in defense of true liberal education 3
education news 5
A PUBLICATION OF THE state EVERGREEN The ofFREEDOM laborFOUNDATION 12
LIVING LIBERTY SEPTEMBER 2007
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
After Little Rock:
How far have we come? By Steven Maggi
n 1954, the United States Supreme Court heard the famous Brown v. Board of Education case. Prior to Brown, the law of the land was “separate but equal.” In other words, if a white school was segregated by law but was “equal to” a neighboring black school, then it was legal to keep the races separate. That practice changed with the Brown ruling. The Court mandated that black students had a right to attend integrated schools. Passing the new law was the easy part. But everyone knew that the enforcement of this ruling would be difficult, especially in the South, where segregation itself was being taught as an acceptable part of life. On September 4, 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered National Guard troops to surround Central High School in Little Rock and keep nine black teenagers from entering the school. This was in direct defiance of the Brown ruling and was the first of many attempts to prioritize states’ rights over federal law. Faubus said he felt it was his duty as governor to protect the Arkansas “way of life.” That same day, a federal judge ordered Faubus to let the black students enter the school. On September 5th, the first brave student, 15-year old Elizabeth Eckford, tried to attend classes. On her walk to school that day, she met an angry mob of white students and parents that cursed her, spit on her, and threatened her with violence. When she finally reached the front door of the school, National Guard soldiers turned her away. In response, an angry and frustrated federal judge again ordered Faubus to let the children go to school. Governor Faubus removed the troops but gave the
black students no protection. This time, they entered the school, but only made it to their first class before having to go home. While classes started, a violent white mob had gathered outside the building and threatened to riot. Integration was suddenly a national issue. Pressure was growing on President Dwight Eisenhower to do something. Eisenhower realized that civil rights and school integration were hot-button issues and whatever he decided was going to be controversial. Faubus’s arrogance and unwillingness to comply with federal law angered the President, and Eisenhower decided to federalize the Arkansas National Guard. In a speech to the nation, the President said, “Our personal opinions have no bearing on the matter of enforcement.” From that point on, soldiers walked alongside the black students as they went from class to class for the rest of the school year. While this was an immediate victory for the President and those who favored school integration, the success
was short-lived. In 1958, Faubus shut down all public schools rather than integrate them. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “evasive schemes” like the Faubus plan could not be used to avoid efforts to integrate. Finally, Little Rock’s schools opened its doors to both black and white students—equally. As we prepare to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the “Little Rock Nine’s” brave efforts to integrate public schools, we must also ask the question: Has racial discrimination in public education disappeared? The answer is an emphatic NO! It’s not even close. According to a 2003 study completed by Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project, public schools today are more segregated along race and class lines than at any other point in the past 30 years. In fact, in 44 percent of U.S. public high schools, the student population is almost entirely black. This trend is called “resegregation.” Continued on page 4
NON-PROFIT ORG. U.S. POSTAGE
OLYMPIA, WA PERMIT #462
The hotline is open to all citizens The hotline has three points of and government employees to: contact:
State Auditor launches hotline to improve government efficiency, accountability The Washington State Auditor’s Office has launched a new, tollfree hotline to improve government efficiency and accountability.
• Recommend ways to improve efficiency. • Report waste, fraud and abuse. • Report outstanding achievement and efficiency in government.
• A toll-free phone number: 1-866-902-3900. • The State Auditor’s Web site: www.sao.wa.gov, where hotline users can fill out a Web form that is submitted electronically to the Office.
Reports and assertions can pertain to all state and local governments, employees and contractors. Hotline users’ confidentiality is maintained until a report is issued, at which time all records become subject to public records laws. State employees who wish to ensure their confidentiality permanently may contact the Auditor’s State Employee Whistleblower Program.
• Mail: Washington State Auditor’s Office ATTN: Hotline P.O. Box 40031 Olympia WA 98504-0031
“Quote” “I’m going to work to create an environment where the language and the priorities all center around students and their achievement. The current environment seems to be one where it’s more business as usual. We seem to be caught up with political issues, attachment to programs, to buildings, to the way we used to do business. ” --Dr. Connie Calloway, Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools
VOLUME 17, Issue 9 EFF’s mission is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government.
Publisher: Tom Henry Editor: Katie Buccola Layout: Joel Sorrell
Evergreen Freedom Foundation PO Box 552 Olympia, WA 98507 (360) 956-3482 Fax (360) 352-1874 firstname.lastname@example.org • www.effwa.org
The hotline was created under the provisions of Engrossed Senate Bill 5513, passed by the 2007 Legislature.
This Issue 3 4
3 LETTER FROM LYNN IN DEFENSE OF TRUE LIBERAL EDUCATION 4 ACLU SPREADING ITS INFLUENCE TO SAME-SEX SCHOOLS EDUCATION REFORM CENTER: an update 5 HEALTH BENEFITS FOR PUBLIC RETIREES COULD COST $12 BILLION FOUR TRANSPORTATION PERFORMANCE AUDITS SLATED FOR RELEASE THIS FALL 6 EFF EVENT CELEBRATES THE ADVANCE OF FREEDOM IN EDUCATION
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
7 HAPPY BIRTHDAY MILTON! 8 ALEC & NCSL REPORT THE CITIZEN ACTION NETWORK ON THE ROAD 9 RICHARD S. DAVIS: VOTE NOT A TOOL FOR FELON REHABILITATION COUNTY OFFICIALS MAKE THE CASE FOR INITIATIVE 25 10 ELECTION FRAUD ALLEGATIONS REVEAL SECURITY FLAWS KING COUNTY ELECTIONS: HOW TO MAKE A BAD SYSTEM WORSE 11 LAST CHANCE TO CONTRIBUTE FROM YOUR IRA 12 THE STATE OF LABOR HOUSE VOTE FAVORS UNION BOSSES OVER MEMBERS
“Fifty Years” Continued on page 4
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
LetterLET fromTER Lynn FROM LY NN by Lynn Harsh
In Defense of True Liberal Education
ome people believe they have the obligation to take some of your income to create state-run institutions to educate children in a manner chosen by well-meaning government committees. They also insist you send your children to these institutions, regardless of quality, unless you have the financial means to pay for your own choices in addition to supporting the state-created institutions by paying property taxes. These people use the power of law to enforce the choices they make on your behalf. They use the court system to extract money from your checkbook when they decide their institutions need additional funds, and you have not been generous enough. And most of the people who practice this coercion call themselves liberals. This is an oxymoron to be sure. A liberal in the classical sense would not presume that his or her choices in educational matters should be forced on everyone else. But these self-described liberals would have little power were it not for many well-off suburban Republicans. These people understand how important it is to educate children. They have the financial means to make alternative educational choices for their own children, but they do not want to leave everyone else’s children behind. So, lacking a ready-made alternative, they support the current institutional system. Besides, who wants to be persona non grata at community functions where “everybody” publicly supports local schools and their levies. I understand this. I sympathize. But not at the expense of millions of American children who are the losers because we refuse to make courageous and correct decisions on their behalf. Not at the expense of maintaining our constitutional republic and our free enterprise system. When it comes to children and education, our aim should not be to reform our existing education system to better meet the needs of students. Our singular focus ought to be to see to it that children have the best educational opportunities possible. Period! The 2007 Legislature targeted more money toward K-12 education: $900 million more. They now allocate $11,400 tax dollars to each student, each year. That’s a lot of money, but it’s not enough for the education establishment. They are suing for more. How much more, they can’t say. Just more. What would happen if that $11,400 could be spent in an education marketplace? Education research and development would explode. That likely would lead to smaller and more personalized education centers. The length of the school year and day would change. Exclusive age grouping would be a relic. For some students, distance learning would be integrated naturally into their education plan. Teacher quality would increase. Outstanding teacher candidates would be wooed into education. Good pay and professional satisfaction would keep them there. Poor teachers would soon choose a different career path. Schools that produce excellence would be duplicated quickly. Mediocre schools would struggle to survive. Poor schools would die. The people who should be responsible for seeing to it their children receive a good education would be back in the driver’s seat, where they belong. Our fixation with particular test scores would diminish as the results would be evident in the quality of students produced.
