- This Week
Who's behind the measure? Start with Grover Norquist
10.31.06 - 7:28 pm | G.W. Schulz |
Prop. 90's moneyed backers are battle-scarred veterans of an ongoing movement across the United States to foist right-wing ballot measures onto voters at the state level using gobs of money from a handful of enormously wealthy libertarian ideologues.
The largest contributors have links to the infamous anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist who once famously vowed to cut government in half and "get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
As of late September, the pro-Prop. 90 Protect Our Homes Coalition had spent $3.4 million on its campaign, most of the expenditures covering campaign literature, phone banks and petition circulators. Nearly half of the money -- $1.5 million -- came from a group known as the Fund for Democracy, which was founded by a wealthy New York libertarian activist and real-estate investor named Howie Rich. The advocacy group has bankrolled anti-government ballot measures across the United States including a handful aimed at capping annual spending for state governments.
That effort began in Colorado with the so-called Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, a voter insurrection similar to California's Proposition 13. Colorado’s TABOR, as it's also known, allows for the state’s government to generate revenue equal only to the previous year’s budget plus the inflation rate. TABOR so badly crippled Colorado after it was passed in 1992 that it left the state's health care and education infrastructures gasping for air, and Colorado voters temporarily put it on hold last year as a result. But that didn't slow down Rich and others, who attempted to introduce TABOR-like initiatives elsewhere.
The other large contribution of $1 million to the Prop. 90 campaign came from the Illinois-based Americans for Limited Government. ALG helped fund an attempt to impose revenue caps on Oklahoma lawmakers last year, but that was shot down after a company hired by the group Oklahomans in Action to gather signatures was caught illegally bussing in petition circulators from out of state.
So far, Protect Our Homes has spent a whopping $1.8 million just to circulate petitions in California and tens of thousands more on campaign consultants, according to state records.
Large contributions to Protect Our Homes also came from the ALG-supported group Montanans in Action ($600,000), the Illinois-based and pro-TABOR Club for Growth State Action ($220,000) and Colorado at its Best ($50,000). Most of the large contributors have some sort of link to Howie Rich. The San Francisco Chronicle concluded early last month that some of Rich's political groups have received money from Norquist in the past.
Advocacy groups are legally permitted to spend as much as they like on ballot initiatives in California.