The State of Journalism in Nebraska

Precisely 36 years ago today, November 17, 1973, Richard Nixon infamously said “I am not a crook.” Perhaps, then, it is no mere coincidence that Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue book (already marked down to $8.95 at WalMart)  and political rehabilitation tour officially are released today. In honor of crooks AND coincidences, therefore, a little bedtime story about politics in America, astroturf and amnesia…

Once upon a time, The Omaha World-Herald sent a reporter to check out a strange confluence of cash, ballot petitions and organizations. Here is what she found out:

(Omaha World-Herald (NE) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)

Petition’s origins tied to at least nine states

by Nicole Aksamit

Aug. 27–CHICAGO — Who’s behind a proposed Nebraska amendment requiring patients to receive food and water until death?

The trail leads to activists and attorneys in at least nine states and swirls through an office suite three blocks from the Sears Tower.

An Omaha couple filed the paperwork. Lawyers in Michigan and California helped draft the amendment.

An Idaho man* [* Laird Maxwell] funneled money to the campaign from interest groups in Illinois, New York and Virginia. A Wisconsin woman’s company was paid $1.4 million to gather signatures on the humane care petition as well as another proposal to limit state spending, known as Stop Over Spending Nebraska.

None say they know why Nebraska was chosen for the humane care petition drive or who initiated it. No one has identified where the money originated.

But most have some connection to Americans for Limited Government (ALG), a Chicago-based group whose members have backed petition drives in the United States since the early 1990s.

ALG made the single largest donation to America at Its Best, the group that funneled all $835,000 contributed so far to the humane care petition drive.

But ALG is taking no credit for that effort, despite its financial stake and the active involvement of at least one of its board members.

“We have no position on the humane care measure,” said John Tillman, president of ALG. “I’ve not even read that amendment.”

The proposal would amend the Nebraska Constitution by requiring caregivers to provide food and water by any means to patients, unless they have an advance directive or living will that says otherwise. The petition drive came about a year after the family dispute over the wishes of a brain-injured Florida woman, Terri Schiavo, sparked a national debate over feeding tubes and end-of-life care.

The Nebraska secretary of state has yet to rule on whether the petition has qualified for the Nov. 7 ballot.

The humane care amendment was created and funded in a way that makes it hard to sort out its backers.

That’s a problem, said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Project at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center.

She asked: “Don’t you have a right to know who’s funding policy initiatives in your state?”

The World-Herald traced the measure’s origins to the following states:

Nebraska

The public face of the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee is Thomas and Alexis “Lexi” Mann of Omaha. They are identified in campaign filings as treasurer and coordinator of the committee.

Thomas Mann is an attorney who runs Legal Software Consulting. Lexi Mann runs a business that arranges travel for the disabled. Thomas Mann said she recently left the campaign to tend to her business.

Mann said he met the organizers of the campaign after the petition language was drafted, but declined to name them. His contact, he said, was Steven P. Baer, who is a Chicago-area businessman.

The Manns have received $14,408 from the campaign so far for contractual services, according to campaign disclosure reports.

Michigan, California

Mann said the amendment was drafted by Steven J. Safranek, an attorney who was raised in Omaha and who teaches at Ave Maria Law School in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Wesley J. Smith, a California attorney who has written books on euthanasia and medical ethics.

Safranek and Smith said they worked on the amendment via e-mail and conference calls, but that it wasn’t their idea and they don’t know whose it was. They said they weren’t involved in funding or running the petition drive and didn’t select Nebraska as the target state.

Safranek said there had been talk of a humane care amendment percolating in pro-life circles since the spring of 2005, when Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed. He said he wasn’t sure how he became part of an e-mail group drafting it.

He said he was paid $1,000 or less but doesn’t recall who wrote the check.

“Americans for Limited Care maybe? Or Nebraskans for Limited Care?” he said. “I mean, I’m sorry, Nebraskans for Humane Care might have been it.”

Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee has not reported any payment to Safranek.

Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that supports the intelligent design theory of human origin, said he wasn’t paid for his work. He said his initial contact was Baer, the Chicago businessman, sometime early this year.

Illinois

Safranek said he didn’t know anything about Americans for Limited Government, the group that indirectly funded the Nebraska petition drives from its downtown Chicago headquarters.

He expressed surprise when told ALG and U.S. Term Limits share several of the same leaders. Safranek was a paid consultant for U.S. Term Limits in 1997.

