19 August 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment Part XII: Adrift In A Sea Of Lies (And Cash)

Follow the Money

I am going to put aside my journalist's hat for a moment here, and pick up my social critic's tinfoil hat, so be forewarned.

Today, in the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star, an impossibly snooty Heather Wilhelm decided to snark the redoubtable newspaper for ... well, let's let HER explain it (all the while, please remember that Ms. Wilhelm is the "Communications Director" and PR flack for Howie Rich's ALG, USTL, Club For Growth State Action, et al, and politesse would seem to suggest that one obtains more flies with honey than with vinegar, but let's let "Vinegar" Heather Wilhelm do her thang):
A less dramatic story

I was surprised to see your article on Americans for Limited Government ("Group led by N.Y. mogul funded petition drives," Aug. 10), especially since no one contacted me for comment.

Perhaps that was part of the plan, since the reality of the situation is much less dramatic than your story implied. It's also much more mundane than conspiracy theorists - or those who would like to distract from the real issues at hand - would like.

Americans for Limited Government is proud to support groups that are working for limited, accountable government across the country. We broadcast this on our Web site, in our newsletters and in just about every communication we have with reporters. I guess we could skywrite it over Omaha, but then fans of big government would probably accuse us of subliminal advertising.

It's no secret that we're helping out the Nebraska SOS coalition. This year, we have been inundated with requests from local groups for help, and we're happy to do so.

As for America at its Best, it is another group that shares our mission: helping local activists in their uphill climb against big money, special interests, and, often, politicians. They have done a great job of supporting campaigns for responsible state spending, which is precisely why we support them. When it comes to other issues, on health care or otherwise, America at its Best will fund who it chooses to fund.

If it decided to fund, say, a Center for Responsible Journalism, it would be completely free to do that. In fact, that's sounding like a better idea all the time.

Heather Wilhelm,
director of communications,
Americans for Limited Government
Get it? A "Center for Responsible Journalism." This, from our bargain-basement Phillips Foundation Fellow, best known for snarking France, Chicago, Mooooslims for song lyrics, et al, etc. The sheer hypocrisy of a hate-filled, pretentious pseudo-journalist snarking that a newspaper ran a report on her nest of vipers and DARED to NOT allow her to give the story her spin is ... irresponsible journalism?

But let's take Heather's epistolary mendacity point by point:

1. Heather is surprised that no one contacted her for comment. Get over it, Heather. She herself has a long 'journalistic' track record of writing vicious attacks without bothering, herself, to ask for comment.

The Sand Creek, Oklahoma church story is only the latest example. A slanted tale, based on an untruth (that eminent public domain was being used to take a black Baptist church, when no such action was threatened or provably contemplated) without bothering to ask city officials for comment? What pot is lecturing which kettle? Hmmm.

2. Now, Ms. Wilhelm decides to duck into the Twilight Zone:

"Perhaps that was part of the plan, since the reality of the situation is much less dramatic than your story implied. It's also much more mundane than conspiracy theorists - or those who would like to distract from the real issues at hand - would like."

Paranoia? Or the barest hint of "the LIBERAL MEDIA" saw? Well, Lincoln, Nebraska is no hotbed of wild liberalism, Ms. Wilhelm might note. But the accusation of a conspiracy is a nice pre-emptive strike, and will set up her NEXT accusation of "conspiracy theorists" below. (The "skywrite it" comment -- which doesn't seem to quite parse in English, alas. 'Sky-ligraphy,' perhaps?)

Joe McCarthy would surely be pleased at this mini-masterpiece of dark innuendo. I'm sure that I'm one of the "conspiracy theorists" she refers to. But there is a difference between the faux slur of "conspiracy theorists" and the actual evidentiary exposition of an actual conspiracy.

("I hold here in my hand the names of Communists ..." Turned out finally that Senator Joe's manila folder contained no names. Just blank paper. But nobody ever called his bluff.)

But, if not a conspiracy -- ALG, USTL, et al -- why, then do they go out of their way to hide contributions, involvement, and their actions? And why is William Wilson of Fairfax, Virginia the treasurer of IRS record for BOTH the ALG (Chicago, IL) and America At Its Best (Either Kalispell, Montana, or Boise, Idaho, depending on the state that money's being sent to)?

I've outlined the sleazy money transfers and the shell game of phony foundations at enough length that this accusation is merely laughable. (See Part IV: The Friends of Howie Rich, etc.)

And more than a bit paranoid: Heather pooh-poohs the demonstrable truth as karaaaazy "conspiracy theory" when she has not a chance in hell of proving that it's not.

So, in finest mendacious form she merely denies and moves on. Fiat lux (or, in this case, fiat id est).

The classic talk-show strategem: facts by fiat without any actual facts. "It IS so because I SAY it is so."

But who the heck are YOU? Oy.

3. "proud to support" groups all across the country and "inundated with requests." Then how come ALG manages to fund at nearly 100% levels when all those (by implication) grass roots people are just DEMANDING help? Don't they have any money? And where are their supporters? We have tried and tried, and can never find enough local supporters to fill a small elevator, but that's the long-repeated and oft-cited lie that's the favorite of the Friends of Howie Rich: "The PEOPLE" will be in charge. "THE PEOPLE" are doing this.

Bullshit. This is yet another machiavellian manipulation by a tight little gaggle of irresponsible and unresponsive plutocrats. They hide their cash (although I can guarantee you that if you oppose their ballot 'initiatives' they will outspend you 6-1, historically), their connections, and claim to be populists.

They create political mischief for well over a decade, but their "term limits" battle doesn't seem to apply to them. They create political firestorms, change constitutions, but are immune to the after effects: they do not live in the affected states.

But the normal rules of civil behavior don't apply. If someone questions you, ATTACK.

Heck. Heather just did. And, while dumping her nauseating little load of sarcastic treacle -- How DARE you question us? -- even manages a bit of martyrlike nobility. WE, who give so much, and YOU, who disobey the canons of JOURNALISM! Zowie. I mean, who would dare question ALG's own Heather?

OK: I dare. Back up ONE assertion, Heather. And live up to ONE 'journalistic' standard whose alleged absence you decry (de crocodile tears, evidently). Thus far, you're rather long on bullshit and short on facts. And, lest you think I'm not a supporter of equal rights for women: If you were a man, I'd promise I'd think you were just as full of shit.

How's that for egalitarianism? It's sure less nauseating than as load of faux populism spewed from a rhetorical satrap operating for crypto-Croesuses.

4. "It's no secret that we're helping out the Nebraska SOS coalition." No: but it IS a secret who "We" are, isn't it? And it's not like there was any attempt to "announce" the fact. Mostly, the spokesmen for ALG's causes deflect the question: "It doesn't matter where the money comes from" say they. Not exactly "no secret," after all. This is known as a "weasel."

5. Wilhelm continues: "We broadcast this on our Web site, in our newsletters and in just about every communication we have with reporters. I guess we could skywrite it over Omaha, but then fans of big government would probably accuse us of subliminal advertising."

This statement is such a slimy agglutination of fallacies that it's hard to know where to begin. That they broadcast a 'message' doesn't mean it's true. Many messages that we hear aren't true. We all know that. Nonetheless, the assertion is made irrespective of, like, rational thought.

But creating a straw man that they'd "skywrite it over Omaha" not only betrays the fact that Heather has no idea where Lincoln is (hint: it's 59 miles more or less due West of Omaha), but she also reveals an imperious sense of haughty rebuke for having DARED to question the integrity and/or methods of Americans for Limited Government, U.S. Term Limits, Club for Growth, States (all at that 30 Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois address, and evidently staffed and serviced by UNPAID interns.)

That's not the snippy mouthpiece of a self-appointed oligarchy? These are NOT 'malefactors of great wealth'? (To borrow Teddy Roosevelt's 1895 phrase).

Good grief. Let's take the emotional interpretation and baggage of the phraseology out of it, and just examine the statement:

"Americans for Limited Government is proud to support groups that are working for limited, accountable government across the country." That begs the question of what sort of 'groups' and how many collaborators are necessary to form a 'group'? When the initiatives are supplied, when local agents are hired, when money sluices in at just exactly the same flow necessary to a) pay the armies of the lowest-paid legal migrant workers in America to collect signatures like farmers used to pay per ton of cotton picked; b) when the only money that remains in the state are a few thousand dollars to a Public Relations Firm; c) several thousand dollars to hire a 'paid spokesperson' in the state, and for office and legal services from a cyber-lawyer in the Omaha suburbs; d) to send $1.7 million dollars through the state without hardly any 'sticking' in the state, and only perhaps a handful of local donations ...

