Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

NPI to region’s congressional delegation: Stand strong against fast-track for TPP

Editor’s Note: The following message regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership is being sent today to our region’s United States Senators and Representatives, excluding Ron Wyden and Dave Reichert, who are on record in support of legislation to give President Obama the authority to negotiate a final incarnation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that couldn’t be amended by Congress. We are publishing our message to them here on the Cascadia Advocate as an open letter.

Dear Senators and Representatives:

The Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) supports good jobs, fair trade, and the right of the American people to make their own laws. The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), based on what little has leaked from the secretive negotiation process, threatens to undermine all of those values.

On top of this, the White House is demanding authority that would unacceptably limit your ability as a member of Congress to properly assess, improve, and make an informed decision on the TPP. A bill to grant this authority is on the verge of being introduced in the House and Senate following recent discussions by Representative Paul Ryan and Senators Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden.

In a recent opinion piece, Senator Elizabeth Warren laid out some of the main problems with the TPP. It would:

  • Erode important safeguards designed to prevent future financial crises
  • Allow companies to use secret trade tribunals to challenge and override U.S. laws, including labor and environmental protections
  • Prevent the U.S. from enacting new limits on toxic financial products, or from taxing international financial transactions
  • Undermine the middle class by promoting the offshoring of good jobs

Senator Warren has also drawn attention to a particular provision whose text has recently leaked, referring to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. ISDS allows multinational corporations to challenge laws passed by our government — things like environmental or safety regulations — to potentially win millions of dollars in “damages” that would have to be paid by American taxpayers. And they could do all this without ever having to go to court in the United States.

Large corporations have already used ISDS provisions in other trade deals to attack regulations and laws designed to protect the middle class. They sued Egypt for raising the minimum wage, they sued Germany for eliminating nuclear power to keep its citizens safe, and right now Phillip Morris is suing Australia for implementing tobacco regulations designed to cut smoking rates and protect children.

“The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled,” wrote Senator Warren in a February guest column for The Washington Post. “Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.”

We agree with her. In fact, so does the government of Australia, which has also raised serious objections to ISDS and has so far insisted that it be excluded from the process in the final TPP language.

There are larger issues with the TPP than just the possible loss of sovereignty. The trade deficit has soared in recent decades.

For example, the U.S. deficit with Japan reached nearly $80 billion in 2013. It is estimated that the trade deficit with Japan alone resulted in 896,600 jobs eliminated in the nation across nearly all congressional districts.

The recent trade deal with South Korea, which was promised to create at least 70,000 jobs, has instead cost jobs in the United States – possibly in the neighborhood of 85,000 – and led to a larger trade deficit with South Korea.

Estimates of the cost in jobs from NAFTA runs into the millions.

The progressive movement in the Northwest has united in opposition to Fast Track authority, in order to allow Congress to exercise its full range of powers to address problems in the TPP. This coalition is an unprecedented alliance that includes the Sierra Club, the International Association of Machinists, the NAACP, the Presbyterian Church, farmers, and many others.

NPI is deeply concerned by the TPP. We urge you to oppose any proposed bill that would give fast track authority to the White House and limit Congress’ ability to review, debate, and propose amendments to the final text.

Finally, we ask you to commit to insisting that fairness be the foundation of all future trade deals. Any agreement we ratify should include rigorous labor and environmental protections that allow for good jobs to be created in the Pacific Northwest. We simply can’t afford a new trade scheme that hurts low and middle income families and destroys our remaining manufacturing base.

Sincerely,

Robert Cruickshank
President
Northwest Progressive Institute
Andrew Villeneuve
Founder and executive director
Northwest Progressive Institute

Federal grand jury returns ten count indictment of State Auditor Troy Kelley

State Auditor Troy Kelley has been indicted by a federal grand jury for filing false tax returns, making false declarations, obstructing justice, and possessing stolen property, the United States Attorney for Western Washington announced today.

The ten count indictment was returned by a jury in the U.S. District Court in Seattle. Kelley is due to be arraigned in the Tacoma division this afternoon.

“Mr. Kelley spun a web of lies in an effort to avoid paying his taxes and keep more than a million dollars that he knew did not belong to him, but instead should have been returned to thousands of homeowners across this state,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes in a statement. “I commend the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation for their diligent work to piece together the voluminous records that form the basis for the charges in this case.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service jointly allege that Kelley made a lot of money by stealing from the people he worked with while he was in the mortgage reconveyance business.

From 2003 to 2008, Kelley ran a business that was supposedly responsible for tracking documents pertaining to real estate sales and refinancing agreements.  Kelley’s arrangement with his clients provided that he was supposed to return money to borrowers while keeping the residual balance as his fee.

But apparently, he got into the habit of keeping it all and ended up pocketing over $2 million in stolen money. Hence the indictment for possession of stolen property. The other counts are linked, as the U.S. Attorney’s statement explains:

When the amount withheld by title companies became the subject of civil litigation, the indictment alleges KELLEY obstructed the litigation, repeatedly lying in a declaration and in depositions while under oath.  For this conduct KELLEY is charged with four counts of false declarations and one count of attempted obstruction of a civil lawsuit.  Further, the indictment alleges KELLEY failed to pay federal taxes and obstructed the IRS in its efforts to collect taxes from him.  He is charged with corrupt interference with Internal Revenue laws and two counts of filing false income tax returns.  Finally, KELLEY is charged with making false statements to Internal Revenue Service agents who questioned him about his scheme in April 2013.

To say that these are serious charges would be an understatement.

Kelley’s credibility is completely gone. He may be innocent until proven guilty under the laws and customs of this country, but it looks to us like the feds have an excellent case and are prepared to go to trial with it.

Kelley may believe that when all is said and done, he’ll be cleared, but he simply cannot administer his office while a defendant in a major federal case. He should resign from his position immediately, as everyone from Governor Jay Inslee to Washington State Democratic Party Chair Jaxon Ravens is demanding.

But, judging from the long statement he put out today, in which he claimed to be the victim of an unjust investigation, it sounds like he has no intention of voluntarily resigning. In the closing paragraph, he declares, “Beginning May 1st, I will take a temporary leave of absence from my duties as Washington State Auditor to allow my office to continue to do its important work without distraction. I fully intend to resume my duties after I put these legal matters to rest.”

Kelley seems to be in denial. Why isn’t he resigning now? Why is he waiting until May 1st to start this leave of absence that he plans? How does he think he’ll be able to resume his duties when the case against him may take months and possibly years to resolve, during which time the 2016 general election will take place?

Kelley seems to be thinking only about self-preservation, which is unfortunate. It’s not how we expect someone in his position to act.

If Kelley continues to stubbornly refuse to resign, he can expect to face an effort to recall or impeach him. Those are the two methods by which an elected officer can be involuntarily removed from office. Article V of the Washington State Constitution outlines how the process of impeachment works:

SECTION 1 IMPEACHMENT – POWER OF AND PROCEDURE. The house of representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment. The concurrence of a majority of all the members shall be necessary to an impeachment. All impeachments shall be tried by the senate, and, when sitting for that purpose, the senators shall be upon oath or affirmation to do justice according to law and evidence. When the governor or lieutenant governor is on trial, the chief justice of the supreme court shall preside. No person shall be convicted without a concurrence of two-thirds of the senators elected.

