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.

Monthly Archives: August 2013

IRS: LGBT couples who are married can file joint tax returns beginning next year

The Internal Revenue Service announced today that in the wake of the Supreme Court’s late June decision striking down the poorly-conceived “Defense of Marriage Act”, American LGBT spouses will be able to file joint or separate tax returns as married couples beginning next year, no matter where they happen to live.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew in a statement released by the Treasury.

“This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

The IRS will not, however, recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions, so LGBT couples living in states where full marriage equality is not yet a reality will either have to continue waiting or obtain a marriage license from a different state.

Washington, California, Minnesota, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Delware and Maryland all permit LGBT couples to wed, as does the District of Columbia, five Native American tribes, and six counties in New Mexico.

Seven other states recognize some form of civil union or domestic partnership. These include Oregon, New Jersey, Hawaii, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Like the thirteen states mentioned above (plus the District of Columbia) these are all “blue” jurisdictions that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Sadly, none of the states that supported John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012 have taken any steps on the path towards marriage equality. Most have enacted constitutional provisions declaring that marriage is only for heterosexual couples. These states will likely remain the last bastions of inequality.

LGBT couples who have been married for a few years can choose to file original or amended returns for 2012, 2011, or 2010 if they were married in those years, the IRS said. (The statute of limitations generally permits refund claims to be filed for three years from the date that a taxpayer filed a return).

“This announcement makes today a day of celebration and relief for married same-sex couples all over America,” Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson said in a statement sent to NPI. “At long last, the IRS will treat them as what they are: married. Freedom to Marry commends the administration’s swift implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling for federal equality in an area that will have a direct, tangible impact on families’ financial health.

“The fact that this new respect applies only to married couples – not those joined by domestic partnerships or civil unions – highlights the need for an America where everyone can marry the person they love in any state, and have that marriage respected at all levels of government,” Wolfson added.

On that note, we’d like to remind our readers that a campaign is underway to bring marriage equality to Oregon in 2014.

Because Beaver State voters approved a constitutional amendment outlawing marriages between LGBT couples in 2004, Oregon’s Legislature is not able to make marriage equality a reality through statute as Washington’s Legislature did last year. The only way to get it done is through a new constitutional amendment.

In a way, this simplifies things, because a change in statute would likely have been subject to a public vote via referendum anyway.

I should mention that in Oregon, unlike Washington, constitutional amendments may be proposed directly to the people via ballot measure, and require only a majority vote of the people to be approved.

We at NPI believe this to be very unwise… a plan of government should not be changeable by majority vote because a plan of government is what protects minority rights. (Of course, in other circumstances, majority rule should prevail).

In Washington, much to the dismay of Tim Eyman, our Constitution cannot be amended by ballot initiative; amendments must originate in the Legislature and get a two-thirds vote there first, then obtain a majority vote of the people.

However, until the day comes when Oregon adopts Washington’s sound approach to amending its Constitution, Beaver State progressives can take advantage of the shift in public opinion in favor of the freedom to marry by putting their own constitutional amendment on the ballot to reverse the provision adopted in 2004.

And that’s just what they are doing. Their measure is called the Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative. So far, about 72,000 signatures have been collected. Around valid 116,284 signatures are needed to place the measure on the November 2014 general election ballot alongside the contests for governor (John Kitzhaber is up) and U.S. Senator (Jeff Merkley is up).

If you are a resident of Oregon and would like to participate in the campaign, visit Oregon Says “I Do!” to learn how you can help qualify the measure for the ballot. You may also call 1-866-493-6792.

UPDATE, 3:45 PM: Senator Maria Cantwell responds to the ruling:

Today, the IRS sent a clear message: America’s federal tax system will not discriminate based on who you love. Today’s decision means that all couples legally married in Washington state can file a joint federal tax return, regardless of where they choose to live. I’m proud to have helped work in support of this decision to bring about much-needed clarity for same-sex couples across the country.

In June, we witnessed history as the Supreme Court acknowledged that same-sex couples deserve equal treatment under the law. Today, our nation took another step toward equality for all Americans. I will continue to work on the Senate Finance Committee to ensure equality in the tax code, and to make sure federal laws and regulations treat all married couples as equals.

Our thanks to Senator Cantwell for her work on the Finance Committee to improve our tax code, which has not only been prejudiced against LGBT couples to date, but also riddled with loopholes and exemptions.

Department of Justice won’t sue to overturn I-502, Washington’s law legalizing marijuana

The United States Department of Justice has decided not to seek to overturn Initiative 502, the law approved by voters last year that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana in Washington legal. Governor Jay Inslee announced the news this morning in a joint statement with Attorney General Bob Ferguson:

Today we received confirmation Washington’s voter-approved marijuana law will be implemented.

We received good news this morning when Attorney General Eric Holder told the governor the federal government would not preempt Washington and Colorado as the states implement a highly regulated legalized market for marijuana.

Attorney General Holder made it clear the federal government will continue to enforce the federal Controlled Substance Act by focusing its enforcement on eight specific concerns, including the prevention of distribution to minors and the importance of keeping Washington-grown marijuana within our state’s borders.

We share those concerns and are confident our state initiative will be implemented as planned.

We want to thank the Attorney General for working with the states on this and for finding a way that allows our initiative to move forward while maintaining a commitment to fighting illegal drugs. This reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states’ interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government’s role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity.

In a memo sent to all United States Attorneys, Deputy Attorney General James Cole stressed that the federal government has not changed its position on marijuana:

As the Department noted in its previous guidance, Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Department of Justice is committed to enforcement of the CSA consistent with those determinations.

However…

Outside of these enforcement priorities, the federal government has traditionally relied on states and local law enforcement agencies to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. For example, the Department of Justice has not historically devoted resources to prosecuting individuals whose conduct is limited to possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property.

Instead, the Department has left such lower-level or localized activity to state and local authorities and has stepped in to enforce the CSA only when the use, possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana has threatened to cause one of the harms identified above.

The enactment of state laws that endeavor to authorize marijuana production, distribution, and possession by establishing a regulatory scheme for these purposes affects this traditional joint federal-state approach to narcotics enforcement.

The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.

A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.

Cole writes that Justice is particularly concerned about marijuana getting into the hands of minors, intoxicated driving resulting from marijuana usage, and marijuana being used as a cash cow for gangs looking for a way to finance their criminal activities. So long as Washington and Colorado can effectively enforce their marijuana laws, the Department won’t seek to overturn them.

But Cole also warns: “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust… the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself in addition to continuing to bring individual enforcement actions, including criminal prosecutions, focused on those harms.”

