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Libertarian attorney general candidate shines light on death penalty, drug war

September 14, 2000
By: Katy Scott
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Although born in America's heartland, the Libertarian candidate for Missouri's attorney general has values not often associated with his Iowa birthplace -- including the legalization of now-illegal drugs.

His beliefs about drug laws are what Mitch Moore said brought him to the Libertarian party. It was at a NORML meeting that a leading Libertarian approached Moore, who has spent most of his life in Columbia, about politics.

And Moore has a lot to say about the political state of the country, mostly about how it can be improved. He said he sees a coorelation between politics and "Survivor," the TV game show.

"It all comes down to picking a number between one and 10," he said from his Columbia law office, sitting in front of shelves holding both leather-bound legal books and red, white and blue beanie babies.

The 46-year-old knows something about surviving in politics: He's run for four public offices in the past eight years, winning none. But the Libertarian has gone farther than many in his party.

In 1992's race for attorney general, Moore won more than 92,000 votes, a number greater than Jay Nixon's margin of victory in that election. By some standards, that alone is a victory for a third-party candidate.

One reason Moore, and third-party candidates in general, struggle to get votes is a lack of money, said Jeanne Bojarski, communications director for the Missouri Libertarian Party.

"Candidates get contributions because, in return, they're going to give some kind of favor," she said. "We want smaller government. That makes it difficult because we don't have a lot of favors we can give."

Not only does a lack of money affect third-party candidates, but the abundance of contributions given to their opponents also can be a problem in campaigns. Moore said his Democratic opponent for attorney general, incumbent Nixon, has the ability to raise a million dollars, something most third-party candidates would be lucky to do throughout their entire career.

And, Moore said, that discrepancy in funding could be exasserbated if public campaign financing is allowed.

"One issue we have that's going to be on the ballot is taxpayer-funded campaigns, which shut out third parties effectively, and even if you qualify, they only give you a small percentage of the money," he said.

For several reasons, with very few exceptions, third-party candidates in the United States suffer defeat after defeat. Moore said a lot of that is because most voters view third-party candidates as extremists or one-issue candidates. But, he said, the Libertarian party is one political organization that doesn't fall into those categories.

"Libertarians have been on all 50 ballots presidential-wise for the last three cycles," he said. "We're not a one-issue party. We take a stand on all the issues."

Moore is concentrating on some controversial issues during this campaign. He has come out against both the death penalty and drug laws.

Capital punishment has been in the spotlight since Illinois Gov. George Ryan placed a moratorium on executions in that state this past February. Moore, like many death penalty opponents, said the death penalty is expensive, final and racist.

"When are you ever going to see a rich person get executed," he said. "And this is the only punishment where if you later find out the guy is innocent, you can't take it away."

Moore's concentration on a repeal of drug laws has also brought about some controversy. He said he bases his position, in part, on evidence that laws against drugs do nothing but help drug kingpins. Because drugs are illegal, Moore said, they are very profitable. He said the only way to get rid of drug dealers is to get the money out of their business.

Moore also is shining a light on taxes.

"We want to practically do away with taxes," he said.

Instead, Moore said, if people got a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for giving to charities, many government-supported social programs could be eliminated because taxpayers would spend money normally used for taxes on donations to such programs.

Moore also said that, unlike the two major parties, Libertarians advocate a live-and-let-live policy. And the consequences of not adhering to such a philosophy could be detrimental, he said.

"Our freedoms are getting eaten away," he said.

Moore compared voters to a bird in a cage. After years in a cage, even if it's allowed to be free, it will return to the cage, he said.

"They vote Republican or Democrat because their parents or their grandparents and generations have voted that way," he said.

Because Moore is not with a major party, Bojarski said it will be difficult for him to win this race, but she also said he is a great attorney general candidate.

"Mitch has been very active in civil liberties causes for all of his career," she said. "And that spans, I would say, about 20 years."

Moore, who lives in Columbia with his wife and 6-year-old nephew, said he can promise voters one thing they won't get if a major-party candidate is elected.

"It's the only vote that'll get you real change," he said. "If you vote for Democrats or Republicans, your vote's not going to matter ... There's very little difference between those two big parties."