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INDICTED: Paul Jacob, libertarian ballot manipulator

(also published at MyDD.com) and at BlueOregon.com.

by Pete Forsyth

October 4, 2007

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Paul Jacob, one of the chief strategists behind the recent flood of libertarian ballot measures, was just indicted on felony charges -- and unless you live in Oklahoma, you didn't read about it.

The charge? Conspiracy to defraud the state. But if you do a Google News search, you won't find any coverage outside that state -- even though Jacob's groups operate all over the country.

Jacob is one of the key players in the rapidly accelerating movement to pass cookie-cutter, far right bills by initiative and referendum all over the country. Spending caps that kill schools and other vital services, term limits for judges and state legislators, the destruction of land use regulation...and that's just the beginning.

Under the "leadership" of people like Jacob, the initiative system is corrupted, complex measures are passed with broad-brush TV ads and cute one-liners, state constitutions are amended, and state and local budgets are sent into a tailspin.

Jacob's resume includes U.S. Term Limits (which has been actively pushing for various term limits since the mid-1990s) and Americans for Limited Government (the group pushing TABOR spending caps all over the country.)

ALG was recently kicked out of Illinois for violating the state's charity laws. 2006 also saw measures that would essentially abolish land use regulation struck from the ballot in Montana and Nevada, for "pervasive fraud" in signature gathering.

These folks seem to spawn new groups as frequently as they get in trouble: The Sam Adams Alliance sprouted up in Illinois shortly after ALG got the boot; Citizens in Charge, founded in 2001, focuses on expanding the initiative system to new states. Local groups like Oklahomans in Action and Montanans in Action have drawn fire as well; two local co-conspiritors were indicted alongside Jacob.

Of course, Jacob isn't going to let a little thing like a felony indictment get in his way. According to a Wikipedia article, the web site FreePaulJacob.com was launched "instantly" when the news broke.

If we continue to view these ballot measures as local phenomena, relevant only during a given campaign season, we're in for a world of hurt. Here in Oregon, we're only beginning to see the devastating effects of 2004's Measure 37 -- meanwhile, these guys backed six copycat measures in other states in 2006. Folks like Paul Jacobs and Howie Rich don't let pesky little things like campaign cycles, state borders, or -- apparently -- state or federal laws stand in their way, and they're continually finding new ways to advance their libertarian agenda. Progressives in all states, especially those with citizens' initiatives, need to stand together.

So, take action! Call your paper of record, and let them know stuff like this deserves to be covered outside of Oklahoma. Head over to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, who do a great job of tracking this stuff on a national level. Give them some money. Or, find an organization in your state that's done battle with these groups, and see what kind of volunteer help they need. Our Oregon plays great defense in my state, and Democracy Reform Oregon keeps track of the convoluted money trails. For sober analysis of specific legislation, check out the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Who's taking care of business in your state?

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