News Director Sean Gilbow of WVKO 1580AM recently outed an extreme right-wing organization that is behind the attempt by Taxpayers for Westerville Schools to repeal the Westerville Public School levy. Westerville Schools, considered one of the premier school districts in central Ohio is coming under heavy attack from a small group of anti-government zealots that are bringing the politics of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and the Kochs to Ohio.
Under Ohio law, a temporary tax issue such as the 5-year levy passed by Westerville Schools cannot be repealed. So instead, the group is seeking to repeal the permanent 2009 tax issue instead, and have elicited the help of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.
Why do they call it the “1851 Center for Constitutional Law“? The date refers to the adoption of the current Ohio Constitution. But what their moniker doesn’t tell you is that the organization yearns to return to the “good old days” of pre-Civil War America. The Center is doing legal work for Right-to-Work anti-union so-called Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment. Its executive director, Maurice A. Thompson, was the lead attorney in the 2008 Ohio Republican Party RICO (Racketeering, Influence and Corruption) suit against ACORN (Association of Communities Organizing for Reform Now).
Under the guise of “improving the business climate” in Ohio, the Center is pushing the agenda of the Koch brothers already defeated by Ohio voters by 25 points in the vote against Senate Bill 5 last year. The Center has printed a guide to show citizens how they can “roll back tax levies.”
On the 1851 Center website, they note that, “On May 7, 2012, taxpayers for Westerville Schools, with the representation of the 1851 Center, commenced circulation of an initiative petition to repeal the $6.71 mil tax increase narrowly approved in March. . . .”
The Center goes on to claim that, “The Westerville effort marks the inaugural action of the 1851 Center in assisting taxpayers in using a previously obscure section of the Ohio Revised Code to lower their school district’s tax burdens, while forcing Ohio school districts to control spending and reign in labor costs rather than raising taxes.” The Center is also advocating that the government of Ohio “reduce the number of times per year school districts may place tax increases on the ballot from three to one.”
Bradley A. Smith serves as the chairman of the Center’s board. A law professor at Capital University, he’s perhaps the leading advocate in America for allowing the wealthy to contribute unlimited funds to candidates. His book, Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform, published in 2001, was a precursor to the Citizens United decision. He also has represented the Chamber of Commerce in litigation.
Historically, the public and scholars assume that 1% of the population giving unlimited funds to influence campaigns is inherently corrupt, elitist and undemocratic.
Smith was appointed to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) where he argued that unlimited spending was simply a form of free speech. In 2004, he served as Chairman of the FEC. Not surprisingly, Unfree Speech was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its controversial Citizens United decision.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a throwback to the 19th century robber barons. It is anti-worker, pro-plutocrat, detests the idea of public schools, and works for the wealthiest 1% while cloaking their beliefs in the rhetoric of freedom.
Bob Fitrakis is Editor of freepress.org, where this article first appeared.