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LIVE from Detroit: Making smart investments to build progressive power in 2014 & beyond

Good morning from Detroit! Today marks the first day of Netroots Nation, the ninth annual gathering of progressive activists from across the United States and beyond, which NPI has been sending staff and board members to for its entire history. Three of us are here on NPI’s behalf and committed to bringing you live coverage of the convention’s happenings throughout the next few days.

NPI President Robert Cruickshank and I are kicking off the convention with a panel called Progressives and the Midterms: Making Smart Investments to Build Progressive Power in 2014 and Beyond. Moderated by Amanda Terkel of The Huffington Post, this panel consists of representatives from three great national progressive organizations, all founded in the wake of the rise of the Internet, and a candidate for U.S. Senate, Shenna Bellows.

Terkel launched the discussion by asking the panelists to talk about their focus for the cycle. For Shenna, it’s all about crossing the finish line first on November 5th.

Shenna Bellows

Shenna Bellows speaks at Netroots Nation in Detroit, Michigan, on the first day of the convention (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“I think it’s a really exciting year for progressives… Races like mine and Rick Weiland’s are test cases,” Bellows said, explaining that candidates like her are up against a lot of money and don’t have the enthusiastic backing of the party establishment in the District of Columbia. (The conventional wisdom in D.C. is that Democrats have almost no pickup opportunities this cycle, except for maybe in Kentucky and Georgia – but of course, that’s nonsense.)

Stephanie Taylor, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (which I worked with last year as an organizing fellow) announced to hearty applause that PCCC has so far raised $1 million for progressive candidates like Bellows this cycle. That’s a lot of money!

How does PCCC choose which candidates to support? It doesn’t come down to an ideological laundry list. “We’re really looking for those candidates who are going to be organizers and fighters inside Congress on the issues we care about,” Taylor told attendees, citing some of PCCC’s polling on Social Security and Medicare. “Progressive policy and progressive positions are winning positions.”

Nick Berning of MoveOn said that his organization’s top 2014 priority is ensuring that Democrats hold the Senate, because otherwise, the Obama administration’s ability to fill judicial and executive vacancies will be diminished (because Republicans will refuse to confirm the President’s nominees). Priority candidates for MoveOn include Brian Schatz in Hawaii and Mike Honda in California.

The panel then delved into primary strategy.

Stephanie Taylor explained that PCCC has been keeping an eye out for open seats in bright blue districts, with the objective of finding strong progressive Democrats to run and win. She cited Pat Murphy in Iowa as example.

“Primaries are healthy for our democracy… They make campaigns more accountable to the grassroots,” said DFA’s Annie Weinberg. She spoke to the need to reward bold Democrats like Mark Takano who have been championing progressive causes like the expansion of Social Security.

MoveOn’s Berning said that his organization is focused on 2014, but is already looking ahead to 2015, 2016, and beyond. He mentioned that MoveOn recently surveyed its members in Chicago and found that more than 85% want to see a strong progressive challenger to Rahm Emanuel in 2015.

Moderator Amanda Terkel asked Bellows to talk about her race and delve into the difficulties she’s faced building support for her campaign. (Many large, D.C.-oriented progressive organizations that ought to be supporting Bellows – like the League of Conservation Voters – have endorsed Susan Collins for reelection because there are almost no other Republicans who will engage with them at all.)

“Maine is the only state in the country where Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012 that has a Republican senator up for election,” Bellows said. “Our strategy is to be completely true to all of our progressive values.”

She emphasized the need for an authentic Democratic candidate who could present a clear and compelling alternative to Susan Collins.

One of her biggest obstacles is a lack of name recognition; her campaign’s polling has showed that many Mainers have not heard of her. But she has a plan to introduce herself. She announced that her campaign be going up on the air shortly with its first television ad across the state. The last thing her fellow Mainers need in their next senator is “bipartisanship in the name of bipartisanship, where everybody loses,” she said, alluding to Collins’ lousy voting record.

Questions posed to the panelists by the audience ranged from how national progressive organizations can support candidates at the state and local level to the impact that the implementation of the Patient Protection Act has had on the political landscape. The panelists emphasized the need to support bold progressive candidates running all over the country, even in areas that might not be bright blue, in accordance with Howard Dean’s fifty-state strategy.

Bellows delivered a particularly compelling response, making a point that is part of our philosophy and credo at NPI: We can either work to determine our own destiny or allow it to be determined for us by others. “We need to stop saying [that's] impossible and stop saying never,” Bellows said.

Vice President Joe Biden to speak at Netroots Nation 2014 in Detroit, Michigan

Organizers of Netroots Nation, America’s largest annual gathering of progressive activists, took the wraps off of a major and welcome surprise this afternoon with the announcement that Vice President Joe Biden would be coming to Detroit to speak to the convention during a special Thursday afternoon general session.

Landing Biden is a big coup for Netroots Nation. The convention has been addressed by former presidents and presidents, as well as congressional leaders and members of Congress, but this will be the first time that the sitting Vice President of the United States will have spoken.

It will also be Biden’s first appearance at Netroots Nation. He was invited to participate in the Presidential Leadership Forum held in Netroots Nation’s second year, in Chicago (back then, the convention was known as YearlyKos), but declined to attend due to his desire to participate in another event. The other contenders for the Democratic nomination – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Gravel – all showed up.