WHERE are these "groups" to which Ms. Wilhelm refers? Sounds more like hired hands doing Howie Rich's bidding. (And by Howie Rich, I mean a mysterious cluster of monied Molochians scattered across the land.)

Did you know that in 2002 in Idaho, less than $8000 was contributed by Idahoans on a "Term Limits" initiative, that $500,000 plus was contributed by the USTL group of astroturf foundations, and another $100,000 plus by one woman in Hayden, Idaho?

She'd only moved to the state in 1992, after sitting on the board of e-trade, and had been a Manhattan investment 'professional' for years before her delightful semi-retirement in Idaho resort country. But she's not nearly as interesting as her husband, the former CEO of Clorox, Inc, and who sits or sat on the boards of Unocal, The Potlatch Corporation (hint: other board members are named, often, "Weyerhauser.")

Somehow, one finds it astonishing to assert that the Idaho vote (won by 52-48 after Rich & Co. spent nearly six times as much on the campaign as the opposition, who mostly entirely came from Idaho) was a 'people's movement.'

Vox populi: vox bullshit.


Well, the plutocrats have certainly learned the old Joe Goebbels advertising lesson: Repeat the big lie often enough and it becomes the truth.

They don't waver, they don't vary the message. In every state I've shown you, you get the same denials from each spokesman -- whether said spokesman is brother to a member of the board or not: We didn't spend that money. It doesn't matter where the money comes from. It's those POLITICIANS and SPECIAL INTERESTS (like the "Chamber of Commerce" in Arkansas and Michigan campaigns) that are keeping "THE PEOPLE" from being "in charge." (They like that "in charge" soundbite, and use it at every opportunity.)

OK. I'll bite. Where's all the people? I mean, if everyone who wasn't receiving remuneration in each state stepped away from the "grass roots" campaigns of the ALG, I have a feeling that you'd have a rough time rounding up enough players for a game of solitaire.

6. "It's no secret that we're helping out the Nebraska SOS coalition. This year, we have been inundated with requests from local groups for help, and we're happy to do so."

And Brutus is an honorable man. Onward.

7. "As for America at its Best, it is another group that shares our mission: helping local activists in their uphill climb against big money, special interests, and, often, politicians. They have done a great job of supporting campaigns for responsible state spending, which is precisely why we support them. When it comes to other issues, on health care or otherwise, America at its Best will fund who it chooses to fund."

The Reagan Meander is best described as an exercise in dream logic: string several points together that ARE connected, but not connected logically: teddy bear, baby, bath, candles, candlelight dinner, what's for dinner tonight? and where did I put my keys?

By the time you get to the end, you can't remember that you started out with "teddy bear." Teddy is long gone. Now, just do that with an accusation and you've got a Classic Meander:

America At Its Best is "another group" that "shares our mission." This, of course, begs the question.

Well, is it another group? It was formed this year, and has received almost all of its largesse from Howard Rich-associated groups, and its oft-times partner the National Taxpayer Union. Its "president" is Laird Maxwell, who runs the Idaho franchise of NTU (He met his new bride at the 2005 NTU conference) and told a Boise reporter last week that while he doesn't know "Howie Rich" he'd gone to Rich and said: "I've got the time, and you've got the money. Let's make this thing happen."

OK: they share the ALG mission. But a "separate group"? No time to process THAT question, though, because ANOTHER astonishing assertion is about to be made:

"helping local activists in their uphill climb against big money, special interests, and, often, politicians."

Right. It's them rich bastards! (Oh. We're rich bastards. Dang. Hope nobody notices. Well, we don't pay our office 'interns' and we barely pay our petition gatherers, so I guess nobody will notice that we have truckloads of money. Well, except for those amazing C&Es filed in every campaign in every state in the West this year -- EXCEPT Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah).

Them RICH BASTARDS are keeping the "local activists" downhill, apparently. And ... hunh?

Teddy Bear.

But the meander hasn't concluded yet. Not by a long shot. The next statement is the doozy:

8. "They have done a great job of supporting campaigns for responsible state spending, which is precisely why we support them."

Excuse me? AAIB has only existed THIS year, and only WITH massive ALG funding. How could they have a track record, and what is the meaningless tautology "which is precisely why we support them"? unless it's a clever way of saying that we pay them well, and that they do what we say while SEEMING to say that "we agree with their lofty accomplishments." Because, of course, they HAVE no accomplishments.

A tautology is a statement that is self-evidently 'true' but tells us nothing: we support them because they do what we support them doing. (And, by implication: "Would you DARE ask that we DON'T support them because they do what we support them doing?") The argument veers improbably close to being a double negation of a double negation, ergo: No, NOT! Yes, NOT! No, not yes NOT! No, yes NOT no not!

["Duck season!" "Wabbit season!!"]

Teddy bear.

9. Ms. Wilhelm, undaunted, continues: "When it comes to other issues, on health care or otherwise, 'America At Its Best' will fund who it chooses to fund."

Leaving aside for a moment the 1984-ish nomenclature of "America At Its Best," Howie's Heather has cooked up a whopping souffle of meander.

Which is the final meander: that a group funneling, now, literally millions of dollars into Nebraska via a Kalispell, Montana lawyer's office, HAS AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT to do whatever with their money that they want to do.

Oh. Sorry, we ....


The assertion begs the question and is constructed by-the-numbers from the textbook that our modern mendacious seem to have purchased (at reduced prices) from the Heritage Foundation (or another).

You can't argue with it because it doesn't make sense.

Teddy bear.

It SEEMS to say that the Mysterious Brotherhood of America At Its Best (which does not reveal its donors, EXCEPT in Nebraska, whose 1997 sunshine law demands it) are saints and sanctified holy servants of democracy, above reproach, incorruptable, and able to wear white clothes without ever getting spots or stains on them.

Which utterly begs the question: who the heck ARE these guys? I mean, all we have is Heather Wilhelm's devastating sarcasm, and withering media criticism, and her shrill-yet-irrational screeching about the HIDEOUS VICIOUS UNWARRANTED SUSPICION of the mysterious benefactors who remain mysterious and are seeming less and less like benefactors.

Teddy bear.

10. And now, the coup de grace, the matador's killing stroke from Heather Unleashed:

"If it [AAIB] decided to fund, say, a Center for Responsible Journalism, it would be completely free to do that. In fact, that's sounding like a better idea all the time."

You are irresponsible journalists and AAIB may decide to GET YOU! (Hideous cackle undoubtedly suppressed.)

Oh, but we can't criticize YOU, right?

Teddy bear with fangs.

I don't know about Howie, but attacking local media doesn't seem like a great start to a sly campaign of pseudo-populism aided and abetted with humongous media buys late in the campaign (past experience suggesting future action to a high degree).

After all, it's the "people" who count. At least their votes do, and they're prepared to pay ten, fifteen and even twenty dollars per vote to fill up them ballot boxes. (Not direct bribery, of course, just more advertising shekels than the local TV and radio stations have seen in many a moon.) Besides, as most modern post-mortem political studies show, there's a direct correlation between money spent and campaigns won. The exceptions only prove the rule.

Were I Howie Rich, though, I'd caution my propaganda minister that Public Relations people do best when they attack local media least. The idea isn't to cold-cock them; it's to SEDUCE them. And Heather's letter was anything but seductive -- unless, of course, you're into S&M.

Of course, if all else fails, their messages can always be limned in skywriting over Omaha. I'm sure that the staff at Strategic Air Command Headquarters at Offutt AFB just south of Omaha will love it.

It's not like they don't have the cash.


16 August 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment, Part XI: As The Stomach Turns

Part of the value of a blog -- originally derived from the term "web log"-- is that it is simply a medium, like pencil and paper. As such, it is best to match manner to matter, i.e. style to fit substance.

Since this whole morass is beginning to resemble a soap opera so much, manner must follow.

Previously on "As The Stomach Turns": In far Spring Green, Wisconsin, Leslie Graves had created a petition gathering company to fulfill the contract that her husbands' organizations and friends were sending money through Montana and through Nebraska. The money was ending up on the other night table by the marital bed. What was previously not known was that the amount of money has been revealed to be far larger than previously reported: from the previously reported quarter of a million dollars to the now-released one and three quarters of a million dollars.

Oh. If you call the home of Eric O'Keefe and Leslie Graves in Spring Green, Wisconsin, you will get a phone message naming them both, and giving both cell phone numbers. One would presume that they're still married, and not -- Father Frank Pavone withstanding -- living in sin.

