Free Paul Jacob - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Free Paul Jacob

Oklahoma has taken the lead in attempting to criminalize political differences.  The state is notoriously difficult for third parties seeking ballot access.  Now state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, reputed to be yet another gubernatorial wanna-bee, is trying to use criminal indictments to shut down initiative campaigns.  Paul Jacob, a long-time leader in the fight to limit politicians’ terms, cut taxes, and reduce spending, and two others have spent more than a year under criminal indictment for having the temerity to ask Oklahoma citizens to sign a petition to place a tax and budget limitation measure on the ballot. He deserves the support of liberals as well as conservatives and libertarians, since what he was engaged in involve both free speech and the right to petition government.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently editorialized:

THE NAME Paul Jacob will be familiar to folks who followed the struggle to get term limits adopted in Arkansas. For he pretty much led it. An Arkansas boy, he went national as head of U.S. Term Limits and now runs an outfit called Citizens in Charge. It seems he’s never outgrown his need to put the people, not the politicians, in control of government. One needn’t agree with his ideas to admire his commitment-or defend his right to express them.

But anyone so interested in reform was bound to rile an establishment with an overweening sense of entitlement. So when Mr. Jacob and his merry band of reformers showed up in Oklahoma, they naturally attracted the attention of Drew Edmondson, that state’s attorney (and zealot) general.

This time Paul Jacob and company were gathering signatures for a proposal that would have limited legislators’ power to spend, spend, spend. Their reward for this show of civic interest? Mr. Jacob and his fellow signature-gatherers, Rick Carpenter and Susan Johnson, were indicted.

The charge? Being part of a criminal conspiracy, to wit democracy. Or as General Edmondson phrased it, attempting to defraud the state by hiring folks from outside Oklahoma to help them gather signatures. Even if according to Paul Jacob, they sought signatures only from duly registered Oklahomans.

“The attorney general’s office,” to quote Mr. Jacob, “is well aware that the people who pursued this petition drive on the ground went to state officials first, asked them what the rules were and followed their advice. And they were told that as long as someone is residing in the state for the duration of the petition drive, that’s residency.”

No matter. Mr. Jacobs and friends were indicted anyway. Welcome to Oklahoma.

For more information on the case go to Paul’s website.  Everyone expects the courts to eventually toss out the case, but he needs our support to ensure that happens.

Doug Bandow
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Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute.
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