Baer sits on the boards of both groups.

He ran for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor in 1990 and attempted to start a tax and term limits party in 1994. He was financed in those efforts partly by Chicago industrialist Barre Seid. Baer has served on the board of Seid’s foundation, which has contributed to U.S. Term Limits, religious organizations and conservative causes.

Through an exchange of e-mails, Baer said he is a self-employed consultant, real estate investor and father of 10. He said he has worried for years about unethical withdrawals of food and water. He described his role in the humane care campaign as “cheerleader.”

Montana, Idaho

If Baer is the cheerleader, that might make Laird Maxwell the quarterback.

Maxwell, of Boise, Idaho, heads America at Its Best, the Montana group through which money for the humane care and spending measures flowed.

“I kinda got a knack for petitions,” said the white-bearded, bolo tie-wearing activist.

Maxwell and his wife, Lori Klein, also are involved with campaigns this year to limit land-use planning and government taking of private property in Idaho and Arizona.

Maxwell said he didn’t come up with the humane care amendment. He said he could not recall why Nebraska was selected. He said he thought someone on his board pitched the humane care idea to him.

He said he signed off on it because it fits his philosophy.

“I don’t think property rights are limited to dirt,” Maxwell said. “Your right to work, your right to breathe, your body — those are yours, too.”

When in doubt about what a person wants, he said, caregivers should err on the side of life.

Asked how he learned of Thomas Mann, Maxwell said: “Thomas Mann? Who’s he?”

Reminded of Mann’s position with the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee, Maxwell said he recalled speaking with Mann and his wife once on a conference call.

As for who ultimately funded the effort, Maxwell said: “People from all over the nation. I don’t really know. It’s a national movement. I send donors to ALG. They send donations and donors to me.”

During the keynote address at ALG’s inaugural conference in Chicago this month, Eric O’Keefe said he, New York real estate investor Howard Rich and like-minded friends fueled the national term limits movement of the 1990s.

Their work continues today in ALG and similar groups. O’Keefe, chairman of ALG’s executive committee, said they support citizens in taking back their government.

“It’s a question of: Are we subjects or sovereign citizens?”

A recent report by the Oregonian newspaper estimated that ALG-affiliated groups have pumped more than $7.3 million into ballot initiatives this year. Those measures include spending caps, eminent domain, term limits for judges and school vouchers in at least 13 states.

ALG gave money to Maxwell’s group, which in turn was used for the two Nebraska petitions. ALG board member Baer was clearly involved. But other ALG leaders publicly embrace only the spending measure.

The decision to spend money on humane care, they said, was up to Maxwell.

“We haven’t done anything on (humane care),” O’Keefe said.

But his wife has.

Wisconsin

Leslie Graves, who is married to O’Keefe, started Renewal Voter Outreach, the company that was paid $1.4 million to gather signatures on the Nebraska petitions.

Graves is no stranger to petition drives. The Spring Green, Wis., woman ran signature-collecting efforts to put third-party candidates on the ballot in the 1970s and 1980s, including Libertarian Ed Clark for president in Nebraska.

But she said the humane care petition was the first she’s really cared about. Once she decided to do humane care, she was asked to circulate the spending petition as well.

Graves works for Rachel’s Vineyard, a Wisconsin-based organization that holds retreats for women recovering from abortions.

Graves said she’s been active in pro-life causes for more than seven years and feels strongly that the humane care measure is needed. But she said it wasn’t her idea and she wasn’t involved in funding it. She said she heard about the amendment from Safranek, whom she said she had known for years.

Safranek, however, said he doesn’t know Graves and didn’t inform her about the measure.

The conflicting stories highlight the fuzzy origins of the humane care effort.

Goldberg, the campaign finance expert at the Brennan center, said the public needs to know who is pushing an issue onto the ballot.

“If you know who’s behind it,” she said, “you have a better sense of knowing what it’s about.”

World-Herald researcher Jeanne Hauser contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 2006, Omaha World-Herald, Neb.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

And here is the final irony. Americans for Limited Government lists its address as “240 Waukegan Road, Suite 200. Glenview, IL 60025.” Just blocks away from the permissions office of McClatchy. Just a hop, skip and jump from the Kraft Foods’ Glenview campus.

[Download a .pdf chart showing Howie's money flow.]

Howie Rich (from his “blog”)

It’s a great story. And it’s a story that had more than a little help:

Which came from my series “Terms of Unlimited Endearment,” or “The Friends of Howie Rich.”

