An Electoral Carol: The Ghost of Elections Past

Let Us Prey – Thomas Nast (detail)

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.

Americans for Limited Government – Google News Search 5 pm PDT today

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.

A representative sampling from today’s search
(Americans for Limited Government- Google news search)

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.”

Paul Jacob when President of U.S. Term Limits

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 http://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 his website, in case you didn’t make the connection,
Howard Rich makes it for you…

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.

Michelle Malkin, Paul Jacob, Joe the Plumber @ Eric O’Keefe’s “Sammies” 2011

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.

Paul Jacob mugshot;  he began his political career with
felony draft dodging and spent time in Club Fed.

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.

Living in Oregon: Eric Winters, attorney, activist, author of
Clackamas Urban Renewal Vote & Rail Vote initiatives

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.

l. to r. Unknown, Howard Rich, Nick Gillespie, Andrea Rich

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….

John Fund and Eric O’Keefe at O’Keefe’s 2011 ‘Sammies’

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:

Reports: $640,000 spent on campaign

BY LAURA KELLAMS
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
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.

Tim Jacob of Save Term Limits in 2004 @ UAM

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.

Perhaps.

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.

NOTE, The preceding was brought to you by its original blog, Boregasm. 

14 AUGUST 2006

The “Terms of Unlimited Endearment” series ran to 33 Parts and an Epilogue. It is still available online for FREE. The first half can be downloaded as a free .pdf for name searches.

Turns out it’s still pretty relevant.

Courage.

[NOTE: If this was interesting to you, click here to go right on to the followup "When David Koch Walked out of the Libertarian Party."]

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