Furthermore, as Andrew Coulson writes in his great book Market Education, “Battles over sex education, condom distribution, religious instruction, the celebration of religious holidays, the interpretation of history, public-service graduation requirements, outcomes-based education, etc. would all become unnecessary under a free market, as each family could choose the educational services most conducive to its own needs and beliefs.” In almost every other area of life, sensible people seem to understand the importance of markets to create quality at a good price. We bristle at the notion that we should pay more money for a product of lesser quality. That’s true, except in a few very important arenas, like education. It’s lousy to get a lemon of a car, but it’s worse to get a lemon of an education. The market will punish manufacturers of lemon-like vehicles. There’s no marketplace to punish or reward education institutions. What made us think this would ever work in the long run? In 1818, Englishman William Cobbett wrote to his countrymen, “There are very few really ignorant men in America….They have all been readers from their youth up.” (emphasis is Cobbett’s) To our shame, we cannot say that today. How many kids do we graduate from high school who can’t read, or even figure out a bus schedule? We humans have the marvelous gifts of being able to reason and appreciate beauty. Furthermore, deep inside us, we all know that truth and wisdom exist, though it’s true that we will see it differently. The aim of education is to give students the tools to find and use wisdom and truth. Failure to do this creates generations of angry, purposeless, empty-headed hedonists. Education that pretends to neutral. How long can our country survive hordes of citizens who live in intellectual and moral futility? Regardless of sentiments, good intentions and some very fine people in its midst, the current institutional structure of delivering K-12 education to our children is
“How long can our country survive hordes of citizens who live in intellectual and moral futility?”
doomed to failure. It will fail on its own structural and economic demerits. We ought to hasten that day and put in its place a true public system that celebrates options and personal responsibility. In the meantime, let us not believe that there’s anything liberal, in the classical sense, about government-run and designed educational institutions. As one of my colleagues likes to say, “The new liberals are really the old fascists.” They will tell us what to do and we will do it. The next time you go to the mall, I challenge you to look into the faces of the young people milling around there. Listen to their conversations. Ask them about their life plans. Then I challenge you to do more than shake your head in despair or sorrow. We’re supposed to be the guardians of their future. We need to take that job more seriously, beginning right now.
“Our singular focus ought to be to see to it that children have the best educational opportunities possible.”
EDUCATION AN UPDATE NEWS EDUCATION REFORM CENTER
by Lauren Zammit
ACLU spreading its influence to same-sex schools
by Steven Maggi
he American Civil Liberties Union is at it again: opposing the city of Cleveland’s plan to open five new single-gender schools in August and charging discrimination. It seems that the ACLU’s action in Cleveland is just one of many making their way across the country to try to stop the growth of same-sex schools. The number of these schools has skyrocketed from three districts in 1995 to 262 this year. The ACLU is threatening lawsuits in Louisiana and Wisconsin to force school districts to scrap their single-gender school ideas. So far in Ohio, the ACLU has taken less drastic measures. The group filed a public-records request with the Cleveland District asking for details regarding its decision to convert some schools to same-sex schools, as well as inquiring about teacher and student selection and whether these schools will use an identical curriculum to that of co-ed schools. Jeffery Gamso, legal director of the Ohio ACLU, says that the Union has not yet decided whether it will bring suit against the Cleveland District. Ron Kisner of the Cleveland District is working hard to respond to the public records request. He says that the district has done its homework, so it’s sticking to its guns, declaring to be, “committed to the singlegender school option which reflects the will of the people whom we extensively polled during a series of community meetings coupled with on-line surveys and focus groups.” This idea is not new to Cleveland schools CEO Eugene Sanders. He launched a number of single-sex schools in Toledo, Ohio when he was superintendent there. Based on his previous experience, he explains that single-sex schools can help Cleveland retain students. This move is desperately needed since the district has lost 20,000 students over the past five years.
Four schools will be converted into two all-boys schools and two all-girls schools, with one of each on the West and East sides of town. The schools will start by teaching kindergarten through second grade and then continue to add a grade each year. This will ease the transition. Whether the ACLU decides to sue or not, the Supreme Court is unlikely to rule in the Union’s favor. The Supreme Court has already established that optional same-sex schools are Constitutional if there is an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for them. It seems to us that these types of schools’ record of raising achievement provide a very persuasive justification for introducing them. Cleveland parents have supported the plan strongly and do not seem to find the gender separation offensive. Shouldn’t we allow the parents and schools to determine what is acceptable? We hope that parents and schools throughout the nation will examine the outcome of plans like singlesex schools to determine what is acceptable. The one thing that we should never accept is failure! Finally, this proves once again that the more options we have available in education, the better. Same sex schools are not for everyone but they do work for some. Parochial schools have used same sex schools for many years and many of their alumni feel it was a good experience. The answer of who knows best is obviously not some bureaucrat, but the parent who has watched his/her child develop. It is only logical to ask: Why not allow parents the option of deciding what would work best for their child?
lot has been happening at the Education Reform Center (ERC) since our last newsletter. We successfully finished the trailer for Flunked, a full-length documentary highlighting innovative education efforts nationwide. This trailer is being released to film festivals, independent theatres, organizations, etc., and will be available to the general public on our website (www.effwa.org) after Labor Day. Though the documentary is still in its infancy, we are pleased to announce that it is already receiving very positive feedback. However, this achievement promises to be merely the forerunner of greater successes for the ERC. Before the end of the year, we expect to strike several more items of this sort off the proverbial list.
