Americans for Limited Government

Americans for Limited Government

Americans for Limited Government (ALG) is a conservative, libertarian think tank. Its primary concerns are tax and spending reform, property rights restoration, school choice and political term limits.

ALG supported campaigns in twelve states for the November 2006 election.

Property Rights

One of ALG's primary projects is funding ballot initiatives throughout the country that would curtail the expanded scope of eminent domain created by the US Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London decision in 2005. Additionally, many of these measures will require governments to compensate land owners when land use and environmental laws decrease the value of parcels of property. Most of these initiatives allow the governments to waive restrictions instead of paying compensation.

A similar provision, Measure 37, was approved by voters in Oregon in 2004. Encouraged by this success, and piggybacking on the public backlash from the Supreme Court's 2005 "Kelo" decision, ALG and the closely related Fund for Democracy have been supporting similar initiatives in eleven states in 2006. Such initiatives qualified for the 2006 ballots in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington. Similar initiatives failed in Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. Another initiative may be on the ballot in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough of Alaska. I-933 in Washington state has been a particularly controversial measure.

In addition to more general controversies associated with ALG (see below), critics of ALG's property rights efforts have focused on two pragmatic areas: first, critics claim that those initiatives will make government incapable of regulating land use. [ [ "Nature Conservancy Opposes I-933"] ] Second, critics claim that the kind of initiatives ALG supports will cost tax payers billions of dollars as it requires compensating businesses for complying with existing laws. [ [ "Study puts I-933's cost in billions." "Seattle Post-Intelligencer" 9/27/2006] ]

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

ALG also supports initiatives to enact Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TaBOR) laws, which require states annually to reduce or restrict revenue or spending to within limits set according to inflation and population growth. These laws provide for "rainy day" (emergency) funds as well as the ability for state voters to decide whether their representatives should spend revenue surpluses rather than have it refunded to the taxpayers. Colorado voters passed the best-known example of a TABOR law in 1992 and later voted to suspend its restrictions via the 2005 Colorado Economic Recovery Act] . []

The 2006 TaBOR initiatives were referred to variously as Stop OverSpending (SOS) (in Nebraska), Taxpayer Bill of Rights (in Maine and Oklahoma) and the Rainy Day Amendment (in Oregon). The Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out the TaBOR initiative in that state because it had too few signatures and because the "evidence support [ed] substantial illegal participation of out-of-state circulators." [ [ In re: Initiative Petition No. 379, 2006 OK 60] ] A subsequent opinion will be issued addressing the details. Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio have also removed TABOR from the ballot; initiatives were on the ballot, but voted down, in Maine and Oregon.

ALG's promotion of TaBOR, as well as TaBOR itself, has resulted in controversy. Opponents of TABOR claim that the lack of tax revenue that results from such legislation harms state infrastructure [ [ National Education Association opposition to TABOR] ] . After the principles of TaBOR were written into the Colorado constitution, for example, there was a substantial drop in funding for education and money for public works. Under TaBOR, Colorado declined from 35th to 49th in the nation in K-12 spending as a percentage of personal income. Colorado’s average per-pupil funding fell by more than $400 relative to the national average, Colorado’s average teacher salary compared to average pay in other occupations declined from 30th to 50th in the nation, and funding for higher education per resident student dropped by 31 percent after adjusting for inflation. In addition, Colorado consistently ranks among the nation’s worst providers of on time vaccinations for children and the number of low-income children without health insurance has doubled in recent years. [ [ 10-19-05sfp.doc ] ] Supporters of TaBOR counter that the legislation has spurred economic growth and made government more efficient, and dispute the findings of their critics. [ [ Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights Should Not Be Breached ] ] As noted above, Colorado residents voted to suspend TaBOR for five years in 2005.

Public Schools

ALG promotes a controversial free-market approach to the American public school system based on vouchers or charter schools, arguing that competition among schools will increase both the quality and the economic efficiency of public education [ [ ALG on School Choice] ] [ Caroline Hoxby on school choice and school competition] ] . The organization claims that privatizing American schools will decrease education spending, promote accountability in school administration, and permit parents a greater degree of control over the schools their children attend. Opponents claim that ever since Milton Friedman suggested the concept during the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, vouchers have functioned to increase racial and economic discrimination in schools, beginning in the late 1950s with the appearance of segregation academies [ [ PFAW opposition to vouchers] ] . Critics also contend that since approximately four out of five US private schools are religious, voucher and charter systems violate the Constitution [ [ NEA opposition to vouchers] ] .

Recall of Judges

A fourth issue of concern for ALG is accountability in the judicial system [ [ ALG on Judicial Reform] ] . The group was involved in efforts to pass the Montana Constitutional Initiative 98 in 2006 [| Constitutional Initiative 98] , which would have allowed voters in that state to recall elected judges or justices for any reason. At present, Montana provides for the recall of these officials only in cases of incapacity, incompetence, misconduct, or felony. The initiative, along with two others, was removed from the ballot due to fraudulent signature gathering techniques, by a unanimous decision of the Montana Supreme Court. [ [ - News ] ]


In addition to the specific controversies associated with individual issues and initiatives (discussed above), ALG has been the subject of several more general forms of criticism.

In 2006, petition drive management companies hired to collect signatures for ALG-supported initiative campaigns were the subject of accusations, lawsuits and other difficulties. On October 2, 2007, Paul Jacob, [] once a senior advisor to ALG, became one of three people indicted for conspiring against the state of Oklahoma on the matter of conspiring to "defraud the state" on matters related to hiring out-of-state petitioners. [ [ "Indictment Lists Three in TABOR Case"] , "Tulsa World", October 3, 2007] [cite news
title=Grand jury indicts three TABOR petition organizers
date=October 32007
work=The Journal Record

ALG has been criticized for representing wealthy out-of-state interests under the guise of local grassroots activism. [ [ "Oregonian" criticism of ALG] ] [ [ TABOR activism criticized] ] [ [ "Taking the Initiative." "Now" 9/22/2006] ]

In September 2008, ALG sent letters to persons who had donated funds to Democratic candidates for the 2008 elections attempting to surpress financial support for Democratic candidates through use of bullying tactics and intimidation. The letter threatened to "publicize [recipient's] involvement in [recipient's] local community" and threatened to link the receipients of the letters to alleged, but not articulated, "left-wing" organizations. The letter, signed by "Howard Rich, Chairman" also threatened to link receipients with reports of voter fraud and were accompanied by a nonspecific memorandum describing reporting requirements under Federal Election Commission guidelines purportedly authored by Frank M. Northam, an attorney with the law firm of Webster, Chamberlain & Bean in Washington, DC.

Additional information

Libertarian political pundits such as Howard Rich and Ed Crane are involved in the organization and its campaigns.

External links

* [ Americans for Limited Government]
* [ Takings Initiatives Accountability Project]
* [ "The Oregonian" on Howard Rich]
* [ "The Oregonian" on ALG]
* [ PBS on Howard Rich and ALG]


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