OK Rep. Key defends citizens' right to petition; questions AG's understanding of Constitution

OKLAHOMA CITY_"Our attorney general is treating the constitutions of this country and this state like so much tissue paper to sneeze on," state Rep. Charles Key said today in response to the recent indictment of three citizen activists under fire for helping Oklahoma citizens petition their government.

The October 2 indictment of Paul Jacob, Susan Johnson, and Rick Carpenter-who worked on a petition drive to put a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) measure on the 2006 ballot-is "a grotesque abuse of Edmondson's office," Key said.

The measure would have limited the growth of state spending.

Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge; Johnson, president of National Voter Outreach; and Carpenter, president of Oklahomans in Action, are charged with willfully flouting a residency requirement for persons gathering signatures for the petition. If convicted, the three could be imprisoned for ten years.

Key suggested that the four-term attorney general take the time to read the U.S. Constitution and the Oklahoma State Constitution.

"Apparently Drew Edmondson is more schooled in power politics and trampling the rights of the innocent people than in his basic obligation to uphold the law," said Key, R-Oklahoma City. "Four times now Mister Edmondson has taken an oath of office to 'support, obey and defend' the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma-and to discharge his duties to the 'best of his ability.'

"You shouldn't make that vow if you're not acquainted with the documents you are vowing to defend. But how you can read them without seeing the parts about the right of citizens to petition their government and the right of Oklahoma citizens to act to bring an initiative question to ballot? And how can you defend these constitutionally protected rights by grasping at some trumped-up technicality to try to destroy innocent people for their good-faith efforts in helping Oklahoma citizens to exercise those rights?"

Key said that the right of the people "peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. As for the Oklahoma Constitution, it states that "The people have the right peaceably to assemble for their own good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances by petition, address, or remonstrance." Article 5 lays out initiative and referendum rights, and stipulates that "The first power reserved by the people is the initiative..."

"I hope Attorney General Edmondson will have a chance to review the U.S. Constitution and the Oklahoma State Constitution in the near future.  Perhaps his chief of staff can schedule an hour that he can devote to studying them."

(From the Office of State Rep. Charles Key)