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Still, though it remains small, Lyle's population has grown since 1990. "This is not a dying community like Paul Dorr says it is," Ron Frank says.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, the people of Lyle had heard Dorr's name bandied about everywhere. They knew that Dorr had been the key figure in defeating school bond referendums throughout Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Minnesota. They knew that in less than two years, Dorr had worked in six other school districts in southern Minnesota, and that in April he was battling to snuff out the bond issue in Lyle and an $18.9 million referendum in Blooming Prairie.
They'd come across more colorful details about him, too. They had heard rumors about him selling Y2K goods. They'd heard that he once accused an Iowa judge of promoting bestiality because she was part owner of a Budweiser distributorship in northwest Iowa. His evidence was an ad featuring a talking chimp who flirts with a woman. (It ended up that it wasn't the judge, but her sister-in-law of the same name who owned the distributorship). All of these stories about Dorr turned out to be true.
The school advocates of Lyle knew that Dorr was a strident and resourceful opponent of the new building bond. But not everyone figures out that his political vision goes far beyond what happens with their additions and renovations. He believes, for instance, that schooling shouldn't be compulsory, but a parental obligation. And he wants to dismantle public education and return it to the pre-Civil War era. Kids should to be taught at home or in community schools, Dorr maintains, and no taxes whatsoever should go to the state for education. Collecting such taxes, Dorr contends, is unconstitutional.
"The federal or state government should not be involved at all, as was the case before the Unitarian and corporate class uprisings in the 1840s and '50s," Dorr says.
To Dorr, though, these details about his past and his current agenda are irrelevant. "Ask most of my past clients who have been saved the $280 million in local property taxes if they give a hoot about my cause," he says.
Dorr may be right that his supporters aren't interested in his biography, but that's not to say the details aren't intriguing. A 48-year-old father of 11 home-schooled children, Dorr got his B.S. in agricultural business at Iowa State University. His family runs a farm in Cherokee County, Iowa, which Dorr partly owned until 1986. His brother, Tom Dorr, still owns some of that business and other farmland in Iowa.
Tom Dorr is a senior advisor in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2001, he was nominated by President Bush to become undersecretary for rural development. The Senate rejected the confirmation partly because of what was contained in a taped phone conversation that was sent to the Des Moines Register. (It was this incident that first brought Paul into the public eye.)
On the audiotape, Tom is heard, purportedly talking to Paul (who has neither confirmed nor denied that this conversation took place). Tom said that government officials might "raise hell" if they audited his participation in federal farm subsidy programs. Tom Dorr had arranged two family trusts in order to avoid the federal caps placed on individual subsidy payments. Government investigators later announced that Tom Dorr had committed no wrongdoing. (In January of this year, President Bush renominated him for the same position.)
For 10 years, Paul Dorr was part owner of a community bank in Ocheyedan. After the bank was sold, he worked as a bank turn-around and stocks-acquisition consultant throughout the Midwest. He quit, he says, when he realized the harm of our "fiat-money" system--a term used to refer to a currency not backed by gold deposits.
"An economy whose money system is unhinged from any fixed standard is bound to bury itself and its host country in debt and destructive inflation," he says.
In 1999, Dorr opened Back Dorr Friends Pantry, a Y2K supply store that sold dried milk and dehydrated fruits and vegetables. When the business received an endorsement from a Christian publication, he told a reporter in Iowa in 1999, he began shipping as much as two tons of dried goods a week. He wouldn't reveal the store's location, however, out of fear of mass looting.
Three and a half years ago, Dorr began to devote himself nearly full-time to defeating school bond referendums. He started Dorr Consulting (now Copperhead Consulting Services) and barnstormed Iowa, working in Tama, Gilbert, Iowa City, Independence, and other towns.
In some cases, Dorr becomes involved in local school issues by calling on county auditors and asking if a bond referendum will be proposed in the near future. He'll also advertise his services in small-town newspapers. And as he's become more known for his work, the anti-bond committees composed of farmers and local business people have begun to contact him directly.
In early 2004, Dorr contacted Larry Molacek, the superintendent of schools in South Tama, Iowa. Dorr had been hired by Citizens Acting for Responsible Education, a group of farmers who took up fighting the proposed $9 million referendum in Tama.