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With apologies to Ray Ring, who yesterday or today won a Polk Award for his High Country News reporting on the Howie Rich gang in Montana (, this article was already in the works. Onward:

Yesterday we set the metaphor: that the "600 year Golden Pig Year" is a con to sell souvenirs and baby gear. That "Presidents Day" is a distortion made up by department stores as an excuse for more white sales.

And today, we look at the con that Howie Rich is a Republican philanthropist financing local activists. Pay special heed to that "philanthropist" canard.

There is a lot of ground to cover here, so let's start with the straight dope from an insider. Just after the election, I received the following excerpted letter from a political "insider" who knows the Rich crowd all too well. It stands as confirmation to what the Center for Public Integrity has labored so mightily to document: Howard Rich ain't no sugar daddy. In fact, he's not giving money away at all. He's MAKING it.

From a November 11 letter to me from ... let's call him "the Insider" (Note: the ellipses are his. Mine are in brackets.):

Thank you for a very interesting series on Mr Rich and buddies (still going over it) [...] I know the subjects of your articles all too well.

You got alot right in your've missed some.  I don't like these guys, and for many reasons which I suspect you and I share.  These guys are NOT Libertarians or libertarians.

You are correct that it's Koch and some others paying the bills.  I'm not sure if you understand that Rich, Jacob and others actually profit from the initiatives.  ALL the money comes from others.  I know many of those others, and the routes they choose.

I'm sure you and I currently disagree how much of such "subterfuge" in the process of election money changing hands should be allowed or outlawed.  I'm sure that we even disagree on when actual laws have been broken.

You and I either can quibble or even strenuously argue about whether or not the IRS code 501c4 is worthy or a monstrosity (I, of course, believe the latter).  It's clear it's been abused here.

The abuse here is all about Rich making more money, not at all about the issues represented via the initiative processes of the various states.  Remember, when you do that, you are a partisan.  Keep in mind that whether or not you agree with an initiative, those who promote such issues are actual citizens.  You have no right to abridge their freedoms of speech.

What needs to be clear to voters is NOT that out of state interests are contributing.  That's hogwash, mere electioneer hyperbole, and bad hyperbole, mere hype, at that.

What is important is that there is an undisclosed agenda of Rich and Co.  That undisclosed agenda, simply, is he's only in this for the purpose of making money.  Rich doesn't contribute one thin dime to anyone.  Not in his nature.

Indeed, many of the people you mention are mere fronts.  Ric[h] is a launderer.  The money, ALL of it, comes from others, and he cuts himself into that for profit.  They don't know what they are doing, they botch more jobs than any pro could, and still be in business.  They are quite amateurish, which is why you so easily can find info on them with simple online searches.

Some of the others include Scaife, the whole Cato crowd (for that, look at the Board members, and choose the ones with real money, like Dennis) and the one Koch brother.

The money is laundered (much of it) through ATR.  Some of it goes through Nevada corporations....


The mistake that the media made, CPI and HCN notwithstanding, was twofold: First, that once they'd gotten a "name" ("Howard Rich") that would be the end of it. I did not quibble, since once an idiotic presumption gets locked between the ears, it's very difficult to unlock and release it, and, time was very short, what with the election coming up and all.

The second mistake was far more egregious, and the Center for Public Integrity was perhaps the worst case, but the NEW YORK TIMES made the same mistake, and did a much worse job of finding any "facts" under like circumstances.

That is: the inadvertent bias and literal 'prejudice' attendant on defining the story by an issue and not by the players.


Well, look at the Center for Public Integrity's site, focusing on "Takings." The focus was on bundling the issues, and that's the way the coverage remained. But the ISSUES -- as noted above -- aren't the point. These people are political whores: If you've got the scratch, they've got the machinery to run your campaign. Howie Rich's "agenda" is what he's being paid for ... all in dark, oligarchic "libertarian" circles, to be sure. But he's making money on the deal.

