The Edmond Sun

Opinion

October 8, 2007

Out-of-state petition circulators may be out of luck this time

EDMOND — In September 2006 I wrote a column in this paper about the TABOR petition that had just been thrown out by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In its opinion, the court noted evidence of “substantial illegal participation of out-of-state circulators” in violation of state law.

Last week, three individuals behind the initiative petition were in Oklahoma County District Court to plead not guilty to a multi-state grand jury indictment on felony charges of conspiracy to defraud the state and filing a fraudulent initiative petition. Paul Jacob of Virginia, Susan Johnson of Michigan and Rick Carpenter of Tulsa were removed from the courtroom in handcuffs, protesting their innocence all the way.

It’s a surprising change of venue for the three, who have worked together for years across the country in neoconservative initiative petition drives for everything from eminent domain and school vouchers to term limits for judges and legislators. They circulated in the rarified air of Republican political activists among folks like Grover Norquist, Howard Rich, Ed Crane, Eric O’Keefe and billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The Byzantine web linking all these characters is difficult to follow, probably by design. Jacob is listed on the Web site of U.S. Term Limits as a “senior fellow,” with Howard Rich, his brother-in-law, as president. Rich is a wealthy New York City real estate developer who is on the board of directors of the Cato Institute and the Club for Growth.

Jacob also is listed as a “senior adviser” for the Sam Adams Alliance, of which Eric O’Keefe is chairman and chief executive officer. O’Keefe is the former national director of the Libertarian Party and now treasurer of Americans for Limited Government chaired by Howard Rich. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is chairman emeritus of ALG, which has spent more than $7.3 million on conservative ballot initiatives across the country.

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Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

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