limited Government and a freelance writer. She previously held positions as corporate communications consultant at ABC Television and assistant editor at Wine Spectator. She does freelance writing for Doublethink magazine and National Review Online. She earned an M.A. in social sciences from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in English and political science from Northwestern University.
Still, between fulfilling the requirements of her Fellowship, pursuing her freelance career as a "working journalist" and acting as spokesperson for all the Howie Rich & Friends initiative battles, time must have been short for Ms. Wilhelm, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago -- to which Regnery Publishing has had a long connection since its founding in the 1950s.

She found a way to combine two of those tasks in a piece she wrote for the National Review Online in January of 2006. As you will quickly see, it fairly reeks of "objective journalism."
January 17, 2006, 9:26 a.m.
Unholy Land Grab
In the spirit of Kelo.

By Heather Wilhelm

For seven years, Reverend Roosevelt Gildon has preached the gospel at the Centennial Baptist Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. His congregation, around 50 strong, is like a small family. The elderly members, and those without cars, often walk to Sunday services.

"Rosey," as his friends call him, figured he'd go on preaching in the tidy steel structure for years to come. That was, until the government told him they were taking his church away.

Since the Supreme Court's controversial Kelo decision last summer, eminent domain has entered a new frontier. It's not just grandma's house we have to worry about. Now it's God's house, too. "I guess saving souls isn't as important," says Reverend Gildon, his voice wry, "as raking in money for politicians to spend." The town of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, has plans to take Centennial Baptist - along with two other churches, several businesses, dozens of small homes, and a school - and replace them with a new "super center," rumored to include a Home Depot. It's the kind of stuff that makes tax collectors salivate. It's also the kind of project that brakes for no one, especially post-Kelo. "I had no idea this could happen in America," says Reverend Gildon, after spending Monday morning marching in the Sand Springs Martin Luther King Day parade.

This unholy takeover goes back to Sand Springs's controversial "Vision 2025" project, which emerged in 2003. The plan includes, according to its website, the "largest set of public redevelopment projects in the history of Tulsa County." The money earmarked for Sand Springs was supposedly meant to focus on redeveloping an abandoned industrial area for big box retailers and other stores. One problem: Centennial Baptist Church isn't abandoned, and unlike some of the other buildings in its neighborhood, it is in pristine condition. More importantly, the church doesn't want to sell - and they have good reasons. "After I heard the news, we started looking to see if we could move," Gildon said. "I just don't think we can afford it. It's too expensive. And if we can't move, and they take our building, what happens to the church? If we leave, who is going to minister to the black community in Sand Springs?"

Reverend Gildon is a practical man. He's not a firebrand, and he's not looking for a fight. He just loves God and loves his church, and wants to continue serving his community. Unfortunately, local officials would rather have an extra parking lot for a new Bed Bath & Beyond.

It makes sense on one level. Churches don't generate any tax revenue for the government to spend. They don't "stimulate" the economy. They often, much to their peril, occupy prime, envied real estate. With the supercharged powers granted by Kelo, be very, very afraid.

What's most egregious about this application of eminent domain is that there's already plenty of room for development, even if the pesky church sticks around. Many community residents were happy to sell their property. Two other churches in the area decided to move to Tulsa. Other structures in the area were dilapidated and ready for the deal. The way things are now, Centennial Baptist Church could easily live side-by-side with new stores, houses, or businesses. Yet Centennial remains in the crosshairs - even though two nearby national chains, a taxpaying McDonald's and a taxpaying O'Reilly's muffler shop, have been left alone.

In December, Reverend Gildon joined up with Americans for Limited Government and our partner group, Oklahomans in Action, to gather signatures for the "Protect Our Homes" initiative, which will go on the ballot in November 2006. Protect Our Homes is a measure designed to stop eminent-domain abuse. Right now, Americans for Limited Government is working with citizens in Michigan, Montana, Missouri, and several other states to do the same.

"I hope that my story makes people more aware," said Reverend Gildon, "and that maybe it stops other people's homes and churches from being taken against their will." Meanwhile, he awaits his next meeting with the planning board, where they will tell him how much his church is worth. If things don't change, it promises to be an offer he can't refuse.

- Heather Wilhelm is a Phillips Foundation fellow and serves as the director of communications for Americans for Limited Government.
Well, that's objective journalism all right (although you might need a hankie to dry your eyes after reading it). It's so great that Howie Rich and his friends are standing up for these poor church-going, God-fearing Oklahomans.

