I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Strange Tale of Paul Jacob

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a call and web chat with Paul Jacob. (Replay is linked from here.) If you've never heard of Paul, you shouldn't be terribly surprised. A quick check of Google's news search turns up only 42 references, many of which apply to totally different people, and the rest are from blogs, online magazines or local news sources. A search of CNN's website turns up exactly two results, and neither of them are about the guy we listened to.

So who is Paul Jacob and why should we care? Ed Morrissey has a brief recap.
The case looks more and more strange the deeper one looks, I discovered. Jacob had worked in Oklahoma to gather signatures for a taxpayer bill of rights that would have capped state government spending, along with other national organizations such as National Voter Outreach. Oklahoma has a state law that requires that the gatherers of such signatures be Oklahoma residents, an odd requirement that seems very insular. Most states only require that the signatures represent actual registered voters in the state, and could care less about the gatherers themselves.

In Oklahoma, that certainly isn't the case. The indictment against Jacob and two others doesn't just charge him with a misdemeanor, but with felonies, including conspiracy. Conspiracy for what? To limit government spending?

Paul recently wrote a piece at Town Hall which explained some of the back story. After he and a few others went to Oklahoma to organize a petition drive, the government sued to have many of their signatures struck down because they had violated some residency requirement about petitioning and gathering signatures.
Yes, it was a terrible injustice. But it was trumped this past week by further injustice, the indictment charging Susan Johnson, Rick Carpenter and me with conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma for allegedly "willfully" violating the state's residency statute. For this alleged crime Attorney General Drew Edmondson seeks to imprison us for up to ten years.

Susan says she can't even remember ever getting a speeding ticket. Rick and I have both admittedly sped before . . . but our occasional automotive misadventures did not quite prepare us for the current prosecution.

The story got even more twisted, though.
What we didn't know, and what we found out during our interview with Jacob, is that none of the circulators have been charged with a crime. Why? It seems that residency requirements are so nebulous as to be unprosecutable. People can register to vote in Oklahoma with no requirement to establish a lengthy residency first, and they can get drivers' licenses immediately.

In other words, the state of Oklahoma will prosecute Jacob for conspiring to commit supposed crimes for which they cannot and/or will not prosecute the actual alleged criminals. It's absurd, and Jacob's case needs much more visibility.

We still haven't heard the other side of the story from the District Attorney, but it's hard to imagine that there isn't some shady dealing going on with the state government in Oklahoma. It's good that some of our internet resources are looking into this, but I think CNN would be far better suited to the task. When will we see somebody covering this on Headline News?

2 comments:

  1. I'll remain neutral on this until I hear more. Here in Oregon we have had serious problems with outside signature gathers.

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  2. What is there to be "neutral" about? What is the "serious problem" with "outside signature gatherers"? What "other side" from Attorney General Edmondson is Ron Beasley looking for, given the arbitrariness of this indictment?

    These and many other arbitrary assertions by the defenders of Edmondson's actions seem to be tossed out at pure random.

    Here we have three people, Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter, facing up to ten years in prison for organizing a petition drive. Now, if a petition circulator is scribbling fake signatures on a petition, or trying to dupe voters, then there's a case for fraud; Jacob, Johnson and Carpter would be culpable if they had collaborated in such conduct. But how can one be properly indicted for making a best-faith effort to comply with the state's regulatory requirements (however arbitrary), requirements that are then re-interpreted ex post facto? Is the idea supposed to be that given how opposed the political establishment is to any initiative that might curb their power, they are within their rights to obstruct the initiative process by any means necessary?

    If that's the unadmitted view of those rationalizing Edmondson's vicious and unwarranted assault, they should just admit it. They should say, "Look, we don't want anybody helping Oklahomans get control of their government. And we don't want Oklahomans to exercise the right of citizen initiative for such purpose either. So any kind of technical violation, intentional or unintentional, is ample and appropriate cause for kicking in the teeth anybody who would aid and abet such democratic participation. Just be aware that if you try such a citizen initiative again, we'll find some way or other to cook up some phony-baloney accusation and bring you down. Fair warning."

    Be forthright, admit that you believe "Might makes right" and that you're no defender of democracy. Admit that in your view anybody who tries to participate in direct democracy--especially direct democracy whose effect would be restrain goverment excesses--or help others participate should just be crushed like a bug. Just be honest about it. Admit it and make your case on that basis. Just admit that in your view, anybody who disagrees with you politically should be thrown in jail.

    Those who wish to are interested in the facts and in justice may learn more about the case at freepauljacob.com.

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