SECTION 2 OFFICERS LIABLE TO. The governor and other state and judicial officers, except judges and justices of courts not of record, shall be liable to impeachment for high crimes or misdemeanors, or malfeasance in office, but judgment in such cases shall extend only to removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust or profit, in the state. The party, whether convicted or acquitted, shall, nevertheless, be liable to prosecution, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.

SECTION 3 REMOVAL FROM OFFICE. All officers not liable to impeachment shall be subject to removal for misconduct or malfeasance in office, in such manner as may be provided by law.

The House could begin impeachment proceedings against Kelley soon, as it is still in session, and is likely to be in session through the month of may due to the stalemate over the state budget. A majority of representatives would have to vote for impeachment to begin a trial in the Senate.

The alternative would be a citizen-initiated recall.

The recall is one of several progressive ballot reforms added to Washington State’s Constitution during the Progressive Era.

In Washington, unlike other states, an elected official cannot be recalled without cause, which is why we don’t see many recall attempts. But with today’s indictment, it seems grounds exist to recall State Auditor Troy Kelley.

Here’s what the Washington State Constitution says about recalls:

ARTICLE I. SECTION 33. RECALL OF ELECTIVE OFFICERS. Every elective public officer of the state of Washington expect [except] judges of courts of record is subject to recall and discharge by the legal voters of the state, or of the political subdivision of the state, from which he was elected whenever a petition demanding his recall, reciting that such officer has committed some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office, stating the matters complained of, signed by the percentages of the qualified electors thereof, hereinafter provided, the percentage required to be computed from the total number of votes cast for all candidates for his said office to which he was elected at the preceding election, is filed with the officer with whom a petition for nomination, or certificate for nomination, to such office must be filed under the laws of this state, and the same officer shall call a special election as provided by the general election laws of this state, and the result determined as therein provided. [AMENDMENT 8, 1911 p 504 Section 1. Approved November, 1912.]

The Constitution also says:

ARTICLE I. SECTION 34. SAME. The legislature shall pass the necessary laws to carry out the provisions of section thirty-three (33) of this article, and to facilitate its operation and effect without delay: Provided, That the authority hereby conferred upon the legislature shall not be construed to grant to the legislature any exclusive power of lawmaking nor in any way limit the initiative and referendum powers reserved by the people. The percentages required shall be, state officers, other than judges, senators and representatives, city officers of cities of the first class, school district boards in cities of the first class; county officers of counties of the first, second and third classes, twenty-five per cent. Officers of all other political subdivisions, cities, towns, townships, precincts and school districts not herein mentioned, and state senators and representatives, thirty-five per cent. [AMENDMENT 8, 1911 p 504 Section 1. Approved November, 1912.]

RCW 29A.56.110 provides:

Whenever any legal voter of the state or of any political subdivision thereof, either individually or on behalf of an organization, desires to demand the recall and discharge of any elective public officer of the state or of such political subdivision, as the case may be, under the provisions of sections 33 and 34 of Article 1 of the Constitution, the voter shall prepare a typewritten charge, reciting that such officer, naming him or her and giving the title of the office, has committed an act or acts of malfeasance, or an act or acts of misfeasance while in office, or has violated the oath of office, or has been guilty of any two or more of the acts specified in the Constitution as grounds for recall. The charge shall state the act or acts complained of in concise language, give a detailed description including the approximate date, location, and nature of each act complained of, be signed by the person or persons making the charge, give their respective post office addresses, and be verified under oath that the person or persons believe the charge or charges to be true and have knowledge of the alleged facts upon which the stated grounds for recall are based.

For the purposes of this chapter:

  1. “Misfeasance” or “malfeasance” in office means any wrongful conduct that affects, interrupts, or interferes with the performance of official duty;
    1. Additionally, “misfeasance” in office means the performance of a duty in an improper manner; and
    2. Additionally, “malfeasance” in office means the commission of an unlawful act;
  2. “Violation of the oath of office” means the neglect or knowing failure by an elective public officer to perform faithfully a duty imposed by law.

As the indictment of Kelley alleges that some of his illegal conduct took place while he was Auditor, a citizen could argue to a judge that Kelley has committed an act of misfeasance or malfeasance, and is thus eligible to be recalled.

Assuming that a judge allowed a recall effort to go forward, a large number of signatures would need to be collected, “equal to twenty-five percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election” (RCW 29A.56.180).

Organizers of a recall would have two hundred and seventy days to collect signatures, or about eight months. Following validation of signatures, a recall election would be scheduled to take place within forty-five to ninety-days.

Kelley has no chance of getting reelected in 2016, so if he continues to refuse to resign, a recall might move up the date of his departure by six months to a year or more, depending on how fast recall organizers could collect signatures. A recall effort that appears to be gathering steam might pressure Kelley into resigning.

I bring all this up because we need and deserve a state auditor who has the trust of the public. Troy Kelley says he’s an innocent man and he is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, but these charging papers say he’s a crook, and there’s no way he can govern, let alone govern effectively, while under indictment.

Kelley should resign from office to focus on his criminal defense. He no longer has the ability to serve the people of the State of Washington.

If he is unwilling to do so, he should be removed from office.

POSTSCRIPT: Turns out someone filed papers to recall Troy Kelley even before he was indicted. The Seattle Times filed a story regarding the petition submitted by former State Representative Will Knedlik.

Live in King County? Vote Yes by April 28th, 2015 to upgrade our region’s emergency public safety radio network

April may not seem like an election month, but in Washington, it’s actually one of two times during the year when local jurisdictions may schedule special elections, most often for the purpose of sending the voters a levy for their consideration.

This year, the nine-member King County Council has opted to place a proposition on the April 2015 special election ballot to address a crucial need: the aging of the region’s emergency public safety radio network.

The unfortunately-numbered King County Proposition #1 (identical in character to many past propositions that have appeared on ballots in prior years) would slightly increase property taxes to allow the county to replace critical communications equipment used by first responders that is at the end of its useful life.

Courtesy of the Yes on Proposition 1 campaign, here are some basic facts about the levy that every King County voter ought to know:

  • A YES vote for Proposition 1, the Emergency Public Safety Radio Network Replacement Project, will allow King County to replace our dangerously outdated emergency radio network system that police, firefighters, Medic One and emergency first responders all use to answer emergency calls.
  • The current emergency radio network is decades old, has dangerous gaps in coverage in populated areas and was designed to serve a much smaller area. This puts the public and first responders at risk. It needs to be replaced.
  • The current network was designed in 1992 to serve King County’s smaller population. Over the years, our population has steadily increased and residents are living in areas they didn’t before, which creates coverage challenges for the current network..
  • The improved network will provide essential equipment our first responders need to communicate during life-threatening emergencies. Without this network, public safety will be at risk.
  • A yes vote would replace radios used by first responders to communicate during crises, upgrade equipment in King County’s 9-1-1 call centers, increase reliability, and provide greater coverage for radio communications.
  • When callers dial 9-1-1, operators use the radio network system to ensure that local emergency responders are sent to the callers’ correct location.
  • Our communities are safer when our emergency personnel have reliable tools.The emergency radio network is used daily. It is a critical tool that is used by fire, police and EMS to do their jobs on every call, every day.
  • The improved network will be available to city, district, and county first responders – expanding coverage across all of King County.
  • The levy will only be collected long enough to pay for the project – nine years at most. It will cost the average homeowner just over $2/month to fund this network. A nominal fee for the added safety and security it will provide to all King County residents.

