Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Howie Rich's group leaves Illinois

The main financial backer of the failed I-933, the so-called "takings initiative," has left Illinois. From the Center for Public Integrity:
Americans for Limited Government, the Chicago-based tax-exempt organization that bankrolled a series of controversial ballot initiatives this year, has apparently been forced to move out of Illinois because it could not comply with the state’s charity laws, the Center for Public Integrity has learned.

Americans for Limited Government had operated from offices in Illinois since 2002, but just after the November 7 elections it quietly changed its address to the Virginia residence of one of its officers. At the same time, ALG created two new tax-exempt groups, the Sam Adams Alliance and the Sam Adams Foundation, which occupy its former Chicago address.

The chairman of Americans for Limited Government, New York political activist Howard Rich, was recently described by The Wall Street Journal as “a publicity-shy, libertarian-leaning businessman who has become the go-to man for supporters of conservative ballot initiatives.” Rich did not respond to the Center’s requests for information about the organization’s financial affairs.
In all, Americans for Limited Government spent at least $8 million in 2006 pushing takings initiatives and other ballot measures. The organization has repeatedly refused to disclose the sources of its funds.

Although charitable organizations that operate in Illinois are required to furnish state regulators with annual financial statements audited by a certified public accountant, Americans for Limited Government never did so, the Center has learned.
The ability of nutty, pseudo-libertarian millionaires to create havoc in states by abusing the initiative process is reliant on their ability to hide the actual sources of money used in those initiatives. It's ridiculous that Howie Rich can flaunt the law and then simply move his group, and/or form a new group.

Improvements in state and federal regulation are clearly called for. Citizens have a right to know who is messing with their state. We still don't know whether the money behind 933 was all Rich's. There is a complete lack of transparency in cases like this. And Rich's dupes at the Farm Bureau should still be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be used as a front group.

Props to DailyKos poster harto for the link.

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