And, ESPECIALLY these BLACK Oklahomans. I mean, "Martin Luther King Day" and all.

Focus on the Family's CitizenLink Action Center picked up the report, as:
January 19, 2006
Oklahoma Church Losing Property to Eminent Domain
There's only one problem with this "objective journalism": it's a lie.

Now, one blogger quickly noted that it was a "hoax," posting this at:

January 21, 2006
Blogosphere Spreads Eminent Domain Hoax

This past week, National Review Online posted a story about an alleged case of the misuse of eminent domain. Heather Wilhelm, the story's author, wrote the following:
For seven years, Reverend Roosevelt Gildon has preached the gospel at the Centennial Baptist Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. His congregation, around 50 strong, is like a small family. The elderly members, and those without cars, often walk to Sunday services.

"Rosey," as his friends call him, figured he'd go on preaching in the tidy steel structure for years to come. That was, until the government told him they were taking his church away.

. . . The town of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, has plans to take Centennial Baptist - along with two other churches, several businesses, dozens of small homes, and a school - and replace them with a new "super center," rumored to include a Home Depot.

. . . What's most egregious about this application of eminent domain is that there's already plenty of room for development, even if the pesky church sticks around.
This story was featured at Right Wing News under the title "Kelo Vs. Churches".

There is a problem with the NRO story - it makes a false claim. The city of Sand Springs isn't trying to use eminent domain to seize church property.

Here is the beginning of a story published by the Tulsa World:
SAND SPRINGS -- A church that lies in the path of Sand Springs' proposed Keystone Corridor redevelopment project is being cited nationally as an example of government flexing its power of eminent domain to take property for private commercial use.
But there's a problem with the National Review Online's assertions, city officials said: The city hasn't filed any condemnation action against Centennial Baptist Church, nor does it intend to.

"There's no eminent domain action going on against any properties there," City Manager Loy Calhoun said. "No actions, no intents -- nothing like that's been done in the area."

According to the city manager, "no specific businesses have been selected to build in the vacated area." Furthermore, National Review Online didn't contact the Sand Springs government prior to posting its story. Thus, the city wasn't given a chance to refute the eminent domain claim made in the story.

If you want more information about this story, then you can contact Tulsa World reporter Louise Red Corn at 1-918-581-8480 or at louise.redcorn@tulsaworld.com.

[Note: the TULSA WORLD Story is available for purchase CLICK HERE from High Beam.com HW]

Folks, this story pertains to a larger plan involving all communities within Tulsa County, which is where I live.

Let me fill you in on a little detail about my little corner of the world.

Sand Springs is a bedroom community of Tulsa, the buckle of the Bible Belt. If the city of Sand Springs were to try to seize church property through eminent domain, the resulting uproar would be so great, that any elected public official involved would be voted out of office.

There is already a movement in Oklahoma to restrict the use of eminent domain. This issue will most likely be a hot topic during the 2006 session of the state legislature, which begins February 6th and ends May 26th.

Oklahoma lawmakers don't need a hoax to prompt them to protect the property rights of Oklahoma residents.
Well, thank you "Dodo_David."

But the news story was picked up by the crack journalists at KTUL 8 TV in Tulsa, the ABC affiliate:

It begins breathlessly:

Wednesday January 18, 2006 5:29pm
Reporter: Nicole Burgin
Sand Springs - Imagine losing your home, your home of worship or your business. It's happening to residents in one Green Country community, all in the name of urban renewal. It has renewed debate about eminent domain and people being forced from their land. NewsChannel 8's Nicole Burgin takes a look at why residents are opposed to what's happening....
The story ends with:
Since it's voluntary right now, negotiations between the property owners and the city will continue. Sand Springs hopes to have all 165 pieces of property bought by the summer.

The City of Tulsa says it has not filed any more condemnations since a Supreme Court ruling expanding eminent domain ....
Protect Our Homes Oklahoma (the ALG-funded group that Heather Wilhelm promotes in her NRO piece) breathlessly quotes the New York TIMES on the controversy:

"With bulldozers churning up the earth at the front door, the small Centennial Baptist Church in this struggling industrial hub west of Tulsa seems about to fall to the wrecker." - The New York Times
Well, if the New York TIMES says it's so, then it must be true, of course. Except, that eminent domain was never used, and no one has ever said that it was even contemplated. This did not stop the crack reporters of KTUL and the NY TIMES from getting it all wrong, however.