NewNebraska blog has done an exceptional job of covering this, and has graciously cited this blog, and Sandlapper's superb DailyKos diaries. Kyle Michaelis, the blog's author, has been on the Nebraska part of the story from the beginning. Kyle is a writer of passion and skill. He is worth a careful reading -- at the very least for his transcription of a story on the front page of the Lincoln (Neb.) STAR-JOURNAL on Sunday that WASN'T published on the web.

You can find the Nebraska report at:


and don't forget to check out:


And, if you want to see "America At Its Best" in black and white, donating $1,225,000.00 as reported to the Nebraska Accountability Commission:




Oh, and speaking of which, to see:

$83 dollars in small and local contributions to SOS Nebraska:


$860,000 in NYC via Montana AAIB Contributions to SOS Nebraska:


For "Nebraska Humane Care" you're on your own. We now pause for these commercial messages.

[FADE TO BLACK. Organ Music. Commercial BREAK. COMING BACK: The "As The Stomach Turns" logo: an Hourglass in the foreground in tight focus. Instead of sand, it is slowly filling with pink Pepto-Bismol. In the background, out of focus -- NARROW depth of field shot -- spinning globe of the Earth, colors muted, almost black-and-white.]

Organ Music FADES:

Sandlapper, meanwhile has traced the story of Howie Rich's man in Idaho, Laird Maxwell. And, using the Murray Rothbard archives at vonmises.org has shown the long-standing and intimate ties between the Brothers Koch, the oil-billionaires from Wichita, Kansas, who own the second-largest privately-held corporation in the USA.

And they detail the long and interconnected history of the Kochs, the Cato Institute, and its president, Ed Crane, and board member Howard Rich. The reader must decide how closely these old "friends" are linked.

Sandlapper's scholarship is deft and the writing superb. (Or is that the other way 'round?)

The Howie Rich/Koch Brothers story is at:


Read all of Sandlapper's coverage of the Koch/Rich/Cato gang at:


And if you REALLY want to take a detailed look at the whole Koch Conservative Kamp, it's a little tin-foil-hat, perhaps, but very detailed:


Sandlapper is in no wise connected with the aformentioned site, nor, for that matter, are we. Just offering the link. (Insert standard "opinions of" disclaimer here in really tiny type and spoken at a speed beyond human comprehension, you know, like car commercials).


With the ALG Convention starting in Chicago in only two days, many have expressed a hope that Chicago bloggers or media could cover/record the speeches and/or panels on mp3.

See yesterday's post for details.


Given that the junior Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, is ALG's "President Emeritus," and will chair the convention, this AP story from Oklahoma last year seems particularly fascinating in retrospect:

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Associated Press Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An organization once headed by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn is among those backing a plan to roll back state government through Colorado-style restrictions on legislative spending.Oklahomans for Action was formed in Tulsa to lead an initiative petition drive after input from the Illinois-based Americans for Limited Government, according to state Sen. Randy Brogdon.

... Americans for Limited Government was formed in 2001 and is headquartered in Glenview, Ill., a Chicago suburb. Coburn, the conservative Oklahoma senator elected in 2004, is listed on the group's Web site as chairman emeritus. John Hart, the senator's spokesman, said Coburn helped form the group and was its chairman after leaving Congress in 2001 before running for the Senate last year. Hart said Coburn has no current role in the organization or the petition drive. Americans for Limited Government lists as "partners" the Club for Growth State Action, US Term Limits and two organizations that promote home schooling and tax credits for parents who want to send their children to private schools - the Parents in Charge Foundation and LEAD Action.

... Brogdon, R-Owasso, said Americans for Limited Government "showed interest in an initiative petition" after hearing his TABOR resolution had been sidetracked in the Senate. "From what I understand, that is a local issue," Heather Wilhelm, spokeswoman, said of the Illinois group's involvement in the Oklahoma petition drive.
Americans for Limited Government, meantime, is advertising for UNPAID "fall interns." (Guess they don't have the money to pay anybody. Poor impoverished Howie Rich.) Although there has been some confusion, with Ms. Wilhelm telling an Oregon reporter that the group is moving to New York City, the job posting suggests otherwise:

Development Intern

Americans for Limited Government | Posted on July 31, 2006

Interested in politics, development, and helping grassroots groups across the country? Americans for Limited Government is looking for development interns. Candidates should be enthusiastic with strong organizational skills and an interest in politics.

Responsibilities will include prospecting donors, internet research, filing and assorted office duties as needed.

This opportunity is open to current students and former students.

The type of internship is unpaid.

The number of hours can be flexible, ranging from 20-40 hours per week.

The location of the internship is downtown Chicago, Illinois.

If you are interested in the position, please email Nicole Burke-Likoudis at nicole@getliberty.org.
There is also a posting for a "communications intern" for a fall internship at:


Finally, as we will learn later from the mystery Nebraska editor,

The GOP nominee for the Third Nebraska Congressional District, "Adrian Smith got something like $300,000 from the Club for Growth."

Many have wondered what the connection between Americans for Limited Government and the Club For Growth - State Action is. Well, buy the coffee mug and find out:



And now, this faux newsbreak on the half-hour from CNN, MSNBC and FAUX NOOZ:
There has been an arrest in the Jon-Benet Ramsey Case. Jon-Benet, you will recall, was that little girl they dressed up in those pre-school beauty contests who was found dead in Boulder, Colorado ten years ago. We would like to tell you that the port of Seattle has been all but shut down after explosive-sniffing dogs went crazy over two containers from Pakistan whose customs seals had been broken. We would like to tell you that the port has been evacuated and a bomb squad has been brought in.

We would like to tell you that, but this whole necrophiliac Jon-Benet story is such a great soap opera that it's far more important to yak about a ten year old murder than it is about an immediate and occurring situation in a major North American port. You can probably read about it on the internet, of course, like the other day when CNN and MSNBC were so busy talking about the "war" in Lebanon that they didn't have any time to cover the primaries, most especially the shocking win of Democratic challenger Ned Lamont over Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. Astonishing that the only 24/7 cable channels that covered it were CSPAN and FAUX Nooz, isn't it? It's like we're more into ratings than telling you the news, isn't it? We'll bet that you won't be able to tell when this news break ends, and the soap opera "As The Stomach Turns" returns. Now, these surreal images from the famous manufacturers of mysterious prescription pills that are purple and stop giant daisies from smashing tennis players. This has been news break.
[Commercials. Network promo. Local promo. LOGO. BLACK.]
ANNOUNCER: We now return to "As The Stomach Turns."

Laird Maxwell had been a busy boy. Not only did he meet his future sweetie at a National Taxpayers' Union convention last year. But they both worked the KELO petition drive together in Arizona this spring before Laird returned to Idaho to run the "This House is MY House" KELO petition drive in Idaho. Two weeks ago, they found time to rest. You can read the heartwarming story of two tax-cutters tying the knot near Yellowstone at:
And, finally, after a long and tortuous day of trying to decide whether to print the following responses from yesterday's mini-blog "What's The Matter With Nebraska?" we have finally decided to print it, but to hide the identity of the newspaperman who wrote it, not because he has any reasonable expectation of privacy, but because any publisher worth his salt would fire an editor for making a public statement like this about his perception of the newspaper's subscribers.

I received two letters from Nebraska newspapers this morning. This is the first one, and my response:
To: Hart Williams
Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 7:37 AM
Subject: RE: What's The Matter With Nebraska?

[no salutation]

I've written an editorial on a related topic: the use of paid petition circulators and the influence of out-of-state money in Nebraska elections. There appears to be no legal means of stopping it. Adrian Smith got something like $300,000 from the Club for Growth, which opposes agricultural commodity support payments, and yet he's probably a lock for Congress in the 3rd District.

Unfortunately, more Americans can name two of the Seven Dwarves than can name two Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. If I thought all this would change anyone's mind, believe me, I'd run with it. I suspect most voters would head for the astrology column before they got through two paragraphs.

[no signature]
My response:

A mysterious group sends hundreds of thousands of dollars into Nebraska for two weirdly unrelated ballot measures and then virtually all of it goes right back out of state in the name of a company only incorporated in Nebraska in May. That company turns out to only be a Nebraska mail drop in Omaha.

The mysterious funding group's chairman of the board ends up being the husband of the woman who incorporated the mysterious company that gets all the funding.

That's too complicated? Nebraskans can't understand that?

You have -- as Kant called it -- a moral imperative to tell your readers where the money came from and where it went. And WHY only about $20k stayed in Nebraska, although the ugly aftermath of the looming ballot battle and the consequences will remain with Nebraskans for (potentially) generations to come.

I'll tell you what: you walk out on the street and tell any passing Nebraskan what I just told you in the first two paragraphs and see if THEY think it's newsworthy. I realize you're jaded and your readers are too dumb for you, but just try it, and see what happens. I'll bet Ma and Pa Main Street will get it, and it will make them more than a little hot under the collar to learn that you've been sitting on the story for ten days because it's "too complicated."