In other words, the federal government is going to give I-502 a chance to work, but reserves the right to go to court in an attempt to strike it down if it sees fit.

Inslee and Ferguson thanked Attorney General Eric Holder and his team for the guidance and declared that Washington’s enforcement efforts would be robust.

“We can assure the Attorney General that Washington state will remain vigilant in enforcing laws against the illicit marijuana market,” they said. “Since voters approved Initiative 502 last year, the state has been working to implement it. Today’s announcement from Attorney General Holder is a confirmation that the process can continue to move forward as planned. We appreciate that the federal government will allow the voice of Washingtonians to be heard on this issue.”

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn also applauded the memo.

“Washington voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of marijuana last year, a policy that I fully support,” said McGinn in a statement. “Since then, we have wondered what the course of action would be for federal officials, for whom marijuana remains an illegal substance. Today, I applaud US Attorney General Holder’s announcement that he will not interfere with the will of Washington voters. Seattle public safety officials, residents and entrepreneurs can now proceed with confidence that the will of the voters has prevailed in Washington.”

“I am pleased that Attorney General Holder has provided clarity about the future of I-502 in Washington State,” added Interim Police Chief Jim Pugel.

“Our department will continue our mission of public safety, harm reduction, and public education encouraging safe and lawful behavior with regards to the guidelines for marijuana established by Washington voters.”

Given that Congress has not changed federal law on marijuana, and given the Department of Justice’s traditional hostility to legalization and decriminalization, this guidance from Holder is truly good news which we can all be grateful for.

We at NPI enthusiastically supported Initiative 502 last year and have since supported efforts to thoughtfully implement it. Already, we have seen prosecutorial resources freed as local prosecutors have dropped charges against Washingtonians for possessing marijuana. Now we can move forward with confidence, knowing that that the Department of Justice will be keeping an eye on us, but not planning a lawsuit seeking I-502’s demise in federal court.

UPDATE, 1:10 PM: U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home congressional district, has weighed in on the news:

I strongly believe that state laws like I-502 should be respected, and in June, I joined with several of my Washington state colleagues in writing to Attorney General Holder to request that the Department of Justice assure our citizens that they will not be penalized by the federal government for activities considered legal under state law.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I look forward to working closely with my colleagues to monitor the implementation of I-502 and its impact on federal drug control policy. I want to thank Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy for scheduling a hearing next month on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, and I urge the House Judiciary Committee to consider convening a hearing on this topic in the coming months as well.

We’ll post further reaction as we get it.

Rodney Tom and Curtis King’s transportation “listening tour” doesn’t have a Seattle stop

The Washington State Senate Republican caucus today unveiled a list of dates and locations for the transportation “listening tour” they’ve been promising to hold since the end of the contentious legislative session back at the beginning of the summer. The “tour” will consist of seven public meetings – one each in Bellevue, Vancouver, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, Wenatchee, and Everett:

  • September 17th – Seattle/Bellevue (Northwest Region): Stevenson Elementary School, 14220 NE 8th St., Bellevue, WA 98007
  • September 18th – Everett (Northwest Region): Snohomish County, Robert Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., 1st floor, Everett, WA 98201
  • September 23rd – Wenatchee (North Central Region): Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N Wenatchee Ave, Wenatchee, WA 98801
  • September 24th – Yakima (South Central Region): Yakima Area Arboretum, Garden View Rm., 1401 Arboretum Dr., Yakima, WA 98901
  • October 2nd – Spokane (Eastern Region): Greater Spokane Inc., 801 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201
  • October 7th – Vancouver (Southwest Region): Vancouver Community Library, Columbia Room, 901 C St., Vancouver, WA 98660
  • October 9th – Tacoma (Olympic Region): Evergreen Tacoma Campus, Lyceum Hall, 1210 6th Ave., Tacoma, WA 98405

No stop is planned for Seattle, the state’s largest city, although bizarrely, the Bellevue stop is listed on the Senate Republicans’ website as “Seattle/Bellevue”, as you can see above. This is misleading, because Stevenson Elementary School is just down the road from Crossroads in the eastern part of Bellevue.

The school is closer to Redmond or Kirkland than Seattle, yet it’s being advertised as the “Seattle/Bellevue” meeting location. Huh? “King County” would have been accurate. But it seems as though the Republicans are trying to cover for the fact that they didn’t bother to schedule a meeting in Seattle proper.

Nice try, guys, but that won’t do.

The Emerald City, Washington’s largest municipality, is bigger than Spokane, Tacoma, and Vancouver combined… so why doesn’t it have its own stop?

Maybe it’s because, as we saw during the session, Republicans seem to have nothing but contempt for Seattle. From their anti-Emerald City rhetoric to their sponsorship of bills aimed at overturning the city’s pro-worker ordinances to their failure to provide King County with the authority to raise revenue for Metro, they’ve done their best to stiff Washington’s largest city.

The Republicans claim that the meeting locations correspond to the Department of Transportation’s six regions. While that may be the case, they could have done a better job of picking meeting places (or scheduled more meetings).

Notice that three of the meeting locations are in fairly close proximity to each other on the mainland. This is where the majority of the state’s population lives, but because no other meetings are scheduled for the northwestern part of the state, it means any Washingtonians who live on the Olympic Peninsula, Kitsap Peninsula, or any of the state’s major islands – Vashon, Bainbridge, Whidbey, the San Juans – will need to pay a toll or ferry fare to participate in the “listening tour”.

(Either that, or do a lot of driving to cross a bridge that isn’t tolled).

Transportation is a major issue for Washingtonians who live in ferry-dependent communities, which leads us to wonder: Why wasn’t a meeting scheduled in, say, Bremerton, Port Townsend, Friday Harbor, or Anacortes?

And what about people in southwest or southeastern Washington who don’t live near Vancouver or Yakima? There’s no meeting being held at a location within reasonable driving distance for many Washingtonians. Was any thought given to scheduling meetings in Bellingham, Aberdeen, Pullman, or the Tri-Cities?

We also wonder whether this “listening tour” will live up to its name. The NPI team are political town hall veterans, and we know from experience that politicians tend to dominate town hall-style public meetings and do most of the talking.

It would be something if Republicans actually did open up the floor for public comment from the get-go, and put the focus of the meetings on the testimony, as opposed espousing to their own views.

Washington State Republicans elect Susan Hutchison to be their new chair through 2014

A successor to Kirby Wilbur has been chosen:

Former KIRO-TV anchor Susan Hutchison has been elected as the new chair of the Washington State Republican Party.

At a meeting in Spokane Saturday afternoon, Hutchison defeated the sitting interim GOP chair, Luanne Van Werven in a runoff vote after two other contenders were eliminated. (The final vote on the GOP state committee was Hutchison 59, Van Werven 46.)