Fifty Years continued from page 1 . . . Segregated minority schools are disproportionately poor, with larger class sizes, fewer advanced courses and lower college enrollment rates for graduates than their segregated white counterparts. There are exceptions, of course. Many predominantly minority schools are achieving high test scores and graduation rates. However, most of those schools are alternative programs—charter and private schools—rather than traditional public schools. But how can this be with all the progress we have made over the years in civil rights? The answer is simple: The proponents of this oppression are no longer people with white pointed masks and burning crosses. Instead, they are now district school officials with city maps and marking pens. Today’s educational bureaucracy is committed to making sure that the same failing system continues to be the one and only method of delivering public education. However good the intentions of these bureaucrats may be, the bottom line is that the effect remains the same. Those who are financially poorest in our society are denied the option of escaping the shackles of poverty by bureaucratic boundaries, which continually place their offspring in the lowest performing schools. While filming “Flunked,” an upcoming documentary on innovative education efforts nationwide, I spoke to parents in some of the poorest sections of the country.
One mother I met told me she had three different jobs, which basically filled every hour of her day, every day, with the exception of time for sleep. When I asked why, she looked me in the eye and told me she had to send her two high school boys to a private school. If she didn’t, she said, it was all over. When I asked her what “all over” meant, she said if her boys went to the public school to which they were assigned, they would either end up as criminals, in prison, or dead. And then she added, “Period.” It doesn’t have to be this way. If the money set aside for each student was allowed to follow that student to the school chosen by their parents, imagine the possibilities. Opponents of school choice always say that choice will lead to segregation. The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. Research shows that children using school choice attend more integrated schools than do public school students. The great economist Milton Friedman wrote, “It’s hard for me to see how we can continue to maintain a decent and free society if a large subsection of that society is condemned to poverty and to handouts.” That was true in the day of the Little Rock Nine and it is still true today. All children deserve a chance for a good education. The opportunity to choose that education can deliver the dreams of those brave children in Arkansas 50 years ago.
In September, we are ready to ring in the school year with the release of two new publications. The first, entitled Defining Literacy, looks at standards and curriculum in our schools today. The second, The History of Reform Efforts and Spending in Washington State, highlights, chronologically, the history of attempted reforms and escalating spending in the world of education. It is ironic that the reforms requested today look almost identical to those raised in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Also, in September, we will be revisiting the Crisis at Central High in light of its 50 year anniversary – pausing to remember and review the educational and societal outcomes from Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, while asking the question: where are we 50 years later? October brings another echo of the past, as well as a wave of the future. At that time, we will recall the history-making launch of Russia’s Sputnik I and the American tensions of the time, which led to the birth of the education reform movement in this country.
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
Health benefits for public retirees could cost $12 billion
by Amber Gunn
ver the next 25 years, the cost of health benefits for public retirees in Washington could reach more than $12 billion. According to a new report released by the state actuary, even if the state immediately stops promising benefits to future employees, the cost of paying subsidies to current employees will exceed $7.4 billion in the same period. This massive liability was measured for the first time because of a new rule, known as GASB 45, which I wrote about in an earlier issue of Living Liberty. The rule changes accounting procedures for retiree health benefits from pay-as-you-go to an accrual basis. The current pay-as-you-go funding method used by the state recognizes cash going out the door for benefits paid to current retirees who performed their service long ago. The problem with this method is that it ignores promised benefits for current employees. As new obligations are accrued, the cost of deferred compensation is not reported anywhere in a government’s financial statements, so the true liability is vastly underreported. The old rules made it very easy for the government to promise employees benefits during retirement, since doing so had no effect on their balance sheets. Costs were not reflected in the budget until benefits were paid to retirees years later, long after the politicians who made the promises left office. Currently, Washington is setting aside only about 20 percent of the $600 million needed annually to eliminate the unfunded liability in 25 years. The good news for taxpayers is that GASB 45 shines a bright light on these heretofore unacknowledged liabilities and may slow down the government’s tendency to engage in runaway promise-making to employees. Now that legislators are aware of the problem, they can begin working toward solutions.
to get those benefits restored, even though gain-sharing is not a contractual obligation either. Rather than seeking solutions, the state is advocating a steady course of “more of the same.” OFM claims prefunding retiree health benefits could “unintentionally create an obligation where none now exists.” But, at the same time, the state recommends maintaining current benefit levels. In all likelihood, the only reason the state bothered to calculate the liabilities at all is because of the negative impact outright refusal to comply with GASB standards would have had on the state’s credit rating. Agencies, such as Standard & Poors, compare the size of the unfunded liabilities with payroll, budget, and tax base to determine bond ratings. Ignoring the requirement would have put the state in Wall Street’s dog house and doubtless increased the cost of capital. The current pay-as-you-go funding method is unfair to public employees and taxpayers alike. Employees deserve to know whether or not they can count on promised benefits. Taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much those benefits will cost. If lawmakers refuse to face the music, the problem will Don’t be fooled—it is highly unrealistic that any legislature will repeal these benefits. The last thing eventually catch up with state and local governments in lawmakers want is to provoke a senior citizen rally the form of ever-higher benefit payments, particularly outside capitol doors. The Legislature has no intention as the population ages and healthcare costs inflate faster of changing anything because they do, in fact, view than revenues. If employees are to receive their promised benefits, employee benefits as an obligation. Even if legislators did want to eliminate benefits, the the state needs to work toward a solution now so that effort would likely set unions on the warpath and pull the in 25 years our children aren’t slapped with a multistate into a legal battle, as occurred after the Legislature billion dollar tab for benefits promised by lawmakers removed gain-sharing pension benefits earlier this year. long gone. The state employee unions filed a lawsuit immediately Unfortunately, our state’s initial response has been to bury its head in the sand and dismiss the significance of the actuary’s report. The Office of Financial Management says retiree health benefits, unlike pensions, are not contractual obligations but appropriations “provided at the discretion of each Legislature.” In other words, the state can get rid of them any time it wants. Because of that, OFM says any measurement of long-term liability is irrelevant.