One surefire giveaway was the fact that, after I broke the code, and showed how the money was flowing from Howard Rich's organizations to "America At Its Best" -- a money laundering operation intended to hide the massive amounts of cash that were being funnelled into states as utterly disparate as California and Nebraska (the Nebraska cash was passing through Mike Groene, Rich's Nebraska "local activist" BACK to Rich crony Eric O'Keefe's wife, Leslie Graves) -- Leslie Graves was NOT demoted or 'disappeared.' Indeed they entrusted her with a NEW task.

I need to take a moment here to say something that needs to be said: I gave this story to the OMAHA WORLD HERALD. They had, again, decided to focus on the "issue" of the "Terri Schiavo" initiative that the Rich Machine was running, and not the OTHER initiative, the SOS Nebraska spending cap, and, thus, missed a good chunk of the story. They were also happy, I might sourly note, to act as though they'd found out the entire story on their own, and not so much as the slightest public acknowledgement of my work in breaking the mystery of all that money flowing through Nebraska from Montana and back out to Wisconsin, with nary a cent remaining IN Nebraska.

Trust me, it was finding that Nebraska document online that cracked the code in several states (as an equally selfish OREGONIAN reporter wrote me:

"Wednesday, August 02, 2006 4:01 PM

I wanted to let you know we have a really good story ready to run.... but due to other news taking up space, our story didn't run today and won't run tomorrow.... I am hoping Friday. Please hang on to your juice (sic) tidbits a little longer rather than share them with my counterparts in MSM, if you will!

Thanks again for finding the America at its Best document in Nebraska and for alerting me to the Walton money and the Libertarian party break.... all three of those are in the article. Along with much, much more.

Yes. I made the mistake of agreeing to embargo my writing so that the OREGONIAN could have their "scoop" -- which contained this priceless acknowledgement:

" ... Many news outlets and political commentators have noted that Americans for Limited Government or the Fund for Democracy, based at Rich's office in Manhattan, are funding initiative campaigns in multiple states. Bloggers, including two in Oregon, have mapped even more connections.

An analysis of public records by The Oregonian, however, is the first to connect Rich to more than $7 million in contributions to initiatives this year...."

And, of course, the unquestioned thesis (put forward by Rich and his operatives) that this was all "philanthropy" on Howard Rich's part:

Rich declined to answer any questions about money, including how he decides how much to give in each state and how much comes from his personal wealth, saying he wants the focus on the issues.

"Oregon has a tremendous group of dedicated people who wanted to work to put these initiatives in front of the voters, and I was more than happy to lend them a helping hand," Rich said in an e-mail.

OK, but that Nebraska document was a big key to unraveling this mess, and while we're all taking credit, I want you to know that I was the one who found it. The EUGENE REGISTER-GUARD wrote me up (in a small portion of a portmanteau piece about "bloggers" and our effect on the election) about how I was "obsessive" and told how I woke my wife up at 3 in the morning one morning. They didn't bother to include why:

That was the night that I found the Nebraska election disclosure documents that closed the circle: from "Howard Rich" (meaning those silent backers whose bidding he performs) to "America At Its Best" in Kalispell, Montana, to Nebraska, and right back to Eric O'Keefe's wife in Spring Green, Wisconsin. I knew the significance, and my wife knew it as well. But the R-G reporter thought that it would be "funny" to paint me as "obsessive."

Ha ha.

Do you begin to understand HOW cloddish and unprofessional the coverage of these serpents was? They hide behind their organizations like cheap Halloween masks, but it's enough to completely fool the "mainstream media."

And by defining the story as about "takings issues," (CPI) or about "end of life issues" (Omaha WH), or about how THEY had been so good at "exposing" Howie (OREGONIAN), they missed the point, and KEEP missing the point.

This is about the anonymous rigging of elections by a self-appointed oligarchy.

As I've reported before, the CPI investigation found that THREE individuals provided 99% of the money for Howie's little crusades. (Rich himself contributed virtually NONE of his own funds, also discovered by CPI).

So, perhaps you will appreciate how much satisfaction it gave me to see Leslie Graves ADMIT to everything I'd ferreted out with such difficulty and such "obsessive" behavior:

Leslie Graves is the national director of G-TAP. She shares about how she became interested in the G-TAP project:

I live near Spring Green, Wisconsin, with my husband Eric O'Keefe. Eric has been involved for many years with the term limits and school choice movements, recently serving as Chair of the Executive Committee of Americans for Limited Government.