Of the party’s one hundred and seventeen state committee members, one hundred and seven reportedly showed up in Spokane to participate in the election for chair. A total of four candidates were nominated for the job, including Christian Berrigan from Clark County and James Walsh from Grays Habor County, but the election ultimately ended up being a race between Van Werven and Hutchison.

Hutchison narrowly trailed Van Werven on the first ballot, but easily overcame the deficit to win by a ten plus vote margin once Berrigan and Walsh were eliminated.

Van Werven will apparently remain vice chair, at least for the time being, according to conservative blogger Bryan Myrick, who writes the NW Daily Marker.

Van Werven campaigned with the support of national committeewoman Fredi Simpson, along with Representatives Vincent Buys and Drew MacEwen, but in the end, Hutchison emerged with a stronger base of support, perhaps owing to her name recognition and media savvy. (Party leaders often have to go on TV, so being comfortable in front of a camera and being well-spoken is a plus).

The Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner reports that Hutchison compared the party’s grassroots base to George Washington’s Revolutionary War Army at Valley Forge and then piled on with a stinging critique of Kirby Wibur’s administration.

Hutchison said the state party is “nearly broke,” has a “useless” website and a get-out-the-vote operation that is “spotty in most counties and ineffective in our most populous counties.”

“Can it get worse? Of course it can. The Democrats are not playing dead,” said Hutchison. She described the Democratic Party as “swelling in our urban centers” and threatening to render Republicans irrelevant.

It would be more accurate to say that the Democratic Party is winning because it is doing well in Washington’s suburbs. Cities like NPI’s hometown of Redmond are increasingly Democratic, and consistently vote for Democrats up and down the ticket. I think that’s because Democrats are committed to governing well and improving people’s lives, as opposed to tearing down vital public services and telling everyone, “We’ve got ours… you’re on your own!”

(By the way, full disclosure: I am involved in the Democratic Party, and sit on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee as a state committeeman. But chances are, if you’re a regular reader of The Advocate, you already knew that!)

With the notable exception of several state Senate races in 2010, the Democratic Party has been pretty much cleaning the Republican Party’s clock in the suburbs for several election cycles running. Republicans won only a single statewide race last year under Wilbur, and failed to take either house in the Legislature, although Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon’s defection to the Republican Party enabled the extremists in the Republican caucus to take over the state Senate.

Hutchison’s speech was also laden with red meat. As Brunner notes:

Hutchison unsuccessfully ran for King County executive in 2009 by downplaying her Republican ties and claiming to be nonpartisan. But she was in full partisan fervor Saturday, calling Democrats beholden to “union fat cats” and “masters of election fraud as proven in 2004 when they stole the election of Dino Rossi.”

What nonsense. Were it not for Washington’s unions, our state would be in much worse shape than it is. Income inequality would be higher, there would be fewer jobs that pay a living wage, and working conditions would be poorer.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats don’t believe in demonizing working men and women or the good people who represent them at the bargaining table.

And as for the 2004 election, Chris Gregoire won, fair and square. Republicans had their day in court; they were given ample opportunity to back up their baseless allegations of election fraud. But they had no evidence at all… just sour grapes… and their lawsuit ended up being dismissed with prejudice by Judge Bridges after one of the most watched trials in Washington State history.

It’s funny how Hutchison uses the word “proven” when Republicans weren’t able to prove anything in court. In fact, the result of the Republican Party’s election challenge was that Rossi lost votes, because the Democratic Party presented evidence that several felons had voted for Rossi, whereas the Republican Party presented no evidence that any fraud had occurred.

Dino Rossi was never elected governor of Washington State. He was ahead in the count the first two times that ballots were tabulated. But the final count put Chris Gregoire ahead, and that was the count that mattered. Gregoire was the legitimate winner of the 2004 gubernatorial election, and the 2008 gubernatorial election, when she defeated Rossi for the second time by an even wider margin.

Brunner’s recollection of Susan Hutchison’s 2009 campaign for King County Executive is spot on. Four years ago, Hutchison was going around King County claiming to be nonpartisan; now she’s attacking Democrats as “masters of election fraud”. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Here’s an excerpt from Susan Hutchison’s introductory remarks during the June 25th, 2009 candidate forum for King County Executive candidates, held in North Bend:

I believe through the work I have done serving the people of this region for almost thirty years that the best way to get things done is not in a partisan way, but together, bringing people together, and working together to solve our complex problems.

Since I am not a politician, I don’t, uh, operate from the point of view of, uh, partisan politics.

Emphasis is mine. We’ve got audio of that bit, too.

I guess it was convenient for Susan to tell everyone didn’t “operate from the point of view of partisan politics” in 2009, when she was trying to get elected in King County. She can’t say that now… for the next year and a half, at least, she’ll be in charge of the Washington State Republican Party, a job that entails rallying the party faithful and making rhetorical jabs at the opposition.

Speaking of King County, Hutchison apparently isn’t enamored with how the state’s largest jurisdiction is being run these days.

Executive Dow Constantine and Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett are, by most accounts, doing an outstanding job; Republicans didn’t even bother to field a credible challenger to Constantine this year, and he garnered more than three-fourths of the vote in the winnowing election.

But in a Q&A addressed to WSRP committee members, distributed in advance of the chair election, Hutchison called King County “the Cook County of the West” and suggested that she’d rather live someplace else:

You are from King County. To many of us that’s not an asset.

Believe me, I’d rather not hail from the Cook County of the West!  In fact, it was the sorry condition of King County that compelled me to run for King County Executive in 2009 in hopes of bringing needed change. But there are a couple good things I bring by living in the most populous county in the state.

One is a fund-raising advantage. Most of our state’s major donors live in or around King County and they supported me in my 2009 campaign. We need to raise a lot of money soon in order to implement our plans for the future. I can do that quickly through my relationships with hundreds of major donors.

Second, King County is the “belly of the beast” of the Democratic Party machine. To win elections, we have to know how to win–by understanding the opposition’s tactics and methods. I do—I learned the hard way.

Hutchison is mistaken if she thinks simply understanding how the “Democratic Party machine” works is the key Republican victories in the future.

Certainly, having a technological edge helps win elections, and having a strong get-out-the-vote operation also helps win elections.

But what matters above all else in politics is authenticity and trust. Democrats want to make government work more effectively, which is what the majority of Washingtonians also want. That’s the biggest reason why people vote Democratic.

Republicans have, at times, tried to claim the same, but the truth is, they want to dismantle and destroy Washington’s vital public services with a wrecking ball. They truly believe that government – our government – is the problem, and they’ve been good enough to admit that loudly and often in recent years.

