Paul Jacob

It finally hit me. I was walking the dog with my two youngest. My 17-year-old regaled us with tales from her classes at the local community college. My 9-year-old declared she would learn to speak Japanese, like her sister, and Italian.

Bugsy and I just listened. And then it happened.

What hit me? A noticeable feeling of hope, even confidence. Now, I thought, I’ll get to be in my children’s future.

Earlier that afternoon Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson dismissed charges of “conspiracy to defraud the state” against the Oklahoma Three: Rick Carpenter, a Tulsa political activist; Susan Johnson, head of National Voter Outreach, one of the country’s top petition management firms; and yours truly.

The charge carried a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

The Attorney General alleged that we willfully conspired to hire non-residents, non-Oklahomans, to circulate petitions on two ballot measures: One, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a measure to cap state spending; the other, a property rights measure called Protect Our Homes. Edmondson launched a media campaign, writing an op-ed and visiting a TV talk show to expound on how guilty we were.

We were innocent. Those actually managing the petition effort on the ground consulted with state officials and were informed that it was indeed lawful for people to move to Oklahoma to work on the petition drive.

The opinions of the regular enforcers of the law didn’t count, though. The state supreme court kept the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative off the ballot, ruling that anyone not intending to “permanently” reside in Oklahoma was not a resident. The court also tossed out the petitions of circulators whose residency status was challenged without ever affording those circulators an opportunity to defend themselves.

One thing was certain: more than 15 percent of Oklahoma voters had very willfully signed to put the issue to a vote . . . a vote they were denied.

That wasn’t enough, however. The issue could always come back via a new petition drive. So could other issues. Soon, the Attorney General decided to go a step further, indicting the three of us on criminal charges. No one was charged as a non-resident circulator. Instead, the state took a swipe at

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.