Category Archives: Policy Statements

Letter to the Governor

Hon. Jerry Brown
Governor of lhe Slate of Califom1a
State Cap.tol
Sacramento, CA 95814

September 15, 2015

Dear Jerry:

When you were first running for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College Board, your Dad asked me to see what I could do to help you. I soon learned that I couldn’t do much because you had the campaign well in hand. I remember telling your Dad that you were busy learning what worked for you personally in a political sense and that it was best that you did that on your own and without any consultant Interference.

Your Dad and I began working together after his appointment to the Board of Investors Overseas Services. I remember taking him to Chile to meet the President and driving him to visit the Nixon Presidential Library. I captured part of that Chilean trip 1n a few paragraphs from a new book I have written on political euphemisms.

One of the first times I heard an original euphemism was on an airplane from Los Angles to Santiago, Chile. I was accompanying former California Governor Edmund C. (Pat) Brown to a meeting with Chilean President Eduardo Frei to discuss potential investments in the latter’s country. About two hours into the flight, Pat got up from his seat and announced: “I gotta go to cast a vote for Ronald Reagan.” Brown was dearly about to visit the airplane’s restroom.

But in using a colorful euphemism to mask the reality of his intended action, he was also making a
political statement about the events of 1966. That was the year Ronald Reagan — a mere Hollywood actor with no experience in public office or in major electoral politics — soundly defeated Brown in the latter’s bid for a third term. Pat was smarting because he had handily beaten Richard Nixon, a major national political figure, in California‘s 1962 gubernatorial election. Nixon had been US Vice President in the Eisenhower Administration and had barely lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential race. It was in fact, after that 1962 California election defeat by Brown that Nixon had famously, petulantly and, as it turned out, incorrectly told the press that he was leaving politics and that they wouldn’t have “Nixon to kick around anymore.”

The visit to Yorba Linda 1s memorialized in the accompanying collage containing a photo of your Dad and me and his kind thank you note.

All of this is background to my concerns about AB 96, an act that allegedly protects elephants but will do nothing of the kind. Instead, it kills a segment of California’s economy and discourages collectors without any actual evidence that it will save one elephant. My format statement of opposition is contained in the attached separate memo of Ivory Education Institute. This letter is a personal plea for you to do what you have always done so well: Put the anticipated, political, comfortable and often easiest course of action aside to consider alternative, politically tougher solutions that harbor a better chance of doing more good for the greatest number of people. Why not involve the Department of Fish and Wildlife, knowledgeable specialists in the State, and thoughtful members of the legislature 1n formulating a California-centric plan of action that has a chance of actually protecting endangered elephants. providing a reliable means of distinguishing the age and among the types of ivory and ivory substitutes, and addressing new measures to control the demand for ivory In est Asia.


Godfrey (Jeff) Harris
Harris / Ragan Management Group

Memorandum for the Governor of California

AB 96 Will Hurt Californians More Than It Will Help Elephants

September 14, 2015

Punishing Californians for owning items made from or with ivory — Ivory Education Institute most of which have historical, cultural, and artistic importance and nearly all of which were purchased legally and inherited legitimately — will have no impact on efforts lo save elephants in danger in Africa. Fining and jailing fellow citizens for having done nothing wrong nor endangered the lives, safely or well being of anyone in order 10 “do something” is morally wrong. Worse, this bill is deeply flawed:

  • While AB 96 calls for heavy new penalties for dealing in ivory, there are no funds now or contemplated in the future tor enforcing this law. Will individuals voluntarily relinquish hundreds of millions of dollars in the investments they have made in ivory objects of great age, great cultural importance, and great artistic value? Did California’s ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919 stop alcohol consumption in the Stale? Government by wishful thinking may be acceptable in schoolrooms or by intimidation in authoritarian regimes. it should have no place in California. Promoting anything that further degrades the public’s trust of government in today’s
    political climate seems to invite ever greater revulsion with elected officials.
  • The very number that AB 96 was assigned is questionable – the “96” refers to the number of elephants said to be killed each day in Africa for their ivory. We calculate that 35,000 elephants dying at the hands of poachers would yield at a minimum 700,000 pounds of ivory — the equivalent weight of five Atlantis shuttles. That much ivory would be enough to provide a pair of earrings to one out of every two American women every year. Where are all these earrings being sold?
  • Proponents of AB 96 insist that California is awash in illegal ivory. It is not. The study so often relied on lo make this statement asked researchers whether any ivory on sale in Los Angeles or San Francisco was “possibly” worked after 1977. Nearly every piece seen by the chief investigator fit that category, but he has indicated that only a few were “probably” post-1977 pieces. Asking a question to engineer a certain answer is intellectually dishonest and tantamount to fraudulent to justify a new law.
  • How can banning all trade in important cultural artifacts carved from fossilized walrus or from mammoth and mastodon tusks – animals that have been extinct for tens of thousands of years – have anything reasonably or realistically lo do with saving elephants in Africa today? How is it fair (or sensible) to allow an exemption on the trade and movement of ivory objects for museums, but throw collectors under the bus when they will likely provide what museums eventually display?