None of Hutchison’s recent predecessors – Chris Vance, Diane Tebelius, Luke Esser, or Kirby Wilbur – have succeeded in getting a Republican elected as a U.S. Senator or as governor during their tenure as state party chair.

What makes Hutchison think she can turn that around? Why is she confident that the Republican Party is on the cusp of a comeback?

“The reason why is, we are right and they are wrong,” she said.

Wow… what a compelling argument.

The Washington State Republican Party is certainly right wing, but it isn’t right. Its platform calls for policy directions that would worsen our state’s quality of life.

We’ve watched as the Republican Party has implemented its extremist agenda in other states, like North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and the results have not been pretty. Republicans have tried to disenfranchise young voters and Democratic voters, curtail reproductive rights, roll back worker’s rights, and slash funding for public services. They would love to do the same in Washington, but unfortunately for them, that’s not the kind of future that Washingtonians want.

Hutchison has only been elected to serve out the remainder of Kirby Wilbur’s unexpired term, which runs through 2014. There is no statewide race in 2014, so presumably, Hutchison will be focused on legislative contests and U.S. House races, like her counterpart, State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz.

The Washington State Republican Party has yet to comment on the results of the chair election on their website; when they do, I’ll update this post.

NPI’s (unconventional) newsgathering credo: Accuracy and context are more important than getting it first or getting it fast

Editor’s Note: This month and this week, NPI is celebrating its tenth anniversary. This is the third post in a seven-part series reflecting on NPI’s first decade. Each installment will be penned by one of NPI’s board members.

I came to Washington in 1992, but I didn’t become involved in politics until 1999 when I started attending meetings of the 45th District Democrats.

I became a precinct committee officer (PCO) to help with the elections in 2000.  I was happy that we had some local successes that year: Gary Locke was reelected governor, Laura Ruderman was reelected as State Representative, and Jay Inslee reelected as U.S. Representative in the old 1st Congressional District.

Of course, I was disappointed by George W. Bush’s five to four victory that same year, made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court. The peaceful handover of power – even if it was to the wrong candidate – was a triumph of the rule of law; it demonstrated the resilience of our Constitution. But it was not a happy time for democracy; nor was it a happy time for Democrats and progressives.

Activists in the 45th District Democrats made me their chair. As district chair, I tried to expand the organization. In this effort, President Bush and the policy directions he pursued were a great help. President Bush exhorted us to show our patriotism by going shopping after the September 11th attacks.

Then Bush instigated the invasion of Afghanistan, the unjustified occupation of Iraq, and the never ending war on terror, all charged to our credit card. At the same time, he and a Republican-controlled Congress cut taxes for the wealthy.

For some reason, people who hadn’t shown much interest in politics became active with the Democratic Party. At the same time that NPI was formed, many people were looking for a better way forward: people rallied to the candidacies of Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and John Kerry. We didn’t win in 2004, but we kept trying.

We’ve been exposed to the rhetorical formulation, “war on x”, that has been used as a foil by politicians of all stripes: “war on poverty”, “war on drugs”, “war on cancer”, the “moral equivalent of war” (energy policy, if you don’t recall), and “war on terror”. Some are more worthwhile than others, but not one of these has yet been brought to a successful conclusion. (It’s hard to win a war against a noun).

Indeed, some have been successful only in diverting resources and attention from concerns that should be paramount. When the mild suggestion is made that those who benefit the most from the society we’ve built ought to pay to sustain it, we hear “class warfare”: the message machine knows where its bread is buttered.

The undeclared “wars” are more pernicious. Forgive me if these labels are unfamiliar to you – political leaders don’t want to alarm you by uttering them. Some states have adopted policies that could be identified as “war on immigrants.”

Under the guise of preventing voter fraud (difficult to do as there is so little of it) we have “war on poor or elderly or minority voters”.

And then there is the “war on the impoverished”, and the “war on seniors”.

The “war on civil liberties”, one of the myriad fronts in the “war on terror”, is brought to mind by cameras everywhere and the enthralling prospect of the NSA reading our emails. (Orwell’s timing was a little off.)

Other fronts are the “war on open government” and the “War on the free press.”  Benjamin Franklin warned, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Events continually show that government cannot assure our safety, so why should we surrender our liberties in the false hope of security?

Granted, the government must sometimes undertake some actions that abridge privacy. But our Constitution spells out a process for when searches and seizures are appropriate and just. I have little sympathy for those who, entrusted with secrets, break their solemn oaths. I have less sympathy for government entities that don’t have the decency to follow their own rules.

In the ten years since NPI was formed, Americans have gone to the polls three times to vote for President of the United States. (Here in the Pacific Northwest, of course, we now primarily vote at the kitchen table).

Owing in part to the fact that the office of president is the only position that ever appears on the ballots of Americans in all fifty states, American politics tends to be driven by presidential election cycles and their outcomes.

Simply put, presidential elections matter, as I alluded to earlier.

NPI has covered all three of those presidential elections – each time more effectively and more comprehensively than it did the cycle before.

In 2004, NPI covered the Democratic National Convention from Redmond, along with John Kerry’s final campaign stop in Washington (a rally at the Tacoma Dome). Only four years later, NPI was able to send a team to cover the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, reporting on convention happenings live from the Big Tent near the PepsiCenter in the Mile High City.

And just last year, NPI was officially credentialed by the DNCC to cover the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

NPI’s founder, Andrew Villeneuve – who was also elected as a delegate to the Convention from the 1st Congressional District – anchored NPI’s live coverage each night from inside Time Warner Cable Arena, providing perspective on the goings-on to NPI readers back home in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

What really sets our reporting and commentary apart from what you’ll find at other organizations is our credo. We are more interested in accuracy and context than getting it first or getting it fast. We would rather tell a story well than race to publish what we know as we learn it. We would rather analyze and reflect than sensationalize. As the name of this publication suggests, our role as a media organization is to publish thoughtful advocacy journalism… advocacy journalism that fearlessly questions what all those wars on nouns are about!

NPI has never stopped improving its newsgathering capabilities, because we believe the key to communicating effectively is storytelling. And there are many different ways of telling a story – including several made possible by advances in technology.

Thanks to the generosity of fellow activists and to partners like SEIU Healthcare 775NW and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, NPI has been able to invest in professional tools so our staff can capture high quality audio and video, take great photos, and report live from almost anywhere.

If you’re a regular reader of The Advocate, chances are you’ve followed our staff’s liveblogging or seen some of the great snaps they’ve taken.

We’ve also set standards for ourselves, because our integrity is very important to us. Former NPI fellow Mike Finkle, now a District Court judge, helped our staff develop a robust Code of Ethics in 2009 and 2010 to govern NPI’s reporting.

