Arrogant, jet-setting multi-millionaires treating Oregonians like right-wing public policy guinea pigs

By Steve Doherty of Great Falls, Montana. Steve Doherty is the former minority leader of the Montana Senate and the co-chair of the Progressive States Network. He went to law school and worked in Oregon for several years before returning to Montana.

Guests should follow the rules of the house.

That is a time-honored tradition, but it is one that the people behind the Dismal Duo – the Measure 48 spending cap and the Measure 41 shell game – have trouble following.

New York City developer Howard Rich has been steering millions of dollars into Oregon and other Western states in the hopes of advancing initiatives like Measure 48 – proposals that would place arbitrary caps on state spending, threatening public safety, public health, and education. In Oregon, the same operation worked to qualify Measure 41 – a confusing proposal that ultimately amounts to less funding for education. All the while, following the rules is something that has come with great difficulty to them.

Rich and his extreme right-wing allies have a history of using their money to interfere in other states’ local politics. Their track record indicates an interest in doing it in a disrespectful way, ignoring local laws.

This year, in state after state, measures advanced by Rich and his allies have violated the law, in some cases the measures have been tossed off the ballot. Voters interested in maintaining the integrity of the election process would be wise to give Rich and his pals the boot by voting against Measures 41 and 48.

In Oregon, signature gatherers were actually photographed being paid on a per signature basis, a violation of a law passed by voters in 2002. Oregon’s voters were wise to prohibit payment per signature, according to a district judge in the state of Montana.

Rich was advancing not just one but three measures in Montana. Their paid out-of-state signature gatherers came under accusations of misleading voters as to the contents of the initiatives and falsely swearing on affidavits. A district court judge found that the signature gathering process “was permeated by fraud and procedural non-compliance.” The judge struck all three measures from the ballot.

The pattern is similar elsewhere. In Michigan, the spending cap measure got struck after a huge number of signatures got struck for being duplicates. One attorney involved in the matter described the level of duplicate signatures as being unprecedented. Since most people know not to sign twice, duplicate signatures can be another sign of paid signature gatherers giving incomplete or misleading information while signature-gathering, causing confusion among voters.

In Nevada, the violation that led to the measure being struck was more mundane, but in that state, Rich’s operatives filed one version of the initiative and gathered signatures for a slightly different version. They described it as a technicality, but when amending a state’s Constitution, technicalities get important.

Missouri’s measure was disqualified some time ago, again because signature gatherers failed to follow local laws regarding the initiative qualification process.

The spending cap measures advanced in all of these states indicate the problems with arrogant out-of-state interests interfering in a state’s policy decisions. Howard Rich and his pals have run cookie cutter campaigns, funneling money to in-state committees with pre-written legislation and paying signature-gatherers to qualify the measures.

The signature-gatherers range from professionals who travel from state-to-state to homeless people looking to make quick money. In many cases, there is little interest in the ballot measures being advanced, much less in the local laws outlining signature gathering requirements.

Howard Rich and his friends are arrogant, jet-setting multi-millionaires who think their economic status gives them free reign to treat the rest of the country as guinea pigs for their experiments in public policy.

That hubris has led them to ignore laws in our home states, as well as in other states all over the West. In a recent media interview, Rich told the reporter, “It’s all about the ideology.” That’s fine for Rich, but for the rest of us, integrity matters, too. Buying elections through malfeasance is beneath our system.

Fortunately, Oregonians are smart and proud enough to demand being treated with more respect. We Westerners don’t reward illegal behavior. Voting against Measures 41 and 48 will send a signal that blatant violations of Oregon’s laws won’t be tolerated.

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