[Note: Read the "prequel" to this post, "Private Legislatures" first and this will make a lot more sense to you. -- HW]
The California media are chasing their tails over the revelation that the “Electoral College” initiative that’s supposedly failing was given an $175,000 donation by a Missouri attorney named Charles Hurth III, who sent it from his “Take Initiative America” group, founded September 10, almost the same day.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is another elaborate shell game to create initiatives and hide the source of their funding behind “astroturf” groups. Why does this sound so familiar? (Well, it does to ME, because I covered it extensively).
[Here's the official contributions, with the $2.5 million that Howie's "Fund for Democracy" kicked in! Along with "Montanans in Charge," "America At Its Best" "Colorado At Its Best" "Club For Growth-State Action" and other Rich front groups, some, seemingly, formed ONLY for THAT year, kind of like "Take Initiative America." Hmmm. ]
Now, you need to stop, before you make dumb comments, and recognize that I’m showing you a TECHNIQUE, and not accusing Howie and his cronies PER SE in any currently nefarious politicking. Got that? I’m showing you how GOP-connected groups gamed the last election by running money through several states, which is now a well-known technique in certain wealthy political circles. Don’t go paranoid and think that this is all necessarily a conspiracy from the same anonymous donors. (Because, it turns out, Howie probably didn’t actually kick in much of his own money, at all.) OK:
Last year, using the Howard Rich-funded shell group “Missourians In Charge” St. Louis’ Patrick Tuohey (who no “legitimate” news organization ever noticed had been Frank Luntz’ right hand man for a decade in Washington, D.C. — see HERE, HERE and HERE) was sent $200,000 from Montana to finance the Missouri TABOR initiative petition drive and ballot campaign. [See Missouri Ethics Commission document: 05/30/2006 15 Days After Petition Deadline who also got $1.295 million from the Fund for Democracy.] The group “American At Its Best” figured prominently in the California election, as well.
Do you begin to see a pattern here? I’ve covered how Amway heir, former Michigan GOP chair (and Eric Prince of Blackwater’s SISTER) Betsy DeVos’ “All Children Matter” is incorporated in Virginia, and funnels money into South Carolina (Michigan to Virginia to South Carolina). Last year, Richard DeVos, Betsy’s hubby, and Eric’s brother-in-law ran as the GOP candidate for governor of Michigan. This begins to get VERY chummy, after awhile. In South Carolina, along with the DeVos “All Children Matter” cash, Howard Rich’s “Parents In Charge” — they LOVE the “in charge” — was right there, shoveling money to the same politicians for “school choice.”
And did I mention that “Rich is the president of Club for Growth State Action“? (CFG “bought” Republican Congressman Bill Sali’s primary victory in Idaho in 2006 by flooding him with four figure contributions from all over the country. He surfed into Washington D.C. on a tsunami of cash from Club for Growth. It goes on and on and on. Cato Institute, etc. etc. )
The Center for Public Integrity found in their award-winning investigation that the Rich-led “Americans for Limited Government” was 99% funded by secret donors (sadly, AFTER the election):
Trio of Secret Donors Accounted for 99% of $5.4 Million in Contributions to “Grassroots” Organization
Published: December 21, 2006
Americans for Limited Government, the tax-exempt organization that bankrolled a series of controversial ballot initiatives this year, raised 99 percent of its $5.4 million in total contributions in 2005 from just three donors, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.
The number of ALG’s major donors in 2005, but not their identities, was disclosed in financial statements obtained by the Center.
New York political activist Howard Rich, the organization’s high-profile chairman, did not respond to the Center’s requests for information about ALG’s financial affairs, including a question about how much of his own money, if any, he has given to the group. Rich has repeatedly declined to disclose the identities of donors to ALG and eight other tax-exempt organizations that share common management.
Rich was recently described by The Wall Street Journal as “a publicity-shy, libertarian-leaning businessman who has become the go-to man for supporters of conservative ballot initiatives.”
The reliance of Americans for Limited Government on such a small number of big donors is at sharp variance with how the organization bills itself to journalists and to the public.
“Americans for Limited Government is funded by thousands of individuals from across the country,” the organization’s Web site says. “Grassroots volunteers and donors make up the heart and soul of our organization.”
It’s a theme that Rich and his lieutenants have sounded again and again.
This is not to bash Howie Rich (who, I predict, will not contribute a penny to any campaign, since his name’s now too prominent. He may well be a political leper this year. It will be someone with a different name contributing and managing the SAME money for the same anonymous zillionaires). But it you want to get a flavor of it, read the Center for Public Integrity’s 2006 election-eve reports, and Part 2 of “Following The Money.”
