a service of the Nevada Policy Research Institute

Issues

‘Voter eradication'
comes to Nevada

Invited in by coalition of state's liberals, unions

By Steven Miller
Business Nevada

ALL ThAT assaultive harassment of signature gatherers for the Tax & Spending Control (TASC) initiative was planned and organized by an aggressively political tax-exempt Nevada non-profit and national and state Democratic Party operatives, BusinessNevada has learned.

Details of the physical assaults and threats, the conspicuous lies, the illegal obstruction of petitioners and the intimidating and “swarming” of average citizens were spelled out in extensive and detailed affidavits filed as exhibits in a Nevada Court case heard Thursday by District Judge Sally Loehrer (See District judge corners union lawyers).

According to sworn statements from multiple witnesses:

  • “These blockers will physically put their flyers in front of a person’s face who is trying to sign the petition. This stops some of the people from signing.” At the same time, the blocker “stands very close to the signer and starts talking very loudly,” over the top of the petition gatherer, “thus confusing and intimidating the potential signer. The potential signer, being intimidated and confused, walks away.”

  • A blocker named Willey, “a very large man,” physically charged into gatherer Nichole Dickens as she was obtaining a signature and almost knocked her down, testified Dickens. Willey also, the same day, “stole one of Nichole Dickens’ clipboards out of a lady’s hand who was trying to read it. He physically grabbed it out of her hands and he started waving it in the air, yelling, ‘This is not any good!’”

  • Dickens and other gatherers also said blockers lied to potential signers, telling them that the petition was “illegal”, and that TASC circulators “are going to use their signature to forge the signers’ names on other documents.”

  • “A common tactic which the blockers use,” according to the complaint,  “is to surround a petition gatherer and a potential signer, at very close quarters, and … talk loudly over the top of the conversation between the TASC petitioner and the potential signer, yelling at the person not to sign and screaming that the petition is deceptive and bad for Nevada. When they form around someone like this, the petition gatherer cannot continue to talk to the person and usually the potential signer just walks away.”

  • “Another tactic which the blockers for NFN [“Nevadans for Nevada”] use is to intimidate the petition signature gatherers. They come and stand between the gatherer and prospective signers, physically blocking the signers from approaching the circulators. In other words, they physically isolate the circulators from the prospective petition signers,” dog them, intimidate them and “restrain them from gathering petitions.”

  • “Some blockers told petition gatherers that they had permission to gather signatures for other petitions, but that they are ‘not allowed to gather signatures for TASC — or else.’ One of the gatherers who was told this was Jamie Reinhart. When she resisted the threat, and continued to gather signatures, the NFN blockers physically blocked her from approaching prospective signers,” physically standing in front of her and not allowing her to approach anyone, nor allowing anyone approach her. “Jamie quit after this incident, saying, ‘This job is too dangerous. I ain’t working here no more.’”

  • “Harry King was told by blockers from NFN that he was not allowed to carry petitions for TASC but that he could carry the property tax initiative. They said that he had to stop carrying TASC petitions, “Or else.” Harry Butler was told the same thing, as well as ten other signature gatherers….”

  • “The signature gatherers took the ‘or else’ language as … a threat of physical violence or force against their person. … Many of them quit on account of these threats and incidents of intimidation.”

So where did this “blocking” and “dogging” project come from?

According to multiple statements by prominent figures in the liberal non-profit Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, or PLAN, PLAN itself organized the campaign — even though federal Internal Revenue Service regulations prohibit tax-exempt organizations like PLAN from campaigning for the adoption or rejection of specific items of legislation — including ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments.

“An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if … the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation,” says IRS Publication 1828. “Substantial” activity of this sort, says the IRS, will trigger nullification of the organization’s tax-exempt status. That means donors must henceforth pay federal taxes on donations to the organization, receiving no tax break.

Nevertheless, PLAN staffers and member organizations are open about the “progressive” non-profit’s explicitly political campaign against the TASC initiative.

PLAN Field Organizer Joe Edson, writing for a liberal Reno website, the Reno Independent Media center, informed readers that “Senator Bob Beers’ Tax and Spending Control (TASC) ballot initiative campaign has swung into high gear in Northern Nevada,” and “We want to help organize a counter-campaign to spot and dog these supporters….”

At the web address of the Nevada Women’s Lobby, a PLAN member organization, it asks viewers to “Help find the sites where signature gatherers are scaring people into signing the petition with statements that ‘THEY’ are going to raise your taxes. Be a part of the counter-campaign to spot and dog these supporters and get the truth out to potential signers about what TASC did to Colorado and what its passage would do to Nevada.  Call the hotlines above [(775) 315-3682, (702) 408-7801] if you see petition gatherers for TASC, and if you can volunteer.”