King County Proposition #1 enjoys strong support from mayors, fire commissioners and law enforcement chiefs across King County as well as county elected leaders, including eight of nine councilmembers, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and King County Sheriff John Urquhart.

There is no active campaign opposing Proposition #1, but representatives of King County Fire Commissioners’ Association have weighed in against the levy due to concerns that passage of the levy could negatively affect rural fire districts’ ability to maintain staffing and service levels in the event of an economic downturn. The ordinance adopted by the county acknowledges as much (PDF):

Statement of Facts

  1. If the funding measure is put on the ballot and approved by the voters, fire districts’ levies may be reduced and services diminished.
  2. The King County council finds that any reduction in fire district staff or services resulting from the PSERN levy would be contrary to the public interest. This funding proposal is intended to address concerns about prorationing of fire district levies during the term of the proposed levy.

Fire commissioners Mark Thompson and James A. Fossos are concerned that the language of Section 5 of the ordinance do not go far enough to protect rural fire districts. In their statement against Proposition 1, they write:

If property values drop, fire districts could possibly be in a negative financial position and need to lay off fire fighters during the nine year term of the PSERN (radio system) levy.

Laying off firefighters is unacceptable, especially when a comprehensive prorationing protection plan could have been implemented by the County Executive to stave off any possible staffing reductions by impacted fire districts.

While we would like to see the county do more to protect rural fire districts,  Proposition #1 deserves our support. Rejection of this levy would prevent the county from getting started on replacing its share of our region’s crumbling emergency radio network. That would be a bad outcome.

Rural firefighters can’t do their jobs very well if they cannot reliably communicate with each other and their chiefs. Recognizing this fact, many fire commissioners have endorsed Proposition #1 in spite of the concerns expressed by Thompson and Fossos, and we at NPI join them in urging a yes vote.

Ballots for the April 28th, 2015 special election have been mailed by King County Elections. Please vote yes on Proposition #1 and ensure your ballot is postmarked by April 28th or deposited in a drop box by 8 PM that same day.

Sample ballot for April 28th, 2015 special election

NPI recommends a yes vote on King County Proposition #1. Above is a sample ballot indicating how to vote.

Voters who would like more information about the project that the levy would fund should call or email David Mendel, Emergency Radio System Project Director. He can be reached at 206-263-7942 or david (dot) mendel (at) kingcounty (dot) gov.

Hillary Clinton makes it official, finally: She’s running for President in 2016

Ending years of speculation, gossip, and when is she going to announce talk, former First Lady, United States Senator, and United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodman Clinton declared in a video message that she will seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America in 2016.

Clinton’s video opens with a montage of ordinary Americans talking about their hopes and plans for 2015 and beyond. She does not appear in her own video until a minute and a half in, where she can be heard saying, “I’m getting ready to do something too.” The video then pivots to a scene of her standing in front of a house, declaring, “I’m running for President.” 

“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,’ she continues.

“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion. So you can do more than just get by – you can get ahead, and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong.”

“So I’m hitting the road to earn your vote — because it’s your time. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey,” she concludes.

Clinton’s 2016 campaign, borrowing a page from the 2008 Obama campaign and 2004 Dean campaign, will be called Hillary for America. The campaign website is now live, and Clinton has also posted her video to Facebook, where it has thousands of likes already, and is rapidly gaining more.

Hillary for America

Clinton’s remark that “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top” is already being called inspired by Elizabeth Warren in comments by talking heads on cable television. We certainly hope that Clinton seeks out Elizabeth Warren’s counsel often and incorporates her advice into her campaign.

There’s a lot to like about this launch. It’s low-key and doesn’t carry the same aura of inevitability Clinton’s people tried to create when they launched her 2008 bid. Clinton is due to begin campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, which will constitute the next stage of her intentionally designed slow campaign rollout.

Though Clinton has not offered any policy prescriptions yet, her video message hints that her platform may be more progressive than in 2008. But we’ll reserve judgment until we hear specifics. Platitudes simply will not do. There are a lot of people waiting to hear her articulate what policy directions she intends to advocate for. We hope those policy directions are built on progressive values and principles.

Clinton has previously expressed support for keeping and enhancing the Patient Protection Act, and dismay at Republicans’ attempts to destroy President Obama’s credibility with leaders of other nations. She is a strong supporter of equal pay for equal work, LGBT rights (a gay couple was featured in her video), and Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

We will be particularly interested in hearing what she has to say on curbing the mass surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden, keeping Amtrak funded and building more high speed rail, replacing No Child Left Behind, defending Net Neutrality, protecting our workers and small businesses from harmful trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and speaking to other issues that big media often glosses over or ignores.

Reaction to Hillary’s announcement is starting to pour in, and we’ll post it as we get it. The Washington State Democratic Party was among the first organizations in our region to issue a statement.

“Washington State Democrats welcome Hillary Clinton to the Presidential campaign. She’s had a remarkable career fighting for our values as a party,” said Jaxon Ravens, Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party.

“This coming campaign will be hugely important for our country,” Ravens added. “The Republicans running for President uniformly have dangerous views that would be deeply harmful to the middle class and those seeking to enter it. We need a Democratic nominee who will put the middle class first, and we are pleased Hillary Clinton is seeking the nomination.”

U.S. Senator Patty Murray offered an enthusiastic endorsement.

“This is an exciting moment for those of us in Washington State and across the country who want our next President to keep fighting for middle class priorities and a government that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few. I am proud to stand with so many others to support Hillary in her effort to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling that has been cracked, but not yet broken,” she wrote.

So did U.S. Representative Rick Larsen.

“I endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States of America because she shares my belief that our country needs an economy that includes everyone and works for everyone. She has my full support,” he wrote. 

Newly-filed reports show Tim Eyman received another massive cash infusion in March

Last night, as we were holding our seventh Spring Fundraising Gala on Mercer Island, Tim Eyman’s treasurer was filing his campaign committee’s monthly reports with the Public Disclosure Commission, as required by law.

The new reports show that Eyman has raised nearly a million dollars for his latest and most destructive initiative, I-1366, which would wipe out $1 billion a year from schools and other vital public services by slashing the sales tax… unless, by April of 2016, the Legislature approves a constitutional amendment overturning the League of Education Voters decision, in which the Supreme Court struck down the two-thirds vote requirement for raising or recovering revenue.

Blackmail, coercive, and diabolical are all words that seem fitting to describe I-1366, a mean-spirited measure that is politics at its worst. I-1366 is a retread of last year’s I-1325, which Eyman couldn’t get on the ballot due to lack of resources.

For this attempt, Eyman has found a wealthy benefactor to bankroll this year’s effort. His name is Clyde Holland, and he’s a developer operating out of Vancouver. We profiled him last month, after PDC reports showed he was the biggest donor to I-1366, with a $150,000 contribution, and after Eyman announced that a “successful businessman” was prepared to double any donation made to his I-1366 campaign committee during the month of March:

Assuming Eyman is not lying to his supporters (something he’s done plenty of times) and assuming Holland is the “successful businessman” Eyman’s talking about, then it seems he’s prepared to open his checkbook again to keep the gears of Eyman’s initiative factory lubricated with money.

