Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Few More Pieces in the Petition Puzzle

by Kyle Michaelis
Last month, I raised some very big questions about some very shady characters responsible for the proposed Spending Lid and the Terri Schiavo-inspired Humane Care Amendments that appear likely to be on the November ballot. Publicly, there is no connection between the Nebraska-based entities (organizations would be an exaggeration) behind these petition efforts. But, Stop Over Spending Nebraska and the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee not only used the same signature-gatherers and the same suspect accounting practices, they have also received all of their reported funding from the same out-of-state sources, who themselves operate through a confusing-by-design network of front organizations engaged in an apparently legal but no less corrupt form of money laundering.

Well, today I am happy to see that both the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star published articles delving into the first level of the deceptive maze that has been constructed. Unfortunately, the World-Herald continued to obscure what's most troubling in this situation by focusing on the dollar signs ($1.7 million) rather than the tortured path that led all that money into Nebraska. The World-Herald also clouds the issue by lumping it together with information on the expenditures of those supporting the casino gaming initiatives, who also spent extravagantly ($1.4 million) but at least did so out in the open. Still, it's a minor improvement over last week, when the World-Herald failed to even point out the inexplicable connection between SOS Nebraska and the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee.

The Lincoln Journal-Star (in a front page article not published online) is to be commended for going somewhat deeper, painting a more complete picture that seems to actually grasp the ugliness underlying these efforts. The LJS writes:
A group with a Chicago address and the deep pockets of a New York real estate investor has spent almost $1.7 million on two Nebraska petition drives.

The two proposals - a state spending lid and a requirement that hospitals and other health institutions feed dying patients - both appear to have enough voter signatures to get on the November ballot thanks to petition circulators paid for primarily by Americans for Limited Government.

Howard Rich, a wealthy New Yorker with a long history of working for libertarian causes, is chairman of the board for Americans for Limited Government, which has a Chicago address......

On the surface, the money pouring into the two Nebraska petition campaigns appears to come from an organization called America At Its Best, which has a Kalispell, Mont., post office box address and no Web site.

That group is listed as the donor group on financial reports filed by the petition campaigns with the state earlier this week.

But other reports show that Americans for Limited Government actually provides the bulk of the money.

"This seems to be a shell game," said Karen Kilgarin of the Nebraska State Education Aossication, part of the coalition opposed to the spending lid amendment.

"They don't want us to really know who is behind this scheme, this petition," she said. "It raises a lot of red flags for me."

"The folks in our coalition, I know them. They are all Nebraskans. They all live here. They are all involved in our communities and in our churches. They have real faces," she said of the coalition opposing the lid.

Where the money came from is a secondary issue, according to Mike Groene, the Nebraska leader of the lid petition drive.....

The money for the petition drive, he said, comes from like-minded people across the country.

Groene, of North Platte, said he did not know that Americans for Limited Government was funding the campaign. In fact, he never has met Howard Rich, and he's not a libertarian.

"All I know is we get our money from America At Its Best. This is the first I heard where they (America At Its Best) get their money," he said.

But he works with staff members of Americans for Limited Government, he said. And his group received money for the petition drive after he sent a letter through Americans for Limited Government requesting help....

Funds for Democracy, another group started and funded by Rich donated the bulk of the rest of the money to America At Its Best, $400,000....

This is not the first time a group Rich leads has paid to help put an initiative on Nebraska's ballot.

His organization U.S. Term Limits paid for Nebraska's term limit petition campaigns. That amendment, passed by voters, limits state senators to two consecutive four-year terms and means 20 senators cannot run for re-election this year.

The Journal-Star also mentioned that Americans for Limited Government is orchestrating spending lid campaigns in Montana, Missouri, Maine, Oregon, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Michigan - with those in Montana, Oklahoma and Michigan also using the Stop Over Spending (SOS) moniker that the liar Groene would have us believe is being independently operated in Nebraska.

Up to this point, I have generally given Groene the benefit of the doubt, assuming he's just some poor dupe being manipulated by forces he doesn't understand. But, the more facts come to light, the more it becomes evident he's been lying to cover the tracks of who's actually been funding and organizing these actions from the start.

Groene, of SOS Nebraska, wants us to believe that he had no idea Americans for Limited Government and its sister organizations (by way of Howard Rich) were the true face of Montana-based America At Its Best - despite the fact that he admits to working with ALG staff and relying on them to establish his Montana connection.

Lies! Lies! Damnable lies! No matter how big of a dupe Groene might, in fact, be - with no control over what's actually being conducted in the name of the organization of which he is the titular head - there's no way he's actually this clueless and in the dark about what's going on.

For all the damning evidence you need of Groene's deception, I suggest you listen to his debate with Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Hahn from June 20th. It's about a 40-minute debate (moderated by Lincoln radio host Tom Becka) during which Groene claims of SOS Nebraska's funding, "We’ve had 100,000 from one group, and we’ve gotten a lot of small donations.”

