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Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Free At Last & The Right to Petition Protected One More Time

The following is an excerpt from today's article by Paul Jacob in Townhall. Paul is both a friend and advocate for freedom and citizen's rights. He was falsely charged by the Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson with “conspiracy to defraud the state” along with Rick Carpenter, a Tulsa political activist and Susan Johnson, head of National Voter Outreach. The three became known as the Oklahoma Three and symbolized the rights of taxpayers and suffered through the year and four monthly ordeal with dignity. In Paul's own words:

The Attorney General alleged that we willfully conspired to hire non-residents, non-Oklahomans, to circulate petitions on two ballot measures: One, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a measure to cap state spending; the other, a property rights measure called Protect Our Homes. Edmondson launched a media campaign, writing an op-ed and visiting a TV talk show to expound on how guilty we were.

We were innocent. Those actually managing the petition effort on the ground onsulted with state officials and were informed that it was indeed lawful for people to move to Oklahoma to work on the petition drive. The opinions of the regular enforcers of the law didn’t count, though. The state supreme court kept the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative off the ballot, ruling that anyone not intending to “permanently” reside in Oklahoma was not a resident. The court also tossed out the petitions of circulators whose residency status was challenged without ever affording those circulators an opportunity to defend themselves. One thing was certain: more than 15 percent of Oklahoma voters had very willfully signed to put the issue to a vote . . . a vote they were denied.

That wasn’t enough, however. The issue could always come back via a new petition drive. So could other issues. Soon, the Attorney General decided to go a step further, indicting the three of us on criminal charges. No one was charged as a non-resident circulator. Instead, the state took a swipe at
• one local political activist,
• the head of a major petition company that had worked on numerous conservative and libertarian issues, and
• me, an advocate for many national campaigns for term limits, property rights, spending restraint, and the like.

The prosecution was roundly blasted, right and left, by Steve Forbes and Ralph Nader, by the Wall Street Journal, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Paul Greenberg and Tecumseh Countywide News in central Oklahoma. Most importantly, we were blessed with faith and trust that we would prevail in court, in the end . . . if we could afford to defend our rights for what might have been many years. We were under indictment for a year and four months, paid many legal bills, and still not even a preliminary hearing had been completed.

But just before Christmas, the federal Tenth Circuit struck down Oklahoma’s ban on non-residents circulating petitions, ruling the law an unconstitutional impediment to citizen petitioning. Not only did we not break the law, it wasn’t a law at all. In the last year, three federal circuits have overturned state residency restrictions, each time by unanimous panels.

Last Wednesday, Edmondson’s request for a rehearing by the Tenth Circuit was denied. On Thursday, he decided not to appeal the Tenth Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court after all — and not to prosecute our case. Case dismissed. We’ve won a victory. The Oklahoma Three are free.

. . . In Oklahoma, citizens are demanding reform. Legislation that would open up the state’s initiative system and make it usable again is under consideration. I’m not through fighting back, either. Working for Citizens in Charge Foundation, I’m more driven than ever to work with people all across the political spectrum to protect and expand the right of the people to check their government through initiatives, referendum and recall. It’s true: Some see the initiative as a threat. My goodness, citizen control of government might break out! We can always hope. And, as free citizens, work for that day.

Tags: Oklahoma, Paul Jacob, Free At Last, Right to Petition, petitions, taxpayer protection To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 10:30 PM - Post Link


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