Eyman will need more of Holland’s money. History has shown that when he doesn’t have a wealthy benefactor, he doesn’t get on the ballot. He needs rich people like Freeman and Holland to write him multiple six figure checks every year so that he can stay relevant. Otherwise his factory sputters to a halt.

Sure enough, Holland has given again to Eyman. The March C3s show that another $150,000 check from Holland was received on March 6th.

That wasn’t the only big money that rolled in during the month of March.

Data: Public Disclosure Commission | Chart: Northwest Progressive Institute

Eyman also received $25,000 checks from Kenneth Fisher of Camas and Robert Rotella of Bellevue. They describe themselves as self-employed investors.

Sheryl Creedon, Oliver Hidden, and Mark Engleman Enterprises (all based in Vancouver) contributed $10,000 apiece, as did Jon Monson of Gig Harbor.

Is it just a coincidence that the vast majority of Eyman’s money is coming out of Clark County (with Bellevue’s Kemper Freeman and Robert Rotella playing a supporting role)? We don’t think so.

State Senator Don Benton, who is Eyman’s best friend in the statehouse aside from Pam Roach, is well connected in Clark County – so well-connected, in fact, that he got himself a second government job thanks to the Republican-dominated Clark County Commission. And Clyde Holland undoubtedly knows the county’s other rich and rabidly conservative denizens. They could both be helping Eyman score money.

In the span of two months, Eyman has raised $623,174.66 in cash contributions (with half of that coming from Clyde Holland) and taken out two loans totaling $250,000. He’s transferred nearly three quarters of a million dollars to his associates at Citizen Solutions to pay petitioners to collect for I-1366.

Eyman has only taken out loans in the past when he’s had some plan for getting the money repaid. Likely he has a commitment from Holland to pay back this year’s loans, too. With over half a million dollars raised in February and March, Eyman is on track to have a million dollars in cash by the time signatures are due in July.

It’s a safe bet that I-1366 will be on the ballot in November, which is why we’ve started working to put together a broad and diverse coalition to fight I-1366.

Many local Democratic organizations have already joined us in taking positions against this madness, as have Fuse Washington and TaxSanity.

The Washington State Democratic Party, meanwhile, will consider a resolution a week from today opposing I-1366 that is certain to be adopted.

If you’re part of an organization that believes in the values Washington was founded on and wants to protect our cherished tradition of majority rule as well as our schools and universities, we invite you to join us in taking a position opposing I-1366. We’ve got a model resolution you can use or tweak to your liking. Once your board or governing body has acted, please let us know.

State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles confirms she’ll run for King County Council, District 4

This afternoon, State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles made it official: She’s running to succeed Larry Phillips as the councilmember for King County’s 4th District, which encompasses neighborhoods on the Puget Sound side of North Seattle, including Ballard and Greenwood. And she is doing so with Phillips’ support.

“It’s been an incredible privilege, honor and pleasure representing my constituents for the last twenty-three years in Olympia in what has been the most significant work of my career,” Kohl-Welles said in a press release declaring her candidacy.

“Throughout my legislative tenure, I have steadfastly striven to be accessible, responsive and effective,” she added. “I’ve consistently worked collaboratively to achieve common-sense solutions on very challenging issues, while maintaining strong Democratic principles and values.”

“I’ve fought for social justice and economic equity causes and have been a leader in advocating on behalf of the safety and well-being of children and vulnerable adults; victims of human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and domestic violence; medical marijuana reform; and for strategies addressing homelessness, affordable housing, and discrimination.”

“On the King County Council, I’ll bring forth the same values and tackle the same issues, as well as income inequality, racial disproportionality in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, environmental sustainability, and transportation choices.”

In addition to Phillips’ backing, Kohl-Welles has secured the endorsements of her seatmates Reuven Carlyle and Gael Tarleton. (Full disclosure: Gael Tarleton serves on the board of the Northwest Progressive Institute as Vice President-Secretary).

Kohl-Welles had previously discussed running for King County Council with her supporters on Facebook.

“It’s hard for me to think of leaving the Senate, but I believe that at this point in my career I would enjoy a new challenge, as well as being closer to home among my constituents and in the community on a year-round basis,” she wrote.

“And fortunately, I would have the same constituents as I have now in the 36th Legislative District.” (The 36th Legislative District and the 4th County Council District don’t have identical boundaries, but they overlap significantly.)

She went on to note:

I also would have a more immediate and local experience in working on many of the issues that are so important to me, such as affordable housing and eliminating homelessness; economic and pay equity and social justice; anti-poverty and essential services; expanding multi-modal mobility, including transit; human trafficking and commercial child sexual exploitation; juvenile justice and foster care services; and medical and personal use marijuana legalization.

And this is not a complete list.

I’ll be making my decision within the next few days.

She’s now made her decision: She’s running.

Kohl-Welles, seventy-two, is such a formidable candidate that she may not have much competition for Phillips’ seat. She is beloved in the 36th Legislative District, as Reuven Carlyle found out last year when he briefly flirted with running against Kohl-Welles. He ultimately decided to bow out and not challenge her.

In retrospect, that was a very sensible decision. If Kohl-Welles is successful in her campaign for county council, she will almost certainly be resigning from the Legislature, and Carlyle will be the heir apparent to her position in the Senate.

To move over to the Senate, he would have to give up his chairmanship of the House Finance Committee… but on the plus side, he wouldn’t have to run for reelection every two years (state senators serve four-year terms).

A move to the Senate by Carlyle would result in a wide-open vacancy for his House seat, which a lot of progressive and Democratic activists will undoubtedly be interested in. Whenever a Democratic legislative vacancy emerges in a Seattle district, there are almost always a plethora of candidates.

The precinct committee officers of the 36th LD, which include NPI’s President, Robert Cruickshank, may very well find themselves deluged with calls about eight months from now, because they’re the ones who would choose Kohl-Welles’ and Carlyle’s successors, as provided by the Washington State Constitution.

The process is as follows:

  • The Chair of the King County Democrats, currently Rich Erwin, calls a meeting of the Democratic precinct committee officers of the 36th LD to draw up a list of three names to fill each vacancy. This meeting is known as a special nominating caucus. Only PCOs elected or appointed to represent precincts within the 36th LD may participate in it as voters.
  • The King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC), or KCDCC’s executive board, ratifies the choices of the 36th LD’s PCOs and submits them to the King County Council for consideration.
  • The King County Council must choose from among the three individuals selected by the Democratic Party to fill each vacancy.
  • If they don’t make a selection within sixty days, Governor Jay Inslee makes the appointment, again from the list of three names.

The 36th is wholly within the boundaries of King County, so the state party would not be involved in calling the special nominating caucus or submitting the names, as it was last year when there was a vacancy in the 30th. (The 30th is one of many joint legislative districts split between the counties).

The procedures governing the special nominating caucus are spelled out in the Washington State Democratic Party’s bylaws and standing rules.

Typically, when a nominating caucus is held, PCOs vote on each of the slots in a series of separate elections. To elaborate: PCOs first decide whose name should top the list, and then whose names appear second and third. Following this approach results in three elections, often with multiple rounds of voting each.

