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Voters In Three States Reject Takings Initiatives

Howard Rich’s lone victory, in Arizona, may be headed to court

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Despite months of campaigning and millions of dollars in contributions from organizations tied to Howard Rich, a wealthy political activist in New York, regulatory takings initiatives failed Tuesday in three of the four Western states where they were on the ballot.

The measures would have limited government’s use of eminent domain and required that property owners be compensated for regulations that diminish the value of their holdings. Tuesday’s results:
 
In California, with all precincts counted, Proposition 90 was defeated 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.
In Washington, with more than 99.4 percent of precincts counted, Initiative 933 was defeated 57.7 percent to 42.3 percent.
 
In Idaho, with more than 99.7 percent of precincts counted, Proposition 2 was defeated 76 percent to 24 percent.
 
Oliver Griswold, a spokesman for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, told the Center for Public Integrity on Wednesday that voters in the three states rejected the “false populism” propagated by Rich, his political allies in those states, and the undisclosed donors to the Rich-sponsored organizations that bankrolled the effort.
 
“Howie Rich and his cronies came in from out of state and pretended to be grass-roots and pushed these gimmicks onto the ballot,” said Griswold, whose organization helped coordinate opposition to the takings initiatives and other Rich-backed measures. “They couldn’t even be honest about their true intentions. They hid the regulatory takings initiatives behind a legitimate discussion over the Kelo decision [Kelo v. City of New London, a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave governments more latitude to use eminent domain]. Voters saw right through that.”
 
The lone victory for supporters of takings initiatives came in Arizona; Proposition 207 passed easily, 65.1 percent to 34.9 percent, with more than 99.9 percent of the vote counted.
 
Arizona courts ruled before the election, however, that a portion of Proposition 207 likely violated state law because it would impose an unfunded mandate on state government.
 
Sandy Bahr, an organizer of Protecting Arizona Taxpayers Coalition, the chief opponent of the measure, said she does not know if a legal challenge is forthcoming.
 
“Of course, we’re all looking at it,” Bahr told the Center. She said that the wording on the ballot was confusing and suggested that the initiative dealt only with eminent domain.
 
In all, Rich-backed organizations contributed more than $8.6 million in eight states in support of takings initiatives. But four of the eight initiatives never were put before voters because of legal and procedural problems.
 
Rich, the chairman of Americans for Limited Government, the Chicago-based tax-exempt organization that spearheaded efforts to pass the takings initiatives, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment Wednesday.