Having apparently decided that it’s been too long since his initiative factory received any media coverage, Tim Eyman yesterday used a tried and tested gambit for drumming up publicity: He filed a slew of initiatives to the Legislature and then fired off a promotional email to what’s left of the state’s political press corps.
Two of the initiatives are retreads of past Eyman schemes; they pertain to vehicle fees and red light cameras. The other three appear to be bad ideas that Eyman is latching onto simply to get media coverage.
One seems to be aimed at trying to require that the state’s electoral college votes be apportioned by congressional district, although it is poorly written.
(Republicans would gain votes every four years in the Electoral College by eliminating the winner-take-all system in Democratic states like Washington, while keeping it in place in states that usually vote for the Republican nominee).
The second appears to be an attempt to prevent public employee unions from using any money collected from their members for electioneering and campaigning.
And the third is squarely aimed at preventing cities from setting their own minimum wages, as Seattle just did. (SeaTac previously voted to set its minimum wage at $15 an hour last November; the Seattle City Council voted to follow suit this week).
I should mention that this third initiative is almost identical to an initiative filed yesterday by former SeaTac City Councilmember Richard Forschler, who voters chose to replace with Kathryn Campbell last November. Forschler had campaigned hard against SeaTac Proposition 1, writing in his voter’s pamphlet statement:
Currently, union bosses and government elites are threatening SeaTac with a job-killing initiative – an initiative that would be especially harmful to the working poor, young people, immigrants, and minorities. This job-killing initiative would lead to higher unemployment, more poverty, and greater suffering for SeaTac’s most vulnerable.
SeaTac has been targeted by special interests because we have a small number of voters, but a huge commercial base of airport and airport-related businesses. The special interests, union bosses, and government elites are using our city as a test case to push their agenda.
Forschler filed an initiative with slightly different wording yesterday morning, which has the exact same title: “The Fair and Uniform Minimum Wage Act”. It’s possible the idea for the bill originally came from a Republican legislator.
Either way, the initiative didn’t come out of Eyman’s head.
In his typical fashion, however, Eyman is trying to make it sound as though he developed the initiative himself. From his email to the media this afternoon:
Regarding those five initiatives to the Legislature we filed yesterday, we’re simply doing research and development…
[These] are policies that we strongly support and believe are worthy of a public debate and public vote. We are enthusiastic about exploring new ideas and to spur further discussion.
As for [sic] our Fair and Uniform Minimum Wage Initiative is concerned, our goal is to illustrate to the small business owners and other concerned citizens a smart, effective initiative proposal that gives everyone in Washington a voice in the economic future of our state. For those interested, we have attached the final text for it.
What a load of nonsense. Research and development, ha! If Eyman were truly interested in writing sound law and listening to feedback, he could hold public meetings and set up a wiki where people could mark up his drafts.
But he doesn’t do that. He never has.
Using the state’s resources to repeatedly file the same initiative drafts over and over isn’t research and development. It’s ballot title shopping.
And taking credit for someone else’s work? That’s plagiarism!
Public opinion research shows that increasing the minimum wage is an extremely popular idea – not just in Seattle, but across Washington State.
In 1998, Washingtonians overwhelmingly voted to approve an initiative to raise the minimum wage and adjust it in accordance with the Consumer Price Index going forward. That initiative received a higher margin of approval on the November 1998 ballot than any initiative Tim Eyman has ever sponsored, and Eyman is undoubtedly aware of the electoral history.
The initiative he’s filed appears to be nothing more than an attempt to get media coverage by attaching his own name to text he didn’t write.
Eyman continues to dishonestly claim to be in the midst of the home stretch for the signature drive of the initiative he filed last January. In his email today, he wrote:
We are working extremely hard on collecting the necessary signatures to qualify [...] I-1325 for the November ballot. The July 3rd deadline is fast approaching. We’re making good progress, we’re not there yet, we’re just gonna keep our heads down and keep working hard. It’s a really exciting initiative that is a grand slam home run IF we can get it on the ballot.
If Eyman really were keeping his head down and working feverishly to get I-1325 on the ballot, he wouldn’t be spending time filing a slew of initiatives to the Legislature, and then promoting those initiatives to reporters.
Eyman’s actions today and yesterday belie his words. In a few weeks, he’s either going to have to produce the signatures for I-1325, or concoct some pathetic explanation for why he isn’t submitting them.
Our guess is that Eyman already knows that I-1325 isn’t going to make it. Without a wealthy benefactor putting up the money to buy the signatures he needs, Eyman won’t be able to buy his way onto the ballot like he usually does.
Eyman may have a few volunteers collecting signatures here and there, but he doesn’t have any paid crews working ferry lines, supermarket store entrances, or festivals like the recently concluded Folklife. If he did, there’d be plenty of evidence of an active, widespread signature drive… and there isn’t. We’ve looked.
It takes serious manpower to collect 300,000 plus signatures on thousands of petitions, whether in a six or ten month window, as Eyman well knows.
To get on the ballot without hiring paid petitioners, a campaign essentially needs a large, well-organized, and highly dedicated army of volunteer activists. Eyman has no such force, though he pretends he does.
He does have a cadre of smaller donors, as can be seen from looking at his committee’s convoluted PDC reports, but the vast majority of his financing – for more than a decade – has been provided by wealthy benefactors like the late Michael Dunmire of Woodinville, Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr., or big oil companies like BP and ConocoPhillips. All of the aforementioned benefactors have written Eyman’s campaign committee six-figure checks.
The last two times Eyman tried to get initiatives the ballot without a wealthy benefactor (I-807 in 2003 and I-864 in 2004) he didn’t make it. Unless Eyman has already received or is in the process of receiving a large infusion of cash, his I-1325 is on the verge of defeat. That would be a very good thing for our state. We haven’t had a Eyman-free ballot since 2006. The demise of I-1325, which threatens our common wealth and our democracy, would be a very positive and welcome development. The last thing Washington needs is more Tim Eyman initiatives.