In NPI’s second decade, we intend to pass along the storytelling skills we’ve honed to more activists, as our late founding boardmember Lynn Allen urged us to do.

As progressives, our focus must be on people and outcomes that benefit people. We have a lot of work to do. With help from our supporters and volunteers, NPI will strive to keep activists and citizens across the Pacific Northwest better informed about the issues we face by providing thoughtful commentary and reporting on current events through publications like The Advocate and In Brief, our microblog.

Ralph Gorin has served as a member of NPI’s Board of Directors since March 2010. He chaired the 45th District Democrats for over half a decade.

Ready for a new decade: NPI to begin its next ten years with a capable, committed board

Editor’s Note: This month and this week, NPI is celebrating its tenth anniversary. This is the second post in a seven-part series reflecting on NPI’s first decade. Each installment will be penned by one of NPI’s board members.

NPI has come a long way in ten years.  I moved to Washington State in 1997, but didn’t get involved in politics until 2004 when Dennis Kucinich’s first presidential campaign and Washington State’s cancellation of the presidential primary got me active. That involvement led to involvement in the 45th Legislative District Democrats, where I met Andrew Villeneuve, who was already a key player there.

The two of us grew up politically together in many ways. I took on leadership roles in the 45th and became Chair in 2007 – a position I continued in until I was redistricted out of the 45th in 2012. (Today, I participate in the 5th LD).

I worked hard to develop a leadership team to run the organization, and Andrew was an essential part of it, although he was simultaneously building NPI.

I don’t have political experience outside of the Pacific Northwest, but the politics here have always struck me as peculiar.

One of those peculiarities is the existence of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory. Washington is known nationally as a blue state with a progressive tradition; it has been governed by a Democratic chief executive for over thirty years. But what many outside the Evergreen State don’t know is that for years, Washington’s public services have been weakened by a series of ill-conceived right wing initiatives purposely intended to wreck state and local government.

As Robert noted yesterday, it wasn’t until activists like Andrew Villeneuve and NPI alum Steve Zemke stepped forward to challenge Eyman that his winning streak was snapped. Andrew had no angel investors, financial backing, or team in place when he started Permanent Defense in 2002 or NPI in 2003.

But he resolved that he couldn’t stay on the sidelines while Eyman succeeded in hoodwinking so many of his fellow citizens with false promises of a free lunch.

Since 2002, Eyman’s failures have outnumbered his successes, and this is a testament to the work that NPI and other progressive organizations have been doing… in the courts and the court of public opinion.

And while this has been going on, not only have Andrew and I grown and matured, but so has NPI. Once an idea on the Web, NPI has become an established and respected institution. Permanent Defense, which preceded NPI as a reaction against right wing extremism, became a part of something larger ten years ago when Andrew transformed his realization that progressives needed to go on offense into a plan for something more tangible: a forward-thinking think tank with the soul of a tech startup focused on reframing and rethinking.

It’s been said that successful startups must eventually evolve to become independent of their founders and leaders, and I think that’s true.

As Chair of the 45th, I worked hard to build a leadership team that would carry on my vision of inclusive progressivism, and Andrew has been doing the same at NPI. For much of NPI’s first decade, NPI was entirely run and governed by its staff. But Andrew foresaw that NPI would need something more to go to the next level, and committed himself in 2010 and 2011 to recruiting boardmembers for NPI.

Today, NPI has a strong and capable board of directors, which I am proud to be a part of. Our board includes State Representative Gael Tarleton, who currently serves as NPI’s president, Ralph Gorin, currently serving as NPI’s Secretary, Democratic State Party Secretary Rob Dolin, Robert Cruickshank, and former longtime staff members Kathleen Reynolds and Rick Hegdahl. (Kathleen serves as NPI’s Treasurer).

On Thursday, as NPI begins a new decade, it will cross the threshold with a board of directors committed to helping NPI’s staff realize its potential.

It’s an exciting time to be part of NPI and progressivism in the Pacific Northwest.

Martin Chaney has served as a member of NPI’s Board of Directors since June 2012. He serves as the 5th LD Democrats’ County Committeeman.

Max Fisher’s “40 Maps” and the impact of framing on American politics and public policy

Least and most emotional countries as displayed by the Washington Post.

Over the past week, an infographic has been making its way around the internet called “40 maps that explain the world”, based off another web page which used the “40 maps” theme.

Collected by Max Fisher of the Washington Post, it shows cartographical depictions of anything from the four different countries a Russian professor believes the United States will become to the status of gay rights around the world.

One map in particular stood out, which showed survey data about the least and most expressive/emotional countries. What is surprising about it is how high the United States is ranked on whether respondents experienced significant positive or negative emotions the day prior to the survey.

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our tradition of rational freethinking, secularism, and data-driven decision making. But time and time again, it is shown that (especially when making policy) we rely more on our gut than our head.

In fact, it’s when we use these value-driven emotional narratives (which highlight the stories of those who have experienced these policies) that we see the most success. This is important not just for convincing elected officials, but for showing the public the importance of whatever solution we advocate for.

On the flip-side, emotional narratives can be used to reinforce racial prejudices and weaken our shared common wealth.

These emotional underpinnings activate when we talk about the “deserving” vs. “undeserving poor”, GMO labeling, or comments made by Paula Deen.

Based on how strong a frame has developed in the thinking of a person, they will react a different way to the same sort of information, and the way the information itself is presented will evoke different reactions depending on the narratives involved. (George Lakoff has written extensively about this in his many books).

Nicholas J.G. Winter, a professor at the University of Virgina, wrote in his book titled Dangerous Frames: How Ideas About Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion how these emotional underpinnings affect our policy decisions, and how certain rhetorical concepts, when communicated, help or hurt the lives of those from marginalized communities. He writes:

Just as welfare is associated with negative stereotypes of African Americans–in particular laziness–Social Security is associated with positive white stereotypes such as hard work. Moreover, the framing of both programs has implied that the fundamental design of each actually fosters those attributes in recipients. In a symbolic sense, at least, those frames suggest that welfare creates blackness and that Social Security creates whiteness.

Even though welfare helps white working class people the most, the connection with race has put it on the chopping block for decades, quite different from Social Security, where proposed changes (thankfully) evoke outrage by the public no matter who introduces the idea.

These frames, and the emotions they evoke, explain how people think what they do about “Stand Your Ground Laws”, human services, and public transit.

When public transportation is seen as just helping poor people (and by association people of color) it becomes harder to receive funding, such has happened here in our state in Spokane, where the bus system has undergone several rounds of severe cuts over the past few years, in part because of the negative associations with the ridership and the political efficacy of those who use the service.