Raven Brooks, the executive director of Netroots Nation, touted Biden’s forthcoming keynote address in a blog post also emailed to attendees.

As you may know, Netroots Nation came from humble beginnings: a group of activists simply wanted to come out from behind their screens and meet up in real life. Since that first meeting nine years ago, this conference has grown into the largest gathering of progressives in the nation, bringing the brightest organizers, innovators and thinkers together with leading elected officials from up and down the ballot.

Some of our attendees will run this cycle’s hottest campaigns; others have started or will start game-changing organizations within the next year. And everyone who attends does important work within their own communities after the conference ends.

So it makes perfect sense that Vice President Biden would address the folks who will knock on doors, make phone calls and raise awareness for the issues that are most important to our country.

From his longtime support of labor unions to speaking out on important issues like LGBT equality, Vice President Biden has in many ways given heart and soul to this administration. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome him to Netroots Nation for the first time.

We hope you’ll be there too.

We’ve been planning to be in Detroit since NN ’14 was announced, and we’re very excited that Joe Biden has agreed to join us, even if his participation means the day’s schedule has to be rearranged, and even if it means having to wait in lines to go through metal detectors. Only President Obama would arguably be a bigger get.
Ever since he and Obama took office, we’ve been hoping that Joe Biden would speak at Netroots Nation. This year, that wish is being fulfilled. We’re looking forward to a rousing address from Biden next week, and will be covering it live right here on the Cascadia Advocate a week from tomorrow at half past noon.

The Declaration of Independence, two hundred and thirty-eight years later

In accordance with tradition, we are posting the text of the Declaration of Independence here on The Cascadia Advocate for your enjoyment. The Declaration was primarily authored by our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who drew heavily on the thinking of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke to persuasively lay out the case for the independence of the United States.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

The Declaration of Independence, by John Trumbull

The famous painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee presenting their work to Congress (John Trumbull/U.S. Congress)

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

— Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren.

We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.

We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare…

… That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

With I-1325 in the dustbin, it’s once again time to update Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart

Many years ago, during Permanent Defense’s early years, we launched a resource for journalists and citizens called Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart, which contains a list of every initiative and referendum Eyman has attempted to qualify for the ballot, along with the year, the number of the measure, and the outcome.

The chart was created to illustrate that most of Tim Eyman’s initiatives have been failures in one way or another. We periodically update it during the course of each year, usually in the wake of a November election or a court ruling. This year, the Failure Chart is receiving a welcome early update to account for the failure of I-1325, Tim Eyman’s unsuccessful 2014 initiative, which will not be on the ballot.

In a threat analysis assessment released last week, we concluded that I-1325 was dead because we couldn’t find any evidence of an active I-1325 signature drive. That prediction was fulfilled today when Tim Eyman finally admitted to his followers that I-1325 would not be making on the ballot. (“We fell short,” Eyman said).

Each year, as longtime supporters know from reading our coverage here on the Cascadia Advocate and on Permanent Defense, Eyman files dozens of initiatives. Of these, Eyman usually only attempts to qualify one (at most, two) for the ballot simultaneously. He has come up short on five other occasions since 1999:

  • Initiative 267, in 2002
  • Initiative 807, in 2003
  • Initiative 864, in 2004
  • Initiative 917, in 2006
  • Referendum 65, also in 2006

Of the initiatives that Eyman has qualified for the ballot, six have been rejected by voters (most by large margins). Those are:

  • Initiative 745, 2000
  • Initiative 892, 2004
  • Initiative 985, 2008
  • Initiative 1033, 2009
  • Initiative 1125, 2011
  • Initiative 517, 2013

NPI’s Permanent Defense was involved in the campaigns against all of the above Eyman initiatives, except for I-745 in 2000. (PD wasn’t founded until 2002).

There have also been six Eyman initiatives that were passed by voters, but which were later struck down in whole or in part by the courts:

  • Initiative 695, 1999
  • Initiative 722, 2000
  • Initiative 747, 2001
  • Initiative 690, 2007
  • Initiative 1053, 2010
  • Initiative 1185, 2012

The first three were struck down by separate Supreme Court decisions and the latter three were declared unconstitutional in the same ruling, released last year.

Synopses of all the aforementioned measures are in the Failure Chart.

There have been two other Eyman initiatives passed by voters: I-776 in 2002 and I-900 in 2005. I-776 survived a legal challenge, but failed to accomplish its main intent, which was preventing Sound Transit from building Central Link, the region’s first line rail line. The Supreme Court upheld a Superior Court ruling in 2006 that prevented the state from enforcing the provision of I-776 that would have repealed Sound Transit’s motor vehicle tax, which had already been pledged to pay off bonds by the time that Eyman wrote I-776. For this reason, we classify I-776 as a failure.

That leaves I-900, Eyman’s initiative on performance audits. I-900 has never been subjected to a legal challenge and remains in effect today, so we classify it as a success, though it’s important to note that I-900 was partly redundant (by the time I-900 had qualified for the ballot, the Legislature had already passed a bill empowering the state auditor to conduct performance audits).

In total, Tim Eyman has attempted to qualify twenty measures to the ballot since 1999, but astonishingly, just one of those measures passed and remains fully in effect. I-695 and I-747 were reinstated by the Legislature after the Supreme Court struck them down, but that was their doing, not Eyman’s.