Jessica Brown, president of the Southern Nevada chapter of the National Organization for Women, another PLAN member organization, called on Las Vegas visitors to tribes.com to “Help Stop TASC,” telling them that, “The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada is organizing a counter-campaign.” Website visitors were asked to help in the “dogging” effort: “Please call this number if you see petition gatherers for the TASC initiative: 775-315-3682.” That number — mentioned extensively in commercial ads on Internet job sites — is used to hire the campaign’s Reno and Carson City blockers.

Finally, in PLAN’s Spring 2006 newsletter, the organization’s Northern Nevada coordinator Jan Gilbert, explicitly announced to members that, “We must work together to defeat TASC,” and called on readers to “Spread the word to ‘decline to sign TASC.’” “Decline to Sign” is the mantra of the anti-TASC campaign — prominently displayed on the leaflets and posters of the anti-TASC blocking squads.

Taking a prominent role in the actual implementation of the petitioner blocking project is the Nevada AFL-CIO, a dominant member of PLAN’s coalition. Both “hotline” numbers listed on the Nevada Women’s Lobby website, according to BusinessNevada sources, are registered to the Nevada AFL-CIO.

A check of the Secretary of State’s website reveals that the union’s long-time attorney, Richard G. McCracken, is resident agent for “Nevadans for Nevada.” He appeared before District Judge Loehrer on Thursday as NfN’s counsel and argued that blockers “have a constitutional right to be impolite and interrupt” conversations going on between signature gatherers and listening citizens. Loehrer didn’t buy it. (See Loehrer decision).

AFL-CIO state union boss Danny Thompson is NfN’s president and Gail Tuzzolo is listed as Secretary. Tuzzolo, in the words of Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant, is “hardcore labor Democrat” who moved to Nevada in the early ’90s. A regular operative for Thompson, she also is a board member of BISC, the “Ballot Initiative Strategy Center,” in Washington D.C. The BISC website explains that the organization was formed to fight conservatives’ successful use of the initiative process, which, it says, was often in the ’90s catching the “progressive” coalition “flat-footed.”    

A major reason that petition blockers so often act like classic union-goon intimidators is that BISC has major participation both at the board and staff level by hardcore unionists. Clearly formed to service unions hostile to petition campaigns, BISC goes around the country to union events, explicitly training unions in how to run signature-blocking campaigns that are essentially organized efforts to discourage citizens from reading, much less signing, ballot petitions that “progressive” interests don’t like.

“Signature blocking” campaigns, BISC operative Kelly Evans told Oregon union operatives, “help build and mobilize your base,” and “force your opposition to spend more money or volunteer hours gathering signatures.” Reporting Evans’ words was the Oregon-based magazine BrainstormNW.

The article — cover story for the December 2003 issues — used cover art suggesting that Oregon’s union-backed “Voter Education Project (VEP)” might really instead be a “Voter Eradication Project.” Reporter Lisa Baker detailed charges of blocking and harassment that today in Nevada sound quite familiar:

  • “According to affidavits filed with the Secretary of State’s office, petitioners say they are being mobbed by VEP members. Up to ten at a time surround a lone petitioner, shouting to passers-by that he or she is a “liar” and a fraud.

  •  “Herb Jenkins, a longtime signature gatherer who owns a security business in Portland, said VEP members ‘would stand between myself and people trying to sign my petitions and tell them not to sign. They’d see where you were and get on a cell phone and within a half-hour, they had three people in your face, being belligerent.’

  • “Aaron Johnson, manager of an AM-PM Minimart in west Eugene, says he’s been under fire since he chose to make the [anti-tax] referendum petition available at his store. On October 21, a man grabbed the petition clipboard out of his hand and then swung it at him, he says. Others filed complaints against him with the Secretary of State’s office, accusing him of various violations of elections law. ‘I’ve had verbal threats. I’ve had calls at home. You know, we just want to keep a low profile. I’m no activist. It’s just [that] me and my crew decided we can’t afford this tax increase.’

  • “Ross Day, director of legal affairs for Oregonians in Action, said VEP members arrived in a van to bring a halt to referendum petitioning at a Lake Oswego Nature’s store in mid-September. ‘These union goons jumped out of a van and started shoving the petitioner. He turned in his signatures and quit,’ he says.

  • “Paul Farago is circulating an initiative aimed at reviving term limits. He says VEP’s methods are “an extension of picket line tactics–strike tactics–work stoppage tactics. If you’ve ever been involved in a labor dispute, you’ve seen it before.”

