Campaigns/Elections

Libertarian Activist Paul Jacob Indicted

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Remember that law barring out-of-state residents from doing petitioning to get things on the ballot in Oklahoma I blogged about a few weeks back? Longtime libertarian movement activist Paul Jacob has been indicted on felony charges under that law for his role running an organization that hired such supposedly banned petitioners.

Yes, felony charges for hiring people to gather signatures to get things on the ballot. As Jacob says, "what is my actual offense but that of daring to help Oklahoma voters hold an election to decide an issue?"

See Jacob's detailed explanation of the charges and his defense of himself at freepauljacob.com.

This isn't the first time Jacob has faced the state's wrath for his libertarian activism. He was jailed in the 1980s for his loud public refusal to register for the draft, and encouraging others to similarly refuse.

He spent over a year on the run after being informed the Justice Department was going to prosecute him for his failure to register–the first such prosecution under post-Vietnam registration laws. He was eventually brought to (in)justice and served five and a half months in jail. Jacob's story is one of many told in my history of the modern American libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism.

Thanks to Wirkman Virkkala for the tip.

NEXT: Why Did the Former Mrs. Ted Turner Bother with All That Aerobicizing?

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  1. Could any of the lawyers that post here comment on whether the Oklahoma law would survive a First Amendment challenge?

    On the surface, it appears to violate both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

  2. So does the restriction against coordination between private political groups and candidate campaigns, but the courts don’t give a damn.

    If I call a political campaign and say, “I’m going to run ads against your opponent, can you tell me what markets you need some help in?” and the campaign tells me, we have committed a crime.

    If that’s Constitutional, then maybe it is also Constitutional for the state to micromanage who I hire to collect signatures on my petitions.

  3. What is this First Amendment of which you speak?

    First Amendment to what?

  4. RC,

    that is your best post in a long time… excellent.

  5. Aresen,
    Ha ha ha, how quaint. I’ve got thee words for you ‘Free Speech Zones’.

    THE BILL OF RIGHTS
    void where prohibited by law

  6. Drat! A libertarian activist has been indicted.

    And it wasn’t Eric Donderooo.

  7. THE BILL OF RIGHTS
    void where prohibited by law

    That should be on a T-shirt. And that little tease in the bikini on the right side of the page should be wearing this T-shirt instead of the “Redefeat communism” garbage.

  8. I kinda like those adds (not really the shirt).

  9. Jacob led a coalition of activists to challenge the Oklahoma law in Federal District court (in Colorado, I believe) on First Amendment grounds. Their case, as I recall, was dismissed.

    Philosophically, I object to the way in which national organizations, such as Jacob’s, manipulate state petition processes. Those are meant to be for the people of a particular state, and were these national petition companies helping the people of the states, it would be one thing. But really, 90% of the time they are using the petition mechanism to promote their own agenda.

    Nonetheless, there is no reason for Jacob to be indicted, and it’s just proof # 1008 that things are FUBARed in Oklahoma. The petition mechanism is being assaulted from every angle, and it needs defense. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that the activities of Jacob and others have contributed to public sentiment to limit petition activity.

  10. Philosophically, I object to the way in which national organizations, such as Jacob’s, manipulate state petition processes. Those are meant to be for the people of a particular state, and were these national petition companies helping the people of the states, it would be one thing. But really, 90% of the time they are using the petition mechanism to promote their own agenda.

    So what if they’re promoting their own agenda. The people in OK are still the only ones who can vote on it. End of analysis.

  11. that little tease in the bikini on the right side of the page

    CONSERVATIVE

    And, evidently, shaved.

  12. Read the Sam Adams Alliance’s take on Paul’s indictment here:

    http://samadamsalliance.org/publication/id.2871/pub_detail.asp

    Also, be sure to join the new Facebook group: “Free Paul Jacob- 100,000 Strong for Constitutional Rights.” There’s a link there for you to donate to Paul’s defense fund.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5278112380

  13. The petition mechanism is being assaulted from every angle, and it needs defense.

    No it doesn’t – it needs killing. The idea that 50% + 1 person of those who vote in a state should be able to co-opt the power of the state against the rest of the people is anathema to the notion of freedom in the first place. I see no reason why a bare majority of people should be able to force the minority to do anything, yet the petition process makes this easier than ever. I’m surprised by how much this assumption that simply being in the majority gives a group the right to dictate laws to the minority goes almost entirely unquestioned because we’ve been so indoctrinated into the idea that democracy is always good.

    Even if we generally prefer democracy, there is nothing magical about 50% except to say that barely being on one side of it means there are a few more people who think one way in a community than another. But so what? That hardly seems like much on which to rest the use of the police power of the state, in and of itself. Perhaps if the law was set up so it required at least 2/3 (or better yet, in my mind, 75%) of the people to agree in order to impose any new law (and better yet, 1/3 to repeal any existing law!), it would be a good idea, but as it stands the petition/initiative process is no friend of liberty.