The beauty of our Failure Chart is that it illustrates a point we have been consistently trying to make for over a decade: Tim Eyman is terrible at legislating. Most of his initiatives have been failures. That said, the ones that were declared unconstitutional are still on the books, because according to the Code Reviser’s office, an initiative that has been struck down remains part of the Revised Code of Washington until it has been repealed. It’s just not enforced.

A true end to the Tim Eyman error will not come until Eyman’s initiative factory is permanently out of business and the initiatives that got past the voters are wiped off our books. We are already doing what we can to accomplish the former, and in 2015 and beyond, we’ll be partnering with State Representative Gael Tarleton (NPI’s vice president!) and her colleagues in the Legislature to accomplish the latter.

Read about previous updates to Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart:

Roberts Court’s logic: Corporations are people, so they’re entitled to religious liberty

The Roberts Court has done it again.

Determined to make the terrible implications of the Corporations United and McCutcheon decisions look tame by comparison, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that because it believes corporations to be people, an artificial for-profit entity like Hobby Lobby is entitled to religious liberty, and so it does not have to follow laws that its owner or owners find objectionable.

Hobby Lobby’s right wing owners sued the Obama administration after the passage of the Patient Protection Act, wanting the courts’ blessing to allow them to deny access to contraceptives to their female employees, even though the contraceptives were being provided through the women’s insurance plans.

Today, the Roberts Court granted its blessing, in another 5-4 decision, with Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas (all men!) forming the majority.

Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Breyer dissented; Ginsburg authored the blistering dissent, which effectively assailed the majority’s logic:

In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Compelling governmental interests in uniform compliance with the law, and disadvantages that religion-based opt – outs impose on others, hold no sway, the Court decides, at least when there is a “less restrictive alternative.” And such an alternative, the Court suggests, there always will be whenever, in lieu of tolling an enterprise claiming a religion-based exemption, the government, i.e., the general public, can pick up the tab.

The Court does not pretend that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause demands religion-based accommodations so extreme, for our decisions leave no doubt on that score. Instead, the Court holds that Congress, in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) dictated the extraordinary religion-based exemptions today’s decision endorses. In the Court’s view, RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on third parties who do not share the corporation owners’ religious faith — in these cases, thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga or dependents of persons those corporations employ.

Later on in her dissent, Ginsburg observed that the Court was making entirely new law by granting the plaintiff’s wishes, and setting a very bad precedent to boot.

Until this litigation, no decision of this Court recognized a for-profit corporation’s qualification for a religious exemption from a generally applicable law, whether under the Free Exercise Clause [of the U.S. Constitution] or RFRA. The absence of such precedent is just what one would expect, for the exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons, not artificial legal entities.

As Chief Justice Marshall observed nearly two centuries ago, a corporation is “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law.” Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward , 4 Wheat. 518, 636 (1819).

Corporations, Justice Stevens more recently reminded, “have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires.” Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n , 558 U. S. 310, 466 (2010) (opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part).

In a rejoinder to Justice Alito, the author of the majority opinion, Ginsburg pointed out that a religious community and a for-profit corporation are very different:

The Court notes that for-profit corporations may support charitable causes and use their funds for religious ends, and therefore questions the distinction between such corporations and religious nonprofit organizations… Again, the Court forgets that religious organizations exist to serve a community of believers. For-profit corporations do not fit that bill. Moreover, history is not on the Court’s side. Recognition of the discrete characters of “ecclesiastical and lay” corporations dates back to Blackstone, see 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 458 (1765), and was reiterated by this Court centuries before the enactment of the Internal Revenue Code.

The decision also constitutes a slippery slope, Ginsburg said, implying that, if given the opportunity, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia would allow publicly-traded corporations to use religion as a pretext for not having to follow U.S. law:

The Court’s determination that RFRA extends to for-profit corporations is bound to have untoward effects. Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private. Little doubt that RFRA claims will proliferate, for the Court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood—combined with its other errors in construing RFRA—invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faith.

In a footnote, Ginsburg elaborates:

The Court does not even begin to explain how one might go about ascertaining the religious scruples of a corporation where shares are sold to the public. No need to speculate on that, the Court says, for “it seems unlikely” that large corporations “will often assert RFRA claims.” Perhaps so, but as Hobby Lobby’s case demonstrates, such claims are indeed pursued by large corporations, employing thousands of persons of different faiths, whose ownership is not diffuse.

“Closely held” is not synonymous with “small.” Hobby Lobby is hardly the only enterprise of sizable scale that is family owned or closely held. For example, the family-owned candy giant Mars, Inc., takes in $33 billion in revenues and has some 72,000 employees, and closely held Cargill, Inc., takes in more than $136 billion in revenues and employs some 140,000 persons.

Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is as senseless as Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sandford. The former decision took fifty years to be overturned by the Warren Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

We cannot afford to wait fifty years for Corporations United, McCutcheon, Hobby Lobby, and previous decisions equating corporations to people and money to speech to be overturned. We need a constitutional amendment explicitly stipulating that natural persons are the only kind of person there is.

Corporations have not, are not, and never will be analogous to persons. They are, as Justice Marshall said in the decision excerpted above by Justice Ginsburg, artificial entities. They do not live, breathe, eat, sleep, get sick, laugh, cry, or die. A corporation is more like a government than a living, breathing person.