While the Nevada blockers have regularly used similar, classic, union-goon tactics, most of them are not union members. Instead, they are temporary workers recruited and employed by Fieldworks, a high-powered Washington D.C.-based partnership of political consultants with extremely tight ties to the national Democratic Party.

Fieldworks runs both petitioning and anti-petitioning campaigns for state-level Democrats and their allies. At this writing, Internet job sites are still replete with ads from Fieldworks for “Progressive activism to protect education” or “Progressive Campaign Jobs” in Reno or Las Vegas — “$10-12/hr; No previous experience req’d; Fun work environment; Get political experience; Call Kevin at 775-315-3682.”

Fieldworks —which has executed contracts in Nevada before — specializes in “Innovative Grassroots and Field Strategies,” according to its website at fieldworksonline.com. Blocking petition gatherers coming from a different point of view is, apparently, one of the recent Fieldworks “innovative grassroots strategies.”

The founding partners of Fieldworks are Laurie Moskowitz — director of the Democratic National Committee’s 2000 “Coordinated Campaign,” and director of Delegates for Gore, 2000 — and Susan Blad Seldin — deputy director of the 2000 “Coordinated Campaign,” and recruiter for the Democratic National Committee’s “political department.”

Debbie Willhite, another partner, was director of the 1997 Clinton Presidential Inaugural Committee and “oversaw nationwide Coordinated Campaign efforts for the Democratic National Committee in both 1992 and 1996,” according to fieldworksonline.com. Marie Therese Dominguez, the most recent Fieldworks partner, was Clinton’s special assistant to the president for personnel and regional field director in Florida for Gore/Lieberman.

Fieldworks also recruits leftwing organizers as local project leaders to incite and direct its $10- and $12-hour blockers. In April an ad on the Craig’s List web bulletin board for Vegas — lasvegas.craigslist.org — announced that FieldWorks “is currently hiring campaign staff for several management positions in Nevada.” Continued the ad, “The FieldWorks team has worked for Federal and State Democratic electoral campaigns, State Parties, issue-based organizations, labor unions and ballot initiatives at the national, state and local level.”

Eventually hired for the temporary post, suggests the complaint filed with the District Court, was one Emily Morris, listed in it as “Field Coordinator for Nevadans for Nevada.” Morris shares her thoughts with the world through an interesting personal blog at http://emilyjmorris.blogspot.com/. There, this “Nevadan for Nevada” reveals in her profile that she is a “Native of Phoenix, Arizona” who has “Spent the last ten years living in Baltimore, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, [and] Miami Beach…” Only “currently” is she  “working on a ballot initiative campaign in Las Vegas.”

Clearly senior to Morris in the bogus Nevadans for Nevada organization — and also cited in the district court complaint — is one Lewis Granofsky, a vice president of Fieldworks. According to the BISC website, Granofsky also is a BISC consultant and a specialist in “field strategies.”

Granofsky, too, is a roving political operative and non-Nevadan. Fieldworks lists a Washington D.C. area code telephone number for him, while the Oregon State Public Interest Group’s year-2000 annual report said he was their “citizen outreach director” from 1998 to 2000. According to the democracyforamerica.com website, Granofsky worked with Laurie Moskowitz in Michigan in 1996 and rejoined her in May of 2005.

The Las Vegas headquarters of Nevadans for Nevada, 1325 E. Vegas Valley Drive, is one of four different suites at that address leased and used by the Nevada State Democratic Party, according to real estate professionals consulted by BusinessNevada. Other recent occupants of the suites include the Nevada Hispanic Democratic Caucus, Young Democrats of Nevada, Clark County Democrats, Shelley Berkeley Headquarters, Friends for Harry Reid, the 2004 Harry Reid Campaign HQ and the Kerry Campaign.

Although BISC and the AFL-CIO pretend in public that the goal of their anti-petition projects is to protect the “integrity” of the ballot process, ample evidence suggest that the real goal is simply to stop most potential signers from even seeing petitions for tax-restraint. Revealingly, operatives for Fieldworks, BISC and NfN are passing around an excerpt from Sun Tzu on the Art of War that confirms this:

“Thus I say that victory can be created. For even if the enemy is numerous, I can prevent him from engaging.

“Therefore, determine the enemy’s plans and you will know which strategy will be successful and which will not;

“Agitate him and ascertain the pattern of his movement.

“Determine his dispositions and so ascertain the field of battle.

“Probe him and learn where his strength is abundant and where deficient.

“The ultimate in disposing one’s troops is to be without ascertainable shape. Then the most penetrating spies cannot pry in nor can the wise lay plans against you.

“It is according to the shapes that I lay the plans for victory, but the multitude does not comprehend this. Although everyone can see the outward aspects none understands the way in which I have created victory.”