Opinion
Ray Sanford awaits a haircut in a barbershop in downtown Rogers, Arkansas, December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Sullivan Ray Sanford awaits a haircut in a barbershop in downtown Rogers, Arkansas, December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andy Sullivan  

Lone rangers beset by government bullies, unite!

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Christina Walsh
Director of Activism and Coalitions, Institute for Justice
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      Christina Walsh

      Christina Walsh serves as the Institute for Justice's Director of Activism and Coalitions. Through her outreach efforts and grassroots organizing nationwide, she fights for property owners to keep what is rightfully theirs; parents to choose where their children go to school; entrepreneurs' right to make an honest living; and the average citizen's freedom to speak.

      Prior to expanding our grassroots efforts to all four of the Institute's litigation pillars, Walsh traveled the country, educating and organizing property owners and activists whose homes and businesses were threatened by eminent domain for private gain. Through community meetings, rallies, protests and workshops, Walsh has helped defeat tax-hungry governments that seek to condemn perfectly fine properties for land-hungry private developers. She successfully organized home and small business owners in Chicago, Ill., Wilmington, Del., New York City, and across New Jersey and California, and has forged strong alliances that span the philosophical spectrum. Walsh has been quoted extensively in news outlets across the country. She now applies those same grassroots techniques to the Institute's fights for economic liberty, free speech and school choice.

      Walsh provides legislative support to state and local lawmakers, and coordinates Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, a series of independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice that examines the issue of eminent domain.

      Christina received her undergraduate degree in Political Theory from the University of Virginia in 2004, and joined the Institute upon graduation.

We are raised to believe that our chance to succeed shouldn’t depend on our wealth, politics, race or zip code.

But every single day, special interests convince the government to use its power to take opportunity away from those with fewer resources and less power, in order to enrich themselves more. They lobby to limit the entrepreneur’s ability to start a business, prohibit families from getting their kids a good education, silence voters and activists, and deny property owners the right to keep what rightfully belongs to them.

It is time for the left and right to come together and end this assault on the vulnerable.

Consider Jestina Clayton. Jestina began braiding hair during her childhood in Sierra Leone; she brought this skill with her to Utah after fleeing from a civil war in her native land. A couple of years after starting her business she was told she needed a license to practice, which required her to spend thousands of dollars on 2,000 hours of cosmetology training — which had very little, if anything, to do with African hairbraiding. The law threatened to put her out of work. Fortunately, in response to a lawsuit, the law was struck down. Hairbraiders across the nation, however, face similar laws, which are often passed at the behest of industry insiders — in this case, the cosmetology industry — who want to protect themselves from the competition of new, independent entrepreneurs.

Lexie Weck is a 12-year-old with autism, cerebral palsy and mild mental retardation. Her mom, Andrea, wanted to send her to a private school where she could get the tailored attention she needed. Thanks to a state-funded scholarship program for children with disabilities, she could do just that. Lexie flourished in her private school. But in response to a lawsuit filed by the teachers unions — committed to protecting their public school jobs by eliminating the competition of private schools — the Arizona Supreme Court struck down the program.

Likewise, small businesses aren’t safe, especially when the special interest seeking to abuse government power is the government itself. The federal government, for example, tried to take Russ Caswell’s family-owned motel in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, through a process called civil forfeiture, without ever so much as alleging Russ had committed a crime, let along finding him guilty of any wrongdoing. Russ’ property was worth a million dollars and it carried no mortgage; teaming up together, federal and local law enforcement could keep the proceeds if they seized and sold the Motel Caswell. After spending about $100,000 out of his own pocket to defend what represented not only Russ’ business, but also his retirement savings, the Institute for Justice took on Russ’ fight and won. But an unknown number of innocent property owners without the resources to fight fall victim to the perverse incentives of civil forfeiture each and every day.