If you can't or won't do your duty as a journalist, then you are in the wrong profession.


Hart Williams
The other response was from a Nebraska journalism professional. And, professional courtesy applying here, I shall withhold further discussion of the subject.

But, having poked a stick into the Hornets' Nest of Nebraska newspaperdom, the hornets are starting to buzz.

This may not be good news for the Green Hornets.

In fact, 'round hereabouts, we've taken to calling this whole labyrinthine morass the "Green Hornet Affair." Because, it seems, no matter who it is, finally, behind the mask in the back seat, in the front seat, Cato seems to be behind the wheel.

And Cato, as we all know, has the chops.



15 August 2006

There's Still Time To Get Tickets

Below, an announcement from Americans for Limited Government, forwarded to me by a member of the team on ALG's mailing list. Note the Senator from Oklahoma, where ALG's SOS Oklahoma was the subject of much controversy in the spring.

But first, a little interlude from today's guest blogger:
MALEFACTORS OF GREAT WEALTH." Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle ...
Now, directly from Chicago, the ALG email:
August 17-19, 2006 * Chicago

Two weeks left to register...
Join Senator Tom Coburn, Susette Kelo, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, and other top voices for liberty in Chicago!

The InterContinental Hotel
505 N. Michigan Avenue

Want to discuss the top issues of 2006 with experts and activists from across the country? Join us in Chicago on August 17, 18, & 19 to learn about how we can work to restore limited, accountable government in states across the nation.

On the agenda:

Who is fighting tooth and nail against putting voters and taxpayers back in charge across the country? You might be surprised…

How can we keep politicians and parties accountable?

Who really cares about limited, accountable government anymore?

How can we stop out-of-control state spending and unjust government takings?

Working with the media…

And more!

Your $50 registration fee will cover all meals at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago, including the Friday night reception and dinner, Saturday lunch with Senator Tom Coburn, and welcome cocktail reception on August 17.

Confirmed speakers include:
• Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Chairman Emeritus, Americans for Limited Government
• Susette Kelo, Plaintiff in Kelo v. New London
• John Fund, the Wall Street Journal
• Paul Jacob, syndicated columnist and ALG senior fellow
• Dennis Byrne, syndicated and Chicago Tribune columnist
• Michael Tanner, Director of Health and Welfare Studies, Cato Institute
• John Andrews, founder and chairman of Backbone America
• John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union
• Jay Richards, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty
• Steven Anderson, the Institute for Justice
Click here to visit our Action Conference 2006 website, see the schedule and register for the conference online today!

For further information on the conference, call
Jodi Bridges, (312) 920-0080, ext. 310 or e-mail info@getliberty.org.

  • Private Property Rights

  • Tax & Spending Reform

©2006 Americans for Limited Government Foundation getliberty.org

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Americans for Limited Government | 20 N. Wacker Drive | Suite 3330 | Chicago | IL | 60606

Still time to get tickets, but hurry!

Our guest blogger continues:
... bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses —whether these uses be to speculate in stocks and wreck railroads himself, or to allow his son to lead a life of foolish and expensive idleness and gross debauchery, or to purchase some scoundrel of high social position, foreign or native, for his daughter. Such a man is only the more dangerous if he occasionally does some deed like founding a college or endowing a church, which makes those good people who are also foolish forget his real iniquity. These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country.

(Forum, February 1895.) Mem. Ed. XV, 10; Nat. Ed. XIII, 9. Theodore Roosevelt

What's The Matter With Nebraska?

An anonymous blog reader left the following comment on Part VIII of "Unlimited Terms of Endearment" -- the investigative report on how ALG money travels through Montana, Nebraska, and back into the bedroom of ALG Chairman of the Board Eric O'Keefe's wife.

This has been the source of great consternation in Nebraska: the media don't know where the money comes from or where it goes. Part VIII answered both questions.

Anonymous said...
Please send this to all of our Nebraska media. They have been reporting in bits and dabs on this but nothing this significant about the paper trail. My question always was: What does a tax-limit petition (SOS Nebraska) have to do with an anti-euthanasia petition (Humane Care)and why doesn't Neb. Accountability & Disclosure Comm look in to Renewal Voter Outreach, America At Its Best, etc? Are their hands tied? Just as they were when Americans for Limited Government came in and foisted term limits on the State? At least that one had a modicum of grassroots support.

8/15/2006 07:42:56 PM
If it's any consolation, this WAS sent to every Nebraska newspaper, and many TV and radio outlets -- on the day it was posted. As was Part III, Under A Western Sky

Thus far, it has generated precisely ONE story: Sunday's Lincoln Journal-Star piece, which was cobbled together straight from Ray Ring's HIGH COUNTRY NEWS Howie Rich interview, and the (Portland) Oregonian's front page story on 8-5-06, which was adapted for the national wire on the Newhouse News Service (BY DAVE HOGAN And BETSY HAMMOND 8-8-06)
Nancy Hicks: Meet Howard Rich
Lincoln Journal Star, NE - Aug 13, 2006

Who is Howard Rich, the man most often mentioned as the financial power behind numerous state initiative petition campaigns to limit state spending ? ...
OK, to be fair, they ran ANOTHER story on Sunday.

And that's it.

They know about this -- every daily in Nebraska, and whatever weeklies I could find, including the Alliance paper, the Scottsbluff paper, etc. -- they have been handed all the research to corroborate, the story, the links and it's all wrapped up and tied with a pink bow. For free.

But, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Even the NE statepaper.com.

I'd say that the Nebraska media is engaged in either astonishingly unprofessional and pathetic 'journalism,' else they are criminally engaged in a coverup.

Let me put it this way: were I editing a newspaper, and received a story like this, I would HAVE to check it out, if only to cover my ass, just in case it was true.

But, good suggestion. It was taken, and, except for the Lincoln paper, not a peep from the mighty OWH, the Independent in GI, the Kearney Hub, etc.

Here is the letter I received on July 13 (I've been sending out any posts that pertained to Nebraska). I gave my permission to reprint -- free of charge.
Hey, Hart -

Thank you for writing.

I enjoyed your piece [Part III] and would like to reprint it in StatePaper.com under your by-line. May I have your permission to do so?

And, by the way: "Mr. Howard" was my grandfather. I've always been happy with "Ed."

I hope to hear from you again and I look forward to visiting your blog.

With all good wishes.

Ed Howard
I said, "sure!"

Nothing was ever printed.

So: What's The Matter With Nebraska (Media)?


14 August 2006

Unlimited Terms of Endearment Part X: The Present Through the Past

Follow the Money

I don't get it.

I don't get that the media doesn't get it. I don't get that the people don't get it. I don't get that the politicians don't get it. These friends of Howie Rich are snake oil salesmen, slithering unctuously into the various states, using the electoral process for grand social experiments, and nobody seems to be upset.

[I keep hearing this hoo-haw about the "land of the Brave, and the Home of the Free," and yet every time Osama does something bad, we get punished. I don't get that, either.]

And nobody's upset. It's just the way things are, you know.

Or the various Libertarian party members across the USA who opine that what "Howie" is doing is in the best traditions of democracy, and say, did you know that America is a REPUBLIC and not a DEMOCRACY?"

[It's actually the "United States of America," but we arrogantly pretend that the Canadians, the Mexicans, the Central Americans and the South Americans don't count. It is our nationalistic hubris. How many AMERICANS were killed in that plane crash? As though the other lives were inconsequential..]

But we, proud, free, brave Americans don't take offense when some rich New York apartment landlord fronts for various other shadowy rich cranks. To the extent that they're "libertarian" they believe that, as David Bergland, the former Libertarian presidential candidate wrote in Libertarianism in One Lesson: "Taxation is immoral, indistinguishable from theft."

They're also against Social Security (the Cato Institute brags that it was responsible for the 'privatization' notion); against public education (currently under the code phrase "school choice.") They disdain religion (but will, seemingly, take Father Frank Pavone's cash to put a "Terri Schiavo" initiative on Nebraska's ballot.) They're fanatically "free market" (the late LP presidential candidate of 1996 and 2000, Harry Brown, wrote in "The Great Libertarian Offer: "Low wages abroad are no reason to restrict imports," and "Sweat shops abroad disappear as workers gain wealth.") They're anti-union, anti-safety-net, anti-tax, and pro-unlimited wealth, untaxed, passing down all the generations.

In other words, at a minimum, they're in favor of a hereditary oligarchy. (The uneducated, one presumes, can clean their children's mansions and dredge their moats.)