Ralph Blumenthal of the New York TIMES wrote, in part: "The Sand Springs Leader stepped up coverage of Mr. Gildon, and a local radio host, Dillon Dodge, broadcast a program on the dispute. 'Hannity and Colmes,' the talk show on the Fox News Channel, plans a program from Sand Springs on Wednesday, Ms. Wilhelm said." (You can pay for the story at the NY TIMES, or find it at: http://www.bizzyblog.com/?p=1326 )

As a spokesperson, Heather Wilhelm had more than done her job.

The "official blog of the Libertarian Party" posted a story on January 30 that included this laudatory reference to Ms. Wilhelm and her employer: (READ WHOLE ARTICLE HERE)
Heather Wilhelm from the National Review criticizes the Sand Springs redevelopment project, saying although it is designed to redevelop blighted industrial and residential areas, she points out that the church is in "pristine condition." Wilhelm says the real reason for the town to pressure the church to relocate is "churches don't generate any tax revenue for the government to spend." She wrote in her article that churches "often, much to their peril, occupy prime, envied real estate." Many local governments would rather have a tax revenue-generating Bed Bath and Beyond to "stimulate the economy" than a church.

Reverend Gildon in partnership with Americans for Limited Government are fighting back. This past December they began to gather signatures for the "Protect Our Homes" ballot initiative to stop eminent domain abuse. [misattributions: sic]
Now, the objective facts of this story are unassailable: the city of Sand Springs developed a plan for a redevelopment area that was approved by the city's voters.

Eminent domain was never used to the time of the NRO story to enforce this plan, and all property owners in what can charitably be called a somewhat downscale area have been contacted to sell their land voluntarily. The church is a steel barn, frankly. Look at the pictures for yourself and read the story at Tulsa Today.

In May, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that:
May 10, 2006

Muskogee - Muskogee landowners are breathing a sigh of relief after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled economic development alone cannot be used as public purpose for the seizure of property by public entities....
To be entirely fair, the case is NOT entirely black and white:
Church not included in condemnation effort
By MANNY GAMALLO [TULSA] World Staff Writer

SAND SPRINGS - The Sand Springs Development Authority voted on Monday to begin eminent domain action against 14 properties in an area targeted for economic redevelopment.

No condemnation action was scheduled, however, against the Centennial Baptist Church, 123 W. Morrow Road, which has refused a city offer for its property, insisting it will not move ... Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled that governments can't use eminent domain to seize private property and grant easements to a private company in the name of economic development ... The high court ruling, though, left open the possibility that eminent domain can be used against blighted properties.
But the FACT remains that eminent domain was never threatened or used against the church in question. Without that FACTUAL basis, the entire NRO story becomes a particularly odious bit of propaganda, all the worse because it is a lie manufactured to advance Heather Wilhelm's employer's political agenda, and because the NRO uncritically published it, and the right wing media flogged it, not because it was true (it was demonstrably not, at least the NON-tear-jerking-oppressed-minority parts weren't true) but because they WANTED IT TO BE TRUE.

Is THAT "objective journalism"?

Alas, the Americans for Limited Government petition was struck down by that same Supreme Court, despite Heather Wilhelm's best spokesefforts:
Tuesday June 20, 2006

Oklahoma City (AP) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court today ruled an initiative petition proposing to restrict government use of eminent domain is unconstitutional ....
Still, a lie is a lie, and the Sand Creek, Oklahoma church was never threatened with eminent domain, except, perhaps, in their collective imagination. I had been under the impression that "objective journalism" relied on facts, but perhaps the Phillips Foundation has been reading a different dictionary. Or, worse, perhaps Heather Wilhelm has been two-timing the NRO and the Phillips Foundation.

The NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE has never issued a correction or a retraction, being the good "objective journalists" that they are. The NEW YORK TIMES has never corrected its story.

Still, as nearly as can be ascertained, Robert Novak and the Phillips Foundation have never asked for their money back from Heather Wilhelm.

Isn't it great that "Objective Journalism" is being so effectively promoted by the Phillips Foundation?

And, thanks to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, it's still safe to be an Okie from Muskogee, no matter what Ms. Wilhelm and the friends of Howie Rich might think.


Note: In a couple of days, I will be publishing a major story in this series, smoking guns and all. Stay tuned.