“‘The Office of Financial Management says retiree health benefits, unlike pensions, are not contractual obligations but appropriations “provided at the discretion of each Legislature.”’
Four transportation performance audits slated for release this fall by Amber Gunn
eptember and October hail the coming of four longawaited transportation performance audits. The audits will examine DOT administration and overhead, inventory and project management, and everybody’s favorite, congestion. Sound Transit’s cash-hungry light rail project will also fall into the mix. We can expect top notch recommendations and best practices from the contractors conducting the audits. Though three of the four performance audits are not technically Initiative 900 audits, they will still follow the nine objectives outlined in the initiative, in addition to the 14 performance elements identified in the authorizing legislation (ESSB 6839). EFF will be watching closely as each performance audit is released. Here are some specific things we’ll be looking for in the short and long term:
That the authority granted by I-900 remains in full force and effect with no undermining by the Executive or Legislative Branches. That the audits issued comply with all 14 performance elements identified by the legislature and GAO Yellow Book standards. That audited entities fully and unconditionally cooperate with any performance audit.
That public hearings are held on the audits within 30 days of audit completion.
That audit recommendations are implemented judiciously and any best practices identified are applied statewide.
That the legislature employs audit recommendations during the budget process.
This is an exciting time for Washington performance audits! Visit our website (www.effwa.org) throughout September and October to get the latest updates.
Andrew Coulson, Michael Bindas, and Steven Maggi provide a panel discussion moderated by Bruce Ramsey of the Seattle Times. The event was broadcast live over the internet.
E F F E v ent C e l e b rates t h e A d v ance of F reedom in E ducation
by Trent England
he solutions are out there. That was the message heard by on-site and online audiences when EFF hosted an evening panel discussion on education. The July 31, 2007, event was EFF’s first in our new Freedom Media Studio, as well as our first foray into live Internet broadcasting. It was one of two events we hosted that day in honor of Dr. Milton Friedman, the late Nobel Laureate economist, on what would have been his 95th birthday. With the encouragement and support of the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, more than 50 events were held around the country on July 31 to honor Dr. Friedman. In addition to his 1976 Nobel Prize for Economic Science, Dr. Friedman was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. It was fitting recognition from one great champion of freedom to another. “Milton Friedman restored common sense to the world of economics,” said President Reagan. “[C] entral to his work is its moral component: an idea of human freedom in which man’s economic rights are as vital as his civil and human rights.” It was that moral component that led Dr. Friedman to become a leading advocate for choice in education. He spent more than 50 years advocating for school choice, recognizing that market forces would produce better results than a government-supported monopoly. Our July 31 discussion of education focused on these very issues, looking at progress made and yet to come. Lynn Harsh, EFF’s CEO and a former educator, began the evening by remembering the Freidman’s support and encouragement of EFF. She introduced panel moderator Bruce Ramsey, an editorial writer from The Seattle Times. First on the panel was Andrew Coulson, director of Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and author of Market Education: The Unknown History. Coulson recalled his own experiences with Dr. Friedman and reiterated his basic message: markets work. Examples of markets working in education, it turns out, can be found around the world and even in the most impoverished communities. Coulson pointed to a study by researchers from the University of Newcastle that discussed private schools operating in some of the poorest communities in India, Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya. School choice works there for the same reason it will work anywhere: when parents and students are allowed to make choices, they demand real education with real results. Michael Bindas, an attorney with the Seattle office of the Institute for Justice, discussed the Blaine Amendments. These archaic laws, vestiges of 19th Century anti-Catholic bigotry, today pose a potential stumbling block for some school choice programs. The Blaine Amendments prohibit state funds from supporting religious schools or other institutions. Of course, if funds were provided in voucher form to parents, their choice to send their children to a religious school would not create state sponsorship of religion. Nevertheless, the Blaine Amendments are
one of the tactics used by school choice opponents to protect the status quo. EFF’s own Steve Maggi, director of the Center for Education Reform, focused on his forthcoming film, Flunked. Set for release in late fall, this documentary film exposes the current dearth of positive results from our present education system. But that’s not the half of it. Most of the film is dedicated to highlighting success stories from around the country. Flunked is packed with real solutions in place right now, from inner-city charter schools to private school
programs and innovative home school families. All of the panelists reminded us how far we have come since Dr. Friedman first proposed vouchers in 1955. They reminded us, too, of the work ahead on the way to fulfilling Dr. Milton Friedman’s vision of meaningful choices for parents and students.
PHOTO BY DAN STEELE / EFF
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MILTON! by Irene Endicott
Dr. Milton Friedman’s name is legendary to most Living Liberty readers. The 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize for excellence in economics, Dr. Friedman was a man of intellectual courage, an articulate champion of limited government, economic freedom, free enterprise and true choice in education. Revered as one of the most important economic thinkers of all time, he passed away on November 16, 2006 at the age of 94.
o celebrate what would have been Dr. Friedman’s 95th birthday, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation hosted a special luncheon on July 31st at the Rainier Club in Seattle, to pay tribute to Dr. Friedman’s remarkable legacy. His great work is continued today by his devoted wife and intellectual partner, Rose, who is equally admired by all whose lives have been touched and made better by this famous couple. Milton and Rose were early supporters of EFF. Bob Williams and Lynn Harsh gave moving tributes to their friend and mentor. However, the focus of the luncheon program was on young people, the next generation of leaders whose futures were ever in the forefront of Dr. Friedman’s thinking. Six of the interns from the 2007 class of young leaders, selected to spend the summer at EFF, spoke eloquently about issues they champion and about the impact of Dr. Friedman’s free market principles on their generation. One by one, they came to the podium: Derek Archer from Patrick Henry College, Joe McCleary from Hillsdale College, Paul Mueller from Hillsdale College, Meghan Olson from Seattle Pacific University, Andrew Vanderput from Hillsdale College and Katie Buccola from Seattle University. Each of the interns inspired the audience and gave us hope for the future. Lynn introduced Steven Maggi, Director of the Education Reform Center at EFF, who unveiled the first glimpse of the new ninety-minute video documentary that he and other ERC staff have been working on for months. Titled “Flunked,” the documentary, which will be released in late 2007, highlights those schools in the U.S. that are working and the reasons why they are succeeding, when many others are failing our kids, parents and teachers. Watch for it! After viewing the documentary trailer, individual desserts were served with a lighted candle glowing, a tribute to Dr. Friedman’s birthday. To close the event, Bob Williams asked everyone to stand and raise their water glasses as he spoke a heartfelt toast, saying, “To our dear friend and mentor, Milton Friedman. From all of us who love liberty and freedom, thank you for the lessons you taught us, for your courage to speak the truth and for your lasting imprint on the free market economies of the world.”
“Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens against crimes against themselves or their property.”
“When government, in pursuit of good intentions, tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs come in inefficiency, lack of innovation, and loss of freedom.
“Government should be a referee, not an active player. In the United States, government has gone far beyond the basics.”
“Assumption of responsibility by government for financing education does not require that education be delivered in government-run institutions, just as government food stamps need not be spent in government grocery stores. Education spending will be most effective if it relies on parental choice and private initiative – the building blocks of success throughout our society.”
“When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less careful what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends. And, when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you.”
ALEC & NCSL
The Citizen Action Network on the Road by Trent England
hich American President complained, “Some cit- of their boots in the stirrups and their hands holding the izens of this country have never got beyond the reins of power. Declaration of Independence…” and argued that our ConYou may have heard of the famous (or infamous) Stanstitution “must be Darwinian in structure and in prac- ford Prison Experiment (www.prisonexp.org). Stanford tice.” researchers put a group of regular people in prison, makWhy did our original Constitution lack a Bill of Rights ing some of them guards and the rest, prisoners. The and what can we learn from the framers’ reasoning? guards were given near-absolute power over the prisonFF President Bob Williams had the opportunity Why did so many contemporary supporters of the ers. Even though the prison guards knew their power to advance budget transparency policies at two American Revolution cast aspersions on the French was arbitrarily assigned as part of a research project, national meetings of state legislators last month. Revolution that occurred less than a decade later? they quickly became overbearing and then abusive. ReBob gave four presentations at the annual meeting of These are intriguing and important questions for citizen searchers had to end the experiment early due to safety the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). activists who are dedicated to freedom. And these are the concerns. ALEC adopted two EFF model legislative pieces on kind of questions that Citizen Action Network members Two centuries before that experiment, the framers of transparency. In addition, Williams was able to assist can answer after attending the First Principles of Freedom our Constitution created a government powerful enough ALEC in developing model legislation for higher training course. to defend itself and, eventually, much of the world. Yet, education transparency. The course provides an understanding of who stands they also subdivided sovereignty and spread it between Williams is an ALEC scholar and this is the second against us and why it is critical to craft successful the national government and the states. The separation time this year he has addressed an ALEC Task Force strategies. Examining why the country’s founders fought of powers, bicameralism, and federalism were all part on transparency. for independence and what motivated the men who wrote of a grand strategy to minimize the inherent excesses of At the National Conference of State Legislators and ratified our Constitution can provide a wealth of human nature that might lead to tyranny. (NCSL), Williams led a panel discussion on the need relevant insights. Today, that strategy has been under attack for half of to provide budget transparency in government. He Nowhere is the wisdom of those who created our our nation’s existence. It falls to us to defend it and to pointed out that budgets are the most important piece Constitution more apparent than in their establishment of steer our nation back toward freedom. of legislation that legislators vote on and the only way so many checks and balances and limits on government I hope you will join the Citizen Action Network (www. they can establish and enforce policy decisions. Real power. They understood that putting the ‘right’ people in effcan.org) and attend an upcoming First Principles of accountability for tax dollars is next to impossible office is insufficient. First, such efforts will not always be Freedom program. without adequate and timely details on what is successful. Second, anyone can be corrupted by the feel purchased, why, and for what results, Williams said. The key is to focus on results; i.e. performance-based outcomes. The crucial questions are, “What are you investing in and what results are you getting from that investment?” Without those details, Williams said the budgetPlease visit our website at www.effcan.org for the latest information about upcoming writing process suffers as a majority of lawmakers -classes. This is a six hour course. and more importantly the public -- are left in the dark . until the budget is a done deal. That robs citizens of the thoughtful and deliberate budget development process Spokane County Region they deserve. When budgets are rushed through the Thursdays, September 6, 13, and 20 legislative process, not only does quality suffer but Pizza at 6:30 p.m., training from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. those charged with oversight, such as auditors, do Sharp Shooters’ not always have the detailed information necessary 1200 N Freya Way to determine if spending resulted in the expected Spokane, WA 99202 performance. The key to truly effective budgeting is for legislators Kitsap County Region to require transparency and meaningful performance Saturday, September 15 measures. Then, and only then, can legislators link 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (lunch provided) spending choices with performance outcomes, Poulsbo Fire Station and this will enable legislators to prioritize budget 911 NE Liberty Road choices. Performance audits are a natural complement Poulsbo, WA 98370 to this type of performance-based budgeting and will assist legislators in determining if programs are East King County Region operating effectively, efficiently and economically. Tuesdays, September 11, 18, and 25 In our state, Rep. Gary Alexander introduced a Pizza at 6:30 p.m., training from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. budget transparency bill, but the Legislature did not North Bellevue Community Center, Room A pass it. 4063 148th Ave NE EFF has encouraged Gov. Gregoire to implement Bellevue, WA 98009 budget transparency by Executive Order, similar to what Missouri’s Matt Blunt did earlier this year. His Clark and Skamania Counties Region Executive Order created the Missouri Accountability Tuesdays, October 2, 9, and 16 Portal (MAP) and can be accessed at www. Pizza at 6:30 p.m., training from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. mapyourtaxes.gov and allows taxpayers to search Location TBA expenditures by broad categories and by specific businesses and individuals.