If the entire "libertarian" agenda were laid before the public, there is so little doubt as to the public's reaction that there is equally little doubt as to why they mask their money behind an endless series of shell foundations all with highfalutin' names: Americans for Term Limits PAC (often used, as in Idaho, to attack politicians who disagree with them), the "Foundation for Democracy," "Americans for Limited Government," the "Club for Growth, States," which is controlled by Rich, and which has bundled thousands in maximum contributions from all over the USA in the service of Idaho GOP congressional nominee James Sali, about whom more in future.

If the public were given a real peek behind the phony-patriotic masks that these "libertarians" use, these "libertarians" obviously fear that they would be justly tarred as Machiavellian, Molochian manipulators. Self-appointed meddlers, malefactors of great wealth. Their very attempt to hide is their own self-indictment.

Attempting to flee from a crime is admissible as evidence of guilt in a court of law. Why is conscious deception not seen as evidence of guilt in the court of public opinion?

How can you (through your paid media consultants, paid Public Relations firms and paid media advertising) claim to speak FOR the "people" when your very actions belie the very concept of home rule?

And, while Howie Rich and company are endlessly in favor of "term limits," they impose no such restriction upon themselves, and insist in picking electoral fights in any state whose policies offend them. This will focus somewhat on term limits, since it's their track record, but the past holds the key to the future, and it's really about ALL of their current proposals. The modus operandi is well-established over time.

I'm not remotely the first to uncover this: There is ample evidence that this shell game has been run several times in the past, and the public never quite finds out what it needs to find out before the election. Only in the squabbles of the aftermath do we see the traceries of this cabal of wealthy cranks. And by that time, it's too late.

In 1998, this item appeared on CNN's All Politics website:
How Not to Lobby
U.S. Term Limits all but killed a popular cause through inflexibility and meanness.

For a lesson in how not to lobby, look no further than the recently failed attempt to enact congressional term limits. In 1995 term limits had won overwhelming voter approval in 23 states, and the issue was one of the ten planks of Newt Gingrich's Contract With America. But its lead interest group, U.S. Term Limits, committed two fundamental lobbying errors: It refused to compromise, and then it attacked supporters for deviating even slightly from what it considered the righteous path. According to GOP Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida, a term-limits enthusiast: "For U.S. Term Limits, winning meant defeating everything except its own view, which has hurt the movement considerably."

At the insistence of New York developer Howie Rich, U.S. Term Limits' president and major benefactor, the organization prescribed one, and only one, kind of limit: three two-year terms for the House and two six-year terms for the Senate. Why three House terms? Because public opinion polls of term-limit backers indicated three terms is what they liked best. That sounds like a preference, but to Rich and his associates, the poll results were akin to divine sanction.

Politicians like Bob Inglis, Republican of South Carolina, pleaded with U.S. Term Limits to be flexible; six terms was the most popular alternative, he told them, because it gave lawmakers in both chambers 12-year limits. "But they refused," Inglis recalls. "They said, 'If you get in our way, we'll mow you down.' " And in fact, lawmakers who didn't support U.S. Term Limits' position were labeled traitors to the cause in advertisements. Worse, at the group's urging, nine states passed "scarlet letter" laws that placed next to the names of candidates on the ballot a notation stating whether they supported a specified type of limit. Such coercion is resented on Capitol Hill and has resulted in a deep decline in the issue's prospects. Today, Rich says he was naive to think politicians would ever curtail their own service. Then again, his actions have assured that they probably never will.

Several GOP leaders who have abandoned the cause assert privately that U.S. Term Limits doesn't really want to win but instead wants to use the movement for its own fundraising purposes. Even Cleta Mitchell, once Washington's most visible proponent of term limits, has given up. At the urging of her friends in Congress, Mitchell has taken a job with the National Federation of Independent Business. Says Mitchell: The views of people who run U.S. Term Limits are "nuts."
USTL is the same bunch, in essence that are ALG, are the Fund for Democracy, are America At Its Best, are Club for Growth, States, are Citizens in Charge, etcetera. Hear their spokesman, Paul Jacob screaming about "accountability" (while hiding in the maze of mirrors that these "Illinois-connected" -- to use the term of the still-uncomprehending media glazes our eyes with -- groups) in his July 24, 2006 "Common Sense" column (which may or may not be extensively ghost-written):
Accountability Card

... But don't give in on taxes. I'm not convinced that a tax increase will lead to big decreases in government! Are you?

The answer? As always, the voters. This November as many as eight states will vote on Stop OverSpending initiatives. These measures put a cap on what politicians in the state can spend without express voter approval. This means that politicians have to actually sell new spending to the people. What a novel idea! Accountability.

Common Sense is published by Americans for Limited Government. Their website can be visited at www.limitedgov.org.
Funny. Accountability doesn't apply to them. In fact, Jacob wrote his July 31 column "'Hoping for the Next Punch,' By Paul Jacob In Nebraska":
As with all the campaign finance laws, you as a candidate are not allowed to simply rely on your ideas and appeal to acquire campaign contributions. Instead, if you're up against a millionaire, you have to wait for him to clobber you beyond a certain point.
Oh, so if OTHER millionaires are warping the electoral process with THEIR money it's bad? Glad to hear it, Mr. Jacob.

Well, they're still at it right now, of course, the "my way or the highway" approach that CNN chronicled a decade ago:
Capitol Weekly (California) News

Group threatens to strip lawmakers of per diem if they change term limits
By Shane Goldmacher
published August 7th, 2006

A leading figure in the national term-limits movement arrived in Sacramento Monday to head off the ongoing discussion to alter legislative terms. U.S. Term Limits President Paul Jacob said if the Legislature tries to tweak the current term-limits law, his group will fund an initiative that would eliminate legislators' tax-free, $153-per-day stipend, and force any future legislative pay to be approved by a popular vote.

"If they mess around with term limits, we will be much more inclined to say we need to go on offense," said Jacob. "The public has made up their mind but we continue to get legislators who ignore the public and decided they are going to do what's best for their careers."

U.S. Term Limits has spent millions on initiative campaigns across the country for more than a decade. In 2002, when then-Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, qualified a term-limits extension for the California ballot, Americans for Limited Terms, a sister organization, poured $1 million to defeat the measure.

"We will fight any effort to hoodwink the voters and mess around with term limits," says Jacob, who works closely with Howard Rich, a New York developer and driving force behind Proposition 90, an eminent-domain measure on the November ballot....
Here are some more episodes from their delightful electoral history (call them "The Friends of Howie Rich" for want of a better term):

From 1993:
Common Cause Magazine Spring/Summer 1993

The money behind the movement: term limits is touted as a grassroots uprising. But guess who's paying the bills?
Amy E. Young

Term limits is touted as a grassroots uprising. But guess who's paying the bills?

In October the 1992 Washington state term-limit campaign was in crisis: three weeks to go and not enough money for radio ads critical to its effort. So the head of the campaign, Sherry Bockwinkel, picked up the phone and called Howard Rich, founder of U.S. Term Limits (USTL), a Washington, D.C.-based group.

Within days, the wealthy New York developer rustled up $150,000 for the Washington state effort. "Howard was basically dialing for dollars," she says. "He called up ... 28 people who each sent us $5,000 checks." Voters approved the measure 52 to 48 percent. "Without that money we couldn't tip the scales in our favor," says Bockwinkel, who also headed a 1991 Washington state term-limit campaign that voters rejected.

In all, Bockwinkel's group raised $410,112 in cash and in-kind contributions. But while hundreds of people sent $10 and $15 checks, more than 80 percent of the receipts came from two national term-limits organizations and 69 donors of more than $500. USTL contributed $55,600 in cash and in-kind donations, and 17 members of its National Finance Committee were among the large donors.

On Election Day last November, more than 20 million voters in 14 states approved ballot measures that would cap U.S. senators' service at 12 years and representatives' at six, eight or 12. USTL spokesperson Jeff Langan calls term limits the "biggest grassroots movement ever in the United States." But if proponents describe support for term limits as a spontaneous, populist prairie fire driven by local outrage over entrenched congressional incumbents, a Common Cause Magazine analysis of campaign finance reports filed in the 14 states suggests that something else is fueling the fire: More than three-fourths of the movement's financing in 1992 came from four national groups and a relatively small number of wealthy individual donors.

According to the analysis, term-limit committees in 14 states raised $5.9 million in cash and in-kind contributions, of which 80 percent was raised from the four groups and just 624 donors of $500 or more. The groups -- USTL, the now-defunct Citizens for Congressional Reform (CCR), Americans Back in Charge and Americans to Limit Congressional Terms -- supplied more than $2.2 million, while more than $2.5 million came from the 624 individual donors.

