Paul Jacob

A memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., was unveiled recently in Washington, D.C. Derided, in his day, for being an “outside agitator,” King persevered, and in so doing helped right a long history of wrong, making him worthy of a monument.

In his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King defended outside agitators everywhere, writing, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This past week I was reminded of the issue of “outsiders coming in,” when a federal judge struck down Nebraska’s law barring people outside the state from working with those inside Nebraska as either paid or volunteer petition signature gatherers. The case is Citizens in Charge, et al v. Gale.

Mike Groene, one of Citizens in Charge’s co-plaintiffs, told reporters, “We filed a federal lawsuit based on the fact of freedom of association. It’s no different than back in the ’60s when white students came down to Alabama and Mississippi and helped out to get minorities their voter rights.”

For the last two decades I’ve been engaged in political battles in Nebraska. While I’ve never resided there, I’ve worked on initiative or recall campaigns in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2011 and, in both state and federal courts, taken active part in eight lawsuits. Not only do I like and respect a number of Nebraska friends and acquaintances, I can help you find the best Omaha and Lincoln restaurants, point out Cherry County (pop. 5,713) on the map and, my political dislike of the terminology notwithstanding, I’ve become a fan of the Cornhuskers’ black-shirt defense.

In 1992, I met Ed Jaksha and Bob Wright, two men who had stormed the beaches of Normandy in their youth. They were leading the campaign to petition a term limits amendment onto the ballot. At U.S. Term Limits, we helped them with some funding and petition drive advice. The measure made the ballot and passed that November with an impressive 68 percent of the vote.

Had the politicians accepted this first vote of the people, my Nebraska story could have ended there.

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.