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Out Of My Backyard

We had a weird little incident Friday at the bunker. A pleasant young lady came to the door, identified herself as a member of a group called “Missourians in Charge”, and asked my wife to sign a petition. This signature drive is intended to put an amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot that would severely restrict the use of eminent domain. After the Supreme Court’s bizarre Kelo decision last year, that sounded good.

Then the young lady commented on our dogs and mentioned that she’d left hers at home in Spokane. For those of you who don’t live in Missouri, Spokane ain’t around here.

My wife, who’s pretty shrewd, smelled a rat. Who in their right mind volunteers to drive to Saint Louis from Spokane, Washington to go door-to-door collecting signatures?

No one, that’s who. Obviously the young lady was being paid for her time. But by whom?

My wife politely declined to sign, went back inside and found this story on “Missourians in Charge”:

Missourians, as it turns out, aren’t “in charge” of this initiative at all. Rather, rich out-of-state ideologues are fronting as a deceptively named committee to use Missouri citizens as guinea pigs for their crackpot “starve government” experiments –an experiment which has already proven to be a disastrous failure in Colorado.

Missourians in Charge — the group which is nominally responsible for the submission of the TABOR [taxpayer bill of rights — DG] initiative petition — recently filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission its campaign finance report for the first quarter of 2006. The filing reports that during the quarter Missourians in Charge raised a total of $295,810.08, of which $295,000.00 came in the form of one contribution from a committee it calls “Fund for Democracy.”

Research on the Fund for Democracy reveals little. It has no history of contribution to state campaigns in Missouri or to candidates at the federal level. In fact, the only thing the Ethics filing tells us about the committee is that its address is 73 Spring Street #408, New York, NY 10012. That minor bit of information, however, is quite telling.

Permits issued by the City of New York in July of 2005 indicate that the 73 Spring Street #408 address is the residence of one Howard Rich. Howard Rich’s Spring Street abode sits on the eastern edge of New York City’s trendy SoHo neighborhood –an urban mecca for fashion industry and art mavens. The same building also houses Laissez Faire Books, a bookstore and kooky repository of libertarian thought. The longtime president of Laissez Faire Books and its “parent organization” — the Center for Independent Thought — is none other than Andrea Rich, wife of Howard.

Not to be outdone, Howard himself has achieved a fair amount of malignant fame for his involvement as president and primary funder of an outfit called U.S Term Limits, which seeks to have elected officials pledge to limit their time in office. His role with that national organization has allowed him to reach down from his perch high atop SoHo and meddle in the affairs of other states in the past, just as he’s trying to do now in Missouri.

Now, the author of this expose, Jeff Mazur, appears to be a committed card-carrying Democrat (which means he probably ought to be committed in the interest of public well-being), and I’m insulted by his characterization of libertarian thought as “kooky”, “fringe”, and “paranoid”. It was the libertarian ideals of limited government and personal responsibility that led to the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

However, he makes a good point: We don’t need Howard Rich and his paid lackey, Patrick Tuohey — a new Missouri resident — mucking around in our politics. We can mess things up quite nicely without his help.

Rich is a businessman. He and his colleagues at the Cato Institute, where he has served on the board of directors, appear to favor libertarian concepts only insofar as they keep the government’s nose out of his business. He obviously doesn’t have a problem with sticking his nose into ours.

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