And, in fact, corporations increasingly are behaving like governments… privately-owned governments that are the equivalent of oligarchies.

Consider the implications of today’s decision. Hobby Lobby’s owners can deny access to contraceptives to their female employees, merely because they do not believe in pregnancy prevention. As far as they are concerned, they should be able to determine what kind of healthcare their employees get, because they’re the owners of the company. The employees have no say. Their only choice is to quit. That’s corporate servitude at its finest: Take it or leave it employment.

U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene, who represents NPI’s home congressional district, issued a statement condemning the ruling and vowing to do what she could to prevent reproductive rights from being further curtailed.

I’m very disappointed by the Court’s decision to allow closely held corporations to deny access to basic healthcare, such as contraception, to their employees. With this ruling, the Court has allowed employers to impose their religious beliefs on their workers. A woman’s boss should never be the one to make healthcare decisions for her – these decisions should be between her and her doctor.

Birth control is a critical component of women’s healthcare. Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives, and more than 600,000 women in Washington state have benefited from the requirement that insurance companies provide preventative healthcare free of charge.

The Supreme Court’s decision could also have serious consequences far beyond contraception. While the Court’s decision suggests that today’s ruling applies only to contraceptive coverage, I am troubled by the opportunity it creates for employers to potentially object to further medical services on religious grounds. In the coming weeks, I’ll be working with my colleagues in Congress to address this ruling and to ensure women’s access to birth control is protected.

We need to do more than just mitigate today’s decision. If we don’t stop the Roberts Court from destroying our freedoms, they will keep going until America has turned into a modern-day feudal society, run by corporations and for corporations instead of people. We can’t let that happen.

We need to reclaim our democracy from the Roberts Court with a constitutional amendment wiping out all of the bad case law that they’ve established. Until we do this, progress on a wide range of other issues is going to be elusive. Look what the Court has just done to a key provision of the Patient Protection Act.

Only three statewide initiatives likely to show up on Washington’s November 2014 ballot

As of next Saturday, we will be one month ahead of the August Top Two election and four months ahead of the November general election, which this year fall on the fifth days of each month. Because July 5th is a Saturday, and because July 4th is a holiday, that means the deadline for submitting signatures for an initiative to the people is July 3rd – one week from today, at 5 PM sharp.

So far, according to the Secretary of State’s office, only two campaigns have made appointments to turn in signatures. The I-1351 campaign, spearheaded by the Washington Education Association, plans to turn in signatures for their Class Size Counts initiative on Wednesday, July 2nd at 10:30 AM. The I-1329 campaign, backed by WAmend, is planning to come in on Thursday, July 3rd at 2 PM.

The Secretary of State’s office lists five other initiatives as in the signature gathering stage, including Tim Eyman’s I-1325, which NPI strongly opposes.

Eyman launched I-1325 back in January and has been attempting to gather signatures for over five months. In years past, he has made an appointment to turn in signatures by now, but he hasn’t done so this time, presumably because he is well short of the number he needs to qualify I-1325.

Eyman’s failure to make an appointment is another indication that I-1325 is on the verge of failing. On Tuesday, NPI’s Permanent Defense released its assessment of the I-1325 signature drive, after having made a significant effort to track it for many months. The assessment concluded that Eyman’s failure to find a wealthy benefactor to pour money into his coffers had doomed I-1325.

Eyman has been reliant on paid signature gathering crews to get onto the ballot for nearly his entire career in politics. His initiative factory simply can’t operate without big bucks. Eyman goes to great lengths to pretend that that he is the leader of some big conservative grassroots network, but the reality is, he’d have been out of business long ago were it not for rich backers like Michael Dunmire, Kemper Freeman, Jr., British Petroleum (BP), ConocoPhillips, and Tesoro.

I-1325′s demise would be a big deal; it would guarantee an Eyman-free November for the first time in eight years, which would be a very good thing for Washington. Amusingly, in 2006, Eyman had the money to buy his way onto the ballot, but his campaign came up short due to his own incompetence.

There’s only been one other year in which Eyman didn’t make the ballot because he didn’t have a wealthy benefactor. That was 2003, when he tried to qualify I-807, the first of his I-601 clones. 2003 was also the year that NPI was founded.

With no Eyman initiative and no statewide race for elected office, the 2014 ballot will look very different than that of past election cycles.

There are already two initiatives headed for the November ballot, and both pertain to guns: I-591 and I-594. NPI opposes the former and supports the latter.

The two initiatives are basically the inverse of each other. I-594, backed by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, would require background checks for private gun sales, including guns sold at gun shows and over the Internet. I-591 would prevent background checks from being expanded beyond what federal law requires, thus keeping the gun show and Internet loopholes in place.

The Class Size Counts campaign is likely to make the ballot as well; it’s well organized and we hear it is within reach of its signature gathering goals. Though the backers of I-1329 have made an appointment to turn in signatures, as of last week, they had not yet gathered half of what they need to make the ballot.

It had seemed earlier this month that a fourth initiative, I-1356, would also be headed to the ballot. Backed by the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and Seattle Children’s, I-1356 would have raised tobacco taxes and sold bonds to finance cancer research.

State Treasurer Jim McIntire expressed serious concerns with the initiative, and the sponsoring organizations ultimately decided to pull the plug, despite having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on signature gathering.