Sadly, even the CPI got flim-flammed in 2006: by foolishly focusing ONLY on “takings initiatives,” they missed a HUGE chunk of the story — which included school choice, takings, eminent domain, judicial term limits, TABOR, and, in Nebraska, a “Terri Schiavo” feeding tube law.
Journalists have consistently missed this forest for the trees, and right now, the great California dead tree newspersons seem to be doing the same. They only ever KIND OF “got” the Howie Rich aspect of the story, and fell into the media trap of presuming Rich to be the moneybags, and not merely the courier boy.
The persistent rumor in 2006, which I was told, and which was repeated to me by several MSM journalists, was that they’d gotten $300 million to play with from a dying millionaire.
I have never been able to confirm this story one way or another, BUT, I am firmly convinced, at this point, that it comes from the estate of John Walton, a Walton heir who slammed his self-built ultralight plane into the tarmac in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where an enclave of the filthy rich are rapidly turning the private portion of the valley in the shade of the Grand Tetons into the new Newport, Rhode Island. (Ever wonder why Cheney bought a “residence” there after 2000?)
In the summer of 2004, the estate of Wal-Mart heir John Walton donated more than $2 million to All Children Matter-Virginia, which, according to the Virginia Public Access Project promptly funneled money to an affiliate group in Florida.
My own investigation discovered — as I reported on November 5, 2006 — that two weeks before the 2006 GENERAL election, the dead John Walton contributed, according to Virginia public campaign finance records:
Donor: Estate of John T. Walton
Gee. That’s an amazingly NON-round number, ain’t it?
Here, just to make you feel even better, the dead hand of Walton contributed … in 2006:
Donations from Walton, John
(Note: “John Thomas Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and one of the wealthiest men in America, died on June 27  in a plane crash. He was 58.” Source: Blog of Death)
$2,063,750 10/16/2006 Cash
$2,088,000 7/14/2006 Cash
(Link Note: type in “Walton” and hit the search button)
(Betsy DeVos ponied up $210,000, while her husband was running for Governor of Michigan.)
OK: are you confused? That’s the point. Do you have any idea where that “Take Initiative America” cash is REALLY coming from? Good. That’s the intent.
What we are dealing with here is a national CULTURE of bait and switch, of money shell games, of secretly legislating, pushing stealth initiatives, and quietly buying elections, pure and simple.
Sometimes, as with the Missouri judge who suddenly had $100,000 dumped into his race to deny him re-election, these jokers play dirty and mean. Other times, they’re just sneaks. But this is a culture of political corruption, and as long as the morons of the media think that the world ends at their own state line, they will NEVER figure this out.
These dorks think that this is about CALIFORNIA. (Were they on an Alaskan cruise, they’d think that the part of the iceberg above the waterline was the whole iceberg.)
This mistake is repeated in state after state after state. Why the HELL do you think they used Missouri for TIA? September 10, establish it. September 11, send $175,000 to California.
Last election cycle, they exploited Montana’s pathetic campaign finance disclosure laws. They will probably do it again.
But this story isn’t about the quiet death of a vicious little GOP initiative to cripple California’s electoral clout. It’s just the beginning of the initiative season, and if what’s left of the old dead tree media wants to be a player in 21st Century journalism, they need to get on the stick, and start tracing out the wiring of this stuff.
They can start in Sacramento, where a huge chunk of the Western Stealth Machinery is headquartered. (One astroturf group a couple years ago was finally traced to a PAY PHONE in a capitol neighborhood BAR!) And then they can pay special attention to Nevada, where financial secrecy laws facilitate huge wire transfers of the “dirty” cash that never shows up on C&Es. And they can watch the three or four major petition gathering companies that do the dirty work out of Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
It’s all stagecraft and sets that only look real from the auditorium seats. Behind it, it’s plywood flats, two-by-four braces and flimsy, balsa-wood staircases that are just for show. The rocks are just paint, and the fire is a fan and an old Christmas tree rotating light on some amber gel.
If the dead tree reporters and the dancing eyebrow™ media would look at the United States as a NATION, perhaps they’ll start to unravel this Gordian Knot of secret money that’s turned our electoral process into Disneyland Democracy:
The “elections” that we take part in increasingly bear that same relationship to real elections as the “New Orleans Square” of Disneyland in California bears to the ACTUAL “French Quarter” of New Orleans.
Mickey Über Alles.