Nebraskans defeated the initiatives. In fact, the ALG/Howie Rich petitions were defeated in every state but ONE, Arizona.

Now, that doesn’t stop them from lying that they WON great victories in, well, here, from Ballotpedia:

Through real estate Howard Rich has gained a sizable wealth, rather than horde it away Howard Rich has re-invested in causes that he seems fit. He sits on the board of several organizations including Americans for Limited Government, a movement that sets out to protect and expand individual liberty. He is also involved with education reform, and is the Chairman of Legislative Education Action Drive‘ and The Parents in Charge Foundation. He also gives to the Student Sponsor Partnership in New York, which is a scholarship program designed to give deserving kids the opportunity to leave the public school system and receive a top level private education. Howie Rich, because of his work in school choice, in 2000, was honored with the Herman W. Lay Memorial Award. [3]

He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Friedman Foundation.[4]

Politics

Howard Rich has been active in politics for almost 40 years. In 1992 Howard Rich founded U.S. Term Limits, which now stands at the forefront of the term limits movement. [5] He later founded Americans for Limited Government.[1] 2006 is commonly referred to* as Howie’s breakout year. Voter initiatives that were sponsored and championed by Howard Rich and Americans for Limited Government, to limit governmental use of eminent domain passed in nine states: Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, North Dakota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia and Nevada. President Bill Wilson of Americans for Limited Government called it “…an amazing first step in the long walk away from big government.”[6])**

[* A dead giveaway. "Commonly"? By whom?]

[** Really? Take a look here.]

Sadly, “Howie’s breakout year” is an outrageous lie, but an understandable lie, when you consider WHO  it is that’s doing the lying. Who is it?

Well, let’s consider what happened in 2005: Eric O’Keeffe and most of the Chicago branch of ALG become “The Sam Adams Alliance” never moving from their Wacker Drive address. Citizens in Charge (yet another astroturf organization)

Ballotpedia’s ‘About’ page says:

How it works

Ballotpedia was originally formed by the Citizens in Charge Foundation on May 30, 2007. In March of 2008, the Sam Adams Alliance became Ballotpedia’s sponsor, continuing their mission of using online media to promote access to government. On July 1, 2009, the Lucy Burns Institute (LBI) became Ballotpedia’s official sponsor. LBI is a nonprofit 501c3 organization that helps keep things running with a small editorial staff and enough server power to meet the demands of our heavy traffic. Ballotpedia has 65,976 articles and 1,725 registered users.

And here:

History

Ballotpedia was launched by the Citizens in Charge Foundation on May 30, 2007. From March 2008-June 2009, it was sponsored by the Sam Adams Alliance.

Here, let me note from my earlier reporting (23 Oct 06):

In several states, the “local activists” have been acting in concert for Americans for Limited Government’s Howard Rich’s brother-in-law* Paul Jacob’s Citizens In Charge’s G-TAP project (a/k/a CitizenFOIA) led by Leslie Graves who says:

“I live near Spring Green, Wisconsin, with my husband Eric O’Keefe. Eric has been involved for many years with the term limits and school choice movements, recently serving as Chair of the Executive Committee of Americans for Limited Government.

We’ve raised three children. In early 2006, after two decades as a stay-at-home mom, I started a petition drive management company and plunged into managing the paid part of two petition drives in Nebraska…”

[* no longer certain about this connection, as of 2007. Nonetheless, Rich and Jacob have been intimately connected since at least 1983.]

Let’s see just how cozy this all is:

  • Eric O’Keefe is the Chairman and CEO of the Sam Adams Alliance and the Team Sam.
  • John Tsarpalas is President of Team Sam.
  • Political commentator Paul Jacob serves as a Senior Advisor to the Sam Adams Alliance.

Ballotpedia was created by Citizens in Charge (Jacob) moved to Sam Adams Alliance (O’Keefe) and then Lucy Burns Institute.

Joe the Plumber at the Sam Adams awards banquet this spring

And, of course, the Lucy Burns Institute is Leslie Graves’ baby, in Madison, Wisconsin. Says her own Ballotpedia:

The Lucy Burns Institute (LBI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. It was founded in December 2006. It sponsors Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA.Leslie Graves is the president of the Lucy Burns Institute.

Here’s the office (in Madison):

So, Ballotpedia was founded and maintained by ALG members and intimates, AND CONTINUES TO BE. Nobody actually moved their offices, just changed names. And they continue to play their shell games.

