As the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, told us last week, his organization plans to back a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot in Missouri called Your Vote Counts.
And Pacelle wasn't kidding around. Campaign finance records show that the Humane Society has already channeled $64,957 in resources toward the Your Vote Counts campaign -- making it the effort's biggest donor to date.
So what is Your Vote Counts? Technically, it has nothing to do with cats and dogs. But it has everything to do with a controversial piece of legislation involving the Humane Society last fall: Prop B, or the anti-puppy mill initiative.
In November 2010, the Humane Society and its allies eked out a hard-fought win at the ballot box, persuading the tiniest plurality of Missouri voters to enact strict new regulations on dog breeders here. But that victory was quickly undone in the Missouri Legislature, which approved a bill gutting everything the voters had just approved. When Governor Nixon signed into law the "Missouri Compromise," many of the harshest restrictions approved by voters were nowhere to be seen.
Enter Your Vote Counts. As Pacelle admits, the Humane Society decided to back the constitutional amendment in direct response to what happened to Prop B. If approved by voters in November 2012, the initiative would mandate protections for future citizen initiatives -- the Legislature would no longer be able to undo the will of the people without mustering a three-fourths majority.
In preliminary paperwork for the committee pushing the new initiative, the Humane Society's fingerprints are clear: Not only is the committee's treasurer the same guy who performed that role for the Prop B campaign, Bradley Ketcher, but Humane Society cash has already been rolling in.
To date, Your Vote Counts has reported $25,000 in contributions, all of it from the Humane Society, and $47,214 in "in-kind contributions," with the lion's share of that ($39,957) coming from, yes, the Humane Society.
The only other in-kind contribution reported to date, valued at $7,257, is from "Citizens in Charge," a Virginia-based group that fights to protect the initiative and referendum process.
Other backers for Your Vote Counts include some frequent Humane Society allies (the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society), one group we've never heard of, but whose position we can hardly argue with (Stop Child Predators), and the populist low-tax wing of the conservative movement (Grover Norquist's group Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union).
So, in other words, it's just your everyday run-of-the-mill coalition of animal welfare groups and right-wing activists. Ought to be very, very interesting indeed.