Chances are pretty good that another Tim Eyman initiative will be on next year’s ballot. It’s been under the radar and has gotten little scrutiny. Initiative 517 - called the “Protect the Initiative Act” is an initiative to the Legislature. It’s basic provisions are to extend the time allowed to collect signatures by an extra six months, make it a misdemeanor to interfere or harass signature gatherers, allow more local initiatives and prevent pre-election legal challenges to initiatives. The deadline to collect signatures and turn them in is January 3rd, 2013.
Eyman filed I-517 on May 4th, 2012 and quietly piggybacked it on his I-1185 campaign signature gathering efforts. As noted in the Tacoma News Tribune on September 6, 2012, a complaint was filed with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission charging that as a result of this piggybacking, I-517 illegally used money intended to pay for Eyman’s I-1185 signatures. The TNT noted that “Through July alone, the campaign picked up 144,000 signatures …” of some 320,000 required by Jan 3, 2013. To date the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has not acted publicly on this complaint. One can well argue that this is a self serving initiative to benefit Tim Eyman and his initiative business. It is special interest legislation that would give Eyman the ability to do more initiative campaigns and at a lower cost. That is hardly what Washington State needs – more Eyman initiatives.
According to the most recent Public Disclosure Commission reports, Eyman has raised no money to fund this initiative. Instead he reports that all the signature gathering to date paid for has been in kind donations by others. The bulk of the money spent in kind has been by an out of state conservative foundation called – Citizens in Charge out of Lakeridge, VA. To date they have donated in kind some $168,806.38 out of a total of $305,454 reported in kind total. Here is a breakdown of reported in kind donations from the PDC reports.
Citizens in Charge, Lakeridge, VA – $168, 806.38
People’s Petitioning, Edmonds, WA – $42,712
First Amendment, LLC, Olympia, WA – $7267.50
The remainder of the money, some $86,305 is now listed as individual in kind donations, mostly by paid signature gatherers. This is Eyman’s attempt to get around the complaint that signature gatherers for I-1185 subsidized signature gathering for I-517. The problem is, if you read some of the e-mails involved, that appears to be a big question. Paid signature gatherers for I-1185 were told among other things that they had to also get signatures for I–517 or they would be fired. Here is that part of the story as reported by the Tacoma News Tribune:
The PDC is investigating whether I-517 illegally used part of the money intended for I-1185.
That’s what’s alleged by critics such as Rick Walther. The Auburn signature gatherer says he was fired for refusing to reduce payments to his subcontractors for I-1185 signatures unless they also collected for I-517.
He said he and other gatherers were expected to take the money out of what had already been promised to them for the business-backed measure.
“All this money’s still coming from 1185,” Walther said of the arrangements. “There’s no new money for 517. They’re just moving funds around.”
The campaign denies using any money from I-1185 – instead leaning on petitioners’ interest in the topic to drive a volunteer effort. …
Directing the I-517 effort is Edward Agazarm, nicknamed “Eddie Spaghetti,” a fixture of Washington’s voter-petition industry.
His emails don’t exactly make it sound like a volunteer effort.
“If you don’t bring in equal numbers you are fired,” Agazarm wrote to another signature-gathering contractor, in what critics say is an order to collect a voter signature on I-517 for every signature petitioners were paid to collect on I-1185.
“Every petitioner in the state should get free SIGNATURES ON IT or else they should be fired, then stoned to death in a public square,” he said in another email.
So one has to ask why the PDC has not yet acted on this complaint with formal charges of some sort or referred the matter to the State Attorney General for more severe action than the PDC can impose. The e-mails are pretty explicit that paid signature gatherers were coerced into collecting signatures for I-517 in order to be paid for I-1185 signatures. Will Eyman once again just get a slap on the wrist and continue on his merry way carrying on his initiative mill that helps pay his personal bills or will the PDC act forcefully by referring this matter to the Washington State Attorney General?
Here is more specific information on I-517:
|Protect the Initiative Act|
Initiative Measure No. 517 concerns initiative and referendum measures.This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would define terms concerning interfering with or retaliating against petition-signers and signature-gatherers, and would make such conduct a criminal misdemeanor and subject to anti-harassment laws. The measure would require that all state and local measures receiving enough signatures be placed on the ballot, limiting pre-election legal challenges. The measure would also extend the time for filing initiatives and gathering signatures from ten to sixteen months before the election when the vote would occur.View Complete Text
Last week a conservative Supreme Court candidate named Annette Ziegler won election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A record amount of spending occurred by both candidates and third parties in a nasty negative campaign. Sound familiar?
According to an opinion entitled “Campaigns Badly Need Cleaning Up” by The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, Ziegler
“was a candidate who spent most of the past year orchestrating one of the most negative judicial campaigns in Wisconsin history, starting with a vicious letter authored by former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow and ending with a barrage of TV spots that depicted her opponent as a know-nothing “zero.”
An out-of-state outfit called the Club for Growth pumped $250,000 into Ziegler’s primary campaign alone to underwrite attack ads on Ziegler’s behalf, and even the public relations firm that engineered the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s slimy campaign against John Kerry in 2004 got involved on her side.
And none of this counts the onslaught by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the experts in negative campaigning, that piled on Ziegler’s opponent, Linda Clifford, for the better part of three months.”
In a separate article it is noted that besides the $1.7 million spent by the two candidates
“The race saw unprecedented spending by third parties. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby, spent $1.45 million on ads supporting Ziegler and criticizing Clifford, according to Clifford’s campaign. ”
So is it any surprise that today a group of legislators in Wisconsin started circulating for co-sponsors a bill for public financing of state campaigns?
Any of this sound even more familiar now? Last year Washington went through a similar attack by the Building Industry Association of Washington and out of state money to try to elect right wing ideologues to the Washington State Supreme Court. We also saw record spending by special interests. We fared much better than Wisconsin but unfortunately the Washington State Legislature has done nothing to address the expected impact of large amounts of independent expenditures in future elections when the public is over the shock impact of last year’s races.
The Washington State Legislature this session has chosen to ignore public financing for judicial races as well as other state wide races. The reason is mainly that Legislators are also the recipients of large contributions spent by independent PAC’s in their own races. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp visualizes how such unlimited independent expenditures can be used to benefit his Democratic agenda and further solidify his caucus numbers. Republicans see it as their way back into power in the future.
They have however chosen to ignore the fact that we now have two separate and unequal campaign finance structures set up in our state that discriminate against the average citizen contributor. By limiting individual contributions directly to a candidate’s campaign committee, while allowing unlimited contributions by special interest groups, individuals and out of state funders to so called “independent PAC’s”, candidates lose control of their own campaigns and can be vastly outspent by outside interests.
One simple solution to end this segregated campaign system is to extend the present $1400 contribution limit per election for donations to major statewide candidate campaign committees, including Supreme Court Justices, to all campaign committees supporting or opposing a candidate. Whether given directly to the candidate or indirectly to a PAC, everyone is limited to the same $1400 contribution to support or oppose a candidate in a campaign.
The other solution to try to limit special interest mega-spending is to enact public financing for campaigns. Washington Public Campaigns attempted do this with a strong grassroots push to get the Washington State Legislature to pass legislation like Arizona and Maine have for all statewide candidates and North Carolina has for State Supreme Court races. Governor Gregoire supported a trial program for Supreme Court and Appellate Court races. The Washington State Legislature held hearings but ultimately passed nothing.
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