If you want to to find an easy example of prejudiced, damaging, and hurtful frames to examine, Fox “News” is a 24-hour-a-day psychodrama.

Just today, on a Fox panel, a contributor suggested that the TV channel and news service Al Jazeera was popular because “most Arabs sympathize with Osama bin Laden’s efforts to kill Americans“.

Deepening the frame that “foreignness equals dangerous”, with the increasingly-less-implicit appeals to racism the Fox News has decided to air, completely ignores the caliber of the journalists that are employed by the almost-launched Al Jazeera America, among them former CNN anchor Joie Chen, and the legendary John Seigenthaler. The channel promises more than infotainment, but a return to critical journalism that has been sorely lacking on television these days.

For Fox to disregard the quality of this programming, not just as a business decision, but labeling it as an extension of foreign policy, shows strongly held beliefs which constitute a frame of not just nationalism, but nativism and xenophobia.

As progressives, we have trouble with framing and talking about our values. While framing can be negative, we must continue to work to not just talk about data, but to make sure that we highlight those stories that are backed up by data and the truth. Otherwise, our natural tendencies to use emotion in our decision making processes will be used to hurt those who live in our society, instead of providing opportunity for everyone, no matter their background.

From opposition to proposition: NPI is working to make the defeat of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory a beginning – not an end

Editor’s Note: This month and this week, NPI is celebrating its tenth anniversary. This is the inaugural post in a seven-part series reflecting on NPI’s first decade. Each installment will be penned by one of NPI’s board members. 

As I reflect on NPI’s tenth anniversary, I find myself thinking back to where we were as a nation, as a state, and as a society in 2003.

Ten years ago, I had just moved to Washington to begin a PhD program in history at the University of Washington. I was paying close attention to national politics, and in 2003 became active in the presidential campaign of Howard Dean.

At the time, fighting back against the conservative agenda being implemented by President George W. Bush seemed the highest priority, and the first progressive presidential campaign of the new century was the place to begin. Many progressives across the country still count the Dean campaign as their entry to political activism.

I was also trying to get a handle on the politics of a new state, a state I was unfamiliar with. One of the only things I knew was that Washington was under siege by a right-wing anti-government zealot named Tim Eyman, who had sponsored a series of unconstitutional, unsound initiatives purposefully written to destroy public services by gutting their revenue sources.

Coming from California (the home of Howard Jarvis), it was a story I knew well. Eyman was working to defund the public institutions and services that helped families prosper in the twentieth century, and was having a lot of success.

It also did not appear that many people were fighting back. Eyman’s initial victories at the ballot caused Democrats like Governor Gary Locke to become reactive and look for ways to appease a supposedly anti-tax electorate.

As progressives began working to build infrastructure across the country to stop the Bush agenda, it was clear that a similar need existed in Washington to not only stop the Eyman agenda, but to make a clear and full-throated defense of Washington’s longstanding progressive values.

Someone was already working to build that infrastructure. His name was Andrew Villeneuve, and across the lake in Redmond, he had seen the same need for progressive leadership, starting with fighting Tim Eyman. Rather than wait for someone else to take the lead, Andrew stepped up and did it himself.

I first got to know Andrew in 2005, after he had already started NPI. I was impressed that at a young age he had already begun building the online infrastructure needed to link progressives across Washington and the Pacific Northwest, while also standing up early and often to Tim Eyman.

Before long it became clear that the state finally had someone willing to fight Eyman and push back against his anti-government agenda.

I watched as NPI became a leader in the fight against Eyman and for progressive values. NPI kept tabs on Eyman’s fundraising and his initiative factory, getting important information out at an early stage to institutions and activists so they could be prepared to fight back against Eyman’s latest scheme.

In the eleven and a half years since NPI and NPI’s Permanent Defense have been active opposing Eyman, Eyman has not had any consecutive victories. Before 2002, he was winning at the ballot every year. But, since 2002, voters have rejected half of the initiatives he has gotten on the ballot (I-892, I-985, I-1033, I-1125).

NPI played a role in helping defeat all of those measures, as well as stopping John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur’s I-912 in 2005.

The effort to safeguard Washington from Tim Eyman’s initiative factory continues, and NPI remains at the forefront. Yet from an early stage it was clear to me that Andrew intended NPI to do more. Fighting Eyman was a necessary defensive move.

But to rebuild progressive institutions, policies, and values we needed an institution willing to help build a movement, to train and connect activists, and to provide message leadership to those who were willing to listen.

NPI has taken on that role as well, in the Northwest as well as across the country. NPI has convened state and local political bloggers at Netroots Nation conventions in recent years, providing a forum for writers to share knowledge, skills, and ideas.

These gatherings have also helped provide important cohesion for netroots activists, especially as the Tea Party began to seize power in state after state beginning in 2009. Back at home, NPI has improved Pacific NW Portal, which serves as a central hub for progressive bloggers and writers, giving crucial exposure to important people and issues that might otherwise have been lost.

NPI’s annual events, including our popular Spring Fundraising Gala, are great opportunities for progressives to connect and be inspired.

In 2007, I left for California just as NPI was taking off. When I returned to Washington in 2011, I began to focus on state and local political issues, and found that NPI had become an established, respected organization supported by leaders and activists across the region. I was honored to be asked by Andrew to serve on NPI’s board, and help build the organization for the future.

As we look to the next ten years, it is clear that NPI and its mission are more important than ever before. Right-wing extremists have their eye on Washington and are working hard to bring to this state the same radical agenda they have brought to states like Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina.

Traditional media outlets are becoming more right-wing in their coverage, and despite President Barack Obama’s two historic election victories, progressive causes and candidates in the Northwest still face challenges.

Most Washingtonians want public policy to reflect our cherished and long-held progressive values . But that won’t happen if there are not organizations in place to organize and mobilize people around those values, and teach activists how to reframe and use their time, talent, and treasure effectively.

Since 2003, we at NPI have shown that it’s possible to build an agile progressive organization that is innovative and focused on the long term while also fighting important short term battles against the likes of Tim Eyman.

In its next ten years, NPI will show how we can go, in the words of Van Jones, “from opposition to proposition”… setting an agenda that can help renew progressive values and policy directions in the Pacific Northwest.

It is an exciting time to be a part of NPI. But the best is yet to come.

Robert Cruickshank has served as a member of NPI’s Board of Directors since March 2011. He works for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn as a Senior Communications Advisor.