Should Kohl-Welles and fellow Democratic candidate Claudia Balducci (who is running in the 6th District) both win in November, the King County Council would have two Democratic women on it beginning next January. (Officially, the Council is nonpartisan, but there’s really no such thing as a nonpartisan office.)

Happy Easter 2015!

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’”

An Easter flower arrangement (Photo: Ralph Daily, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

For your reading pleasure on this joyous Easter Sunday, here is an account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Gospel of Mark:

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
‘He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.’”

— Mark 16:1-7

The First Family is celebrating Easter this morning at the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. According to the pool report, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their children Sasha and Malia arrived around 10:25 AM Eastern Time, and were given an enthusiastic welcome.

After hymns and and offering, the preacher, Howard-John Wesley, started his twenty-minute sermon saying he was going to “talk, reach and preach a little bit.” Every statement he made deserves an exclamation point.

He said you’ve got to make a decision, and referenced the civil rights movement choosing between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.; in the 70s, he said, choices were Cowboys or Steelers.

For some, choices are Prince or Michael Jackson; Biggie or Tupac; New Edition with Bobbie Brown or without.

“Even today in our political landscape, a line in the sand is drawn forcing you to make a decision on where you stand,” he said.

“Where do you stand with rights or same sex couples…where do you stand on gun reform, where do you stand with police body cameras? Where do you stand on affordable health care? Life has a way of making you make a decision.”

“Where you stand on the resurrection of Jesus Christ: You either believe it or you reject it,” he added.

“Christ is risen from the dead!” he said at one point. “If there’s anything that will put an amen in your voice; if there’s anything that will put some clapping in your hands…it’s that Christ has risen from the dead!”

“Whenever I see an empty tomb, I am reminded: God. Is. Able. What is he able to do? Fill in the blank! Whatever you need him to do!”

The pastor also made a reference to police shootings: “Even when we’ve lost Trayvon and Michael and Eric and Tamir, we have a God who on the other side working out justice.”

If you are observing the Easter holiday today, please accept best wishes from all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute. May your celebration of Christ’s Resurrection be peaceful and memorable.

King County Councilmember Larry Phillips won’t seek reelection, will retire at year’s end

King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, long a fixture on the state’s largest county’s legislative body, announced today he has decided not to run again in November and will retire at the end of the year, when his current term expires.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of King County and the region, representing the Fourth District on the King County Council,” Phillips said in a statement posted to his website. “It has been inspiring to be consistently immersed in the decision making of our region in meeting the many challenges—and changes—of the past two decades.”

“But now it is time to set a new course; consequently I do not intend to seek re-election this fall to the King County Council.”

“This decision is not reached easily. While I still possess the energy and desire to help our region meet the many challenges growth poses to our quality of life, and remain committed to preserving the values we hold close in this unique and beautiful home we share, I hope to do so in new ways.”

Phillips has served many times as council chair, and is a tireless advocate for strengthening our transit system and protecting our environment.

Phillips’ decision to retire will almost surely set off a big scramble for his seat, possibly including several state legislators (who won’t have to risk their own seats to run for Phillips’ seat) and maybe even a current city councilmember or two.

The 4th County Council District is situated in north Seattle and takes in a significant number of neighborhoods.

As we get reaction to the news of Phillips’ retirement, we’ll update this post.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to keynote NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala

With the first day of April nearly upon us, and NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala not far behind, it’s now time for us to announce who the final speaker at this year’s gala will be. Previously, we had the pleasure of revealing that U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer would be our opening speaker and Kirkland City Councilmember Shelley Kloba would be our master of ceremonies.

This afternoon, we are delighted to announce that this year’s gala keynote will be delivered by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Attorney General Bob FergusonAlthough he has only been on the job as the Evergreen State’s chief legal officer for a couple of years, Bob Ferguson has already established himself as a champion of open government, civil liberties, and environmental protection. He and Governor Jay Inslee have repeatedly teamed up on a number of important projects – particularly holding the federal government accountable for the cleanup of Hanford.

Prior to taking office as Washington’s eighteenth attorney general, Ferguson was a King County Councilmember, representing the county’s 1st District (north Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and points east).

Before that, he was a lawyer at Preston, Gates & Ellis. As his campaign biography notes, he was part of the legal team that fought two Tim Eyman initiatives in court, and succeeded in getting them struck down as unconstitutional.

Few people personify the Pacific Northwest quite like Bob Ferguson does. He is a fourth-generation Washingtonian, Husky graduate (not to mention former UW Student Body President!), avid mountain climber, and two-time winner of the Washington State Chess Championship (yes, really!)

Bob is also a compelling speaker. We know from experience: In 2011, he served as the master of ceremonies for NPI’s third Spring Fundraising Gala, and did a tremendous job tying the speaking program together.

We are very happy to have him back four years later, this time as our keynote speaker. We’re excited to hear what he has to say, and we hope you are, too.

Our seventh gala is going to be absolutely wonderful. We cordially invite you to consider joining us. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

  • Individual ($70, admits one person)
  • Household ($100, admits an entire family)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes)

Buy a ticket to the gala

$100

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Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

Here’s what else you can expect at our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 10th!

Father Gerald F. Lovett: 1935-2015

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

— Traditional Irish blessing

We may still be in the midst of Lent as spring gets underway, but the parish community of St. Jude in Redmond has reason tonight to celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection early: its founding pastor, Gerald F. Lovett, was lifted up to God this morning after a lifetime of cheerful and compassionate service.

Father Gerald Lovett

Father Gerald F. Lovett: 1935-2015; photo courtesy of St. Jude Catholic Church

Neither the parish nor the Archdiocese of Seattle have made an official announcement yet, but St. Jude families have been sharing the news with each other all day, and a few parishioners have posted fond remembrances on Facebook.

Father Lovett was the pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church for some twenty-five years, beginning with the parish’s founding in 1978, before it had a permanent home at the corner of NE 104th and NE 166th in woody north Redmond.

Appointed by then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, Lovett brought energy, vitality, and a much-appreciated Irish wit to the young parish community.

St. Jude’s founding families celebrated their first liturgy on September 16th, 1978, at Redmond Middle School. Just three years and a month later, the parish moved into its new building, with Hunthausen joining Lovett for the dedication of its altar.

Over the next two decades, Lovett would continue to shepherd the growing parish as the City of Redmond experienced tremendous growth. He baptized quite a few of Redmond’s Catholic millennials during those years – including yours truly.

Lovett was born in Kilmoyley County, Kerry, Ireland on December 1st, 1935. One of twelve children, he hailed from a family that was very devoted to the Catholic Church. According to a story on his retirement published by the Archdiocese of Seattle, five of his nine sisters became women religious. And he was not alone among his peers in deciding to take holy orders: thirty of his one hundred member high school graduating class chose to enter the seminary.

The aforementioned story gives a good account of his service as a young priest:

Ordained for the Archdiocese of Seattle at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny on May 31, 1959, Father Lovett was an assistant at St. James Cathedral Parish and then at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Seattle.

After earning a master’s in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he returned to the archdiocese and served as assistant director of Catholic Charities (now Catholic Community Services) for eight years, while also serving several of those years as pastor of St. Paul Parish in Seattle.

