Sunday, April 23, 2006

TEL Me Another One

The pattern is now set for debate on J. Ken Blackwell’s TEL Amendment from here on out. First, opponents of the amendment will point out a feature of the amendment that will cause problems. Then J. Ken will lie about it. He will not mislead or obfuscate or distract or spin. He will lie, baldly and forcefully. He will decry the lies his opponents tell about his beloved amendment – lying with a ten point degree of difficulty. If TEL opponents succeed in getting it knocked off the ballot, freeing him from the obligation to defend it, expect to hear at some point, “I did not have relations with that ballot issue – the TEL Amendment.” We are talking about that level of lying.

Today’s topic is capital expenditures. The Columbus Dispatch talks to various public officials about TEL constraining efforts to buy new equipment, build things, what have you. Then they ask J. Ken for his take:

A key point of disagreement is whether the limit would apply to capital
improvements by cities and other local governments. Blackwell says it would not
because such spending is not mentioned by the amendment and money could be set
aside in separate accounts for projects.
Even when confronting lies that so patently defy apparent facts as to insult the intelligence of the audience, papers can dispiritingly fall into the false equivalency trap of reporting “on the one hand, but on the other hand,” and leaving it at that. Ken’s lie in this case is too much the hanging curve ball for the CD let the pitch go by. Instead of settling for the arguments of those cited up top, they interview lawyers, Michael Coleman and Barry Poulson, one of the last True Believers in the Colorado TABOR amendment. All say J.Ken is full of it.

Finally, they excerpt the amendment itself. Since we can play with a little more space, here’s the entire section defining “Aggregate State Expenditures:”
"Aggregate state expenditures" means the sum of all state expenditures, except that "aggregate state expenditures" shall not include expenditures of moneys (a) received from a revenue source other than taxes, licenses, permits, fees or sales, (b) received from the federal government, (c) for refunds of any kind, or (d) made pursuant to a bill which (i) authorizes temporary expenditures for the sole purpose of providing relief directly related to an emergency, (ii) specifically identifies by appropriation item the amount and purpose of each temporary expenditure and the specific source of the revenue necessary to fund that expenditure, (iii) limits the temporary expenditure to the amount and
specific purpose identified in the bill, (iv) provides for the expenditure of
all federal or other moneys earmarked or otherwise designated for general
emergency relief, and then the entire budget reserve fund, before any other
funds shall be expended for the emergency, and (v) receives the affirmative vote
of not less than three-fifths of the members of each house of the general
assembly [emphasis added].
“All,” Ken. Your amendment says “All.” Your “it doesn’t name capital expenditures” argument isn’t an alternative interpretation, it’s a hang-your-head-in-shame lie.

No news story will flat-out say a public figure is lying. If you want to see how close a paper can come without actually doing so, check out this story.