And, about that Ballotpedia bray of all those “victories”? You know, “Howie’s breakout year”?

passed in nine states: Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, North Dakota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia and Nevada. President Bill Wilson of Americans for Limited Government called it “…an amazing first step in the long walk away from big government.

Uh, not EXACTLY.

Here was my epilogue to the investigation in December of 2006:

And here is “Howie” s post election statement (leading the whole Press Release parade):

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/11-08-2006/0004469778&EDATE=

Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victories Across the Nation
Initiatives put property rights back in taxpayers’ hands

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 /PRNewswire/ — Voters in 9 states across the nation struck a blow for liberty today by supporting an initiative to stop eminent domain abuse. Americans for Limited Government (ALG), a major force in galvanizing support and promoting the state initiatives, is thrilled to see so many hard-fought battles won.

“This is an amazing first step in the long walk away from big government,” said Americans for Limited Government Executive Director Bill Wilson. “For an upstart campaign to enjoy this level of success is truly gratifying and we look forward to using our momentum to achieve great victories in the future.”

Voters in Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, North Dakota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia and Nevada supported proposals to prevent the government from imposing land-use measures on private property.

In a statement today, ALG Chairman Howie Rich said, “I’m proud of the work that ALG and its state partners and allies have done in promoting the ideals of liberty. Our efforts have successfully raised voters’ awareness about the need for fiscal restraint in the face of unchecked government spending and land grabs. We have helped lay the foundation for real advocacy on behalf of small landowners and taxpayers across the country, and our movement will only get stronger as more Americans awaken to the fact that state and local governments nationwide are out of control.”

Discussing ALG’s post-election plans, Mr. Rich had this to say: “Where we have succeeded, you can be sure that we’ll continue to build on that success. Where the initiatives to limit spending and protect homes and churches have come up short, you can be sure that we’ll be back, stronger than before. This is a movement that will continue to grow.”

Americans for Limited Government Foundation is committed to promoting individual liberty, free markets, and the principles of the U.S. Constitution. We empower voters and grassroots groups with the knowledge they need to make real political change happen across the country.

SOURCE Americans for Limited Government

Already, a few media sources have begun to reprint the press release, edited and un. Here’s the WASHINGTON TIMES (Google “news” for “Americans for Limited Government” and you’ll see what I mean):

http://washingtontimes.com/national/20061109-114636-7063r.htm

Nine states limit eminent domain

By Eric Pfeiffer
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
November 10, 2006

Voters in nine states this week passed measures to limit governments’ ability to use eminent-domain property seizures for private development, displaying extreme distaste for the concept supported by a Supreme Court ruling last year.

“After the Kelo decision, there was a huge explosion of anger by voters,” said Bill Wilson, executive director of Americans for Limited Government, a group opposed to the court’s eminent-domain ruling.

“Many of the states then tried to address the issue themselves. Unfortunately, what came out from the state legislatures in most cases was very weak and wasn’t very effective.”

Voters in Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, North Dakota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia and Nevada passed measures limiting the scope of the court’s decision….

And yes, I hadn’t heard of them, either. And, as noted above, the ALG website doesn’t overlap very well with the alleged “victories.” Sandlapper, at DailyKos has tracked down the Georgia finance documents, and reports (with link) that Howie Rich/ALG DID NOT finance the Georgia eminant domain measure, and doesn’t even find any contributions. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/13/22246/964

And this, from the same story:

There has been very little in the media to track how Howard Rich did in that disastrous (to Republicans) election. There was a minor coda from the national AP writer in the post-election coverage:

Losses on ballot measures jolt religious right

By DAVID CRARY
Associated Press

… One election subplot was a campaign led by New York City real estate investor Howard Rich to promote ballot measures in numerous states seeking to rein in state and local government.

Of nine Rich-supported measures, only one succeeded – a property-rights measure in Arizona that would require state and local authorities to compensate property owners if land-use regulations lower the value of their property.

Let’s just focus on property rights a moment. Here is what ALG’s website claims:http://www.getliberty.org/actionconference/propertyrights.html

Private Property Rights

Measures like the Protect Our Homes initiative and others will stop eminent domain abuse once and for all—and it will also stop the government from devaluing property in other ways.

States: Arizona, California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Washington.