St. Jude would be Lovett’s final posting. By the Archdiocese’s reckoning, he started out with a community of about four hundred families. By the time he retired in mid-2003, more than 2,300 families belonged to the parish.

To say that Father Lovett was beloved by the families he served would be an understatement. He had a great sense of empathy and connected with everybody. He was also an excellent homilist. I can still vividly remember him ending one of his sermons with these words: “We are an Easter people — Alleluia, Alleluia!”

He also liked to say, “God’s crazy about you!”

Father had a great sense of humor and loved to joke with parishioners. In 1997, after returning to St. Jude after a spiritual retreat in Ireland, he responded to a silly Internet rumor about Bill Gates buying the Catholic Church by quipping, “I wasn’t on sabbatical. I was on a committee negotiating with Microsoft over the takeover.”

Father remained in touch following his retirement from St. Jude.

On May 16th, 2005, he called and left me a voicemail expressing his sheer delight at having opened that morning’s edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to find a guest column by me rebutting an obnoxious Tim Eyman op-ed that had run in the paper only a few days prior. (It was my first op-ed in print.)

I’ll never forget listening to that congratulatory message. Father was overjoyed that one of his flock was standing up to defend Washington against Tim Eyman’s destructive initiatives. I could tell the column had really resonated with him. He encouraged me to keep on building Permanent Defense and NPI – and I have.

I had the pleasure of visiting with Father on his seventy-eighth birthday back in 2013; that was the last time I saw him. When I greeted him, he remarked that I was very tall and asked me if my work with NPI was going well. (Having won a huge victory with the defeat of Eyman’s I-517 just a month prior, I assured him it was.)

Later, while we were visiting, I asked him what he thought of Pope Francis. Father smiled broadly and declared, “He should have come fifty years ago!”

Father was one of those people who could say a lot without actually saying a lot. Even when he didn’t have a homily or sermon prepared, he would still speak with conviction. And whenever he had something to say, people listened.

A fellow St. Jude parishioner captured Father’s remarks on his seventy-fifth birthday back in 2010 on video. Watch, and you’ll get a measure of the man Father was.

It saddens me to think I’ll never get an opportunity to visit with Father Lovett again. The Church has lost a good and gracious man, a kind and devoted shepherd. But I am comforted in knowing he is with the Lord now. Easter came early for him this year. Father spent a lifetime preaching the Gospel and ministering to the people of the Pacific Northwest. Today, he got to share in Christ’s Resurrection himself.

Push poll creator Tim Eyman doesn’t want fiscal impact disclosures added to ballot titles

A bill that would add fiscal impact disclosures to the ballot titles of many future initiatives has drawn the ire of political profiteer Tim Eyman only a week after passing the Washington State Senate by a three-to-one margin.

Substitute Senate Bill 5715, originally prime sponsored by Senator Joe Fain (R-47th District; Kent, Covington, Auburn) seeks to help Washington’s citizen lawmakers cast more informed votes by adding a short message to the ballot titles of initiatives that would significantly raise revenue, cut revenue, or require the appropriation of funds for implementation. The current content of this short message (which can be found in Section 2 of the bill) is in bold below:

For an initiative to the people, or for an initiative to the legislature for which the legislature has not proposed an alternative, that has been certified for the ballot, and for which the fiscal impact statement prepared pursuant to RCW 29A.72.025 indicates that the initiative will result in an estimated net biennial increase in state expenditures of twenty-five million dollars or greater, or an estimated net biennial decrease in state revenues of twenty-five million dollars or greater, the ballot title to be displayed in the voters’ pamphlet and on the ballot shall be revised substantially as follows:

“Initiative Measure No. . . . concerns (statement of subject). This measure would (concise description). The state budget office has determined that this proposal would have an unfunded net impact of (amount) on the state budget. This means other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement the proposal. Should this measure be enacted into law?

Yes [ ]
No  [ ]

Forty-one of Washington’s forty-nine senators backed SSB 5715 when it appeared on the Senate floor for a vote last week. Eight senators, including Eyman’s friends Pam Roach and Don Benton, voted against the bill. It is now in the House and before the State Government Committee chaired by Sam Hunt.

Eyman attacked a similar bill earlier on in the session and has now trained his sights squarely on SSB 5715, the only initiative reform bill to have survived the three cutoffs that have passed so far. Naturally, he doesn’t like the idea of adding fiscal impact disclosures to initiative ballot titles, because it might diminish support for his revenue-slashing and revenue-limiting initiatives.

For those reading who are unclear what is meant by the term ballot title, it’s the explanatory language that voters see on their ballots along with the initiative number and concise description. It’s the only information about the measure that appears above the bubbles or abrogated bars that voters fill in. It is always followed by the question Should this measure be enacted into law?

There isn’t room on the ballot to provide the text of initiatives, or arguments for and against. These appear in the voter’s pamphlet, but not every voter reads that, or conducts their own research using the Internet. Consequently, the language of the ballot title is very important, because it is the only information about the measure that every voter (or nearly every voter) is certain to see.

Initiative ballot titles are written by the Attorney General’s office, as required by state law. They are created at the time an initiative is being finalized for circulation via petition. SSB 7515 provides that initiatives that qualify for the ballot shall have the previously blockquoted fiscal impact disclosure added to their ballot titles, to alert voters that passage of initiatives like Eyman’s would affect the state budget.

Eyman dislikes SSB 5715 so much that he has sent out multiple emails attacking it and plans to testify in opposition to it at its public hearing in the House State Government Committee, which is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 8 AM.

Here’s a snippet from an email sent yesterday:

This is the bill that requires a Surgeon General’s warning label be attached to certain initiative ballot titles.

For 101 years, the Attorney General has been required by law to describe initiatives with a ballot title which is neutral and which “does not create prejudice for or against the measure.”

The proposed text of the warning label in SB 5715 is so incredibly biased and loaded that it’s obviously intended to stop people from supporting the targeted initiative.

In that same email, Eyman goes on to complain:

Gimme a break!

Inserting such a biased warning label into an initiative’s neutral ballot title is government-sponsored sabotage of that initiative.

Worst of all, the warning label is selectively applied: it gets slapped on some initiatives and not others. Who gets to decide: the Governor’s budget office. So any initiative the Governor sees as a threat will get a warning label, and any initiative the Governor supports will not.

The email ends with two asks: a request that followers send an email to the entire House roster opposing SSB 5715, and a request for money (as always). Eyman’s message template repeats his attack on the bill (emphasis ours):

Senate Bill 5715 is an anti-initiative bill that is now being considered in the House. I strongly oppose it and ask you to oppose it too. SB 5715 is filled with loaded, biased, vote-suppressing language that is clearly meant to convince voters to vote no. It allows the governor’s budget office to sabotage any initiative they see as a threat (the warning label only gets slapped on some initiatives, not others — who decides? The governor’s budget office). I ask you to oppose SB 5715. Leave our initiative process alone.

Tim Eyman has some nerve offering up this argument, considering that he’s the one responsible for the advisory votes push polls we now see annually on our ballots here in Washington State. (These are required under a provision of Eyman’s Initiative 960 that went unimplemented until 2012.)

Eyman’s push polls are not intended to take the pulse of the public, as he falsely claims, but rather to clutter up everyone’s ballots with misinformation that makes it seem as though our elected representatives are always raising taxes.