AB 96 should be returned lo the legislature with the hope that California could take a major leadership role in the protection of endangered elephant herds by contributing the State’s expertise and resources to helping African communities build a stronger economic stake in their wildlife resources and by bringing current East Asian demand into balance supplies of both elephant and non-elephant ivory.


Godfrey Harris

Managing Director
Political Action Network / International Ivory Society Ivory Education Institute



Ivory Education Institute LogoThe Political Action Network of the International Ivory Society believes that any new regulations promulgated by the U.S. government regarding African elephant ivory ought to take into consideration the following overriding principles:

  1. The United States government should officially recognize the historical, cultural, practical, and artistic importance of objects made from or with ivory materials that are displayed in its museums; inherited as family heirlooms; used in public ceremonies; preserved for future generations by its collectors, conservationists and investors; and employed by musicians, scientists, businesspeople, and others in the pursuit of legitimate and Constitutionally-protected objectives.
  2. No matter how much the unnecessary deaths of African elephants at the hands of poachers is abhorred by all conscientious Americans, it is evident that nothing will bring back a dead animal and no demonstrable good will be achieved by banning the future trade or movement of objects made from or with African ivory created before the imposition of the 1989 restrictions adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
  3. Because the U.S. 100-year standard to establish objects as “antique” is inconsistent, arbitrary, detrimental to the preservation of many important objects made during the first half of the 20th century as well as a few made more recently, and is not in consonance with standards adopted by members of the European Union or such other countries as the United Kingdom, the United States ought to take the leadership in creating a single standard to encompass older objects as well as the original and early versions of fast-evolving items that become quickly obsolete through technological innovation. We see no public policy benefit being achieved by Americans requiring that any object made from or with ivory be at least 100 years old.
  4. Objects made from or with various types of ivory are distinguishable, one from the other and by age, by acknowledged experts in various fields, using their experience, their judgment, and available as well as developing scientific tools. Written documentation provided by acknowledged experts to establish either the type or age of an ivory object — a procedure now accepted by the Internal Revenue Service for gifts to museums and by courts in probate matters — should be sufficient to establish the legality of an object made from or with ivory for sale or movement within the United States.
  5. African elephants are endangered by interests and activities far from the United States. If the U.S. government believes that there is a connection between a U.S. market for ivory objects and the recent deaths of African elephants, then it is obligated to provide actual evidence of that connection. If, in fact, American citizens are not at the nexus of the poaching problem, their previously legal activities should not now become crimes aggressively, but arbitrarily, enforced by Federal agents. Instead, the United States government should employ its resources for the protection of wildlife by aiding those countries legitimately engaged in protecting elephants.
  6. While we can strive for the most accurate words and best procedures to accomplish our goals with regard to the protection of African elephants and the preservation of objects made with or from ivory, an unimpeachable guarantee toward these ends is not possible. We believe the United States government and non-government organizations must accept the fact that absolute perfection in ivory identification or elephant protection will always elude us. As a result we urge creation of balanced and reasonable policies toward the sale and movement of objects made from or with ivory that protects elephants and still preserves Constitutionally-protected rights.

Specifically, we urge consideration for the following policy positions:

  1. A worked object made from or with any ivory that is demonstrably made from non-threatened ivory-bearing animals or is older than the 1989 CITES ban — by virtue of documentation; expert analysis; published evidence in books, catalogs, and magazines; independent photographic evidence; competent appraisal; probate records; or other established and accepted methods and indicators — shall be legal for trade within the United States within current law.
  2. All worked ivory objects, all restored or repaired ivory objects, and all raw ivory tusks and scrap in the United States before January 1, 2014, will be presumed to be in the U.S. legally.
  3. All worked ivory items and all ivory scrap employed in the United States after January 1, 2014 from raw stock in the country before that date will be assumed to have legal status unless proven to be otherwise by competent authority.
  4. Any object that contains any ivory amounting to less than approximagtely 5% of the overall visible surface of the object shall not be considered an ivory object by the United States for purposes of protecting wildlife.
  5. In substitution for the term “antique,” adopt the term “CLASSIC” or “VINTAGE” to denote any older cultural item, including objects made from or with ivory, that warrant societal protection and preservation for future generations. A target standard of 50-years along with a provision for classic and vintage products developed less than 50 years ago would provide the needed flexibility to preserve culturally valuable artifacts.
  6. The U.S. government should join in the development of technology and identification systems for a consistent, reliable, and secure way of collecting, marking, cataloging, and marketing the tusks of animals that have died of natural causes as well as the tusks of archeological finds.
  7. The U.S. government should work with other CITES signatories to establish a secure, not-for-profit, marketplace for the regular and consistent sale of legally obtained, raw African ivory to stabilize the wholesale price of raw ivory and to act as a disincentive to poaching.
  8. Not withstanding anything above, should the United States government adopt a policy that effectively renders an object made from or with hithertofore legally-obtained ivory effectively worthless, then the U.S. government should compensate the object’s owner or heirs for the fair market value on June 1, 2014, of those objects under the same principles and procedures now obtaining for real property taken under the cover of eminent domain.

Respectfully submitted by
Godfrey Harris

on behalf of the
Political Action Network of the International Ivory Society
May 31, 2014

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