And this is what I tracked:
  • In Maine, a TABOR/SOS spending cap measure was soundly defeated 55-45%
  • In South Carolina, only 507 votes separate Democratic candidate Jim Rex from Howard Rich-backed Karen Floyd in the Superintendent of Public Education race, and a mandatory recount looms. Rex is currently ahead.
  • In Florida, the Howard Rich-opposed initiative to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution by initiative passed 59-41% As per usual, pigs figured prominently in the media campaign.
  • In Nebraska, the Spending Cap initiative failed overwhelmingly 71-29%
  • In Colorado, Judicial Term Limits failed 59-41%. The Howard Rich connection was not discovered by the state’s media until the week before the election.
  • In Arizona, the Howard Rich “Arizona HOPE” eminent domain measure passed by a wide margin, 65-35%
  • In Nevada, the Howard Rich PISTOL eminent domain measure also passed, by a 63-37% margin, but only the eminent domain portion had been allowed on the ballot, and not the “takings clause.” The Rich lawyers had asked that the entire measure be thrown out, but the Nevada Supreme Court refused.
  • In Washington State, i-933, the eminent domain measure was defeated 55-45%
  • In Idaho, the eminent domain measure went down by an astonishing 74-26% or nearly three in four.
  • In California, Proposition 90, another eminent domain measure went down to defeat by a narrow 52-48% margin.

And, finally, in Oregon, three Howard Rich measures were on the ballot. (I repeat the ratios as reported by the Portland Oregonian in their quaint manner)

  • Measure 48 a constitutional spending cap — named “The Rainy Day Measure” in traditional Orwellian — was defeated 2-1
  • Measure 45, term limits, was defeated 3-2, and
  • Measure 39, eminent domain, was passed 2-1. There are two odd wrinkles to this one. First, that none of the state media seemed to quite spot 39 on the radar, and secondly that there is a very high probability of invalidation by the Oregon Supreme Court on the grounds of multiple issues in one ballot measure. This has happened with campaign finance reform, and law enforcement/prisons initiatives in recent memory, here.*
  • The judicial race in Missouri (reported here last week) can be considered a “win” for Howard Rich, as well: Judge Brown was defeated for reelection. The ALG money that poured into the race was channeled into a huge negative campaign.

[* NOTE, 2009: Measure 39 used not a cent of Howie Rich's money, which you can actually see here.]

Worst of all was Idaho, where the “This House is MY Home” measure ought to have passed overwhelmingly. Instead, three out of four voters said, “NO!”

To those totals, we can add three initiatives bounced by the Montana Supreme Court, one by the Missouri Supremes, one by the Michigan Supremes, one by the Oklahoma Supremes, and the “Humane Care” initiative in Nebraska that came up short. A very poor win/loss ratio, all in all.

By almost any standard whatsoever, the election was a major defeat for the forces of Howard Rich: a sound thrashing, a drubbing, a hammering, a pasting, trouncing, licking, shellacking.

But on the morning of November 8th, Wednesday after the Tuesday election, the following press releases were entered at PR Newswire http://www.prnewswire.com :

Releases displayed in EST time Nov 8, 2006

12:26 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in Florida

12:23 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in Oregon

12:09 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in Georgia

12:06 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in North Dakota

12:00 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in Michigan

11:50 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in South Carolina

11:48 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in Nevada

11:29 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in New Hampshire

11:12 Americans for Limited Government Wins Major Victory in Arizona

Virtually identical, the press releases trumpet glorious victories. Indeed, the pieces for the individual states are identical, with only the name changed to protect …

To protect whom?

Now, on Ballotpedia, today, the phony rewritten history is not challenged, but, rather, the lie is made manifest and potent.

And even Americans for Limited Government has been forgotten by the news hens, who would allow the weasel back into the henhouse, evidently.

I sent this correction to an Omaha TV station, after the quoted story appeared:

From: Hart Williams
Posted At: Monday, November 02, 2009 9:06 AM
Posted To: Action 3 News
Conversation: Correction on Action News story
Subject: Correction on Action News story

I read this story on your website, and wondered who it was that was considering “Americans for Limited Government” a legitimate commentator on Nebraska politics:

http://www.action3news.com/Global/story.asp?S=11386137

Public Holding Sen. Nelson Accountable on ‘Public Option’ Debate

… But groups that oppose the public option are pressuring Nelson as well.  A group called “Americans for Limited Government” (ALG) Monday urged moderate Democrats like Nelson to follow the lead of Senator Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana, who the group quotes as saying, “I think if you asked, do you want a public option but it would force the government to go bankrupt, people would say no.”