Felony charges filed against petitioner who submitted fraudulent signatures for Tim Eyman’s I-1185 and R-74 in 2012

A petitioner who state elections officials discovered had submitted thousands of fraudulent signatures last year for Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1185 and for Referendum 74 (the unsuccessful ballot measure to overturn marriage equality) is being prosecuted by Snohomish County for committing a felony, court records show.

The Herald of Everett reported today that Julie A. Klein, fifty-four, of Marysville, was charged in late July with falsely signing petitions for I-1185 and R-74 thousands of times, allegedly with names that she found in the phone book. (That’s apparently what she told Washington State Patrol detectives).

Klein has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to five years in prison – or fined $10,000. Alternatively, she could be sentenced to prison and fined.

The Klein case is just the latest instance of signature fraud uncovered in Washington State, and further proof that, contrary to what initiative profiteer Tim Eyman has claimed, signature fraud does exist and it is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

For years, Eyman has insisted to reporters and state lawmakers that there is no need for oversight of the initiative process because signature fraud just doesn’t happen in Washington. Two and a half years ago, in a February 28th, 2011 email to the press and to elected leaders decrying Senate Bill 5297, he depicted the state’s underground signature gathering industry as having a squeaky clean reputation:

We’ve written about this repeatedly this year: over the past 12 years, 12.7 million signatures have been turned in to the Secretary of State, and in all that time, there’s been 1 problem with 1 SEIU official last year.

In reality, Washington State’s signature gathering industry has a history of operating outside of the law, and Eyman and his associates know it.

At the time Eyman sent the email excerpted above, there was actually another case of documented signature fraud – a case Eyman was well aware of.

That case concerned fraudulent signatures that had been collected (but not submitted) for one of Eyman’s own initiatives – I-985 in 2008.

Likely Eyman didn’t mention it because it would have undermined the narrative he was trying to sell to reporters. One case of signature fraud can be called an isolated incident, but two is twice as many as one and begins to indicate a trend.

And in the years since, more instances of fraud have been discovered. Stein’s fraud was discovered last year, and early this year, an unprecedented number of fraudulent signatures were discovered during the random sample checks conducted on Tim Eyman’s I-517 and the initiative to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, I-522. (NPI opposes I-517 and supports I-522).

The Herald’s Eric Stevick notes:

Eight of 19 initiatives or referenda submitted for verification between July 2008 and January 2013 contained irregularities that were turned over to the State Patrol.

Over that span, 19 people have been investigated for petition forgery or fraud. Among those, two were convicted of felonies.

That these fraudulent signatures are being discovered is especially significant considering that the Secretary of State does not usually check all of the signatures that are submitted for any given initiative or referendum.

When a petition drive ends and petitions are turned in, elections officials do a count to see how many signatures there are. If the total number submitted reasonably exceeds the minimum required, elections officials perform what’s called a random sample check. If the measure passes the random sample check, it goes on the ballot or before the Legislature, as the case may be.

Not inspecting every signature certainly saves money, but it also means that signature fraud may go undetected, as we’ve pointed out in response to Eyman’s false and misleading statements. (In other states, including Oregon, there have been many documented cases of signature fraud, and the notion that it can’t happen here because we’re on the northern side of the Columbia is ridiculous).

Even if Eyman had amended his email to say “two known problems” it would still have been misleading. Signature checkers always find duplicate and invalid signatures when they check signatures on petitions, because they’re so common. They don’t always find fraudulent signatures because fraud is less common. But again, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Innocuous invalid signatures are unquestionably problematic – they just don’t rise to the level of fraud, which merits a criminal investigation. If submitted petitions didn’t contain significant numbers of problematic signatures, there’d be no need for sponsors to submit a cushion consisting of thousands of extra, valid signatures.

The fact that elections officials keep uncovering fraudulent signatures on petitions means that signature gathering companies like Citizen Solutions (Eddie Agazarm and Roy Ruffino’s outfit) are not consistently catching the bad actors on their own – which is something they’ve claimed they’re capable of doing.

That’s just one reason why our state’s underground signature gathering industry needs to be subjected to stronger oversight and enforcement.

There are other reasons.

Many paid petitioners come in from out of state to work on campaigns in Washington, and most do not bother to register with the Department of Revenue or the Department of Labor & Industries. The petitioning firms that bring them in do not bother to comply with Washington’s worker protection laws.

That puts the petitioners themselves at risk, and it also makes it difficult for authorities to track down lawbreakers, as a WSP detective told The Herald:

Bob Calkins, a spokesman for the Washington State Patrol, said some investigations have run into dead-ends.

“Not only were the signatures fraudulent, but the identifying information about the signature gatherer was fraudulent and we were never able to run that down to an individual person,” he said. “So those other cases we were unable to take forward for prosecution.”

Several years ago, we urged the Department of Labor & Industries to start looking at these companies. After we did, L&I ended up conducting an audit of Eyman’s associates at Citizen Solutions, and fined them more than $8,000 for labor law violations. Following the completion of the audit, Eyman’s associates changed Citizen Solutions’ address and reincarnated the firm as a new entity – a limited liability company. Information we’ve received about their activities leads us to conclude they are still flagrantly operating outside of the law.

They know they are and they don’t care.

For too long, firms like Citizen Solutions have been exploiting not only voters, but the workers they hire to carry petitions on behalf of powerful interests, including Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactors. This exploitation needs to end.

It is time for us to clean up Washington’s signature gathering industry so we can safeguard the spirit and the integrity of our state’s initiative process. In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be working with other concerned Washingtonians and state lawmakers to shine a spotlight on the industry and strengthen oversight of it.

Matchup appears set in Seattle mayor’s race: It’ll be Ed Murray versus Mike McGinn

Winnowing election night is finally here.

Several weeks after voting began, the deadline to turn in ballots has arrived, and the first results are coming in. All eyes, figuratively speaking, are on the state’s largest city, which has the election’s marquee race: a nine-way contest for mayor.

Only two of the nine will be moving forward to the November runoff, and at this point it looks like those two candidates will be Democratic State Senator Ed Murray and incumbent Mayor Mike McGinn, who polls showed had the lead back in July.

As of just after 8:15 PM, Murray’s share of the vote was 30.24%, with McGinn a few points behind at 27.15%. (See more numbers at NPI’s Pacific NW Portal).

Coming in third and fourth place were Peter Steinbrueck and Bruce Harrell, one a former member of the Seattle City Council and the other a current member. The two of them have more than thirty percent of the vote combined. But individually, they’re both more than ten points behind McGinn.

The rest of the field – Charlie Staadecker, Joey Gray, Kate Martin, Mary Martin, and Doug McQuaid – are all in the single digits.

At his Election Night party at China Harbor, Steinbrueck urged supporters to keep the faith, noting many ballots left to be counted. He was even introduced as “the next mayor of Seattle.” But Steinbrueck is very far behind McGinn… he would need a huge wave to carry him past the incumbent, and that just doesn’t seem likely.

