The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is circulating an initiative petition in Missouri deceptively called, “Your Vote Counts.” On the surface, it may sound appealing. But when you consider the size and influence of HSUS’s out-of-state budget, is it your vote that counts or is it the money?
As you recall in 2010, Missouri voters – after HSUS and others spent $5 million for petition signature gatherers and slick advertising – approved Proposition B to further regulate dog breeders. In 2011, the Governor and a bipartisan, overwhelming majority of legislators passed a law to make the proposal reasonable and workable. HSUS’s Wayne Pacelle CEO was incensed Missouri’s elected officials would change his law and swore reprisal, giving rise to Your Vote Counts.
Pacelle’s initiative petition is a constitutional amendment that would require an almost-impossible-to-obtain three-fourths majority vote of the state legislature to change a law approved by a public vote. Your Vote Counts would give groups like HSUS more control and help protect the “public policy purchasing power” of their money.
The Missouri legislature is an important part of our checks and balances system of government, but with HSUS’s proposal, just nine of Missouri’s 197 legislators could prevent changing “bought laws” that are not in the best public interest.
In shaping Missouri public policy, the influence of HSUS and other extremists’ war chests is alarming. They are hijacking Missouri’s initiative petition process by simply paying people to collect signatures and their place on the ballot to advance their own agendas.
The fourth quarter fundraising report for the Your Vote Counts Committee shows 99.91 percent of its funding came from contributors outside of Missouri. Of the $164,853.92 raised, only $150 came from Missouri. In contrast, HSUS bankrolled the effort with $87,305.39, ASPCA (another animal rights group) gave $50,000 and the rest came from out-of-state contributors. All this money paid for gathering signatures, creating the false sense of a public groundswell.
Once the initiative petition proposal is placed on the ballot, their huge national budgets can be used to buy television, radio, newspaper and other advertising to sway a public vote. For the most part, voters will only see and hear one side of the story. In 2010, HSUS and other financers of Proposition B outspent opponents 25-to-1.
HSUS’s annual budget is almost $150 million. Sadly, the Washington, D.C.-based organization has all this money because most contributors believe they are helping fund their local pet shelters. Not so. Less than one percent actually goes to sheltering animals, while the remainder goes for fundraising, salaries, lawsuits and lobbying to shut down animal agriculture and sport hunting.
Buy the signatures, buy the commercials and now buy a constitutional amendment to increase their money’s influence even more. No matter what HSUS may call it, Your Vote Counts is about increasing their power, not yours. It perhaps should be renamed, Big Money Talks!
(Estil Fretwell, of Jefferson City, Mo. is director of public affairs for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)