Grassroots Apparently Imported in State Spending Initiatives

Earlier this week, USA Today reported how backlash from last year’s Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain has led to ballot initiatives in eleven states to reform the process – and how in some cases, the “property rights” movement is coupling eminent domain initiatives with other measures, such as one in three states advancing an obscure libertarian theory called “regulatory takings” which is designed to undermine zoning and environmental laws. According to USA Today, the ballot initiatives are “bankrolled largely by libertarian organizations controlled by New York City real estate investor Howie Rich. The groups, Americans for Limited Government and the Fund for Democracy, have donated $4 million to ballot drives in eight states.”

Last week’s episode of “NOW” on PBS delved into the effort in Montana to advance three initiatives: one to limit eminent domain, one to make it easier to recall judges, and one to implement a constitutional cap on spending, much like the controversial “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” that Colorado voters partially rescinded two years ago.

“NOW” tries to look at who financed the effort in Montana.

[PBS correspondent Maria] HINOJOSA: You’re talking $600,000—to put your initiatives on the ballot in Montana. Where does the— that money come from, the 600,000—

[SOS Treasurer Trevis] BUTCHER: From major donors

HINOJOSA: Can you, can you name some of them?

BUTCHER: No. And— and the reason—

HINOJOSA: And why— why wouldn’t you name them?

BUTCHER: Because our— our membership is a private list

HINOJOSA: Do you think that if you were to disclose who funds your organization, who’s been funding the initiatives, the $600,000 that this has cost, do you think that if you disclose that, that that might influence how voters voted on these initiatives?

BUTCHER: What does it matter? I— I don’t see that there’s a relationship there. The reality is—

HINOJOSA: If it doesn’t matter, then—

BUTCHER: —is the voters are the ones that get to do that.

HINOJOSA: But why not reveal who is helping to fund you? What is so controversial about revealing the names of foundations, or corporations that are national, and revealing it to your fellow Montanans? Why not?

BUTCHER: Why should we? You know? I mean, that’s— that’s the reality.

As PBS shows, all signs point to Howard Rich, who is providing 99 percent of the funding for similar initiatives in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Missouri. PBS has the video and transcript.

Earlier this month, the initiatives were stricken from the ballot after a judge found a “pervasive and general pattern of fraud” by out-of-state signature gatherers.

Montana pig Michigan pig

The anti-spending pig used in the Montana was also used in Michigan. (PBS)