Peter Steinbrueck

Third place finisher Peter Steinbrueck speaks to supporters shortly after the publication of the first results in the 2013 mayoral race. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Steinbrueck’s supporters began crowding around a projection screen moments after the first and only results of the night were posted. But the returns gave them no cause for celebration. Steinbrueck took to the stage shortly afterwards, cheerfully thanking his volunteers and trying to strike an optimistic tone.

Murray and his supporters, celebrating at The Crocodile in Belltown, were jubilant. Murray delivered a well-received victory speech with his family and friends at his side. Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, a former rival of Murray and McGinn’s, was on the stage, as were City Attorney Pete Holmes and State Representative Cyrus Habib of the 48th LD.

Murray pledged, if elected, to appoint more women to leadership positions in City Hall, and pronounced himself ready for a lively autumn campaign with McGinn.

Ed Murray

State Senator Ed Murray delivers his victory speech after initial results showed him in the lead in the 2013 mayor’s race. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“I’m not running to be a gay mayor of Seattle… I’m not running to be a progressive mayor of Seattle… I’m running to be an effective mayor!” he told his supporters.

Murray has the support of much of the city and the state’s Democratic establishment. He picked up endorsements from most of the city’s Democratic legislative district organizations, and prominent former officeholders like Governor Chris Gregoire have held events on his behalf.

McGinn and his supporters, meanwhile, were upbeat, celebrating the Mayor’s substantial lead over all of his rivals except Murray. Their party, at Capitol Hill’s 95 Slide, was still going strong late into the night.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn speaks at 95 Slide on Capitol Hill following the release of initial results. (Photo: NPI)

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn speaks at 95 Slide on Capitol Hill following the release of initial results. (Photo: NPI)

Several McGinn supporters I talked to made a point of calling the night a huge victory over The Seattle Times, which they say has spent three and a half years trying to bring down McGinn’s administration.

(The Times has a notorious history of endorsing Republicans for statewide and federal office; it backed Rob McKenna and Reagan Dunn last year).

Ahead of the election, many observers wondered if McGinn would share the fate of Greg Nickels and Paul Schell, who were ousted by challengers in the 2001 and 2009 winnowing elections. But McGinn’s supporters tell me they always had faith that they’d be able to mount a winning campaign.

McGinn volunteers say they’re energized to reelect Mike because they want a city that has great mass transit, safe neighborhoods, good schools, and a commitment to combating the climate crisis. They’re looking forward to the fall campaign, which promises to be a fierce and no-holds barred matchup with Ed Murray.

But tonight, they’re celebrating, because Mike McGinn is moving on to the final round in his bid for a second term as Mayor of Seattle.

Jeff Bezos agrees to buy The Washington Post and its other D.C. area papers for $250 million

Wow. Didn’t see this coming:

The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) announced today that it has signed a contract to sell its newspaper publishing businesses, including The Washington Post newspaper, to Jeffrey P. Bezos.

The purchaser is an entity that belongs to Mr. Bezos in his individual capacity and is not Amazon.com, Inc.

“Everyone at the Post Company and everyone in our family has always been proud of The Washington Post — of the newspaper we publish and of the people who write and produce it,” said Donald E. Graham, Chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Company.

“I, along with Katharine Weymouth and our board of directors, decided to sell only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders). Jeff Bezos’ proven technology and business genius, his long-term approach and his personal decency make him a uniquely good new owner for the Post.”

“I understand the critical role the Post plays in Washington, DC and our nation, and the Post’s values will not change,” said Mr. Bezos. “Our duty to readers will continue to be the heart of the Post, and I am very optimistic about the future.”

Bezos is one of America’s best known technology CEOs. He founded Amazon.com in his garage nearly twenty years ago and has overseen the company’s growth from a small tech startup into the world’s foremost electronic retailer. Amazon is one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest publicly traded companies, with a market capitalization of $139 billion, $66.85 billion in annual revenue and 88,550 employees.

Bezos is also one of Washington’s wealthiest men. His net worth, as of 2013, is estimated to be $25.2 billion. Considering how large his fortune is, the price he is paying to acquire The Washington Post and other D.C. newspapers doesn’t seem that high. According to a SEC filing spotted by Alex Wilhem of TechCrunch, Bezos’ purchasing entity (Explore Holdings) won’t be responsible for the pensions of former Post employees. So that makes the acquisition somewhat sweeter for him.

The big question on the minds of many seems to be: What does Jeff Bezos want with a venerable, struggling daily newspaper company and its print empire? And what led the Post’s board to conclude Bezos was the right man to sell the crown jewel to? (Clearly, they’re impressed by his business acumen; but Bezos hasn’t been known as someone interested in newspapers or the news business).

The Post’s Wonkblog writers, fortunately, have had a lot to say about how they feel about the sale, and their commentaries have been the best I’ve seen so far.

Also worth reading are statements by Bezos and the Grahams:

And the Post’s reporters have put together a number of articles about the sale.

The Washington Post Company is retaining a number of publications and other assets that will not be sold. These include Slate, Kaplan, CableONE, SocialCode, and WaPo Labs. The Company announced that it anticipated renaming itself in light of the sale of The Washington Post and other D.C. area papers to Bezos.

The sale largely completes the Post Company’s transformation into an educational and interactive media business. It has been unloading periodicals for years.

Earlier this year, the Post Company sold its principal Pacific Northwest asset, The Herald of Everett, to Black Press of British Columbia. That transaction brought an end to a thirty-five year relationship.

And in 2010, the company let go of Newsweek, which was then experimentally paired up with The Daily Beast by its new owner Barry Diller.

Newsweek, sadly, did not fare well under Diller’s IAC. Its circulation continued to drop, leading to the discontinuation of its print edition at the end of 2012.

A few days ago, IAC announced it was selling Newsweek to a new owner, IBT Media, which publishes the International Business Times.

The sale to Bezos at least keeps The Washington Post and its family of D.C. area newspapers out of the hands of a truly undesirable owner, like media baron Rupert Murdoch, who is reportedly trying to get his hands on the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune (as are the ultrawealthy and ultraconservative Koch brothers).

The sale also ends several decades of ownership of The Post by the Graham family, although for now, the paper’s current executive team is expected to stay on.

Bezos is not the only billionaire who has become interested in buying newspapers lately. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry agreed to buy the Boston Globe from the New York Times Company for $70 million a few days ago, and Warren Buffett has been buying up small town papers by the regionful.

Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, is the Post Company’s largest shareholder, and stands to profit from the sale to Bezos.