We've raised three children. In early 2006, after two decades as a stay-at-home mom, I started a petition drive management company and plunged into managing the paid part of two petition drives in Nebraska....

She doesn't mention that her little "company" received nearly $2 million in the summer of 2006. Not exactly a lemonade stand, was it? But I was right, and that was the story I gave to the Omaha newspaper.

You would think, while people were busy taking credit (and make no mistake, the PBS "NOW" acknowledgement was more than I ever expected or hoped for, this column isn't about "sour grapes" -- Ray Ring fully deserves every gram of his Polk) they were being conned by their own preconceptions.

You see, Ray Ring was the ONLY reporter who managed to interview Howie Rich, and he graciously posted the .mp3 of the interview on the HCN blog. That was VERY important.

Meantime, the mainstream press hamstrung themselves with the idiotic and unquestioned presumption that Howard Rich was some rich guy who was dabbling in local politics because of his old Libertarian sympathies.


As Trevis Butcher and Scott Tillman and Don McIntyre humped Howie's giant pig from coast to coast (see Blue Oregon ), the media focused on the myth of Howard Rich, lone gunman.

And so, when the "Sam Adams Alliance" was formed in October of 2006, they could put this on their FAQ, secure in the fact that while the money and mission remained the same, the Halloween mask had changed, and the media would be thrown off the track:

Q: How is the Sam Adams Alliance related to Americans for Limited Government?

A: Many of the Sam Adams Alliance's Chicago-based staff and management formerly worked with Americans for Limited Government. Our Chairman, Eric O'Keefe, served on the board of Americans for Limited Government; our President, John Tillman, served as ALG's president; and our Senior Advisor, Paul Jacob, was ALG's senior fellow.

The Sam Adams Alliance grew out of a realization that no national network exists to serve and assist local leaders and groups, and that real political change depends on a citizen movement with true staying power on the local level. Many of ALG's Chicago-based staff agreed with this new mission, and joined SAA as a result. The formal division of the groups occurred in November of 2006.

ALG continues to exist and has moved to the Washington, DC area.

Q: Is SAA headed by Howard Rich?

A: SAA is not affiliated with Mr. Rich, who remains the head of Americans for Limited Government. The Sam Adams Alliance shares no management or management decisions with ALG or its affiliates, but we do wish them the best in their future endeavors.

Q: But that's not what I read on a website...

A: Many "non partisan research" websites have a distinct agenda--many, for instance, are funded by left-wing maven George Soros--and they don't let the facts get in the way of their quest to defame groups they perceive as threatening. But, hey, it's kind of amusing to see the wacky things they cook up. Reader, beware.

This unanswered smear was typical of the 2006 season, and they're referring to the Center for Public Integrity's investigative reporting. Note that there is no rebuttal, just an ad hominem and a quick moving on. The imbecilic media NEVER once challenged these canards, just as they never questioned whether Howie Rich was really a "philanthropist." Just print whatever they say, that's the "professional journalist" way, I guess.

Yeah. Here, let me cook up some more wacky stuff. The Illinois GOP Executive Director just jumped ship to move to the Sam Adams Alliance (via WQAD-TV in Moline, Illinois):

State GOP executive director steps down
February 18, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois Republican party executive director John Tsarpalas (sar-PAL'-as) is leaving the organization.

State G-O-P chairman Andy McKenna says Tsarpalas will be joining the Sam Adams Alliance, an organization that formed in the city last fall. According to its Web site, the alliance was formed last fall as a government accountability group.

McKenna says Tsarpalas is particularly good at the kind of grass roots organizing the group does.

Tsarpalas joined the state G-O-P in the summer of 2005. He will leave his post in the next few weeks.

Tsarpalas' replacement has not yet been named.

Well, that's where we'll leave it today. There's a lot more, but 2477 words is probably a good stopping point. For today.

Congratulations on your Polk, Ray Ring. You certainly deserve it. Would that more "MSM" reporters would show your moxie.


Originally posted to harto on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 08:48 PM PST.

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