Term-limit proponents say they were forced to raise big money in anticipation of a strong opposition financed by special interest groups out to protect their friends in Congress. While powerful interests indeed helped finance opposition efforts, term-limit backers outspent them by nearly 6 to 1.

A Continuing Trend

From the very beginning the term-limits movement was financed by large donors. The first major national term-limits group, CCR, spent more than $1 million in California, Washington and Michigan and then closed shop amid controversy surrounding its funding sources. CCR was bankrolled largely by two conservative billionaire industralist brothers, Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kan., who often wired money from their bank accounts directly to the term-limit committees. The group disbanded in late 1991, just after term-limit opponents filed a complaint with the Michigan secretary of state questioning the validity of a list of donors CCR filed to comply with a state law.

In early 1992 Howard Rich bought CCR's assets -- mainly a mailing list and some office furniture -- assumed its liabilities and set up shop as USTL. 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 the 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; and $20,000 from Crunch Fitness, a health club in New York run by USTL finance committee member Doug Levine. USTL also donated more than $5,000 in staff time and expenses for fundraising and advertising. This amounted to nearly 75 percent of Vote Yes's total $504,556 fundraising effort. A separate Michigan committee, Campaign to Limit Politicians' Terms, raised $346,782 for the signature-gathering effort -- $202,782 from CCR....
Golly. You could almost run that same story this year, just changing the dollar amounts and a couple of names. But, in essence, it is the same story in 2006 as in 1992.

As we'll see in a future article, Americans for Term Limits PAC, which included Rich, O'Keefe, Ed Crane (President of Cato), David Boaz (Cato's VP), Joseph Stilwell, of ALG's current board, made huge contributions in Idaho in 2002: $92,000 given TO friendly politicians and spent AGAINST unfriendly politicians in the same race. The pattern of vindictive self-righteousness and "punishment" of office holders who don't go along with the "program" is not a coincidence limited to a couple of years.

Listen to Paul Jacob in 2004:
Last month, 38 Arkansas legislators attended a National Conference of State Legislatures convention in Utah. Next month, 57 legislators will attend conferences in Alaska. That's taxpayer-paid vacations for 70 percent of the entire legislature, at a cost to taxpayers of about a quarter million dollars.

Moreover, many term-limited legislators, who will not even be returning to the next legislative session, are junketing on the taxpayers' tab. Fifteen term-limited legislators traveled to Utah and 24 more are headed to Alaska.
Several term-limited legislators justify the cost of their attendance at these conventions because they might run for office again or be involved in state government. Tim Jacob, chairman of Save Term Limits, says, "There are over 2 million Arkansans that fit that description, and we certainly aren't paying for everyone's summer vacation."

Legislators are also asking voters to water-down the state's term limits law this November. Apparently, they need more time to "See the world."

This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.
And now listen to Tim Jacob in Arkansas in 2004:
Term limits poll show lagging support
Tuesday, Oct 26, 2004

By Wesley Brown
Arkansas News Bureau

... "The people of Arkansas are letting out-of-state money influence their decision just as they did in 1992," said Jim Pledger, campaign chairman for Arkansans FOR Term Limits That Work. "We don't have the money available to us that they have available to them."

Pledger said the Save Term Limits coalition, the group opposing Amendment 1, has received 99 percent of its funding from a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group. He said the out-of-state special interest group has reserved an estimated $500,000 to blitz the state with negative campaign ads heading toward the countdown to the Nov. 2 election.

Pledger said his group has filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission alleging that only $4,000 of the opposition's total funds were reported in the most recent financial statement.

"We play by the rules and we think they ought to play by the rules," Pledger said, adding that Save Term Limits' most recent financial report was filed three days late.

Pledger said if the opposition group has its way, "the citizens of Arkansas will be stuck with what are the most restrictive term limits in the country."

However, Save Term Limits chairman Tim Jacob dismissed Pledger's criticism, and countered that those supporting the amendment include lobbyists and special interest groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce and big business.

Jacob said the money is from both in and out of Arkansas, and that much is from the Woodbridge, Va., -based Citizens in Charge, which promotes citizen involvement in government.

Pledger claimed that most of the money donated by U.S. Term Limits. Jacob's brother, Paul Jacob, is former president of the group and a current fellow of that group.

"It's like Goliath calling David a bully," Jacob said of Pledger's criticism. "This (term limits extension) is the biggest power grabbing scheme in the history of Arkansas, and all they can talk about is a two-day old campaign report.

"It is shameful behavior like this that made voters vote for term limits in the first place."
Two days later, this Jacobite screech of pure populism ran:
Thursday, Oct 28, 2004

By Rob Moritz
Arkansas News bureau

... U.S. Term Limits spokesman Eric Winters said his organization opposes changing Arkansas' current term limit law, but did not contribute money to Save Term Limits.

Citizens in Charge is run by Tim Jacob's brother, Paul Jacob, who has worked with U.S. Term Limits in the past. Paul Jacob said Wednesday that his past affiliation with the group may have caused a mix-up in the name of the advertiser listed as purchaser of the media buys.

"The citizens of Arkansas have a right to raise money just like the powerful lobbyists and the powerful interests in the Legislature," Tim Jacob said.

"I think they're a little desperate," he said of Pledger's letter. "They're shocked that average citizens have worked so hard and raised money. They're used to being able to control all the money themselves.. It's like Goliath calling David a bully."


Tim Jacob said the more than $400,000 raised is from both in and out of Arkansas, and that much is from the Woodbridge, Va., -based Citizens in Charge, which promotes citizen involvement in government.
Of course, WE now know that "Citizens in Charge" might as well be US Term Limits, or Americans for Limited Government, or Fund for Democracy, et al for that matter.

Howie and his friends must have laughed over that one.

But, again, one of their contractees inadvertently screwed up.

On Oct. 30, the following astonishing report was published, also by Rob Moritz.

How could a totally separate organization like "Citizens in Charge" have gotten this odd transposition in its TV and radio ads? Oh, it's not "CIC." Whoops! Now, the part is played by "Red Sea." But, alas, the murky waters seem to part not at all.
When the radio and television ads began running earlier this month, U.S. Term Limits, a Washington, D.C.-based group, was listed as the advertiser on purchase orders for the ads, with a disclaimer that they were paid for by Save Term Limits.

Thursday, a Washington-based company, Red Sea, sent letters to the Little Rock television stations and asked that their firm be listed as the one that purchased the ads, not U.S. Term Limits.

Pledger said in a news release Friday that opponents of Amendment 1 have "failed to disclose their advertising expenditures on the latest campaign report."

Tim Jacob, spokesman for Save Term Limits, said earlier this week that a mix-up occurred and U.S. Term Limits should not have been listed as the group purchasing the television advertising.

A message left on Jacob's telephone Friday was not returned....
After the 2004 election, brother Tim Jacob (who had been their Arkansas connection back to 1992, as well, please note) was told of the outrageous amounts of money coming from out of state, and he simply pooh-poohed it. Thereafter, with the election over, the matter was dropped:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Reports: $640,000 spent on campaign

Saturday, December 4, 2004

... Campaign groups that successfully fought to maintain Arkansas' legislative term limits reported spending more than $640,000 to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would have increased the number of terms lawmakers may serve.

That's easily more than any other group spent for or against a ballot question in the Nov. 2 election, according to financial reports filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

But Tim Jacob of Little Rock, chairman of Save Term Limits, the Little-Rock based organization that led the fight against the amendment, said his group along with a national organization spent less than the amount listed on the reports. Jacob said the reports include money that a Virginia-based group, Citizens in Charge, spent outside Arkansas.

He said Save Term Limits and Citizens in Charge combined to spend more in the neighborhood of $400,000 to defeat Arkansas' proposed Amendment 1.

But Bill Paschall of Little Rock, a consultant who worked on the campaign to pass the proposed amendment, said that can't be right. "I don't know what he's talking about," Paschall said of Jacob's estimation of what was spent to defeat the amendment. "There's no way."

Paschall said Friday that supporters of the amendment, with the ballot committee called Arkansans For Term Limits that Work, tracked the opposition's advertising spending and counted well over $500,000 without including most of the state's radio stations or cable TV outlets.

He said there are all kinds of discrepancies regarding the campaign reporting of the amendment's opponents. That the reported amount differs from what opponents estimate is just one more reason for the Ethics Commission to resolve the financial questions at a Dec. 17 hearing, Paschall said.


In the reports, filed Thursday, Citizens in Charge is listed as having financed the bulk of the campaign, with spending of $611,607.

Contributors listed included the national organization U.S. Term Limits, which, according to the report, contributed $175,000. Another $147,000 came from a group called Americans for Limited Government.

