Monday, September 11, 2006

Howard Rich's Initiatives

This comment was completely lifted out of the Billings Gazette, but damn it's good

This is who's behind initiative 154 wrote on September 09, 2006 11:00 AM
Funding for I-154 has come solely from an organization called Montanans in Action, which is based in Winifred, Montana. Trevis Butcher is the treasurer. MIA formed in late 2005 and has worked solely on three initiatives since its formation. MIA has refused to disclose the sources of its funding (for which it has been sued under Montana’s public disclosure laws). Journalists have tied MIA and I-154 to a national effort to pass similar initiatives in multiple states. A multimillionaire real estate developer named Howard Rich is behind all of these initiatives, and, while MIA has been tight lipped about its funding, Rich admitted to funneling at least $200,000 to the political committee. Rich is pouring millions of dollars into state ballot initiatives to advance his political agenda. Rich and his front organizations have funneled more than $7.3 million into initiative campaigns in Montana, Idaho, Washington, California, Nevada, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Maine, and Oregon. In each case, Rich avoids being listed as a donor by laundering money through the following front groups: Americans for Limited Government America at its Best Fund for Democracy US Term Limits Howard Rich’s initiatives fall largely into two categories: Takings: Initiatives in Montana, California, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Washington would radically change land use laws under the guise of eminent domain reform. The initiatives capitalize on outrage over a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a Connecticut city’s right to condemn private land to make way for a redevelopment project. Rich’s takings initiatives would go far beyond eminent domain reform and force taxpayers to either pay developers to follow local laws, or waive the laws. A similar takings law passed in Oregon last year; since then nearly 2,000 claims have been filed, asking taxpayers to pay in excess of $4.2 billion – or waive local laws. Spending Caps: Initiatives in Oklahoma, Missouri, Oregon, Michigan, and Montana would limit government spending to a rigid formula of inflation plus population growth. Colorado voters passed a similar measure in 1992; Colorado’s business community led a successful effort to suspend the cap last year because it had caused so many problems, including deteriorating roads and escalating property taxes. Initiative efforts backed by Howard Rich follow a general pattern. First, a political committee is formed with a grassroots-sounding name (i.e. Montanans in Action). Second, one or more of Rich’s organizations contributes a sizable amount of money to fund a signature gathering effort. Third, out-of-state signature gatherers are brought in to get the initiatives on the ballot. In many cases, Rich’s organizations provide 9 of 10 dollars needed to get initiatives on the ballot. In Montana, a coalition of groups has filed a lawsuit challenging the signature gathering effort because of fraudulent practices. Nearly all of the signature gatherers were from out of state, but many lied and claimed they were from Montana. In one case, a signature gatherer certified that he had gathered a certain number of signatures; an analysis of the signatures revealed that he would have had to collect one signature per minute, 24 hours a day, over a seven day period, covering counties hundreds of miles apart. That lawsuit is pending. Below are examples of the “Howie Rich” pattern: Nebraska: An organization called Stop Over Spending Nebraska – or SOS Nebraska – is backing a spending cap initiative. American at its Best has provided all of the funding for the SOS Nebraska effort, which in turn is funded exclusively by Americans for Limited Government, chaired by Howard Rich. California: Proposition 90, a spending cap, is backed by $1.5 million from Rich’s Fund for Democracy, and $600,000 from Montanans in Action (MIA), the group backing I-154 in Montana (one has to wonder how MIA, a newly-formed committee, happened to have an extra $600,000 sitting around to send to California to fund a Rich-backed initiative). Nevada: The Peoples’ Initiative to stop the Taking of our Land – or PISTOL – is backing a takings initiative in Arizona. All of PISTOL’s funding comes from Americans for Limited Government, chaired by Howard Rich. Idaho: Idahoans for Tax Reform is backing a spending cap. The committee’s funding comes almost entirely from Howard Rich and America at its Best, which is funded by Americans for Limited Government, which is run by Howard Rich. Arizona: The Arizona Homeowners Protection Effort – Arizona HOPE – is backing a takings initiative. As of the committee’s June 30, 2006 financial report, of the $186,600.00 received, Howard Rich-chaired committees had provided $186,500.00 (or everything but $100). If you connect the dots, it looks like I-154 is being funded by a wealthy, out-of-state real estate mogul.

What on Earth does Rich want for his investment?

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