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Saturday essay: A public smearing

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Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

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The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 8:55 p.m.

Americans for Limited Government (ALG) stands for lots of great things — free markets, private property rights and core American liberties. But the libertarian group laid a rotten egg this election cycle with its “Vote History Audit.”

The “audit of public voting records in your neighborhood” mailing of Oct. 22 — supposedly a get-out-the-vote effort — turned into a bush-league, error-filled exercise that smacked of decidedly un-libertarian Big Brotherism.

One of the 2.75 million people in 19 states targeted in the mailing was my younger daughter. ALG says “public voting records” indicate that she didn't vote in 2004.

Well, there's a good reason for that — she was 14 at the time. And her name was part of no “public voting records” then.

One of my newest neighbors across the street also was listed. She voted in neither 2004 nor 2008, ALG claims. Funny, but the neighbor at this address who supposedly didn't vote didn't even live there then.

The group's mailer stated it “wanted to present you with findings of past civic participation in your community.” Sounds like a direct lift from a banana republic's propaganda manual. As the saying goes, ain't nobody's business but your own.

But, based on news accounts from across the country, ALG publicly smeared a lot of folks in a lot of states on a lot of streets in a lot of neighborhoods.

“Data-entry errors” by a “contractor” are being blamed. And while Rick Manning, ALG's communications director, insists the errors are statistically small, he told me Americans for Limited Government will decide if it will attempt to determine exactly what percentage of the mailings were inaccurate.

It's the least it could do.

— Colin McNickle

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