Tim Jacob, whose brother Paul is president of Citizens in Charge, said it was important to term-limits advocates nationwide to defeat the measure. He said Arkansas legislators referred the amendment to voters with wording that made it sound as though being in favor of it was a vote for the state's current term limits. "It was the most dishonest amendment that I have seen in the history of the state," Jacob said.

But Paschall said the amendment's opponents were the ones being dishonest - about how much they spent and whom their contributors were.

Todd Elder of Beebe, director of compliance for the Ethics Commission, said it was news to him that the opponents claim to have spent less than they reported on their financial disclosures. "Their information should reflect certainly what they did in Arkansas.... It's supposed to report their activity here," Elder said.

The report shows that Save Term Limits, Tim Jacob's group, spent $34,732. That's an accurate figure, he said.
Well there you have it. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

In a very real sense, every penny spent in opposing the bills propounded by the friends of Howie Rich, every volunteer's minute, every fundraiser, every person walking door to door, everyone buying ad time, pigeonholing their neighbors; everyone who writes letters to the editor, all the campaigning, every bit of that represents a double theft:

It is a theft of the time and capital -- literally, the life's blood -- of the people of the state involved. And, it is a theft of their time, life and capital that MIGHT have been spent on something that THEY, the citizens of the state to whom the laws apply, care about.

So, Howie Rich and his friends are stealing our money, our time, and our laws. And our home rule, surely the most precious conceptions of (US of) American democracy.

And we are reduced to the role of laboratory rats, or, more accurately, bacterial cultures in petrie dishes. As we open the freezer of democracy we can see them there, neatly labeled: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Michigan, Maine. And, alas, the culture seems to have died in three other petrie dishes: Oklahoma, Missouri and South Carolina.


But, while they fatuously rail against the "millionaires" and the "powerful interests," that oppose the "will of the people," it doesn't seem to concern them in the least that what they're doing -- by consciously deceitful means -- is the very antithesis of the "freedom" they'd like to gift us all with. (The stench of hypocrisy is nearly overpowering.)

Sadly, it doesn't seem to concern the news media, either; or the politicians or the people, finally.

Oh, wait. The people aren't getting told, so we really don't know HOW they feel about it, other than what Paul and Tim Jacob tell us they feel.

I guess I just don't get it.


13 August 2006


In between innings last night, two ersatz "Blues Brothers" entertained the crowd. It was false entertainment, of course. The "Ems" are a class A minor league team, and once a year or so, I end up at a 'picnic' night with some group or other that I or my wife are connected to.

And sitting with us was a Eugene old-timer, who told me the story of how Belushi started singing the blues sitting in with two local legendary blues bands. It was back when they were shooting "Animal House" here, and the partying that went on during that movie shoot is the stuff of local legend.

The point being, however, that the whole schtick had come full circle, and now what we were watching were two guys pretending to be a living entertainer and a dead entertainer from twenty-eight years ago ('Animal' House was released in 1978), ghoulishly going through the motions. Another pair of Elvis imitators gone bad; another version of American Karaoke. And about as entertaining.

But it's that sort of cruise ship band: something to relieve the tedium between innings, which is what the essay that follows is. Hopefully it is a better intermezzo than watching the ghostly echo of a time gone past at a minor league baseball game: All scandal and no play makes Hart a dull boy.

So this bit of buffoonery between innings, if you will. More "Unlimited Terms" will follow shortly. But, while the players switch sides, this intermezzo:


Twenty years ago last week, I wrote a book. It was one of those visitations of lambent fire that occurs oh, so infrequently. I later read that Voltaire wrote CANDIDE in (he claimed) two days, and I can attest that it IS probably possible. Had I not done it, I would not have believed it possible.

I had written for the magazines and newspapers for ten years. I was cranking out screenplays for second-rate productions at third-rate prices, for videos and features, and I had rented an office to write in -- one that turned out to be in the same building as Walt Disney's first studio. And I finally had enough money in the bank to work in longer forms than article piecework allowed me. The constant grind of deadlines, and the superficiality of working on this month's piece, and then dropping it to work on another one made writing longer works extremely difficult. You can't serve two masters: short-term articles and other put-food-on-the-table stuff, AND the contemplation that a book requires across weeks and months.

Maybe other writers can do it. I couldn't.

1986 was a hell of a summer. I wrote short stories. I wrote essays. I wrote longer form stuff. I wrote two complete horror screenplays (one of which also, alas, is still unsold twenty years later, although the political winds have shifted to the point where it is VERY timely), sold the other one and lived off the cash until 1987. The film was never made, but it bought 1986 for me, and I count it very successful screenwriting as a result.

[I never worried about the quality of the movies I wrote. Whenever they came out, the story was always altered, debased and ruined to the point that I looked like an idiot, and so I placed my pride in craft, never in art. That's the sad reality of the movies, kiddies.]

But between late July and early August, I finally wrote the book I'd tried to shop a proposal about since 1980. The late, legendary agent Robert Mills liked it, but wrote me that my proposal couldn't be shopped: the SUBJECT was not anything that the publishers wanted to see.

Even in 1986, the mind of America was being squeezed. The ideas that could be presented on bended knee to the publishers were severely constrained, and my topic was considered "out of bounds."

So, I didn't write the book until 1986, when, after ten years of research, it flowed out in a torrent: 80,000 words in six days. I sat at my SANYO IBM clone computer, working in WordStar on a gold monochrome screen, fueled exclusively by 2-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper (and a Mexican #3 dinner special from Dos Burritos once a day). It was the most fun I've ever had writing, and, if not some of the best writing I've ever done, certainly among the best.

And, in the intervening years, I have forgotten what I wrote, and have re-read, and others have read what I wrote, and the consensus has been consistent: it is an astonishing, amazing book. Funny, informative, a snapshot of a time and a place that has since become palatable, evidently.

But my book remains unsold. At the time, agents and publishers wrote in reply to my query: "We are not interested in that subject."

In other words, because of the topic, they wouldn't even READ it. Never mind whether it was any good or not. Never mind whether it was "commercial" or not. The IDEA wasn't acceptable, and, therefore, the book was not of interest to them.

Such was the "marketplace of ideas" in the 1980s.

And so, for two decades of the three that I've been a professional, I've been trying to sell my book. There have been times that I have despaired, but I know, deep in my dark heartness, that one day it will sell, and sell well. Any man in the street "gets" it, but no publisher seems to. Those "guardians" of the public discourse have been the darkest kind of bigots, have been the censors, the biased inquisitors of our modern Dark Age, and, with one exception, no publisher has ever agreed to do so much as READ my poor bastard offspring.

Now, at this point, you might think that this is meant as some form of self-pity. No. Nothing could be further from the truth. The years of self-pity, of bitterness and despair are long behind me. I came to the conclusion, long ago, that such a thick-witted and prejudiced (for, in pre-judging a book they wouldn't and won't read, they are, undeniably "prejudiced" in the technically precise sense of the term) gaggle of self-appointed censors should never be given the opportunity to smother the 'spark' of my muse.

I picked myself up and dusted myself off a long time ago, and while I am now marginalized as a "blogger" -- irrespective of my track record or my years of professional work and professionalism -- "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell's motto best expresses how I feel and act nowadays:

Illegitimi non carborundum -- "don't let the bastards grind you down."

Because the only thing dumber than those censorious bastards would be to ALLOW those ignorant, biased Klansmen of the mind to hobble MY writing. As for hobbling my career as an author, well, there's not much I can do about that. The Golden Rule applies in publishing -- he who has the gold makes the rules.

To allow them to squelch my writing would be to spit in the face of my muse -- Calliope, most times, but, increasingly, I am convinced that it must be Polyhymnia.

But you will allow me the modest space, after twenty years, to note that my first-born novel is still alive and well. ("First-born" in the sense of the first novel I've ever written that wasn't either a bad sword-and-sorcery novel -- since burnt on Mark Weiss' bar-b-que grill -- or two novels-for-hire about exactly the same subject that was "not acceptable" to publishers since; I was paid handsomely for it in the early 1980s: two novels that have circled the world in two English editions and returned to me via Alice Springs, Australia and La Paz, Bolivia.)

I did a lot of writing that summer, all of it good, none of it sold, and, finally, moved out of the office, unable to scrape on other than endless meals of 6-for-a-dollar Ramen noodles and scraping up enough money for bus fare by buying rare books at cut-rate used bookstores, and selling them to higher end used bookstores. I generally made about $10 a day, which was enough for Dr. Pepper, cigarettes, and one #3 special at Dos Burritos, in the shade of Barnsdall park.

