Paul Jacob

Sometimes we feel bad after an election because we’ve lost. Other times, we feel bad even when we’ve won.

Today is one of those other times. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal. There are college football bowl games later this month, after all.

But now is about the point in our political calendar when intelligent folks remind themselves of one inconvenient truth: Politicians are not exactly paragons of principle. And, if surprisingly, they do perform well for a stretch, that stretch won’t likely last long.

Last week I was buoyed by news that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) would chair the Domestic Monetary Policy Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, and be much closer to holding the Federal Reserve to account in the sunshine of transparency. But then again, Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Tenn.) will wield the gavel on the spending spigot known as the House Appropriations Committee. Rogers, a 30-year incumbent, boasts the nickname “the Prince of Pork.”

I’m not a pessimist only because I have ample faith the American people will find a way to overcome even the most deleterious attempts at government.

But it all rests on good people getting in the game and staying in the game. Forget party labels and parties and the politician who will fix everything. Think process; think accountability; think citizen action.

Think, for example, eminent domain and Ron Calzone.

Why “eminent domain”? Because it is an example of a practice that, unconstrained provides a process for the politically well-connected to prey on the politically weak.

The abuse of eminent domain rips the guts out of the most basic American sense of justice, the right to property and ability to freely pursue one’s dreams. Over 90 percent of Americans opposed the U.S. Supreme Court decision permitting local governments to take private property through eminent domain for “economic development” projects.

Elected officials in many states and localities have already passed measures “aimed” at reining in some abuses. But too often elected officials have enacted flimsy band-aids, which by design continue to allow the arbitrary stealing of plots of land on the basis of political power. (Tennessee’s phony law comes to mind.)

But, thankfully, citizens can do something about it. At least, they can in states where voters can propose and vote on initiative ballot measures.

Which is where Ron Calzone comes in.

Calzone is a farmer and businessman, a husband and father, and one strongly committed citizen. For the last four years, at least, he’s been catching my attention fighting for the reform of eminent domain to stop the practice of government confiscating someone’s land only to flip it to a private entity and not at all for a truly public purpose.

In the course of fighting to allow the people of Missouri a vote on two constitutional amendments that would protect private property from abusive government policies, Calzone has also worked to protect the initiative process.

Not just in ways that would benefit his own political agenda, but also in ways that allow those he disagrees with to also use the initiative process. During the summer, Calzone signed onto a letter to the Missouri Court of Appeals defending the rights of the “puppy mill” petition proponents. He then strenuously opposed the same measure at the ballot box on both policy and constitutional grounds.

But he stood up for a fair process for everyone.

Last election cycle, Calzone and Missouri Citizens for Property Rights failed to get their two eminent domain initiatives on the ballot. They decided not to even begin a petition drive — by the time the Missouri Secretary of State’s office and the opposition Missouri Municipal League were through litigating the measure’s ballot title, there wasn’t enough time left to gather the more than 200,000 signatures they would have needed.

The initiatives had been filed early in the election cycle, but “Court delays were too much for us,” said Calzone. “It would be too risky to collect signatures with such a small amount of time.”

A travesty — courtesy of the state’s Municipal League and the usual, partisan, user-unfriendly behavior from Robin Carnahan’s Secretary of State office.

But while the lengthy lawsuit blocked the initiative from a chance at the 2010 ballot, Missouri’s Western Court of Appeals had at least issued a final decree on the ballot title, and the state’s supreme court refused an appeal. The language of the title was seemingly settled, and would not continue to delay Calzone's petition.

Enter a new election cycle. Calzone and Missouri Citizens for Property Rights filed again the exact same language with the Secretary of State’s office.

But last week, Secretary of State Carnahan’s office signaled that they would not provide the ballot title already determined in court after lengthy litigation. Thumbing her nose at the state’s judiciary — and further thwarting the rights of Ron Calzone and every Missouri voter — she will change the court-approved ballot title. This is an affront to due process and the most fundamental right to petition one’s government. Not to mention justifying yet another bout of expensive and delaying litigation.

Ron Calzone, like people all across the country, won’t quit. He’s committed to holding his government accountable and protecting what is precious and dear about America. You can help him.

We can’t let the bad guys win.


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.