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If you live in Missouri, California, Oregon, Michigan, Maine, Montana or Nebraska, you may want to brush up on your awareness of National Voter Outreach, a right-wing signature-gathering company that pays gatherers sometimes $3 per signature to get their clients' initiatives on the ballot. An Oklahoma grand jury has issued indictments to NVO employees for lying to circumvent state signature-gathering laws. In testimony before a grand jury in Oklahoma City, one of the indictees outlined NVOs activities in a handful of other states, where NVO continues to operate at this very moment.

Marie Price of Oklahoma's The Journal Record has the story of a professional signature-gatherer hired by National Voter Outreach ( Under Oklahoma law, signature gatherers in Oklahoma must be residents of Oklahoma, and one Robert Colby got caught lying about his residency. Colby is a legal resident of Sacramento, California, which is not located within Oklahoma's border, yet he told governing authorities otherwise in order to carry out NVO's work.

What was that work? Getting enough signatures to put a so-called "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" or TABOR on the Oklahoma ballot. This is the same initiative that Trevis Butcher is working to get onto the Montana ballot this year - the same Trevis Butcher who's running a strangely generous PAC out of his home in Winifred, Montana. (I'm not saying Butcher is connected to NVO - because I don't have proof of it yet - but I'm trying to follow the money. Butcher's PAC has sent more than $600,000 to California and Nebraska to fund signature-gathering, and Colby told the Oklahoma grand jury that he'd worked as a signature gatherer in California. In a few minutes, I'll tell you where he is right now...)

Colby testified that NVO uses professional signature-gatherers to travel from state to state, openly defying states' residency laws for political purposes. He was in Missouri for two and a half weeks, for example. Colby's testimony was hardly coerced; he's disgruntled because he may have been demoted during the Missouri project and accused of embezzling money that NVO intended to use for paying other signature-gatherers.

While gathering signatures for the TABOR drive in Montana (Montana keeps popping up, doesn't it?), Colby swore an affidavit saying his legal residence was in Oklahoma City. He confessed to the Oklahoma grand jury that it was a lie, that he'd never been a resident of Oklahoma. When he was brought to Oklahoma for this drive, his supervisors took him to get an Oklahoma photo ID to avoid "harassment" by local officials. (The grand jury got a good look at the evidence.)

It gets better. Colby testified that there are signature-gatherers working in Oklahoma who are not American citizens at all, and who cannot therefore sign affidavits vouching for their own signature sheets at the end of the day! Colby himself signed the affidavits for one woman's signature sheets.

From Marie Price's whole story, this is the paragraph that tells the tale: "He said that as a professional circulator he has learned not to leave an identity trail, which means changing phones, not giving out much information, staying in hotels under other people's names and the like."

And what is Colby doing now? He told the grand jury he's doing the same work he's done for the past four years across seven states: he's working on a TABOR signature-gathering drive in NEBRASKA, where a pro-TABOR organization has gotten funding from... Trevis Butcher, the PAC treasurer in Winifred, Montana.

What's the weather like in Nebraska for signature gatherers? So-so, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star ( Even teenagers are being hired to collect signatures for "SOS Nebraska" (the "SOS" which stands for "Stop Over Spending," which is the same name as Trevis Butcher's TABOR initiative in Montana...).

This, from Nancy Hicks's story in last Monday's edition: "Two people were filing complaints with the Nebraska Department of Labor Monday, requesting that SOS Nebraska be investigated for hiring children to circulate petitions in violation of state and federal child labor laws..."

Better and better: "Some teenagers, who are circulating the Humane Care petition, are also getting signatures on the Stop Over Spending petition, according to Mike Groene, an SOS spokesman. These teenagers are accompanied by their parents and their first priority is the Humane Care petition, Groene said. Often called the Terri Schiavo amendment, it would make it illegal for institutions to withhold food or water at the end of life unless the person had made their will known through a legal document.
"Groene criticized the anti-SOS group's focus on the circulators. "A person has to ask themselves, why this attack on the messenger. It must mean they don't have an argument on the message," he said."

In case you're wondering where their money is coming from, Hicks did the research for you. "Stop Over Spending Nebraska has raised $381,915 in support of the petition," all of it from a group with a Boise, Idaho, address called America at its Best, "which also has an affiliation with the national group, Americans for Limited Government."

(I just can't help sharing this line from an Associated Press article, though you can read it for yourself at the link to Hans's blog at Fired Up Missouri below: "America at its Best is run by Duncan Scott, a former Republican state senator from New Mexico who once sponsored a bill there to require a psychologist testifying at a defendant's competency hearing to wear a two-foot-tall cone-shaped hat imprinted with stars or lightning bolts." That's America at its best, all right.)

After a recent court order said that signature-gatherers could work on public property and public walkways, Nebraska's Attorney General Jon Bruning said last week that private property owners can ban them from trespassing on their property. Whew, that helps.

