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When it’s only 3% more than the minimum required number of valid signatures for a ballot initiative. The duplicitously named Citizens For Community Standards (CCS) is making sure everybody knows that they have exceeded their goal of 241,366 signatures on a referendum petition designed to bring the recently passed Community Defense Act (CDA) to the ballot for a yes or no vote in the November election. Media outlets are dutifully (and some joyfully) reporting that the Dancers For Democracy, a front group for the strip club and sex equipment and book shop owners, have achieved their goal and even exceeded it.
Left out of many of the major media stories, however, is the fact that 3% over the total necessary for the initiative will yield nothing close to the required number of valid signatures, unless a miracle of Biblical proportions occurs in the 88 county boards of election in Ohio. So what is a valid signature anyway? A valid signature is the legal signature of an Ohio citizen of majority age (18) who is registered to vote in Ohio or will be registered by the time the petitions are being validated. Very importantly, and virtually ignored by the media outlets is that in order for the signatures to be valid, the signers must have something approaching a true understanding of what they’re signing.
As we have blogged in the past there appears to be rampant fraud in gathering signatures for the petitions. Two of the previously blogged stories from Ohio Public Radio’s Bill Cohen contained recordings of the actual fraudulent pitches being made. In a follow up report on August 3, 2007 Cohen again reports that the fraudulent pitches are still being made and that unsuspecting Ohioans are being conned into signing petitions that will stop the implementation of a law that the signers actually want to take effect. This audio report is also accompanied by recordings of signature gatherers engaging in fraud. In one case the petitioner has told a signer that he is signing a petition to “…help kids in schools…” In another follow up report on August 9, 2007, Bill Cohen reports that CCS is making efforts to “stop the fraud” and have fired 10 petitioners and claim to have thrown out their petitions (with 4 fired in the Toledo area earlier with no promises of thrown out petitions). But, when aggregating the Columbus Dispatch and Bill Cohen’s reports, at least four separate examples of fraud perpetrated by different petition gatherers in central Ohio alone are identified, this effort appears to be a token release of the offenders who got caught. CCS would have you believe that all responsibility for what is being signed lies with the signer. And that’s true as far as it goes. But they forget to mention that the petition carriers have a responsibility to provide an accurate description of what is being signed, not a purposeful con job. Additionally, potential signers have the right to request a visual inspection of the petition and a right to read the full text of the proposal before signing.
This may seem like nit-picking to the casual observer, but it is becoming apparent that CCS chose its name to deliberately confuse the electorate into believing it is the same group (Citizens For Community Values or CCV) that helped push through the CDA into law in the first place. Why would this be the case?
You see, Ohio is a pivotal state for the adult business industry. Ohio has the dubious distinction of ranking number 5 in the states with the largest number of strip clubs. On top of this fact is the ugly reality that Ohio is a major hub for human trafficking activities, thanks to its proximity to legal and illegal ports of entry (Buffalo, Cleveland, Lake Erie, Detroit) and easy access to travel routes to end destinations (I-80-90, I-75, I-71, etc). The adult business industry, specifically the businesses regulated by the CDA- strip clubs, massage parlors, pornography, etc. are all recognized as entry portals into human trafficking.
What happens here in Ohio often leads the rest of the country. The CDA regulations, once they take effect, could act as a model for other states. Therefore, a little deception to delay or repeal the implementation of the law is no big deal to the sexually oriented business industry. The longer the adult business moguls can hold off the implementation of this law the better for their profits, and conversely, the worse for the victims of human trafficking. A review of the first PAC filing of this industry group reveals that nearly half of the $125,000 raised so far came from pornography production and distribution companies in California. Hmmmm, what was that about “community standards” that the porn and stripper groups are trying to hide behind?
And that’s the missing element in the debate over CDA. The sex trade isn’t just a libertarian lark where women do “what they please” with their bodies and no one gets hurt. When Ohio State Senator Steve Stivers (R) pulled a “John Kerry” and voted for the CDA before he signed a petition to stop its implementation (yes, he did sign one and he knew what it was for) he exhibited a deep lack of understanding or a callousness to the human trafficking issues lurking underneath the sleek libertarian exterior of “freedom of expression” arguments put forward by the sex trade. In either case he has proven himself unworthy to represent his district on this issue, much less to become the leader of the “upper chamber” of the Ohio legislature, the Ohio Senate.
The same can be said of State Senator Teresa Fedor (D) whom we have blogged about earlier on this issue. Her blatant hypocrisy is a stunning self-expose, or would be if major media would take the time and effort to connect the dots. Fedor ignored the true realities of the nature of the sex industry and voted against the CDA, then actually appeared with the “Dancers For Democracy” (a lobbying group of strippers) and spoke at their press conference as they were trying to kill the bill as it was being deliberated on in the Ohio House.
Later, Fedor fulminated with mock “outrage” and “embarassment” at Lucas County Democratic Party officials over that party’s golf outing fundraiser, where strippers from a local establishment “refreshed” party regulars at beverage stops on the course. Guess Fedor is OK with lap dances, but not with foursome flashing. Now Fedor is reportedly preparing legislation to address the human trafficking issue. Hmmm, wonder if the Dancers for Democracy will be invited to that press conference?
The bottom line is that the “Dancers For Democracy” (in reality, Ecdysiasts For Anarchy is a better fit) have about 20 days to get an additional 140,000 or so (and realistically probably more like 200,000) signatures, in order to overcome the fake names, fraud challenges, invalid signatures, forgeries, etc. that plague petition drives, especially this one. The noise the strippers are making now is to soften the public toward the inevitable legal clash over ballot access in the fall and potential federal lawsuits to kill the law should they fail in tricking voters into voting against their own best interests. The federal lawsuit is probably inevitable, because in truth, this referendum is looking at a likely 65-35% drubbing if it reaches the ballot, according to recent polls on the issue.
The strippers will try to spin the campaign as being the “only hope for the poor helpless moms who have to strip to survive.” Thus, they will face-slap the thousands of women who work at hard, honest labor to finish school or support their children after being abandoned by husbands driven by unrealistic sexual expectations formed in the culture created in large part by the sex-traffickers. This strategy will backfire, as it did when the CDA was being debated in the Ohio Legislature- where our laws are made. Enough is enough.
No, enough really is enough.