The demise of I-1356, I-1351, and I-1325 means that we’ll likely be seeing just three initiatives on our ballot: one related to class size and two to guns. No referenda or constitutional amendments will appear on the ballot. Aside from the debate over background checks on gun sales, the focus is likely to be on the state Senate races. The Democratic Party is mounting a major effort to retake the Washington State Senate, which Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon handed to the Republicans following the 2012 presidential election.

The Democrats need to win two of the competitive Senate races to claim an outright majority. Tim Sheldon is seeking reelection, but Rodney Tom has bowed out in NPI’s home district. As we have previously reported, his seat is almost certain to be won by Democratic rising star Cyrus Habib. Habib faces only token opposition.

Democrats are going after several Republican incumbents with strong candidates: Matt Isenhower is challenging Andy Hill in the 45th, Tami Green is going after Steve O’Ban in the 28th, and Rich Cowan is running against Michael Baumgartner in the 5th. Elsewhere, Judy Arbogast is challenging Jan Angel in the 26th, Irene Bowling is stepping up against Sheldon in the 35th, and Seth Fleetwood is trying to knock out Doug Ericksen in the 42nd. Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping to capture the 30th with Mark Miloscia, while Democrats are trying to retain it with Shari Song.

In landmark ruling, U.S. Supreme Court bars warrantless searches of mobile phones

Who says there’s no such thing as privacy in the digital age? Not John Roberts’ Supreme Court, which today issued a much-needed decision ruling that American police forces must generally obtain a warrant before they can legally search the mobile phone of someone they have arrested. Roberts’ majority opinion was signed by every other justice, except for Samuel Alito, who wrote a concurring opinion.

SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston has an excellent summary of the decision, which will have far-reaching implications almost immediately. Here’s an excerpt from his post:

The Court rejected every argument made to it by prosecutors and police that officers should be free to inspect the contents of any cellphone taken from an arrestee. It left open just one option for such searches without a court order: if police are facing a dire emergency, such as trying to locate a missing child or heading off a terrorist plot.  But even then, it ruled, those “exigent” exceptions to the requirement for a search warrant would have to satisfy a judge after the fact.

The ruling was such a sweeping embrace of digital privacy that it even reached remotely stored private information that can be reached by a hand-held device — as in the modern-day data storage “cloud.” And it implied that the tracking data that a cellphone may contain about the places that an individual visited also is entitled to the same shield of privacy.

The Court’s ruling drew some suggestions by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., to narrow its scope, but it did not accept those. The result was the broadest constitutional ruling on privacy in the face of modern technology since the Court’s ruling two Terms ago limiting police use of satellite-linked GPS tracking of a suspect’s movements by car.

The Court resoundingly rejected the government’s contention that a search of data on a phone is “materially indistinguishable” from a physical search. Chief Justice John Roberts schooled lawyers for the Justice Department on the difference:

Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person.

The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.

One of the most notable distinguishing features of modern cell phones is their immense storage capacity. Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and tended as a general matter to constitute only a narrow intrusion on privacy.

Most people cannot lug around every piece of mail they have received for the past several months, every picture they have taken, or every book or article they have read — nor would they have any reason to attempt to do so. And if they did, they would have to drag behind them a trunk of the sort held to require a search warrant in Chadwick, supra, rather than a container the size of the cigarette package in Robinson.

The opinion goes on to talk more in depth about typical mobile phone storage capacity, which currently ranges from sixteen to sixty-four gigabytes and is enough to store thousands of pictures, songs, notes, calendar entries, documents, text messages, and extremely detailed phone logs. The justices also noted there are many applications that a user might install that allow them to manage their lives:

There are apps for Democratic Party news and Republican Party news; apps for alcohol, drug, and gambling addictions; apps for sharing prayer requests; apps for tracking pregnancy symptoms; apps for planning your budget; apps for every conceivable hobby or pastime; apps for improving your romantic life.

Reading through the decision, it’s astonishing to see how much the Roberts Court got right. This ruling is very much the inverse of Citizens United and McCutcheon. It is unanimous, sound and well justified; it upholds the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and places restrictions on federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies alike, which were sorely needed.

We at NPI believe this ruling could be incredibly important in the years to come. The Roberts Court showed today that it understands the privacy implications of new technologies like mobile phones and cloud computing, even if many members of Congress do not. With its ruling, the Court sent a clear message to every police department and FBI office in the country: Get a warrant before you search the mobile device of someone you’ve arrested.

This is a big deal. It means that the police can no longer simply concoct a pretext for arresting someone and then proceed to run a search of the device(s) carried by that individual. The Fourth Amendment still matters!

The Obama administration did not have an immediate reaction to the ruling. But many privacy advocates did. The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision. The organization’s national legal director, Steven R. Shapiro, commended the Court for ensuring the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment remain available to Americans in the digital age.

“By recognizing that the digital revolution has transformed our expectations of privacy, today’s decision is itself revolutionary and will help to protect the privacy rights of all Americans,” he said. “We have entered a new world but, as the court today recognized, our old values still apply and limit the government’s ability to rummage through the intimate details of our private lives.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the case, also cheered the ruling. The EFF, based in the Bay Area, has been at the forefront of protecting Americans’ digital rights for over two decades.

“These decisions are huge for digital privacy,” EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury said. “The court recognized that the astounding amount of sensitive data stored on modern cell phones requires heightened privacy protection, and cannot be searched at a police officer’s whim. This should have implications for other forms of government electronic searches and surveillance, tightening the rules for police behavior and preserving our privacy rights in our increasingly digital world.”