Before I go, I wanted to check in with the Missouri TABOR signature-gathering operation, where Colby told grand jurors he worked before falling out of love with National Voter Outreach. As of May 5, things are apparently peachy with NVO in Colby's absence. Hans, a blogger for Fired Up Missouri, quotes a correspondent who watched NVO signature gatherers handing out free bottles of ice-cold Aquafina to Wal-Mart shoppers who stopped that hot day to sign the TABOR petition. Mmm... subvert the democratic process for pay AND help quench a shopper's thirst at the same time. You have to love those folks at NVO.

Check out Hans's full story at but here's a money shot: "So what does a cool $1.5 million get you when you hire NVO? Largely, it got Missourians in Charge the assistance of a corps of petition circulators, some of them with disreputable backgrounds and many of whom constitute a sort of professional circulator circuit which sees them bounce from state to state to collect signatures for cash. In other words, it buys you the counsel of an operation with a documented history of malfeasance and fraud."

This is who we're up against, friends.

NVO and its employees forged signatures in Florida, says Miami-Dade Assistant State Attorney Howard Rosen. They turned in the signatures of people who weren't even registered voters in Nevada, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. They turned in the signatures of DEAD PEOPLE in Michigan, where they were hired to work the Stop Over Spending Michigan (take a deep breath here) ballot initiative drive.

Is there an NVO unit working in your own state? Does your state elections commission or secretary of state know who is gathering signatures for them? Do you?

Originally posted to sandlapper on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 09:38 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  FWIW, Rethugs are trying... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wozzle, macdust, cookiebear get TABOR on the ballot here in Wisconsin, too. I don't recall when I last saw any news about it, but I remember a lot of people pointing to the disastrous effects it had in Colorado as reason to reject it -- even some Rethugs here don't like it. Bill Owens, the champion of TABOR as governor of Colorado, used to be considered a potential future Rethug candidate for president; now, no one thinks he has what it takes.

    Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

    by wiscmass on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 09:39:47 AM PDT

    •  And Owens recanted... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      He was among the supporters of last year's Referendum C&D movement that aimed to "fix" TABOR by removing the spending cap for 5 years and then changing the cap limit formula to something a bit more sane.

      Anti-TABOR forces have demonized him to the point that he no longer has any credibility with the Republican party.

      Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

      by Phoenix Rising on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 10:20:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We need to know who the right-wing operatives are, how they consistently violate the law, and how they further the conservative agenda while disregarding the Rule of Law.  I think your diary does all of the above.

  •  Yes, this group was funded by the RNC. (5+ / 0-)

    I diaries about the actions of this fraudulent group back in October of 2004:

    The smoking gun on voter registration fraud: Nathan Sproul

    Read through that diary and the posts, because some folks here came up with great detail about this group and their funding sources.

    Visit Satiric Mutt -- my contribution to the written cholesterol now clogging the arteries of the Internet.

    by Bob Johnson on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 09:39:59 AM PDT

  •  How do we stop this madness? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    macdust, highacidity

    Every day is something new with these people. The Repubs are like a giant octopus that keeps growing and growing.  Every way you turn there is something we need to fight against and it's just so overwhelming. I feel like we are living in a horror movie surrounded by Killer Bees and we are doomed.  

  •  Follow the money... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    highacidity, bayside, EeDan

    Any TABOR group probably ultimately gets its funding from Grover Norquist (he of the Americans for Tax Reform money-laundering scheme with Abramoff and Reed).

    When Referenda C&D were up last year in Colorado, our local pro-TABOR group - The Independence Institute - recieved a magical amount of money that they claimed needed no disclosure - because they were a 401©3 organization, nevermind that they were campaigning specifically against a ballot measure...

    Americans for Tax Reform was a major contributor to the II, to monetary tunes similar to the ones discussed above.  My guess: if you were able to follow the money, the secret source of the Montana PAC and all the other TABOR groups' money would turn out to be none other than Grover Norquist, using his ill-gotten laundering fees to fund the drowning of governments in bathtubs across the nation.

    Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

    by Phoenix Rising on Tue Jul 11, 2006 at 10:25:42 AM PDT

  •  republicans in Orange county CA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    used similar groups:
    OC register

    The California Attorney General's Office joined forces Friday with the Secretary of State's Office  to conduct a fast-paced criminal investigation into complaints that voters were illegally duped into switching political parties.

    The partnership between state prosecutors and election officials – one of the first such joint investigations in state history – is in response to hundreds of election fraud complaints that have flooded voter registrars' offices in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
    It also follows an Orange County Register investigation that uncovered details of ruses used by signature gathers who deceived and tricked voters into switching to the Republican Party.

    "Time is of the essence," said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "The attorney general realizes that as we head into the full election season, voter registration efforts will only increase. We want to make sure those who do not know how to comply with the law aren't in the business."

    Time is of the essence - well, maybe. There was supposed to be a report out over a month ago in time for the june 6 primaries, but I don't think they've released anything yet.

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