Under Eyman’s I-960, the repeal of an unneeded tax exemption constitutes an increase in revenue and triggers a push poll. So does a minor technical fix to our tax system. I-960 dictates the language and formatting of the push polls, which all look the same. There were two push polls in 2012, five in 2013, and two last year.

There are spaces in the push poll template for numbers to be plugged in (including stupid, misleading ten-year cost projections that make the dollar figures bigger), and for a terse description of the bill that triggered the push poll.

Otherwise, they look alike.

We published a report through Permanent Defense in 2013 which deconstructs Eyman’s push polls in more detail. We believe the push polls are unconstitutional, because they are basically a nonbinding form of referenda not authorized by our state Constitution, which spells out the initiative and referendum powers.

The constitutionality of the push polls has not yet been challenged in court, but ought to be, since the Legislature is unlikely to repeal them anytime soon. (Chris Reykdal introduced a bill to repeal the advisory votes in the House, and it made it to House Rules, but it did not receive a vote, most likely because House leadership figured it would be dead on arrival in Pam Roach’s committee in the Senate.)

It is ironic that Eyman is vociferously attacking a bipartisan, well-meaning effort to add context to initiative ballot titles as sabotage, given that sabotaging our Constitution, our common wealth, and public confidence in government is what he gets paid big bucks by his wealthy benefactors to do.

It is doubly ironic that he is complaining about the fiscal impact disclosures required by SSB 5715 as biased and loaded considering that he is the author of the initiative that unconstitutionally requires costly and deceptive push polls devised by him in response to any revenue-raising bill the Legislature approves.

It is triply ironic that Eyman is whining about SSB 5715 given that he regularly engages in the abusive practice of ballot title shopping. Eyman will file the same initiative draft with minor additions or subtractions multiple times, trying to massage a ballot title that he likes out of the Attorney General’s office. When he gets a ballot title he likes, he proceeds to print up petitions and move forward with the chosen incarnation of the destructive initiative he wants to peddle to the voters.

No reporter or media outlet should take Eyman’s comments in opposition to SSB 5715 seriously. Eyman doesn’t care about the integrity of the initiative process; he merely wishes to preserve the status quo because he is experienced at manipulating it. SSB 5715 represents an impediment to the success of future schemes. Little wonder, then, that he is beating a drum so loudly against it.

Kim Wyman and Pam Roach’s SB 5978 won’t guarantee a meaningful presidential primary

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, I traveled down in Olympia to testify before the House Government Committee on SB 5978, Kim Wyman and Pam Roach’s bill to replace our state’s presidential straw poll with an expensive, meaningless straw poll in the event the Democratic Party decides to use a caucus to allocate its delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The following is the text of my prepared testimony.

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee:

For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve. I’m the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, a netroots powered strategy center working to raise America’s quality of life through innovative research and imaginative advocacy. I’m here today to express our strong opposition to SB 5978.

This bill has been advertised by the Secretary of State as legislation that “requires” the state’s two major political parties to use a presidential primary for allocating their national delegates. But if you look through the language of the bill, you’ll see it does no such thing. And that’s because it can’t. It would be unconstitutional. The First Amendment protects the right of the Democratic and Republican parties to freely assemble and carry on their affairs as they see fit.

What this bill really does is replace our presidential primary with a straw poll in the event one or both major parties refuse to use the presidential primary to allocate some of their convention delegates.

The Washington State Republican Party, through its chair, Susan Hutchison, has already said it plans to use the primary to allocate some of its delegates.

The Washington State Democratic Party has historically never used the primary to allocate any delegates and lacks the flexibility under DNC rules to split its allocation between a caucus and primary. All of its delegates must be allocated through one method and one method only.

We agree a primary should mean something, if it is held, but this bill does not guarantee that. Under Section 4 of SB 5978, the Secretary of State will begin preparing to conduct the most expensive public opinion research poll in the history of the state, if, by October 1st of this year, both parties do not agree to use a primary for allocation of delegates.

We think this is irresponsible. Elway and other pollsters can tell us what presidential candidates Washingtonians support at a fraction of the cost of the straw poll this bill would authorize – at private expense. Why on Earth would we want to spend $11.5 million of the people’s money holding an election that doesn’t mean anything?

If this Committee intends to keep SB 5978 alive, we suggest amending the bill to strike all of Section 4. That would result in a bill that merely moves up the base date of the primary in state law (currently it’s in May, and it would change to March).

Although I am here today speaking on behalf of NPI, I do want to note that in addition to serving as NPI’s executive director, I serve on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) and on the WSDCC’s Rules Committee. I would like to take an opportunity to provide you with some background from the perspective of one of the people who will be making the decision as to whether the Democratic Party chooses a primary or caucus for 2016.

The WSDCC’s Rules and Affirmative Action Committees will be meeting very soon to write our 2016 Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan. Once we are finished with our draft, we’ll make it available to the public for comment ahead of our April 18th meeting in Pasco, where the full WSDCC will consider the draft plan.

At that meeting, we will make a decision as to whether to use a caucus or primary for delegate allocation. The DNC requires that we submit our plan to them for approval by early May. The decision is ours to make as the democratically elected leaders of the Democratic Party – not the Legislature’s, not the Secretary of State’s, and not the Governor’s. How we govern ourselves and choose our nominee is up to us; as I said earlier, the First Amendment gives us the right to freely assemble.

We do care what the public thinks, which is why we’ll be holding a public comment period. The party is committed to a nominating process that is inclusive and open.

The reaction I’ve gotten to this bill from talking to party leaders has been universally negative. If this bill moves forward as is, I think we are less likely to choose a primary for delegate allocation. The continued existence of this bill is only going to strengthen the position of those who favor continuing to use caucuses. We therefore suggest that it either be abandoned or amended to remove Section 4.

Thank you for your time this afternoon and I’d be happy to take any questions.

Meet Tim Eyman’s new wealthy benefactor: Developer Clyde Holland of Holland Partners

The gears of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory appear to be spinning with full force once again following a major infusion of cash from two wealthy right wing developers, new reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission show.

The campaign committee for I-1366, Eyman’s initiative for 2015, reported that for February of 2015 (its first month of operation), it raised a total of $452,444.04 (principally from three sources) and spent $158,111.78.

(I-1366, for those readers unaware, is a scheme to coerce the Legislature into passing a constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. It would wipe out $1 billion a year in funding for schools and other vital public services if the Legislature doesn’t pass such an amendment by April of 2016.)

$150,000 of the nearly half a million the committee raised is a previously-reported loan taken out by Tim Eyman against his home to fund the initial weeks of the signature drive for I-1366, which remains underway.

A further $100,000 came from Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr., who ranks number second on the list of Tim Eyman’s top ten all-time wealthy benefactors, behind only the late Michael Dunmire, an investment banker. Freeman has a long history of giving to Eyman, but hasn’t written a check this big to him since 2012.

And then there’s a $150,000 donation from a new wealthy benefactor, exactly matching the amount of money Eyman borrowed against his home: Developer Clyde Holland of Vancouver, Washington.

Data: Public Disclosure Commission | Chart: Northwest Progressive Institute

Holland is the CEO of Holland Partners, which appears to consist of several related firms. One, Holland Development, calls itself “a premier developer of core urban infill residential and mixed-use trophy communities with a disciplined focus on high barrier-to-entry markets that appeal to the rising creative class.”