Republicans (predictably) filibuster Elizabeth Warren’s bill to ease student loan debt

A bill sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to ease student loan debt has sadly become the latest worthy piece of legislation to be stalled in the United States Senate by the Republican Party, which might as well officially rename itself the Party of No (because that is its answer to just about every good idea).

Earlier today, Senator Harry Reid invoked cloture on S.2432, the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would allow most of the country’s students to refinance into new federal direct loans at lower interest rates.

Fifty-six Senators (not counting Reid, who ultimately voted against the bill in a parliamentary maneuver that allows him to bring it back up again) voted to proceed with debate on the legislation, including Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and Susan Collins of Maine.

But the rest of the Republican caucus voted no. The final vote on cloture was fifty-six to thirty-eight; six senators did not vote. Sixty “aye” votes were needed to break the Republican filibuster. Had Claire McCaskill of Missouri been present, the Democrats would have had a total of fifty-eight potential aye votes, and would only have needed two more Republicans to go along.

The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (WA), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (OR), Jon Tester and John Walsh (MT), Mark Begich (AK); Republican Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Voting Nay: Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (ID)

As usual, Idaho’s terrible twosome were on the wrong side of the vote.

Ahead of the vote in remarks on the floor, Reid castigated Senator Mitch McConnell and his followers for refusing to support the bill.

I was disappointed to learn that my colleague, the Republican Leader, does not support this legislation. Not too long ago, he referred to Democrats’ proposals to address student loan debt as a “fake fight.” For the twenty-five million Americans who stand to benefit from this bill, I assure my friend that there is nothing fake about helping working families pay off debt and save money. To the single mother working two jobs just to take care of her family and make her student loan payments on time, this legislation is very real. Instead, the Republican Leader has reaffirmed his commitment to the status quo. Why reform today, what he and his party say they’ll reform next year?

On the other hand, Senate Democrats are not standing around waiting for a new year or a new Congress to tackle the problem of student loan debt. We are anxious to extend a helping hand to the more than 40 million Americans who are fighting to keep their heads above water. Let’s come to the aid of those individuals struggling with student loan debt, and keep them from sinking deeper into financial quicksand.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, S. 2432′s sponsor, was more blunt. In an appearance on MSNBC, she excoriated the entrenched Kentucly Republican.

“Mitch McConnell is there for millionaires and billionaires,” Warren told host Chris Hayes, host of All In. “He is not there for people who are working hard playing by the rules and trying to build a future for themselves.”

She then vowed to campaign against him in response to a question from Hayes.

“One way I’m going to start fighting back is I’m going to go down to Kentucky and I’m going to campaign for [Democratic Senate nominee] Alison Lundergan Grimes,” Warren said. “She’s tough, she’s feisty, she endorsed the student loan bill, said she wanted to bring down interest rates for Kentuckians.”

“I’m going to get out there and try to make this happen for her.”

Grimes slammed McConnell in a statement released to the press after the vote.

“Senator McConnell’s blatant disregard for the hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians crushed by student loan debt is deeply disconcerting,” she said.

“This vote against our middle-class families underscores the fact that my opponent has been in Washington for far too long and just does not get it. I call on the Senate to pass both the legislation to ease student loan burden as well as the bipartisan bill to address problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Kentucky students and veterans deserve a champion who will fight for them in the U.S. Senate – not stand idly by and ignore the needs of real people.”

Our own Senator Maria Cantwell went to the Senate floor after the vote on cloture to urge the Republicans to reconsider. Here’s an excerpt from her remarks:

I know some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle didn’t support this legislation, but the Congressional Budget Office projects that the bill would actually reduce the deficit by about $14 billion over the next decade. That’s important because we want to see policies that are going to help our economy in the short-run, in the long-run, but they have to be fiscally responsible.

I want to make sure that those critics who say, oh, well if you make the interest rate lower that students are going to borrow more money.

I don’t think that students are looking to borrow more to add to their debt. I don’t think students that I talked to, who had loans as high as $180,000, want to borrow more money just because you are going to reduce the interest rate. They want to refinance, reduce their obligation and get back to studying. There’s much more that we need to do to mitigate the costs of higher education and I know my colleagues and I are going to be working on that. But the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Relief Act was a very good step to help students and to focus them on their careers and their education.

So again, I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will look again at this issue and get back to it.

We need to make sure that college education is more affordable. It’s time for us to extend the same benefits that we do for businesses and mortgages to students, so that they can refinance and that 25 million students in America could refinance their student loans.

So I thank Senator Warren for bringing this issue up, and I hope we will get back to it again.

Senator Cantwell’s full floor speech can be viewed on YouTube.

Eric Cantor to resign as House Majority Leader within weeks as David Brat celebrates

Following his defeat in last night’s Virginia primary, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has decided to step down as Majority Leader in advance of the end of his term in office, setting off a scramble for his position between multiple Republicans.

In the caucus that holds the House majority, the position of Majority Leader is second only to that of Speaker, the only congressional office explicitly mentioned in the original text of the Constitution. It’s a prestigious and powerful role to have.

