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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Put a fork in it, it's done

We already knew Tim Eyman's Initiative 917 was history last week, but here's the final confirmation - the last nail in the coffin:
Sponsors of I-917 submitted a total of 266,034 petition signatures to the Secretary of State. Election officials conducted a full check of all the initiative's signatures, of which 219,175 signatures were valid, and 46,859 were determined invalid. Signatures are invalid if the signer is not a registered voter or if he or she signed more than once.

Initiatives need a minimum of 224,880 valid voter signatures to qualify for a spot on the ballot.
Getting on the ballot with a wealthy sugar daddy should have been a cakewalk for Eyman, but he couldn't manage to do it. We will continue to work hard to ensure that his initiative factory stays dark and out of business.

UPDATE: Eyman has sent out a snail mail letter to his supporters in which he repeats his claim that he had enough signatures. A few excerpts:
Right after the Secretary of State alerted us there was a discrepancy with Initiative 917's signature count (we turned in 300K but they told us 6 days later it was 265K) we should have provided our supporters with more details about what happened. We kept hoping that I-917 would qualify anyway and that we could instead focus on the fall campaign.

[...]

By the Friday, we submitted the last of them [petitions] bringing our total to 300,353 signatures. Based on our nine years of experience doing initiatives, we thought that was it.

But just before 5 PM on Thursday, July 13th, six days after the deadline, we got a faxed letter from the Secretary of State saying the count was 265,809. I called Tina Clarke [who works for Sam Reed] immediately & she quietly listened to me for about 10 minutes as I sputtered half sentences - "How could ..." "But we show ..." - "Now what do we..." - "I just can't believe..."

We held out hope that they would discover their mistake. We wrote a letter asking for a recount. After it, the total changed to 266,006.

Jack, Mike, and I were flummoxed. We never thought something like this could happen. We didn't know what to say or what to do. Days later, we lashed out at the Secretary of State. Then, some of our supporters pointed out that attacking the government agency that was verifying I-917’s signatures was probably not a smart move. So for the past several weeks, we’ve waited for the process to unfold, hoping things would work out. Sadly, they didn’t – the Secretary of State will be announcing soon that I-917 will not be on the ballot.

[…]

Although no final decision has been made yet, based on lots of feedback from supporters and our own evaluation and analysis, we will likely sponsor an initiative in 2007 that reduces & controls property taxes. Good choice? We would welcome your feedback.
In his letter, Eyman also included a copy of his “weekly signature reports” which purportedly show that Eyman and his cohorts had the number of signatures they’d claimed to have turned in.

The “weekly signature reports” along with “other internal emails and documents” were, according to Eyman, subpoenaed by Preston Gates & Ellis, the law firm representing a coalition of organizations that filed suit last month to invalidate petitions which had not been signed by the signature gatherer who circulated them.

At first glance I didn’t think much of the email Eyman that reproduced. For all I know the figures are just made up, invented. But after taking another look I made a couple of important discoveries.

The week by week report (which is really just an email) is separated into two parts – one for how many signatures are collected by paid petitioners, the other for how many are collected by volunteers.

According to the report, as of June 6th, 2006, (“Week 18”) 200,694 signatures had been collected by paid petitioners, while 63,032 had been collected by volunteers.

What’s funny is that June 6th, 2006, is the same day that Eyman paraded before reporters in a Darth Vader costume, telling them he’d be back the next day to turn in signatures for Referendum 65. However, Eyman also used the stunt as an opportunity to talk about the progress of I-917 (and this is absolutely a direct quote – his own statement – his own words):
As far as "Save Our $30 Tabs" Initiative 917 is concerned, in the past 4 months, our thousands of supporters have successfully gathered 142,613 signatures. We need an additional 140,000 signatures in the next 4 weeks. Reaching the halfway point in signatures is a huge milestone but it's clear that we've got our work cut out for us. We need one last big blitz of signatures from our supporters before July 7th to qualify for the ballot.
This, of course, only proves one thing: Tim Eyman is a liar. He has contradicted himself with his own numbers.

He told the press on June 6th, 2006, that his supporters had collected 142,613 signatures – that they were at the “halfway point”. But his internal report says on that date the campaign had 263,726 signatures.

The email Eyman included in the letter with the weekly tallies also shows that very few signatures were collected in the weeks after June 6th, 2006 by paid petitioners. This is actually consistent with the reports we received at the time from our right wing signature gathering monitoring system.

Indeed, for the weeks that we received no reported sightings of I-917 petitions being circulated, there are blanks on Eyman’s report – meaning that zero signatures were collected by paid petitioners for those weeks.

So what actually happened?

Since that information corroborates we can safely conclude that by the beginning of June, Eyman was, (or thought he was) almost done with his signature drive. He explicitly lied to the press corps on June 6th, 2006, when he said he had 142,613. In reality, he probably had far more.

How many? That we don’t know. We can’t trust Eyman’s numbers because Eyman is a liar. For all we know these numbers have just been completely made up. As I wrote above, the only thing we know for certain is that Eyman lied because he has given out contradictory figures.

My suspicion is that Eyman thought he had I-917 in the bag. What other explanation is there for why Eyman didn’t have paid petitioners out in full force collecting for I-917 in June? He had a sugar daddy willing to write checks to fill his coffers with all the money he needed.

The most plausible explanation of what happened is that somebody in Eyman’s operation made a mistake. It wasn’t necessarily Tim himself – it could have been one of his cohorts. The number of signatures the campaign actually had was miscalculated. And by the time the mistake was discovered, the July deadline had arrived and there was nothing that could be done about it.

Eyman apparently decided to wing it, hoping I-917 just might have enough signatures to qualify.

So he turned in what he had. And on the last day to turn in petitions, he attempted to create proof that he had in fact submitted 300,353 signatures by writing the number down on a piece of paper and then getting the Secretary of State’s receptionist to stamp it.

Eyman then pretended to be shocked when he the Secretary of State’s office announced he’d only turned in around 266,000 signatures. He disputed the Secretary of State’s announcement and tried to fool everyone into believing that he had proof by claiming he had a valid receipt. However, this charade fell apart quickly once it was revealed the document was entirely meaningless.

This is all conjecture, of course. Speculation. But it makes sense. Eyman has never offered a sensible explanation. He has refused to accept any responsibility or blame. The only scenario he’s offered for the discrepancy between what he claims to have submitted and what the state actually got is that petitions were “pilfered” – either by somebody in Sam Reed’s office or somebody else.

And that, of course, is laughable.

Initiative 917 failed because of the incompetence of its sponsors.

All they have to back up their claims is rhetoric, spin, and accusations. They’re not a professional, veteran operation. They’re a bunch of sloppy amateurs.

Eyman has admitted that they did not photocopy the petitions, didn't count the number of petitions turned in, and didn't keep records of how much each box of petitions weighed.

They didn’t keep good records because they’re lazy and careless. They’re not so concerned with qualifying ballot measures as they are with making money. So long as Eyman & Co, can keep lining their pockets, everything is good.

They owe it to their supporters to come clean about everything that happened, but they won’t.

As for next year, Eyman’s s multimillionaire backer appears ready to supply the money needed to run a campaign to slash property taxes. That’s not a surprise, of course. We fought this battle back in 2004 against I-864 and won. There’s no reason we can’t win again in 2007.

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