Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How about a nice hot cup of Throw The Bums Out?

I've known Eric Dondero for several years -- and we're often on opposite sides of some very big issues. But I want to make one thing clear from the very beginning: If anyone says that Eric Dondero "tricks" people into signing petitions, I say they're lying. Period.

Furthermore, if anyone says that Americans for Limited Government and the groups they're working with are "tricking" people into signing petitions, I say they're lying, too.

I'm not saying this because I like Eric Dondero (although in person he's a good sort -- we did lunch awhile back when he was in St. Louis) or Americans for Limited Government (I do, even if they're a bit more, um, Republican in demeanor than I prefer). This isn't rocket science, folks. Challenging petitions has become as much an industry as collecting signatures on them is. Groups like ALG don't shell out the kind of money they're shelling out just to have their petitions rejected for shady gathering practices. And paid petitioners like Eric Dondero know that if they get caught playing games that do get signatures rejected, they'll be looking for a new line of work. Word travels fast.

I've watched Dondero pump himself up for a petition campaign more than once. If it's a questionable campaign -- like, for example, Joe Lieberman's "independent" bid, for which he also gathered signatures -- it's almost comical. Eric works himself into a lather making himself believe in the cause ... because he knows that when he gets out on the street, he has to be contagiously sincere. He can't fake it, and he can't lie. He has to be able to walk up to a voter, lay it all out honestly, and walk away with a valid signature.

What people ought to be concerned about is not Eric Dondero's signature gathering technique, but the fact that corrupt bureaucrats and lapdog judges are pulling out all stops in a concerted effort to disenfranchise voters in Missouri, Montana and elsewhere. Challenging the signatures is just another maneuver in their campaign to make sure that democracy doesn't get too, well, democratic.

Around the country, Americans for Limited Government and associated state groups have been promoting two big initiatives:

One would limit the use of eminent domain (read: property theft by government) to real "public use" instead of allowing government to take your house and give it to Wal-Mart or the New York Nets. Coming on the heels of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, that one sells like hotcakes. I'm surprised Dondero hasn't been injured by people trying to climb over him to sign it.

The other one would limit state government spending by requiring a public vote on increases above a given threshold. Once again, a slam-dunk. Most people trust themselves more than they trust their legislators, and think that having reasonable veto power over government growth is a pretty good idea.

Naturally, the politicians are beside themselves, and sparing no expense or effort in their campaign to save democracy from the people.

Here in Missouri, the legislature horribly mangled a bill on eminent domain before passing it, inserting loopholes big enough to drive a truck through so that they and their fellow politicians will still be able to sell your land to the biggest campaign contributor highest bidder whether you like it or not.

Then, when ALG and friends tried to take the issue to the people, the gloves came off: State Auditor Claire McCaskill (intentionally in my opinion) blew the "financial impact statement" that her office is required to add to initiative petitions. This, among other items of legerdemain and litigation, allowed Secretary of State Robin Carnahan to reject the petitions. Her job allegedly involves facilitating democracy. She chose instead to thwart it.

Nauseating. No other way to put it. And it looks like Montana has a bad case of ... hell, what else can we call it but "swine flu?" ... too.

As much as I want to see US Senator Jim Talent sent packing this November, Claire McCaskill has proven herself unfit to replace him, or for that matter to continue for one more minute in any office of public trust. Of course, I'm voting for Frank Gilmour for US Senate and Charles Baum for State Auditor anyway, but it's still disconcerting to see how willing McCaskill and Carnahan are to risk their own -- and their party's -- fortunes for unworthy goals like protecting graft and suppressing elections.

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