So far, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Whip, and Pete Sessions, the current chairman of the Rules Committee, seem to be the top contenders. Others may run, too. Jeb Hensarling, who, like Sessions is from Texas, has hinted he may throw his hat into the ring, following encouragement by a number of right wing groups.

Cantor, meanwhile, has accepted defeat and does not plan to pursue a write-in candidacy, as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski successfully did in 2010. “To run a write-in campaign is to run not as a Republican, and I am a Republican,” Cantor allegedly said in a meeting of the Republican brass in the Capitol.

Cantor’s demise is one of the biggest political upsets in history. No sitting majority leader has been denied renomination in more than a hundred years. And few saw Cantor’s defeat coming. National tea party groups had concluded that Cantor would win his race, and so paid little attention to David Brat. But Brat was boosted by a local network of Tea Party activists as well as right wing talk show hosts like Laura Ingraham, who called in to Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox to celebrate last night.

Cantor ultimately became his own worst enemy. He became complacent, and voters often punish complacency with a vengeance. He didn’t spend much time in his district or prioritize his constituents. He was too busy trying to attain more power.

Though Cantor had embraced the Tea Party movement as Majority Leader, it didn’t inoculate him from a primary challenge. Cantor and his people did not dismiss David Brat’s candidacy – they spent millions of dollars in the runup to yesterday’s election – but they acted as if all they had to do was buy some advertising and they’d win.

They were soundly defeated by a campaign that didn’t have much money, but did have shoe leather and passion, and put it to good use.

Judging by his media appearances, Brat was clearly not expecting to win, and despite being an economics professor, doesn’t seem to have thought through all of his positions. Prior to yesterday, he was the grassroots alternative to Eric Cantor who didn’t stand a chance. Today he’s the Republican nominee.

Asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd about his position on the minimum wage, Brat squirmed. “Um, um, um, I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one,” he told Todd (again, despite being an economics professor and the chairman of Randolph-Macon College’s economics department).

And when Todd asked about foreign affairs (“On a foreign policy issue, arming the Syrian rebels. Would you be in favor of that?”) this was Brat’s response:

“Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects… I’d love to go through all of this but my mind is — I love all the policy questions but I just wanted to talk about the victory ahead and I wanted to thank everybody that worked so hard on my campaign. I’m happy to take policy issues at any time, I just wanted to call out a thanks to everybody today.”

What a revealing answer.

Does Brat not realize that United States Representatives are lawmakers? He’s not competing in a beauty pageant, he’s running for Congress. It’s quite appropriate for Chuck Todd to ask for his views on a thorny foreign policy issue.

Meanwhile, Brat’s general election opponent, Democrat Jack Trammell, who also works at Randolph-Macon College, is getting lots of help revving up his campaign. During the last twenty-four hours, he’s gotten a website up, established a Facebook page, and received an avalanche of offers of help.

The Virginia Democratic Party is fielding media inquiries for his campaign and helping him build infrastructure for a fall campaign. The district has a strong Republican lean, but is certainly not impossible for a Democrat to win.

WOW: Eric Cantor unexpectedly losing to Tea Party challenger; looks like he’s finished

Big, big, big news tonight out of the Old Dominion: John Boehner’s second in command in the House Republican caucus, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, appears to have unexpectedly lost his seat in Congress.

Election results out of Virginia show that Republican voters in today’s low turnout primary are heavily favoring Cantor’s Tea Party challenger David Brat, who criticized Cantor’s record and promised to take a hard line against comprehensive immigration reform if elected. As of 5:20 PM Pacific Time, with two hundred and twenty-two hundred and forty-three precincts reporting, the results were as follows:

Eric I. Cantor: 44.62% (26,906 votes)
David A. Brat: 55.38% (33,401 votes)

To call Brat an underdog would be an understatement.

He had only around $40,000 cash on hand at the end of March, whereas Cantor has been campaigning with a multimillion dollar war chest.

But Brat nevertheless managed to capitalize on dissatisfaction with the Republican establishment to eke out the most surprising of victories.

As David Nir points out, it wasn’t like Cantor had ignored Brat’s candidacy:

Cantor ran multiple attack ads against Brat, but Brat successfully made his outright hostility to immigration reform the centerpiece of the campaign, accusing Cantor of supporting “amnesty” and putting him on the defensive.

What makes this result even more stunning is that a pair of late polls showed Cantor with considerable leads: An independent survey from Vox Populi had him up 52-39, while Cantor’s own internal from McLaughlin & Associates gave him an even wider 62-28 advantage. But as we noted, McLaughlin is one of the worst pollsters in the business, and boy, did they cement that reputation tonight.

“Obviously, we came up short,” a disappointed Cantor said to his supporters at his election night gathering, which appeared to have turned into a very somber affair. “I know there’s a lot of long faces here tonight, and I know it’s disappointing, sure.”

He did not concede or acknowledge his opponent in his remarks.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has what’s called a sore loser law, prohibiting Cantor from running as an independent to hold his seat. Cantor thus has no way of appearing on the November ballot, as he sought the Republican nomination in the 7th District, but didn’t get it. His only option, if he wanted to keep his seat, would be to run as a write-in candidate, like Lisa Murkowski did in Alaska in 2010.

Murkowski did win her write-in campaign, but she had a lot of help from Alaska’s many Native American tribes, which rallied behind her and helped her overcome Joe Miller. Were Cantor to run as a write-in candidate, he might just end up siphoning enough votes away from Brat to allow Brat’s Democratic opponent to win.

