Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

"Lien on Me": State Policy Innovation in Response to Paper Terrorism

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

"Lien on Me": State Policy Innovation in Response to Paper Terrorism

Article excerpt

Within the current context of state governments searching for roles in the response to terrorism, we explore the nature of state policy response to recent domestic threats to government operations. We employ a general model of state diffusion of innovative policies in an effort to understand state adoption of laws against the use of frivolous liens. The use of such liens by right-wing Patriot groups grew in the 1990s, leading us to focus on key issues related to policy diffusion-the extent of the problem or threat, and the characteristics of regional response. To test specific hypotheses we use Event History Analysis on a state-level dataset from 1995 to 1999. Our results suggest that state adoption of lien laws is mostly driven by regional forces, including the regional threat posed by Patriot groups and the adoption of lien laws by other states in the region, rather than national forces or factors internal to a state. We conclude that previous research has been too limited in its conceptualization of regional influences and that these same forces will likely drive future state-level response to the threat of terrorism.

"In 1994, nine reported militia members physically assaulted Stanilaus County (California) Recorder Karen Matthews with kicks and punches, and then threatened her with an unloaded gun that they dry-fired at her. Why? She had refused to remove a legitimate 1RS lien against one of the assailants and also refused to file some phony liens for the militia members" (Snow 1999, 183).

"Idaho Attorney General Alan G. Lance was himself a target of Common Law extremists, at one point having a $100 million lien placed against his house. When he later learned that he was under a death sentence from a Common Law Court, he decided to arm himself, as did his deputy chief of staff" (Griffin and Runyon 2000, 5).

As state governments reconsider their role in defending citizens and government officials in a post-9/11 and post-serial sniper world, recent state experience in responding the to threat of domestic extremist groups might offer social scientists insight into the processes by which state governments adopt new policies to thwart the activities of extremist groups. The events of 9/11 and the serial sniper attacks of 2002 posed national as well as regional threats to government and citizens that were not focused on one state. Similar to these recent events, in the 1990s private citizens and government officials faced a potential threat from right-wing extremist groups in the form of false liens and rulings issued by fabricated judicial bodies. Our research examines how states responded to these threats and insured the safety of government officials as well as maintained the public order, with a particular focus on the extent to which the perceived internal threat posed by extremists influenced state policymakers and the extent to which states responded to regional threats and the policy responses of other states in the region. Thus, by focusing on threats and issue salience our explicit development and incorporation of previously unexamined components of potential regional and national influences on state policymaking extends the parameters of current policy innovation and diffusion theory. Understanding these processes will help us to better anticipate future state innovation in responding to the threat of terrorism.

Our analysis proceeds in three parts. First, we provide an overview of right-wing Patriot group activity, with a particular focus on the use of false liens by these groups against government officials. second, we briefly review the literature on state policy innovation and outline a theory for understanding state policy innovation against false liens. Finally, we develop an empirical model of state adoption of innovative policies and test this model using time series data (1995 to 1999) from the 50 U.S. states. Our results suggest that the adoption of lien laws is best explained by regional forces, including the regional threat posed by Patriot groups and the adoption of lien laws by other states in the region, rather than factors internal to a state or national forces. …

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