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 (http://www.journalstar.com/...). 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 http://www.firedupmissouri.com/... 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?