Upcoming First Principles of Freedom
Snohomish County Region
Thursdays, October 4, 11, and 18 Pizza at 6:30 p.m., training from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Snohomish Co. PUD 2320 California Street Everett, WA 98201
East King County Region
Saturday, October 13 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (lunch provided) Location TBA
Spokane County Region
Saturday, October 20 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (lunch provided) Location TBA
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
Richard S. Davis: Vote not a tool for felon rehabilitation
by Richard S. Davis | Self-syndicated columnist | August 8, 2007
y now we’ve all received our ballots for the Aug. 21 primary election. Grabbing voters’ attention in the dog days of summer isn’t easy. August is more about lakes, baseball and travel than it is about politics. Still, the earlier primary gives election officials additional time to prepare voter pamphlets and make sure military and overseas ballots are mailed in plenty of time for the November election. So the benefits justify the change. Turnout may be light. Despite some hotly-contested local races, off-year primaries have a hard time catching fire. But the summer has produced one burning political issue that’s likely to smolder well into the 2008 legislative session. It, however, has nothing to do with who’s on the ballot and everything to do with who’s permitted to cast a ballot. At the end of July, our state Supreme Court ruled that felons must satisfy their “legal financial obligations”— court costs, fees and victim restitution—before they can have their voting rights restored. In this voter-friendly state, where you can register when you get your driver’s license, drop by a social service office, or encounter a clip-board toting activist on the street, the decision is controversial. Although the divided court ruled that requiring full payment of these court-ordered obligations is constitutionally permitted, the justices invite the Legislature to reconsider the policy. “… [W]e emphasize that we are not making a judgment about whether the requirement … makes sense from a policy perspective,” they write in a footnote. They should not be so hesitant. Of course it makes policy sense. The case, Madison v. State, attracted national attention and overwrought rhetoric. The plaintiffs’ supporters trivialize civil rights history to score cheap political points, calling the requirement a “modern-day poll tax”. The poll tax kept the innocent from voting. Our policy requires the guilty to earn back the right to vote. That means they must pay their debts to society. Literally. The state constitution specifically provides that felons are not permitted to vote “unless restored to their civil rights.” The rules for restoration—what Justice James Johnson calls the “re-enfranchisement scheme”—are clear. Before regaining their right to vote, felons must pay their legal obligations, complete all other court imposed requirements (treatment, community service), and serve their time, including probation and community service. Critics—including Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, who rehearses the “poll tax” canard—say that this
A 2001 report by the state Department of Corrections estimated there were about 46,500 felons who have complied with all conditions of their sentence except their financial obligations.
requirement unfairly penalizes the poor. While poor felons will have a more difficult time making financial restitution than will the wealthy, it isn’t their poverty that has cost them their voting rights. It’s their criminal conduct. A 2001 report by the state Department of Corrections estimated there were about 46,500 felons who have complied with all conditions of their sentence except their financial obligations. Undoubtedly, the number includes thousands like the three Madison plaintiffs, each of whom lives on disability and Social Security checks and is unlikely ever to satisfy court-imposed financial obligations ranging, initially, from $610 to $1,610. Accrued interest adds to the debt. They’ve met all other terms of their sentence. Their crimes: third-degree assault, forgery and the manufacture and distribution of marijuana. To some, the loss of voting rights in such cases may seem excessive. Liberal legislators will surely be
tempted to lift the restriction in 2008, perhaps accepting the argument that allowing felons to vote accelerates their rehabilitation. I’m not persuaded. If there’s an adjustment to be made, let the courts consider the facts on a case-by-case basis and reduce, modify, or forgive debt as appropriate. But there is no justification for a sweeping change in the voting rules or the sudden enfranchisement of unknown thousands of felons who have not met their financial obligations. We have a legitimate interest in protecting the integrity of the electoral system. Convicted felons should not be allowed to vote before they have satisfied their debt to their victims and society, a debt that includes time, money and freedom. Meeting those obligations is not an inconsequential matter. Current state policy is appropriate and just, not a nuisance to be swept away cavalierly in some misguided attempt to use the voting right as a therapeutic tool. That’s backward: First, rehabilitation; then, restoration.
County officials make the case for Initiative 25
ometimes, a good idea can sell itself. That’s the case in King County, where the elections office has once again made a mess of things, this time with the verifying of Initiative 25 petitions. In the process, they’ve made the case for why we need a leadership shake-up in that office, something I-25 will provide. On June 19, the I-25 committee (Citizens for Accountable Elections) turned in 74,000 petition signatures. A couple of weeks earlier, another King County initiative, I-24, had been turned in with 81,000 signatures. While multiple initiatives are old hat for the Secretary of State’s office, having two county-wide initiatives at the same time is nearly unprecedented for the King County elections department. Citizens for Accountable Elections, headed by former state representative Toby Nixon, assumed the petition signatures would be verified by statistical analysis. In other words the elections office would check four percent of the signatures and, if a high percentage turned out to be valid, they would declare the petition qualified. Only if there had been a high rate of error would all the signatures be checked. This is the formula the Secretary of State has followed for thirty years, and it’s worked quite well.
“While multiple initiatives are old hat for the Secretary of State’s office, having two county-wide initiatives at the same time is nearly unprecedented for the King County elections department.” Lo and behold, Nixon and company discovered that the elections office wasn’t using statistical sampling. They were checking all the signatures line-by-line, and they were doing it very slowly. They didn’t even start until mid-July and, after two weeks, they had checked only 17,000 signatures for I-24 and zero, for I-25. At that rate they won’t be done verifying I-25 until midOctober, after the absentee ballots have been sent out. Since that timeline is clearly impractical, Nixon asked Sherril Huff, the director of elections, why statistical sampling wasn’t being used. She replied that although the county charter authorized such a method, the council
had never actually passed an ordinance allowing it. Which begs the question: what would you do if you led a major elections office, knew months in advance that you’d be responsible for the nearly impossible task of verifying two major initiatives at once, and knew there was a widely used counting method available that would cut your workload by 90 percent? If you’re heading up King County elections, the right answer might depend on what was in the initiative. Whatever her motive, Huff’s failure to request the change makes it look like Executive Ron Sims, who is adamantly opposed to I-25, is again using the flawed processes of the elections office to further his agenda. In doing so, Sims is actually making the case for I-25, showing why it’s necessary to make the elections office independent of the executive and accountable to the people. Councilmember Reagan Dunn has introduced an emergency county ordinance to authorize statistical sampling, a common sense change. If passed, we can hope, that will enable the elections department to finish the signature verification in time for the initiative to make it onto the ballot this November.
