COLUMBUS, Oh. - In order to get Ohio's pending anti-adult law, SB 16 (also referred to as the "Community Defense Act," or CDA, by its supporters), onto the state ballot in November, the united effort of dance clubs and adult bookstores needed to gather 241,366 signatures from registered Ohio voters in 44 of the state's 88 counties – and that job is nearing completion.
"I know as of this morning, we were just under 300,000," affirmed Sandy Theis, spokesperson for Citizens for Community Standards (CCS) and Dancers for Democracy (DfD), the two organizations leading the fight for the ballot measure. "Sept. 3 is the day we have to turn them in, and then the Secretary of State sends them to the County Boards of Elections, and that takes usually 10 days or so, and then she will come back to us and say, 'You need more signatures' or 'You need more counties.' And when she says that, we will have 10 more business days to collect them."
"The stuff [batches of signed petitions] comes in so frequently that the information I received last night is now old," she added. "I know we had about a dozen counties totally done, and I know there were some others that were close."
But as CCS and DfD ready for their final push, it's clear that their efforts are already having an effect on their opponents, including the recently-formed Institute for Principled Policy (IPP), which today posted on its blog an article titled, "When Is Enough Not Enough?"
The group answered its own question in the opening paragraph: "When it’s only 3% more than the minimum required number of valid signatures for a ballot initiative."
Actually, CCS now has about 20% more than the minimum required number, but it's doubtful that that would make a difference to IPP.
"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," the IPP blog entry continues. "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."
IPP refers to CCS as "duplicitously named" for its similarity to the theocon organization Citizens for Community Values (CCV), which drove the petition drive that got the law passed in the first place – and more recently has sued CCS in an attempt to force it to change its name.
"Our court case over our name is still pending," Theis stated. "They [CCV] sent us a cease-and-desist order, which is a threat to sue, and we said no, we're not going to cease or desist, and then we filed a challenge to their attempt to trademark the term 'Citizens for Community Values,' so they responded by countersuing us. They insisted that we did it [chose the CCS name] to cause confusion."
Apparently, CCV is unaware of the history of right-wing organizations deliberately choosing names similar to progressive organizations, such as Pat Robertson's "American Center for Law & Justice" (ACLJ), the theocon "answer" to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the conservative front group "Progress for America," whose name was apparently chosen for its similarity to the progressive Center for American Progress, but which was forced recently to shut down, redirecting visitors to its URL to a page titled, "Progress for America Voter Fund Statement on the Announced Settlement with the Federal Election Commission."
(Seems that, while "not admitting to any wrong doing," the organization "will pay $750,000 and agree to register as a political committee if it undertakes any activities similar to those in 2004," when it helped with the "Swift-Boating" of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.)
IPP also claims on its blog that "there appears to be rampant fraud in gathering signatures for the petitions," referring to a story by reporter Bill Cohen, who recorded one CCS petition gatherer apparently claiming that putting the CDA on the ballot would help "restrict the hours of strip clubs."
"They continue to say that we're doing that," Theis responded, "and we fired 1% of our paid circulators, which is pretty good if you compare that with any other business endeavor, but when we find that people are not properly representing what's in the petitions, we get rid of them."
"Let me compare that with CCV," she continued. "Their lawyer [Scott Bergthold] testified before a legislative committee and incorrectly told the committee that the law they were peddling in Ohio was in place – a similar law was in place in eight other states. That was not the case. There was a sort of similar one in place in one state, but it wasn't a state-wide law, so he gave incorrect information, and he's their lawyer. And then the CCV had to come back the next day and 'clarify' their testimony. So we think that's another of the differences between the two of us: When we make a mistake, we correct it."
But the IPP blog entry confirms one of the primary problems with the CDA to which its opponents have called attention from the start.
"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," claims the IPP blog in bold red letters, and adult business owners and supporters are certain that that's what CCV and its theocon partners across the country will attempt to do if the CDA is upheld in Ohio.
"Ohio is a pivotal state for the adult business industry," IPP's blog entry tells its supporters. "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." [Emphasis added]
That last, of course, is a lie.
CCS fully expects to survive its review by Ohio's Secretary of State, and is even claiming a particularly gratifying victory as a result of its petition gathering last week at the state capital.
"We had our Dancers for Democracy in downtown Columbus, because that's where the state house press corps gathers," Theis noted, "We had five different television cameras show up for our event, and some of them put microphones on the dancers as they worked around the state house and collected signatures. Not only did they have people waiting in line to sign, but two state senators who voted for this bill signed our petition because they said they believe the public has a right to vote on it. So while the other side is trying to deny our right to vote, two of the senators who actually supported the law signed the petition and said they believe the public has a right to vote, so we were very happy to see that."
But the fight is hardly over, since supporters of the bill will be trying to invalidate as many signatures as possible. So in order for the fight to continue, adult businesses across the country are urged to make contributions to the petition effort, which can now be done on the organization's website, www.citizensforcommunitystandards.org . Contributions, large or small, can also be mailed to:
c/o Rondee Kamins
3700 Kelley Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44114
C/O LD Management
Attention: Jim Everett
110 East Wilson Ridge Rd. Suite 100
Worthington, Ohio 43085
(Make checks payable to "BACE.")
Copies of the petition itself are also available on the CCS website, as well as instructions on how to gather signatures, with Theis noting, "They should also read the circulator instructions, because it's complicated."