He then claims, “We’ve been very upfront and honest,” suspiciously trailing off when he (accidentally) mentions the involvement of Americans for Limited Government. This part of the discussion takes place about 10 minutes in, and - listening to it now - you can practically hear the brakes squealing in Groene's mind as he realizes he's just named the actual source of SOS Nebraska's funding rather than the fake organization (America At Its Best) created for that purpose.

Of course, Groene also lied about the $100,000 amount received at that point, since America At Its Best had already reported more than three times that amount paid to SOS Nebraska in the first week of June. Interestingly enough, Groene did estimate that the ultimate cost of signature-gathering would be $300 to $400 thousand, which is precisely along the lines of what AAIB had already contributed.

Also in that debate, Groene promised that once the signature-gathering was over, most of SOS Nebraska's funding would come from in-state. He said exactly, "When it comes to the ads and (when) we get it on the ballot...most of it will be in-state.”

Groene then went on to denounce reports of $2 million being spent in seven states by opponents of these spending lids. Yet, here it's become clear that Americans for Limited Government has spent almost that amount in Nebraska alone. And, of course, Groene's assurances of being funded in-state have proven even more deceptive now than when they were originally made, as AAIB/ALG have pumped another half-a-million dollars to SOS Nebraska by its own account (disregarding the $300,000 discrepancy in their dueling June reports).

Confused yet? Of course. And that's because you're supposed to be confused. It's supposed to be too much work to put together all these pieces. But, unfortunately for Groene, SOS Nebraska, Thomas Mann, the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee, America At Its Best (Montana), Americans for Limited Government (Illinois), and Howard Rich (New York), there are people doing the work to expose their machinations here in Nebraska and across the country.

There is more to be written - more to be revealed. The press may be slow in uncovering it, but the truth is finding other ways of coming out. For starters, a lawsuit has been filed in Nebraska that challenges America At Its Best lurking in the shadows without coming forward as a sponsor of the Spending Lid Amendment. This weekend, the Associated Press reported:
Two Lincoln men filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to keep a measure designed to cap state spending from appearing on the November ballot.

The lawsuit, filed by John Chicoine and Patrick Henry and backed by AARP Nebraska, contends that spending lid proponents did not officially disclose all their sponsors. And the suit claims the measure violates a requirement of the Nebraska Constitution that a ballot measure pertain to a single subject.

The plaintiffs argue that either one of those issues should keep the spending lid off the ballot.

"We want full disclosure," Henry said. "Who are these out-of-state interests sponsoring this measure that would hurt our state's economy, business, agriculture and all other public services?".....

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Lancaster County District Court, argues that because a group called America At Its Best bankrolled the petition drive and helped draft it, it should be listed as a sponsor. The plaintiffs said in the lawsuit they believe other unnamed individuals and groups also helped draft the measure and should be sponsors.

It's great to see the unraveling of the truth actually resulting in action. But, I assure you, there is more unraveling to be done - some of it already completed by a fellow blogger. I don't have the time to write about it now, but look for the latest layer of dirt and deceit to be discussed this weekend.

Are we having fun yet? If you're enjoying this, let me suggest you do a Google search on our mysterious puppet-master "Howard Rich." That should keep you more than occupied until I find time for my next report.


Blogger elisabeth said...

Thankfully (hopefully), that ol' Nebraska populism is kicking into gear. I have a strong feeling my grandparents would have called this the work of "crooks!"

Anonymous Barbara said...

I don't understand how these issues are supported by a supposedly 'libertarian' group. Real libertarians wouldn't want the government to force private individuals or groups to do any particular thing!

Blogger Werner Herzog's Bear said...

First, as a Nebraskan exiled in Michigan, I really appreciate the blog. When I was in Lincoln visiting friends back in June, I tried engaging the sig takers in conversation about the spending lid thing. It was obvious they had no real political commitment to it, and that something certainly smelled wrong about it. Thanks for the digging.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

I noticed the absence of comments regarding the foiling of the terror plot which was to originate in England?

Why is that? Are you going after the abortion issue (which you lose anyway) just to draw attention away from this, much like Kylie's going after Rickett's sister in order to take attention away from Nelson's tax cheating?

Do you people see now why the Global War or Terror is important?

I are bitter because the government can't give you a $90,000-a-year job and "pimp your ride" just because you want it, but that doesn't change reality.

You can post this garbage about splitting hairs within the NDP on abortion, but it doesn't stop Americans from being threatened by Muslim extremists.

Why don't you make yourselves useful and be true Americans? And no, being a true American is not solely defined by constantly questioning the current administration or writing intelligent-sounding-yet-substance-lacking trash like Kylie....try defining a real threat and attacking it head on...or getting in touch with reality...or getting your mouth off of the bong.

While you folks are pissin

Blogger pheasant said...

Anger issue Daily Bulldog? Looks like you may want to line up with the rest of the Kool-Ade Kids. How did Global Terrorism and Muslim Extremism come out of a SOS Nebraska conversation? Answer...computers gave any bi-polar with $500 and internet access an opportunity to broadcast evidence in favor of human neutering.


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