Election fraud allegations reveal security flaws
by Jonathan Bechtle
oter fraud has been back in the news lately, whether it’s the indictment of voter registration workers or the revelation of a dog on the voting rolls. While it’s good these stories are being brought to light, election officials seem to be missing all the red flags the examples raise about how easy it is to breach election security in Washington. In July, the King County prosecutor announced he is bringing charges against seven employees of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for filing more than 1,700 faked registration cards. The ACORN employees were caught because the fraud was so startlingly obvious. Hundreds of cards were clearly forged by a few people. And in Pierce County, three hundred cards listed addresses from the same homeless shelter (a fact discovered by BIAW staff). The ACORN conspirators weren’t more careful because all they cared about was getting paid, not in getting fake voters on the rolls. But what if they had been a little more careful? What if they’d disguised their writing, or if they’d sent the cards in small batches? Their fake voters would likely have made it on the rolls and been sent ballots for the 2006 general election. Similarly, the lady who registered her dog to vote was caught because she used a paw print to sign the dog’s ballots. If she’d merely signed the dog’s name or used an “X,” she would likely never have been caught. Of course, it was her intention to be caught to point out the security flaws in the system. It took King County officials three elections to catch on. King County Executive Ron Sims and Elections Director Sherril Huff hailed both of these stories as examples of how their security systems are working. Baloney. Washington’s combination of easy registration, coupled with vote-by-mail, equals a security joke. If the only real security measure (signature verification) takes three elections to catch a dog voting with his paw print, it’s not working. Registration and ballot security needs to be improved greatly.
Last year, EFF produced a report called “Election Security Under Fire” that told the story of a lawsuit filed, in part, by ACORN against the state of Washington. In the lawsuit, ACORN claimed the state law requiring election officials to double-check the identity of new voters could “disenfranchise thousands.” A federal judge agreed with them, and now Washington has to put new registrants on the rolls whether they can be verified or not. Citing ACORN’s past history of registration fraud in other states, we warned in our report that the group’s “interest in overturning a law which would clamp down on voter registration fraud is disturbingly obvious.” Less than four months later, the Seattle Times broke the story about ACORN fraud in Washington. View the Report at: www.effwa.org/electionsecurity
It’s not just local election officials who are missing these red flags. In a recent email to supporters, Secretary of State Sam Reed claimed credit for “pushing” the late King County Prosecutor, Norm Maleng, “to really go after ACORN.” Reed’s email continued, “Too often, prosecutors won’t commit serious staff time and effort to election fraud.” Great! That’s true! But what about fixing the weak voter ID requirement that allowed the dog to register with a utility bill? What about adding voter eligibility requirements like proof of citizenship? Even if the ACORN workers had been more clever in filling out the forms, reforms like these would have kept their fake voters from ever being registered. Now’s the time for Reed to call for the legislature to add registration security, yet he hasn’t done so. Instead of trying to claim credit for the ACORN prosecutions, Reed should be thanking Tom McCabe and his staff at the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW). McCabe spent months filing records requests and talking with election and law enforcement officials at all levels to make sure ACORN didn’t get away with its crime. If the citizens of Washington are ever going to be able to trust their election system, it will be because of efforts like those of BIAW to hold officials accountable for doing their jobs. This isn’t the time to rest on the laurels from the big ACORN catch. It’s time to learn the lessons and fix the system. Next time, the criminals may not be so obvious.
King County elections: How to make a bad system worse by Jonathan Bechtle
ing County Executive Ron Sims was probably surprised at how much opposition there was to his plan for moving King County to an all-mail ballot system. He’s been pushing it since before Dean Logan left and seemed to be close to council approval for buying the necessary equipment for making the switch. He met major opposition, however, from many within his own party. Concerned about the insecurities of electronic voting and tabulation machines, local Democrat activists convinced a majority of the King County council to vote against buying the unproven machines. That’s good news since many will remember how buying all-new software in August 2004 contributed greatly to the election fiasco later that fall. The elections office seemed doomed to a repeat in 2008, with the county Citizens Election Oversight Committee calling Sims’ plan the “highest risk” option. In a bizarre turn, however, the council decided to push forward with the switch to vote-by-mail before 2008 using current equipment! So King County will be using the same maxed-out system they used in 2004, but with an additional 400,000 mail ballots. Remember, almost all of the problems revealed in 2004 were with the absentee ballot system, not the polling places. Even Sherril Huff, ever the optimist about her department, expressed grave misgivings about the council’s decision. What about the option of keeping the current mixed system of polling places and absentee ballots in place? It wasn’t even contemplated by the council. To completely tangle the web, Huff’s department is spurning the council’s recommendation not to buy the new tabulation machines, stating that they are continuing to work on purchasing the equipment in the next year. Memo to King County voters: pray for no close elections in 2008.
EFF is blogging! The Evergreen Freedom Foundation launched a new blog over the Labor Day weekend. We are excited about this new opportunity to communicate more regularly with our members, the media and the general public. Bob Williams, Lynn Harsh and our policy center directors will comment on daily news events, developments in on-going issues and other matters, as appropriate. The site has been designed to be interactive, so you can post your own comments and thoughts.
www.libertylive.org www.l i b e r ty l i v e . o r g
A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION
want to invest in the
Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
Dear Friend of EFF, While we welcome every gift, our greatest need is reliable monthly support. It is imperative for reaching our goals. Please consider monthly giving as a way to invest in the cause of freedom. Our secure e-Giving System ensures that more of your contribution goes directly to our work. Cordially,
Please mail or fax in this form (fax 360-352-1874) or call 360-956-3482. We will send you a confirmation letter for your records. Bank Debit/Credit Card Donation Authorization I request my bank or credit card company to transfer funds in the amount of $ each month until further notice. I understand that I am in full control of my donation, and that I can decide to make any changes or discontinue the service at any time by calling 360-956-3482 or writing to EFF. Please indicate your preferred withdrawal date:
...Because Freedom M atters!
I would like to give a one time gift of $ Signature (required for bank and credit card donations)
Checking Account–e-Giving Systems (Attach a voided check) Savings Account–e-Giving Systems (Attach a voided deposit slip) VISA
Credit card #
Personal Information Name
City, State, Zip
Your Donations to EFF are Tax Deductible!