  14. I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Brian. In the first place, all that the petition does is put an issue on the ballot. And if it’s a Constitutional amendment it requires much more than a simple majority.

    The real reason for the petition mechanism is to serve as a check on the legislature. True, it did come, in Oklahoma at least, out of the Progressive movement. But “the people,” in the classical liberal tradition, have always been the check on the aristocratic tendencies of the political class. As they say, the only thing worse than the tyranny of the majority is the tyranny of the minority.

    FYI, many of the earliest petitions in Oklahoma were on the issue of women’s suffrage and other civil rights issues — issues in which advocates of the petitions were well ahead of their legislators.

  15. The constitution is explicit in granting the people the right to petition, assemble, and freely speak. Campaign laws aside, OK’s law seems to strike at the heart of the first amendment.

  16. As they say, the only thing worse than the tyranny of the majority is the tyranny of the minority.

    Well, that is a nice saying and perhaps it is true but it is irrelevant to my point. A tyranny is only possible, majority or minority, if some group is allowed to force another group to adhere to its wishes. What I was saying is that not only should a minority not be allowed to pass laws forcing such adherence, neither should any but the largest majority. A lack of ability of a bare majority to force its will on a bare minority is not a tyranny of the minority by any reasonable definition of tyranny (e.g. that the majority cannot vote to establish Christianity as the state religion is not a tyranny of the minority).

    As to your point about being a check on the legislature, well sure, it can be used for good purposes but that isn’t enough to justify it’s existence. Just as with any policy one has to weigh that potential for good against the potential bad uses as well. Beyond that pragmatic view is the moral argument that 50%+1 person should not have the right to force the rest of the people to do something they don’t wish to do.

    And, by the way, I think a better check on the legislature would be to require the same 2/3 majority of legislators for them to pass any law as well.

    And if it’s a Constitutional amendment it requires much more than a simple majority.

    A very tangential point, but that depends on the state in question – I don’t know the requirement in Oklahoma, but in Oregon a simple majority is all that is required for constitutional amendments as well as statutes.

  17. Drat! A libertarian activist has been indicted.

    And it wasn’t Eric Donderooo.

    He’s only a “libertarian” acivist.

  18. Drat! A libertarian activist has been indicted. And it wasn’t Eric Donderooo.

    He’s only a “libertarian” acivist.

    Dondero is a Republican who likes hookers.

    The difference between him and other Republicans is he admits it openly.

    Oh, and he doesn’t find it necessary to find Jesus afterward (apparently).

  19. Damn, I don’t live in Oklahoma, but if they don’t let me vote on Oklahoma ballot issues, I am going to sue them for violating my civil rights. Fight the power.

  20. Thank you Bob. That is exactly the point. The (U.S.) Constitution grants certain rights, but it doesn’t grant my right to meddle in the affairs of every other state in the nation.

    Still, I hope Jacob and the other two get off the hook. If there was ever a “chilling effect” on free speech, felony indictment would be it.

  21. I, too, hope I get “off the hook.” And, agree or disagree with me, it’s nice to see a consensus forming against my serving 10-years in prison. That’s a long time. My eight-year old would be 18 then. My 16-year old 26.

    After a long day of being indicted, handcuffed, ankle-shackled to my co-defendant Rick Carpenter (a meddling in-state person) and fingerprinted, some thoughts:

    1) There is a First Amendment right to meddle. There is not only the First Amendment’s protection of speech and the “right to petition” but also the right to association. I was invited by an Oklahoman to help on this petition drive. No outsider can file an initiative. No outside agitator can sign it. Only Oklahomans can vote on it. The restriction that only folks from within the state boundaries can circulate a petition simply removes market choices from those Oklahomans seeking to enact change. Such laws treat citizens like children who can’t be let alone with dark, evil outside (read: non-state-regulated) influences, lest the-powers-that-be have trouble on their hands.

    2) There has indeed been a challenge to Oklahoma’s residency requirement in federal court. The residency mandate was upheld at the district court level and is now on appeal at the 10th Circuit. Ultimately, I believe such requirements will be thrown out by the US Supremes. We’ll see. More here: http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php?title=Yes_on_Term_Limits_v_Savage

    3) Tyranny by super-majority, majority or minority is all the same: tyranny. But such tyranny is usually borne by government deciding issues it has no business deciding. On those matters where government action and decision-making are legitimate, we are far better protected when citizens can directly check their unrepresentative representatives.

    PJ

  22. Paul – good luck.

  23. I believe that it was challenged in the court case Yes on Term Limits v. Savage in September and they lost. There’s an in-depth article on it on ballotpedia.org

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