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Citizen Spotlight: Todd Keefer, a state capitol watchdog

Todd Keefer was never much of an activist. He didn’t go to rallies, get into heated debates, or knock on doors.

“I didn’t do anything of significance,” Todd admits.

But despite feeling content with a job with the Postal Service, Todd was looking for something more. When he retired, he got into economics.

“I’m a curious person,” he said. “I’ve always liked to learn. I’m just a guy who sits around and reads Milton Freidman, Thomas Sowell, and Frederick Hayek.”

It was Freidman who said, “Governments don’t learn. Only people learn.” Todd has learned a lot about his Keystone state government by trusting his curiosity, showing up, and asking questions.

Keep your friends close, and your lawmakers closer

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To keep in touch with his state legislators, Todd actually pays them visits at the Pennsylvania Capitol. He meets with legislators and their staffs every few months, sometimes a few times per month depending on what issues are being debated.

“I like to get up there from time to time. The staffs recognize me when I come in.”

In fact, it was the parking costs incurred from Todd’s frequent trips to see his lawmakers that spurred one of his first investigations into an electric vehicle parking spot close to the Capitol. He noticed no terms of use, no time restrictions, and the same Chevy Volt that had a pattern of parking there for nearly 8 hours. Curious to know why this was the case and how the public was paying for this,  he did extensive research, contacted public officials, and filed a Right to Know request to get his questions answered. Read what Todd found out here.

Through his active involvement, he’s “learned the tricks of the trade,” and has a great piece of advice for other citizens:

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“When a bill is in committee, go to the committee meetings. It is a great time to get a legislator one-on-one. They hang around before and after the hearings.”

Todd is a living example of how the presence of a citizen can make a difference. By voicing his own views and solutions regarding the public comment time limit for citizens at his school district’s meeting, the superintendent invited him to attend their next Policy Committee Meeting.

 

Todd also recommends citizens to use Twitter as a source for news and information. He’s built up lists of potential story sources, including PA newspapers, national news sources, and partisan sources on the left and right. Social media has helped Todd become a better citizen journalist and spread his message, and you can do the same.

“I’m the type just to throw myself into it as a citizen, with the rights of any citizen.”

Obamacare Watchdog

Todd does not shy away from national policy either. He has thrown his free-market analysis into the Obamacare debate, officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Todd first got interested in the healthcare battle during the Clinton Administration’s push for “Hillarycare” in the early ’90s.

“I wrote a whole bunch of stuff and sent it out in opposition to Hillarycare,” Todd said. “I could already see the poison of third-party payment.”

Under a third-party payer system, as we have in healthcare today, insurance companies are the intermediary between healthcare providers and patients. This extra layer of bureaucracy adds administrative costs  and prevents patients from seeing the true cost of care. Insurance is no longer insurance, it’s pre-paid healthcare.

“I knew about the health care issue, and I was essentially writing stuff in my head.”

That’s when Todd launched his personal blog, FreeMktMonkey.  When he attended the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, he sat in on a session about social media. It was there that he was encouraged by Katy Abram of Americans for Prosperity to get involved with Twitter, who also introduced him to Watchdog Wire – Pennsylvania Editor, Jana Benscoter. He has since sent over 21,000 tweets.

Todd says he prefers a free-market approach to health care that would allow people to pay out of pocket for many basic health care services, instead of the complicated system we have now. Insurance would be just that: insurance, not a pre-paid medical plan. His own experience with “concierge” medical services tells him this would reduce costs and improve the quality of care.

“It dawned on me one day that there is something crazy when I can pay this tax, I can do absolutely nothing, but I can’t buy what I consider to be real insurance: pure high deductible, low cost.”

He’s written extensively about healthcare and health insurance, which Todd makes clear are not the same thing. Most recently, he wrote an open letter to Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner about Obamacare. Todd has become a dogged Obamacare watchdog.

The Liberty Amendments

These days, it is the Article V convention that has captured Todd’s curiosity. It was Mark Levin’s best-seller The Liberty Amendments that got Todd started on investigating into the movement for an Article V convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.

As explained in Levin’s book, Article V of the U.S. Constitution enables a two-thirds majority of state legislatures to convene a Constitutional Convention. Proponents argue the federal government has gotten too big and too powerful and must be reined in by amending or rewriting the Constitution.

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Last month, Todd got word that state legislators were planning to gather at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, to hash out plans for such a convention. His Watchdog Wire piece announcing the December 7 gathering got a lot of attention on social media, and radio hosts like Mark Levin and Glenn Beck discussed the event. Todd thinks this event is a big deal.

“It is potentially a true historic event,” he said. “I cannot tell you the excitement. People in America are hungry for freedom. They are starved for it.”

Todd believes the Founders included the provision for a Constitutional Convention because they feared the type of federal abuses we witness today. To help inform the public, Todd used Twitter to forward his article to thousands of concerned citizens like him.

As he explains, you can’t just write a story or blog post and hope people will see it. “Don’t just publish. Publish and promote.”

While Todd might not consider himself a “traditional” activist, he certainly follows in the tradition of the Founding Fathers.  Through his work as a citizen watchdog, he’s been a crusader for sound economic policies, free-market policy, and constitutional principals in his home state of Pennsylvania and across the country.

For all of Todd Keefer’s posts for Watchdog Wire, click here.

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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