Last Chance to Contribute from your IRA by Erin George
ime is running out to take advantage of the IRS code that could benefit you and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Two years ago, President Bush signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006 into law. The bill allows you to exclude up to $100,000 of your gross income, providing you own an IRA and are at least 70 ½ at the time of the contribution. However, the bill allows this provision only for the tax years 2006 and 2007. This exclusion may be of benefit to you for several reasons. First, if you own a small IRA and don’t want to bother with it, you can contribute to it and count it toward the minimum distribution amount. Second, those who have maxed out their charitable deductions, due to the 50% of adjusted gross income (AGI) percentage limitation, may reap rewards. If you fall within this category, you may be able to give more to
a not-for-profit organization. Finally, for those of you who do not itemize your tax return, a QCD can benefit you because it acts as the equivalent of a charitable deduction. Many individuals in states without income tax—like Washington—typically do not itemize because there is no state tax to deduct against federal taxes. With this plan, you won’t need to itemize to realize the savings. Under the old rules, individuals making charitable contributions from their IRAs had to take the distribution into their taxable income and then claim the charitable deduction. Often, the charitable deduction didn’t offset the tax associated with the withdrawal. The $100,000 limit per person, per year, also means that a married couple can donate up to $200,000, provided
that each spouse owns an IRA and can make a $100,000 QCD from each of his or her plans. Please note that the Pension Protection Act applies only to traditional and Roth IRAs and not to other retirement plans, such as 401(K), 403(b), annuities, and SEPs. Evergreen Freedom Foundation can assist you in making a QCD. To qualify, the check must be written by the IRA custodian directly to the charity and not to you. Evergreen Freedom Foundation has sample letters that we can provide to you and answer any questions you may have about making a QCD. Remember, there are only a few months left in 2007 to use this provision to benefit you. If you are at least 70 ½ years of age, own an IRA and are interested in making a gift from your IRA to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, contact Erin George at egeorge@effwa. org or by calling 360/956-3482.
The State of Labor by Michael Reitz
n August, EFF’s Labor Policy Center issued its “State of Labor 2007” report. The report reviews significant developments in the labor movement over the last year and recommends policies that advance the First Amendment rights of America’s workers. Labor Day provides an annual opportunity to review organized labor’s wins and losses. And what a year it’s been. Despite plummeting numbers, Big Labor invested heavily in the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress. The AFL-CIO spent a reported $40 million to mobilize union households. The Service Employees spent $65 million. Overall, labor unions spent an estimated $200 million on the mid-term elections. This year’s State of Labor report examines the political payback Big Labor has demanded after returning Congress to Democrat control. Grateful Democrats were quick to pay the piper. Four of the seven issues on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 100 Hour Agenda were labor priorities, including raising
As discussed in more detail in this issue of Living Liberty, Congress also cut funding for the Department of Labor division that investigates union corruption and oversees union financial disclosure. In the last six years, investigations have resulted in 775 convictions and more than $70 million in restitution to union members, but House Democrats took a stand for “limited” government by cutting the division’s funding. Unions are already preparing to launch a major political offensive to put a Democrat in the White House. Unfortunately, union political spending is not entirely supported by individual workers. Consider that less than 10% of most union members voluntarily contribute to their union’s political fund. According to a CNN exit poll, some 40% of union household voters cast their vote for George W. Bush in 2004. The U.S. Department of Labor reported in January
EFF has released its third annual State of Labor Report. This year’s issue deals with labor unions’ campaign contributions and the resulting political payback.
Employees represented by a union
Organized labor’s contributions to federal candidates and parties
Organized labor’s voter mobilization spending
The amount the AFL-CIO spent to mobilize members
Percent of union household voters voted according to union endorsements
States the AFL-CIO, Working America, and ACORN targeted in an effort to oust vulnerable Republicans
The number of U.S. House seats shifted to Democrat control
The report is available online at www.effwa.org.
the minimum wage. The new labor-friendly Congress introduced other coercive policies to “strap” workers to unions, regardless of their personal preference. The so-called “Free Employee Choice Act” would have eliminated the secret ballot elections currently used to unionize workers. Instead, the union would be automatically recognized if it collected signed cards from a majority of the employees—a process fraught with the potential for harassment and intimidation.
that the number of union members is at a record low. Today, only 12 percent of workers are members of a union, compared to 35 percent in the 1950s. In private industries, only 7 percent of workers are unionized. Congress appears intent on reversing this trend by supporting coercive policies that draw more workers into Big Labor’s fold. To download a copy of the State of Labor Report, please go to www.effwa.org.
House vote favors union bosses over members by Scott Dilley
he general consensus after last November’s elections was that voters decided to change their party preference in Congress because of the Democrats’ promises to end the war in Iraq and to stop the Republicans’ “culture of corruption.” The strange thing about Washington, D.C., though, is that issues tend to linger much longer than the players do. In their attempts to impose some sense of fiscal discipline on the federal budget, House Democrats last month ironically decided to increase funding for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) by $1 billion more than the Bush Administration’s request of $10.6 billion. This meant more funding for workplace inspectors. But the irony does not stop there. In response to the “culture of corruption,” Democrats decreased funding for DOL’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS), the office that investigates union corruption and oversees union financial disclosure. On a 237186 vote, majority Democrats refused to reinstate the original funding for OLMS, effectively cutting $2 million from the office’s existing $47.7 million appropriation. Apparently dead on arrival was President Bush’s request for funding of $56 million. One last bit of irony—union financial disclosure dates back to 1959, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy,
(D-Massachusetts), championed a “union bill of rights.” Kennedy was successful in his efforts to make sure union elections were held by secret ballot and union payments and loans to union officers were disclosed to union members, the government and the public. In the past few years, OLMS has revised reporting standards and stepped up enforcement. Several disclosure forms have been clarified so that payments and possible conflicts of interest involving union officers and employees are more transparent. Since 2001, the actions of OLMS have resulted in 775 convictions and more than $70 million in restitution to union members, according to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Not surprisingly, the AFL-CIO disputes the accuracy of those statistics. But the AFL-CIO misses the point. The debate is about fairness, not statistics. Corporations must now comply with the disclosure requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in the wake of corporate accounting scandals like Enron. Labor unions should also disclose similar information. In June, the House, in an attempt to beef up corporate disclosure, increased the budget of the Securities and Exchange Commission by $15.9 million, $3.1 million more than the President’s request, Increasing funding for
enforcement in one arena and not the other implies that House Democrats are now playing favorites. If Republicans appeared corrupt in the wake of the lobbyist scandals, how do Democrats appear now in terms of protecting union bosses? The real answer to these congressional quandaries is humility and transparency. All members of Congress—from both parties—once again need to realize that they serve the people. The money Congress spends comes from private-sector taxpayers who deserve to know how money is spent on their behalf. Stockholders deserve to know information about their corporations, and rank-and-file union members deserve to know how their dues are being spent. They need to be aware of any potential fraudulent actions or conflicts of interests in which their union leaders may have engaged. JFK fought for disclosure. Have modern Democrats parted ways with his vision? My advice to Congress: Quit the irony, posturing, and payback. Regain trust by being honest and supporting financial transparency.
Published on Sep 3, 2007
in defense of true liberal education 3 the state of labor 12 SEPTEMBER 2007 A PUBLICATION OF THE EVERGREEN FREEDOM FOUNDATION PAID education...