Thank goddess for the Internet, else the purblind, vicious and stupid publishers of America would continue to strangle the throat of American ideation. For a long time, whole categories of thought were deemed "unpublishable" by those toads.

In the late '70s (pre-Shirley MacLaine), all "New Age" stuff was deemed religious pornography and, thus, not to be printed, save for those small, specialized houses that have always existed around the fringes of publishing.

An agent once told me: "In the 70s, if it was erotica, I could sell it all day long. In the 80s it was romance."

He DID read the book. He DID love it. And he DID get it to Dell Books, whose editor really liked it, but, as marketing departments now run publishing houses, he couldn't ever quite come up with a "marketing proposal" that the sad-sack non-ideators of Marketing would embrace whole-heartedly.

Because, alas, I had, as per usual, not merely thought "outside the box" (that loathsome term so embraced by those bereft of the mildest scintilla of any creative urge), I'd colored outside the book.

[Not, please note, as Al Franken attempted to correct me, "outside the lines," which is a different thing altogether. "Outside the book."]

And the manuscript sat gathering dust for eight months in 1991, while I slept in a trailer in Connecticut, a cheap hooker-infested motel in Santa Monica, California, and, finally, in an unheated, unfinished room in Santa Fe, New Mexico, desperately in need of the advance that ANY sale of the book might bring.

No soap.

Later, in the mid-1990s, my agent would be named in indictments that Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York state, brought against several unscrupulous agencies involved in scams. But my agent had once been legitimate. Why he fell from grace I doubt I'll ever know.

The book languishes, still. I have tried in the intervening years to interest any publisher or agent (the publishers "closed the shop" in the late '80s and early '90s, so that one was required to be "accepted" by that subspecies of the leech, lamprey or other uncategorized parasite commonly termed the "literary agent.") But, alas, I still can't seem to get them past the idea that my book is Rosa Parks, and they are white bus riders in Birmingham, Alabama in 1955.

But this isn't about just me. Or my book.

This is about a publishing industry in which the ability to write is no longer important, and decidedly NON-literary accoutrements are the decisive factor in publication.

The bastards have finally gotten their fondest wish, as opposed to that ancient dictum that H.L. Mencken often cited with glee: "The publisher drinks wine from the author's skull." They have achieved authorship without authors. Writing without writers, books and best-sellers without those pesky scriveners.

Don't take my word for it. The death of my profession AS a profession is painfully chronicled in author "Jane Austen"s "The confessions of a semi-successful author."

It is a superior essay, and gibes perfectly with my experience and the experience of other authors of my acquaintance (and after thirty years in this game, I have met a couple, trust me). Books no longer need authors to be lucrative. They need media faces with decent Q-ratings.

This point was brought painfully home as I opened this month's VANITY FAIR (and, yes, Virginia, I subscribe to VF, which has caused many a nervous giggle from macho friends and their girlfriends. VF has been, for many years, simply the best magazine in America, and, "gay" though it may flag me to said machismo apologists, I'm not foregoing its many pleasures merely to bolster some false idea of what it means to be "manly." Real men eat quiche. Good quiche, that is.)

Inside was an exquisitely rendered woodcut of a gaggle of the criminally insane: Hannity, Malkin, North, O'Reilly, John Gibson and Neil Cavuto. It is a delightful essay by one of our best writers, the estimable James Wolcott, entitled "The Fox Literary Salon."

But, really, none of them are what you'd call "writers," with the possible exception of Michelle Malkin, whose poisoned pen is not wielded in the name of "literature" to any degree comparable to her yeoman service in the cause of unreasoning hatred and the lowest uses to which the human mind might be placed in service of.

They are termed the new "Algonquin roundtable." I recognize that the characterization is dripping with irony, but, alas, they probably ARE the modern incarnation of the old Algonquin roundtable, noted for its wits, its witticisms, and its taste for dark irony.

Certainly they are lionized and celebrificated by an equally clueless 'new' media, creating a vicious circle of 'bestsellers' generating hype, generating 'bestsellers.' But, while their tomes might bear superficial resemblance to 'books' in the most literal of terms, the resemblance is non-existent in literary terms.

Dorothy Parker -- perhaps our greatest national wit -- is not, sadly, represented in substitution by Michelle Malkin, who may well be our greatest national halfwit. Wholesale prices for shoddy goods, I'd call it, not a fair trade at all. Nor would anyone with half a wit consider Robert Benchley for Bill O'Reilly anything other than a disastrous trade, akin, perhaps to young George W. Bush's trading away Sammy Sosa from the Texas Rangers for some forgettable substitutes.

And speaking of forgettable substitutes (if not elegant seques), who could trade the dull eyes and witlessness of Oliver North and Sean Hannity for Alexander Wollcott and George S. Kaufman (who, between Pulitzers, found time to write for Groucho Marx on Broadway, and was highly regarded by same: both Groucho AND Broadway, note.)

No, if this be our new "Algonquin roundtable" what a dilapidated and pathetic table it must be.

There is nothing ideological here.

I have been attempting to read my review copy of THE ONE PERCENT SOLUTION, by Ron Suskind this week. I have been a book critic for thirty years, but I am on hiatus. I could not stand to cram another crappy and crapulous bit of garbage into my brain for the few dollars that they pay me. American letters has declined precipitously from the fifties and sixties, that much is certain. The modern author is almost a savage, unlettered, unprincipled and unclue'd. And I have been ATTEMPTING to read this hot book of the "Progressive" or "Liberal" bookshelf, except that it is so execrably written that I have not been able to advance beyond the first chapter.

It is amateurish, lousy crap writing. The style is vapid, pretentious and wordy to the point of utter opacity. And it's every bit as crappy as anything Malkin or O'Reilly have "written."

Note that Suskind came to this contract from his book "THE PRICE OF LOYALTY: George W. bush, The White House, and the Education of [ex-Treasury Secretary]Paul O'Neil"l in 2004.

Normally, of course, the book would be BY Paul O'Neill with Suskind either a "with" or an "acknowledgement." Such is the state of our literary nation. And it's not good.

It's not the ideology: it's the idiots.

Even if you worship the "authors" cited by VANITY FAIR's Wolcott article, they are most assuredly NOT up to snuff with the old Hotel Algonquin gang.

And, mostly you know them from their pictures on the TeeVee (or, as my dad insisted constantly, the "boob tube.")

Because auctorial pursuit has been replaced by boobery -- the boobery of teevee talk-show, and radio hatespeak, perhaps, but boobery nonetheless. Can anyone doubt that Dorothy Parker would have sliced these "professional talkers" into tissue-thin strips worthy of the finest Cordon Bleu chef in any extended conversation?

I have very little doubt that in such a "fantasy literary league" matchup, O'Reilly would have to, at the very least, arm himself with a good dictionary, merely to understand the nature Mrs. Parker's droll thrusts, parries and ripostes.

In a battle of wits, our "New" roundtable would enter the fray without hint of arms.

Lotsa 'dint' though: Oliver North would probably sucker-punch Edna Ferber and Robert Sherwood. Cavuto would trip Robert Benchley, and Michelle Malkin would try to bitch-slap Dorothy Parker (who, I have no doubt, would skewer Malkin with her rapier wit, even as she impaled Fox's witchy poltroon with her umbrella).

Basketball stars, movie stars (who at least are required to read as a necessary adjunct to their profession), the "fifteen minutes of fame" crowd, and even nobodies like Paris Hilton (who has, I shall note, a "New York Times Bestseller" under her too-readily unbuckled belt) endlessly populate media slots reserved for authors. What matters is whose picture goes on the dust-jacket; not whose words fill the pages in-between.

They have cheapened my profession; they have degraded writers and authors to the level of Wal-Mart greeters. We stand just inside the literary door, reminding you to "have a nice day." But we have no health insurance, no regular employment, and, indeed, no place inside that literary Wal-Mart that passes for the great American salon of letters here, in this wretched age.

The actual authors toil below, in the literary galleys --literal as well as figurative -- 'ghosts' in the sausage factory that comprises American publishing in this blighted Age.

So, while my intellectual offspring turned 20 years old this week, I do not mourn its absence from bookstores crowded with vile, debased, rudderless, authorless ordure.

Next year my book, LOOKING FOR APHRODITE, will be old enough to vote.

But until I can publish her, no audience will ever be able to vote (with their book dollars) on how well they love her.

And, if no publisher will read her, that vote remains a fantasy, at present, although I have no doubts that she will be published, eventually, when a more enlightened generation assumes the editorial reins.

Meantime, the New York publishing crap machine rolls inexorably on, a juggernaut of tree-murder in service of writing barely worthy of a public restroom wall.

All hail the new Algonquin Round Table. And the siege perilous.