ALG is not satisfied with assurances the bill would pay for itself as the President has mandated, saying in a statement the health care bill, “will add trillions of dollars to the national debt over the coming years, does not pay for itself, and will destroy private health options by making them unaffordable.” [...]

Your reporter sure has a short memory.

http://www.notinmontana.org/newsohama.htm

October 1, 2006, Omaha World-Herald
By Harold W. Andersen: WORLD-HERALD CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Anybody out there ever vote for Howard Rich? [...] Howard Rich’s efforts to leave his imprint on the Nebraska Constitution is only part of the Howard Rich story. His agenda becomes all the more alarming the more one learns about the efforts of Rich and his associates across the nation to promote their ultra-conservative philosophy in at least 10 states this year alone.

In five of the states, efforts financed by Rich and his associates through a front named Americans for Limited Government have been kept off the ballot by a variety of court rulings — for example, the finding of massive fraud by signature gatherers in Montana and the illegal use of out-of-state petition circulators in Oklahoma.

Nebraska is one of the three states (Oregon and Maine are the others) in which Rich and some local supporters have succeeded in buying their way onto the November ballot through use of paid petition circulators….

There’s a lot more if you just Google it.

Bests,

H. Williams

[* What's my interest in Nebraska? Well, put it this way: both my father's and my mother's people arrived in Nebraska in covered wagons. I'm a fourth-generation Nebraskan on my mother's side, and a third-generation on my father's. And, I'm descended from one Jacob Rambo, who homesteaded in the Great Sand Hills, circa 1900, so I can legitimately claim Rambo blood in my veins.]

Now, one would hope that the news director at Omaha’s CBS affiliate, “Action News 3″ would remember this, and perhaps take the hint that when the former publisher of THE newspaper in Nebraska takes cudgel in hand against a “front group” called Americans for Limited Government, this would give said news director a clue. Nope. To wit(less):

Scott Picken <*@*.*>
to    Hart Williams <*@*.*>
cc    Sue *** <*@*.*>
date    Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 11:27 AM
subject    Your Note … cc: Public File

Mr. Williams;

While you may dislike the actions or political leanings of the group mentioned, the ‘Action 3 News’ web story itself accurate and the group is properly attributed.  What exactly is there to correct?

It should be noted that the article you included from the ‘World-Herald’ is actually an ‘editorial’ in opposition to the group … while conceding it does have ‘local supporters.’  We don’t do editorials but do include the comments of groups and individuals with diverse and wide-ranging viewpoints.  In the full web story you read, both supporters and opponents were mentioned.  Please note the supporters were ‘Moveon.org,’ a national group which could also be questioned as a ‘legitimate commentator on Nebraska politics.’

I suppose I could also ask, “What makes the contributing editor a legitimate commentator on Nebraska politics?”

But in fact, this is not even a ‘Nebraska’ issue.  It is a national one in which our Senator has a defining stake that has made him the target of national groups on both sides of the health care debate.  That makes the opinion of national groups who are attempting to influence the thinking of Nebraskans germane.  Both ALG and Moveon.org apply.

Thank you for providing your feedback.

Sincerely,

Scott Picken
News Director, KMTV
10714 Mockingbird Dr.
Omaha, NE  68127


***  office
***  cell
*@action3news.com

False equivalences are purely a partisan pursuit and not applicable to professional newsgathering. Mr. Picken equates an actual grassroots group (MoveOn.org) with a notorious astroturf group, and then proceeds to snark at me like a PR flack FOR Americans for Limited Government.

But let me answer this:

I suppose I could also ask, “What makes the contributing editor a legitimate commentator on Nebraska politics?”

The “contributing editor” he’s talking about is this:

October 1, 2006, Omaha World-Herald
By Harold W. Andersen: WORLD-HERALD CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Now, I am going to tell you WHO the “contributing editor” is, and YOU tell me what might make him “a legitimate commentator on Nebraska politics?”

From his website biography:

Harold W. Andersen
Retired Publisher and Chief Executive Officer, Omaha World-Herald Company

Born Omaha, Nebraska, July 30, 1923.

In 1945, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Nebraska, where served as editor of the Daily Nebraskan.

Reporter, Lincoln, Nebraska Star, 1945-1946.

With Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln and Omaha, 1946 to present. News staff, Lincoln and Omaha, 1946-1960. From 1950 to 1958, worked in Lincoln as World-Herald State Capital correspondent. Returned to Omaha in 1958, became assistant to the managing editor, then assistant to the president. Later vice president and business manager. President, CEO, Publisher: 1966-1986. Chairman, CEO and Publisher: 1986-1989.

Married Marian L. Battey April 19, 1952.Children: David and Nancy.

Other offices currently held:
Director, Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation
Member, Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
Director, Omaha Zoo Foundation

Previous offices held:
Director, infoUSA, Inc.
Chairman, Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation
Chairman, Midwest Regional Advisory Committee, National Park Service
President, Omaha Development Council/Foundation
President, International Federation of Newspaper Publishers. (First American to hold this position.)
Chairman and president, American Newspaper Publishers Association. (Only Nebraskan to hold this position.)
Director, Associated Press. Chairman, Associated Press Foreign Operations Committee.
Director, Newspaper Advertising Bureau
Chairman, World Press Freedom Committee
Chairman, Newspaper Advertising Bureau Future of Advertising Committee
Member, Knight Foundation Journalism Advisory Committee
Chairman, Nebraska Committee for Selection for the Rhodes Scholarships.
Senior Vice President, North Central Flyway, Ducks Unlimited
Chairman, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
Chairman, Board of Trustees, University of Nebraska Foundation
Director, The Williams Companies
Director, Avenor, Inc.
Director, Peter Kiewit Sons´, Inc.
Director, Creighton University
Director, McCaw Cellular Communications, Inc.
Director, Morrison Knudsen Corporation
Director, Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer Publishing Company
Trustee, Nebraska Nature Conservancy
Trustee, Midwest Research Institute
President, Junior Achievement of Omaha
Chairman, Omaha Chamber of Commerce
Member, United Arts Omaha Board of Directors (President 1984-1986)
Member, Bellevue College Foundation Board of Directors

Among Awards Received:
Distinguished Journalist Award of the University of Nebraska Chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha, 1972
Henry Monsky Lodge B´nai B´rith Americanism Citation for Meritorious Service, 1972
Nebraska Builder Award, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1976
Newspaper Carrier Hall of Fame, International Circulation Managers Association, 1978
Master Editor-Publisher Award, the Nebraska Press Association, 1979
“Vikings of Distinction” Hall of Fame, North High School (Omaha, Nebraska), 1983
Douglas County (Nebraska) Agriculture Society Outstanding Civic and Business Leader, 1984
National Society for Park Resources Award for Excellence, 1984
Woodmen of the World Society Outstanding Citizenship Award, 1985
Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year, Nebraska Chapter, National Society of Fund-Raising Executives, 1986
Combined Health Agencies Citizen of the Year, 1986
National Association of Conservation Districts Communications Award, 1987
First Annual “Andy” Award for International Awareness, University of Nebraska at Omaha, 1987
University of Nebraska Foundation Perry W. Branch Award for Distinguished Service, 1987
United Way of the Midlands Citizen of the Year Award, 1987
Nebraska Newspaper Hall of Fame, 1988
NebraskaLand Foundation, Distinguished Nebraskalander Award, 1988
Citizen of the Year Award, Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America, 1989
Distinguished Nebraskan Award, Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C., 1989
Midlander of the Year Award, Omaha World-Herald, 1989
James McGovern Award, Association of Newspaper Classified Advertising Managers (ANCAM), 1989
Ralph D. Casey Minnesota Award, Inland Press Association, 1989
National Conference of Christians and Jews, Humanitarian Award, 1993
Governor´s Arts Award, 1996 (Nebraska Arts Council)
Omaha Business Hall of Fame, 1997

Club Memberships:
Augusta National Golf Club
Omaha Country Club

Honorary Degrees Received: Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree from University of Nebraska at Omaha, 1975
Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree from Dana College, Blair, Nebraska, 1983
Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree from Doane College, Crete, Nebraska, 1984
Doctor of Law honorary degree from Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, 1986
Doctor of International Communications honorary degree from Bellevue College, Nebraska, 1986

Jeepers, Mr. Action News. I guess he’s not NEAR as qualified as you, but I hope that answers your question to your satisfaction. You know:

I suppose I could also ask, “What makes the contributing editor a legitimate commentator on Nebraska politics?”

Now, my point is this:

With a jackanapes like this Action News 3 “News Director” directing news coverage, is it any WONDER that ALG didn’t even bother to change their name? Having been caught with grubby paws in the cookie jar of freelance legislation three years ago, they pretend that they won. They pretend that they’re a legitimate “grass roots” group, and get Mr. Action News to DEFEND them, to boot.

