December 12, 2000
Russ Howard, a former NRA director, was one of the principal architects of
ending the political career of rabidly anti-gun State Senator David Roberti of
California. Howard now faces an $808,000 fine.
Roberti and Assemblyman Mike Roos were the chief sponsors of the legislation
that banned semi-automatic firearms. They pushed it in the name of fighting
crime, even though then Attorney General Van de Kamp had found that the targeted
weapons were involved in less than one percent of the state's homicides.
Howard was a volunteer with Citizens Against Corruption (CAC) in 1990 when
the group spearheaded a campaign against Roos. While Roos was re-elected, his
amazingly small margin prompted his resignation a few months later after CAC
announced preparations for a recall campaign.
CAC employed a re-mail technique to leverage the relatively scarce grassroots
dollars they had raised to use against Roos. They made voter names in Roos'
district available to volunteers, with a letter explaining why Roos should be
voted out of office. The volunteers mailed the letters in their own envelopes
into Roos' district.
CAC volunteers bore all the expenses themselves. These donations were
independent expenditures that were way less than what would be required to be
reported to the state's speech police, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).
Later the Commission would include non-reporting of unknowable independent
volunteer expenses as part of the unconstitutionally draconian fine (the Eighth
Amendment bars excessive fines).
In 1992, Howard became executive director of Citizens Against Corruption.
Because redistricting had unfavorably shifted David Roberti's old Hollywood
district, he ran that year in a special election for a Senate seat that was
vacated when one of his cronies went to prison for extortion. It was a safe
Democratic district, but the hope was to force him to spend enough in the
primary to wound him. CAC's efforts indeed resulted in Roberti spending
$2,500,000 on the primary and the runoff.
Roberti raised so much money that other campaigns around the state were
harmed because money they might have raised went to Roberti instead. Partly
because Democrats worried that he might do it again, he later had to step down
as President of the Senate.
Immediately after Roberti limped into the runoff primary victory circle, CAC
began planning a recall campaign on him. The April 1994 legislative recall was
the first to qualify for the ballot since 1914. Roberti had about maxed out his
political credit card with Democrat donors. And what made them even less
inclined to extend him more political financing was the fact that he was to be
term-limited out at the end of 1994.
Moreover, Roberti had announced his candidacy for the State Treasurer's
office. That primary was scheduled for June 1994, just a few weeks after the
recall. This jacked his need for campaign funds much higher, even while his
credit limit with fellow-Democrats was being exhausted.
Roberti survived the recall, but only by a small margin. The primary election
for Treasurer was just a few weeks away, and Roberti lost. He blamed the
"gun lobby" for ending his career by exhausting his resources.
But Howard learned that fighting people like Roberti was a contact sport.
During the petition campaign to force the recall election, the firm getting
signed petitions for Citizens Against Corruption explained that Roberti had made
them too good an offer.
Moreover, the recall Chairman, Bill Dominguez, was personally victimized. His
firearms collection was stolen from his house. Even though Dominguez never
reported the theft to the press, Roberti's campaign began gloating within hours
that an "arsenal" had been stolen.
Howard received death threats. CAC Chairman Richard Carone and his wife
received lewd and threatening calls. Donors complained of harassment. CAC
headquarters was burglarized, and Roberti claimed to have a "mole" in
the campaign. It appeared that part of CAC's mailing list had been stolen and
that political hate mail was being sent to members.
In view of Roberti's great power, his dirty colleagues and the very real
threats being made, Howard chose to withhold the full identities of CAC's
donors, although the donation amounts were reported. This decision was
consistent with Supreme Court rulings that have held that disclosure must be
waived in such conditions.
The Fair Political Practices Commission did not see it that way. It held that
donor identities should have been reported along with all the volunteers who
re-mailed anti-Roberti letters. Contrary to the law that prohibits stacking by
one party, two of the five Commission seats were vacant during the time in
question, enabling Roberti's pals to do their evil deeds in darkness.
Now Howard is in court. The FPPC wants to make the $808,000 fine a court
judgment. The trial judge is none other than Lloyd Connelly, a former anti-gun
assemblyman and political ally of Mike Roos and David Roberti. Connelly has
admitted that Roos donated $5,000 to one of his campaigns, and that Roberti paid
$12,000 to Connelly's law firm.
But, Judge Connelly says that there is no conflict here, and that is why he
said nothing of it until he was confronted with it. And of course, he is not
willing to recuse himself.
The anti-gun extremists in California are trying to do to Howard what he did
to Roberti. But whereas Howard worked through the electoral process with money
voluntarily given for the cause, Roberti, Roos and Connelly are using tax money
to conduct a vendetta through the machinery of government.
Please step up to the plate. Don't let Russ Howard be hung out to dry. He
desperately needs funds to pay his legal bills.
You can get a tax deduction for helping Howard by writing out a check to Gun
Owners Foundation and writing Howard on the memo line. Every dollar that comes
in for Howard will go towards his legal expenses.
You can donate at http://www.gunowners.com/ldfhoward.htm
on the GOF website, or by calling GOF (using GOA's toll free number) at
888-886-GUNS. Or, you can print out the response form below.
Please give as much as you can. Russ Howard desperately needs your help. And,
please, forward this message to as many others as you can. To make a
tax-deductible contribution through Gun Owners Foundation for Russ Howard, go to
and use the secure server.
To contribute by mail or fax, please print out the form on the above link and
send your tax-deductible contribution to:
Campaign Laws Aim to Stifle Pro-Gun Activist
Gun Owners Foundation E-Mail/FAX Alert
8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151
Phone: 703-321-8585 / FAX: 703-321-8408