In order to be clear up front we are letting you know the following;
If you favor the implementation of the Community Defense Act, the law which forces strip clubs with liquor licenses to close at midnight and makes it a crime for a non-family member to touch a nude dancer while she is working, then DO NOT SIGN ANY PETITIONS BEING CIRCULATED. Despite what you are being told, THE PETITIONS ARE NOT TO REGULATE STRIP CLUBS THEY ARE TO STOP THE REGULATION OF STRIP CLUBS!
At least two major news outlets are reporting that petitioners collecting signatures for a referendum which would stop the implementation of SB 16, the Community Defense Act (CDA) are lying to voters to obtain their signatures. A front group formed by strip club owners calling itself Citizens For Community Standards began the petition drive shortly after the CDA was passed and allowed to go into law without Governor Strickland’s signature. The CDA is a bill which regulates the operating hours of strip clubs with liquor licenses and creates a “no-touch” zone around nude dancers which effectively prohibits so-called “lap dances.”
Ohio Public Radio reporter Bill Cohen broke the story and filed 2 reports which include audio of the fraudulent collection presentation by petitioners. The first report is Some on petitions to change new strip club rules may be surprised at what they’ve signed. This first report is a review of what the petition drive is all about. Most importantly, it is damning evidence of outright fraud through misrepresenting the purpose of the petition in getting signatures by petitioners. It is clear from the interviews that petition signers do not understand that they have signed a petition which causes the law to not go into effect until a referendum is held.
The second is Strip club owners, “values voters” group react to petition drive to change new rules on clubs. In this report you will hear spokesman for Citizens For Community Standards, Sandy Theis, attempt to explain away the fraud by saying that the issue is “inherently confusing” and that they didn’t “hire lawyers” to take signatures.
The Columbus Dispatch has also run a story titled Strip-club law: Petition collectors deceptive, some say in which they also document clear fraud by petitioners, in which potential signers were told that petitions were to “close strip clubs at midnight.” The article contains another quote from Sandy Theis who says circulators are “not intentionally misleading anybody. We’ve trained and retrained the circulators.” Really? What would you call telling a deliberate lie to get a signature, Ms. Theis? An inoperative statement, perhaps? A serial misunderstanding being repeated throughout the state? What script were the circulators trained on and is it possible that having been promised $15-20 per hour the circulators were finding out that the only way to actually meet those figures was to lie to the public because the other approach got them turned down too often? And what does this say for the prospects of passing this referendum if, by some miracle, the Citizens For Community Standards succeed in defrauding enough registered voters to get the required number of valid signatures? You can’t get that done by asking 14 year-olds to sign, as the circulator in the Dispatch story did.
These questions are only the beginning of what smart journalists should be asking. Why are news outlets treating the cease and desist trademark infringement letter from Citizens For Community Values (CCV, the family values group which got the CDA through the legislature) to Citizens For Community Standards (CCS) as if it’s inconsequential? The Dispatch‘s coverage is typical. They’re calling it the “name game.” But why hasn’t this raised questions in journalist’s minds? In the light of the clear fraud being perpetrated by the petitioners shouldn’t they be at least thinking about why a name so close to CCV’s would have been chosen? Wouldn’t a reasonable person, in the light of CCS activities in collecting signatures, at least consider the possibility that the name was chosen in order to deceive voters into thinking they were signing petitions being circulated by CCV, a group which has a proven track record in successful referendum and ballot issue drives in the recent past?
Another question, in light of the tacit admission by the individual circulators that sufficient signatures cannot be gathered ethically, is why CCS is going through with this dog-and-pony show of continuing to take signatures? Is it possible that is merely a delaying tactic? When insufficient valid signatures are turned in, is it not possible that CCS is counting on using the maximum allowable time before the ballot access deadline for a fall referendum, and that then they plan to drop an injunction stopping the implementation of the law anyway, when the effort is finally ruled to have fallen short by the Ohio Secretary of State? Keep in mind that this tactics could stretch actual implementation of the law into next year! Where is journalistic curiosity in this matter?
Since CCS has stated that there will eventually be legal action taken, it is important that as much evidence of fraud be collected as possible. If you’ve been approached by a petition circulator in the last few weeks and asked to sign a petition that would close strip clubs at midnight, regulate strip clubs, make it illegal to touch dancers, etc. we would like to hear about it. Please let the Institute For Principled Policy know at this email address. There’s no shame in being deceived or lied to. We just need to know.