Sad.

ALG tries to slither in as a “legit” group
I’d be careful about tossing around terms like
“nefarious assault on decency” were I them
which, happily, I am not

Here’s my reply. It wasn’t nice, but then again, this yahoo abrogated his shot at politeness. He ought not be holding down a JOB, let alone blowing off at a well-researched correction notice.

He ought to do what REAL journalists do: Ask the question. WHO is ALG? Five minutes might have given him an answer.

My reply to Mr. Action News 3’s “withering” reply:

from    Hart Williams
to    Scott Picken <*@action3news.com>
date    Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 2:14 PM
subject    Re: Your Note … cc: Public File

Americans for Limited Government is an astroturf group already exposed as such in Nebraska.

Surely there are legitimate groups with policy differences you might have quoted without legitimizing a known front group noted for its double dealings.

If you can’t tell the difference between legitimate sources and phony sources, perhaps you might reflect that thousands of honest, diligent journalists are looking for work, and that merely quoting from press releases does not constitute “journalism.”

To conflate Moveon.org (whatever you might think of their ideology) and ALG (whatever you may think of their ideology) is to pretend that apples equal oranges, and that he said/she said is a legitimate version of  seeking truth, rather than the lazy man’s version of fake journalism. It bespeaks thje guiding philosophy of TV news: Is my hair on straight?

I merely pointed to the editorial to give you a clue that Omaha media had unmasked ALG three years ago, and that the OWH publisher emeritus (not noted for his MoveOn leanings) had authored several angry editorials following said unmasking about the false and fraudulent nature of the group. The reports had high visibility throughout Nebraska, but I suppose that you missed them. Nicole Aksamit at the OWH may have been up for a Pulitzer for her exposé.*

But then, I’m not the newsroom that stands to be snickered at for having being conned.

However, given your strenuous defense of your journalistic “integrity” I have a bridge that you might like to buy. It’s an amazing bargain, and with the World Series underway, you could realize spectacular tolls as baseball fans use it to get to Ebbets Field.


Bests,

Hart Williams

Fame and riches are fleeting.
Stupidity is eternal.

– Don Williams, Jr (American, b.1938)

[* Note: the "Pulitzer" is not hyperbolic. Ray Ring of High County News won a Polk Award for covering this story. I, on the other hand, got an email from an "insider," my very own "Deep Throat."]

And that’s the state of journalism in Nebraska.

November 17, 2009

Courage.

======

UPDATE: Just by the way, the 2006 990 tax return for “America At Its Best” (which reports  $4,844,600 in 2006 ‘donations’) happens to list the officers for AAIB. In a moment, the results of that listing. But first, from New Nebraska Network, July 14, 2006:

In addition, SOS Nebraska and NHCC each report approximately a quarter of a million dollars less in contributions from America At Its Best – as of June 25, 2006 – than AAIB reports contributing to these organizations almost three weeks earlier. That’s half a million dollars that has found its way into the Nebraska political process that remain totally unaccounted for, violating this state’s every requirement of full public disclosure.

SOS Nebraska reports $380,000 from AAIB. AAIB reports $620,000 to SOS Nebraska. NHCC reports $355,000 from AAIB. AAIB reports $605,000 to NHCC. Those sorts of numbers simply speak for themselves.

Both SOS Nebraska and NHCC set up PO Boxes at which they made payments to a signature-gathering outfit called Renewal Voter Outreach. Both groups also referred to these respective PO Boxes as their “Petition Office” – SOS Nebraska even making a $270,000 payment to the “Petition Office” in its lastest NADC filing statement.

Well, as I showed, Renewal Voter Outreach was a new company run by Leslie Graves, Eric O’Keefe’s wife in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Here were the officers for the mysterious America At Its Best (which has generated so little traffic in donations or cash before or since 2006 that it was the last year for which it filed a tax return):

  • Laird Maxwell, President
  • Duncan Scott, Treasurer
  • Jim Crumley, Director
  • William Wilson, Director

Yeah. The SAME William (“Bill”) Wilson who is currently the “President” of Americans for Limited Government, that “germane” group that Scott Picken equates with MoveOn.org.

You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but if you want to con Nebraskans, evidently, you can get away with it MOST ALL of the time. Right, Scott?

What fools these mortals be.

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