The Oregonian profiled Holland in 2013 and had this to say about him:

Clyde Holland spent much of his childhood packing.

Nineteen moves in 17 years will teach a young man a lot: how to build connections, develop relationships, make friends quick.

Today, the 53-year-old Air Force brat and real estate developer is firmly rooted in the Northwest and seems to have it all.

A dream house on 20 acres in Clark County, projects and regional offices in Seattle, Denver and Los Angeles, satellite operations in Phoenix and Northern California.

Thirteen years after leaving the national development firm Trammell Crow Company to start Holland Partners Group, he has $2.5 billion in projects in development across the West and employs 700 workers.

“Our focus is on how much value can we create,” Holland said of his firm and its philosophy.

Holland’s philosophy of creating value evidently doesn’t extend to politics, or he wouldn’t have agreed to become Tim Eyman’s newest wealthy benefactor.

Eyman is all about destroying value — whether that’s sabotaging our Constitution, attacking our cherished tradition of majority rule, wiping out funding for our vital public services, spreading misinformation, or polluting our political discourse. Running initiatives to wreck government is the only thing he does.

Holland has given to Eyman once before, PDC data shows, but that was a donation of just $500, made on March 17th of last year to Eyman’s failed I-1325, which didn’t make the ballot. (I-1366 is nearly identical to I-1325). Eyman has now persuaded him to give three hundred times more than what he gave last year.

PDC reports list the date of Holland’s contribution as having been received on February 20th, 2015, ten days after Eyman announced he was taking out the loan. Likely Eyman secured a promise from Holland to write a big check prior to taking out the loan. In the past, every single time Eyman has borrowed against his home, his loans have been repaid thanks to contributions from wealthy benefactors.

A search of the PDC database reveals that Holland has been active in Republican Party circles as a major giver since 2012.

He has written checks to the Washington State Republican Party, the Republican caucus campaign committees, Rob McKenna, Don Benton, Ann Rivers, Lynda Wilson, Jan Angel, Liz Pike, and Ed Orcutt.

The Washington State Republican Party also received a large contribution from him last month, in the amount of $40,000. That was received February 2nd, 2015.

A previous contribution Holland made to the WSRP last year is the subject of a complaint filed with the Public Disclosure Commission by former State Senator Al Bauer. Bauer alleged that after maxing out to Republican Clark County Council candidate Jeanne Stewart, Holland and another major Republican donor illegally funnelled money through the state Republican Party to her candidacy.

Holland’s company is presently developing a new residential tower in Seattle, Premiere on Pine, which will be located at Ninth Avenue and Pine Street.

Holland is most likely the “successful businessman” Eyman has been talking about in his most recent emails to his followers, in which he says that any donation made to the I-1366 campaign this month will be matched, dollar for dollar.

From Eyman’s March 2nd, 2015 email:

Thankfully, we’ve been given a tremendous opportunity to maximize this month’s effort: one of our supporters — a successful businessman — has offered to match dollar-for-dollar all donations our supporters give during the month of March.

So your $10 donation will be matched by him, resulting in $20 total to the campaign. Your $100 will be matched by him, resulting in $200 total to the campaign. $1000 is worth $2000. $5000 is worth $10,000.

Whatever amount we receive from all of you will be matched by him. It’s a very generous offer and an even greater opportunity for the campaign. Please maximize your support for I-1366 by contributing this month.

This isn’t the first time Tim Eyman has spearheaded a matching campaign like this to spur his less-wealthy followers to donate… he did it years ago with Dunmire, too.

Assuming Eyman is not lying to his supporters (something he’s done plenty of times) and assuming Holland is the “successful businessman” Eyman’s talking about, then it seems he’s prepared to open his checkbook again to keep the gears of Eyman’s initiative factory lubricated with money.

Eyman will need more of Holland’s money. History has shown that when he doesn’t have a wealthy benefactor, he doesn’t get on the ballot. He needs rich people like Freeman and Holland to write him multiple six figure checks every year so that he can stay relevant. Otherwise his factory sputters to a halt.

The last time Eyman ran a successful signature drive was in 2012; when he qualified I-1185 and I-517 as initiatives to the people and the Legislature, respectively.

(I-517 appeared on the ballot in 2013, where it was overwhelmingly rejected. The I-517 campaign committee remains under investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission for serious violations of the state’s public disclosure laws.)

Based on what I’ve read of Holland so far, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would be careless with his money. But by shelling out big bucks to Tim Eyman, that is exactly what he is doing. Is Holland not aware that Eyman has a history of lying to his donors and using their money for his own personal use or for other projects? Or is he giving to Eyman in spite of that knowledge?

Either way, this is an incredibly troubling development.

But it’s not one that surprises us. Having fought Tim Eyman for over thirteen years, we know he’s a first-rate snake oil salesman. He’s very good at conning and duping people. That’s why we’ve been expecting that a new wealthy benefactor for his initiative factory might emerge. Now we have evidence that that’s happened.

As we announced last month, we have already begun organizing opposition to I-1366, under the assumption Eyman will be able to buy his way onto the ballot.

We are grateful to the King County Democrats, 30th District Democrats, 45th District Democrats, and 32nd District Democrats for moving quickly to take positions against I-1366. Many more organizations will be joining the coalition in the weeks to follow, and we look forward to working with them to build an effective campaign against I-1366, Tim Eyman’s most destructive initiative to date.

Kirkland City Councilmember Shelley Kloba to emcee NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala

Tonight, with NPI’s 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala now just six weeks away, we are thrilled to announce that we have a fantastic Master of Ceremonies lined up to run this year’s speaking program: Kirkland City Councilmember Shelley Kloba.

Shelley is one of the Eastside’s most principled and hardworking elected officials. She was appointed by her colleagues to the Kirkland City Council to fill a vacancy in March of 2013. The voters subsequently retained her the following November, and she is up for reelection to the Council this year. She has a long history of involvement in the PTA, volunteers as an EvergreenHealth community advisor, and is currently a trustee for the Lake Washington Schools Foundation.

Shelley is also a longtime supporter of NPI; she participated in NPI’s very first Spring Fundraising Gala in May of 2008. We’re delighted to have her as our Master of Ceremonies this year. She’ll be sharing a stage with U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer, who we announced as our opening speaker last month.

Our seventh gala is shaping up to be a great event. We hope you’ll consider joining us. If you haven’t yet bought your ticket to our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala yet, we urge you to do so now using one of the buttons below.

A household ticket admits all the members of an immediate family and is a good value if you plan to attend with your spouse or children. (The gala is a family-friendly event, and young people of all ages are welcome!).

These are our ticket rates:

  • Individual ($70, admits one person)
  • Household ($100, admits an entire family)
  • Living Lightly ($25, for students and activists on limited incomes)

Buy a ticket to the gala

$100

$70

$25

 

 

Click above to buy a ticket using a credit card.

Here’s what else you can expect at our 2015 Spring Fundraising Gala:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be sharing more details about our 2015 gala, including the names of our other speakers. We hope you’ll help us make our biggest event of the year a success by buying your ticket and committing to attend.

See you on April 10th!

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