Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Plot Thickens - A New Level of Petition Process' Perversion

by Kyle Michaelis
A very insidious presence has entered Nebraska politics under the guise of SOS Nebraska and the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee. As established over the last month (1,2,3,4, 5), these fake Nebraska entities are connected at the hip, despite the fact that the Amendments they respectively support have no logical relation whatsoever. The only plausible connection between the efforts - one tying the hands of government by capping state spending with a novel but foolish and inflexible formula, the other expanding the reach of government to take away the power from families to make the most private, personal, and oftentimes painful decisions they will ever face when a loved one is on life support - is their respective appeal to divergent populations who come together under the ill-fitting label of conservative voters.

These efforts are funded by the same people, who have covered their tracks in the same manner, who have recruited Nebraska spokespeople offering the same lies and deception to mask the full extent of the machinations being committed in their name but totally outside of their control.

Credit is owed to the Lincoln Journal-Star and its reporter, Nancy Hicks, for at least providing some minimal mainstream coverage to the web of contradictory but no less interlocking interests pulling the strings of SOS Nebraska and the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee. In Hicks' report this Sunday, "Meet Howard Rich", Hicks does a commendable job of putting the spotlight on the man who stands - like the Wizard of Oz - behind the curtain, pulling all the strings (i.e. paying all the bills) that maintain and sustain a monstrous, nationwide network of artificial grassroots political organizations local in name only, all of which are bent to serve only Rich's will and Rich's interests.

Perhaps the Wizard of Oz is too kind a likeness - the Dark Lord Sauron of Lord of the Rings is probably the more apt literary comparison.

Unfortunately, Hicks' report on Howard Rich, though functioning quite nicely as an introduction and biographical piece on this shadiest of political figures, is quite lacking in terms of revealing the full range of influence he has bought in Nebraska and around the country this election year. But, one can't blame Hicks for avoiding such trappings in print because the system overwhich he presides is so convoluted and intentionally misleading that any standard news article could not even begin to scratch its surface, let alone provide a reader anything approaching comprehension.

For that, one still has to look to the Internet, where a few bloggers like myself have weaved together a fabric from the evidence available across the country that at least begins telling Rich's devious tale before it can do too much damage to our communities and our citizens. The story has not yet been distilled to its most basic essence in clearest language - that will take time and perhaps the benefit of hindsight - but there's more than enough facts readily available to demonstrate the deception and fraud that lie at the heart of SOS Nebraska, the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee, and all their sister efforts across the country.

For a better sense of the national picture painted by Rich and his cronies, see the posts by Sandlapper, an anonymous blogger at DailyKos. Also of note is the work of Hart Williams, whose on-going series of reports (currently in its tenth part) delve deep into the labyrinth that's been constructed and has still maintained some semblance of order and cohesion despite the chaos.

Williams has made particularly good use of Nebraska's quite-stringent accountability and disclosure requirements - going one step further than I had in my own research - to uncover some truly startling revelations about the network supporting these sham organizations such as SOS Nebraska and the Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee. I encourage those who are truly interested to read Williams' full report (or, at least, those parts concerning Nebraska - here, here, and here).

For those who just want the gist, however - keeping in mind my own reporting early last month on SOS Nebraska and NHCCs' undeniably shared funding sources and cover-up strategies - the most simplified telling of what's since been uncovered proves that Renewal Voter Outreach - the company used by SOS Nebraska and NHCC for their unofficially joint signature-gathering efforts - was, as expected, nothing more than one more front for Rich's organization. In fact, the woman responsible for incorporating Renewal Voter Outreach in Nebraska - Leslie Graves of Spring Green, Wisconsin - proves to be none other than the wife of Eric O'Keefe, Chair of the Executive Committee of American s for Limited Government, the Illinois-based foundation through which the New York-based Howard Rich funneled most of the money that first flowed through the Montana-based American At Its Best before findings its way in Nebraska.

Here's SOS Nebraska's latest ADC filing: first, note that its only personal or in-state contributions come from its Treasurer and its lead spokesman, amounting to less than $1,600. The other $858,000 they've received all comes from Howard Rich's network - including a previously unreported $240,000 contribution dated 6/28/06 that should have been included in SOS Nebraska's July report but was not (a discrepancy I noted last month that should invoke some form of fine or censure and, moreover, remains suspiciously at odds by more than 3 weeks with the earlier dates listed in America At Its Best's own filings).

Note that almost all of SOS Nebraska's expenditures went to Renewal Voter Outreach. The same can be said for Nebraskans for Humane Care Committee's expenditures. The fact that all this money - more than $1.7 million so far - is flowing from New York, through Illinois, to Montana, into Nebraska, and finally to a private company registered under the name of a Howard Rich underling's wife demonstrates quite clearly just how diseased and just how artful the abuse of the petition process has become.

The facts are there. This news is just waiting to be reported. And, it must be reported because Nebraskans and other voters across the country need to know how deep the machinations and manipulation run. Of course, the stooges who've tacked their names onto these efforts will contend that none of this matters - that only the will of the people, only their vote this November, counts. They would have us believe that where the money comes from and where it goes don't mean a thing.

But, voters know better. They know that when this much money is involved - going through this many hands, going to such ridiculous lengths to cover-up their tracks - there is something very, very wrong here.

These people have something to hide. These people don't want us to understand what's going on. They don't want us to understand what they're doing. More importantly, they don't want us to understand why they're doing it.


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