I’ve already heard this election being called an “earthquake”; but I think that’s a bad analogy. Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon. Elections are not. Elections are a human invention and are decided by humans.

Look at the number of votes above. More people live in the City of Kirkland, Washington, than have voted so far in his primary. This was a primary election decided by a relatively small number of people.

Will it have consequences? Of course it will. It will likely increase the strength and clout of the zealous, uncompromising Tea Party faction within the House Republican caucus… the same faction that shut down our federal government last fall.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that Cantor was on better terms with that faction than John Boehner was, more often taking their side.

“The Tea Party is so angry it doesn’t even like its own puppet,” said Ari Melber, reacting to the news of Cantor’s defeat on MSNBC.

Cantor’s loss will also probably destroy whatever willingness or enthusiasm there was for comprehensive immigration reform within the caucus.

Brat’s general election opponent, Democrat Jack Trammell, declared himself ready for a spirited, lively campaign in a statement issued through the Democratic Party of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“I am honored and humbled to accept the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. I am running because I believe Virginians are hungry for a radical change from the dysfunctional and reckless politics being practiced by those in Congress – and the results of tonight’s primary election are the proof.

“In the coming months, I look forward to a spirited campaign where can talk about the issues that matter to our community, and how we can get Congress re-focused on the priorities that truly matter to us,” Trammell concluded.

Tragedy strikes again: One dead, several hurt in mass shooting at Seattle Pacific University

America’s deadly gun violence epidemic has once again visited Washington State.

Today, at Seattle Pacific University, one young person was killed and several others were critically and seriously hurt by an unidentified gunman who walked into Otto Miller Hall and began shooting at students early in the afternoon.

The gunman was tackled and subdued by an unarmed student building monitor when he tried to reload one of his weapons to inflict more casualties. Other students rushed to help keep the gunman pinned down as the campus went into lockdown. The gunman was subsequently taken into custody once the Seattle Police Department arrived. Initially, there was confusion as to how many shooters there were, but SPD ultimately clarified there was only one.

His victims were transported by paramedics to Harborview Medical Center on First Hill. One of them later died there; the others are still alive, but seriously injured.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray journeyed to SPU to console the campus community and offer the city government’s support.

“Today should have been a day of celebration at the end of the school year here at Seattle Pacific University,” Murray reflected.

“Instead, it’s a day of tragedy and of loss. Once again, the epidemic of gun violence has come to Seattle, an epidemic of gun violence that has haunted this nation. Friends, we have been here before: Café Racer, the shootings on Capitol Hill, the shootings at the Jewish Federation. This is a tragic moment for Seattle, a tragic moment for America once again. Our prayers and our thoughts are with the families, and with the entire family of the Seattle Pacific University community.”

Governor Jay Inslee also offered his condolences.

“I mourn with all Washingtonians tonight for the Seattle Pacific University student who died in today’s tragic shooting,” Inslee said.

“There are others still struggling with injuries and we need to keep them, their families and all SPU students in our hearts and prayers. There is much we don’t yet know about today’s shooting. But tonight it is clear that amidst the heartbreak, SPU has shown that it is a community that lives by its mission to serve others. There were students who put themselves in real danger to protect classmates from further violence and to aid and comfort the victims. Those selfless and brave acts should remind us of the indomitable spirit of young people.”

“To see gun violence erupt at a place of higher education shocks all of us. Our schools should be safe havens. And so should our homes, our streets and our workplaces. We need to do more to prevent violence throughout our state.”

The campaign to pass Initiative 594, which would expand background checks on gun sales in Washington, also reacted to the shooting, with a brief statement that simply read: “We are heartbroken that Seattle has once again been touched by gun violence in today’s tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today’s shooting, their families, and the Seattle Pacific University community.”

More than thoughts and prayers will be needed if similar tragedies are to be prevented in the future. That’s why I-594 is so important. It’s an opportunity to minimize the risk of guns falling into the wrong hands.

Businessman and investor Nick Hanauer, who on Tuesday pledged $1 million to help pass I-594 this fall, issued a call to action in the wake of the shooting.

“Convert anger into action. Get involved. Donate. Volunteer. Scream at your your useless elected leaders. Some of us already are. Initiative 594 will make a difference,” Hanauer wrote in a message to friends on Facebook.

He later linked to a recently published satire piece published by The Onion, posted in the wake of the shootings in Isla Vista, California, titled: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only [Developed] Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

The Onion has been spot on in its response to Newtown, Isla Vista, and other mass shootings. But satire isn’t going to prevent the next mass shooting.

Over the last few years, we’ve watched one community after another get ripped apart. Newtown, Aurora, Isla Vista, Oak Creek, Fort Hood, the Navy Yard, Virginia Tech… the list goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

We have endured these tragedies, but we have not yet learned from them. And that is why they continue to happen. We do not channel our grief and sadness into action. Collectively, as country, we shrug and move on. We can’t keep doing that. Richard Martinez, the father of Isla Vista shooting victim Christopher Martinez, said it well when he said our rallying cry ought to be not one more.

Letting people acquire deadly weapons with no questions asked is stupid and senseless. No other developed country allows it, and we shouldn’t, either.

Right wing activists who care more about acquiring, displaying, carrying, and shooting guns than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness claim that the Second Amendment forbids any regulation of firearms. It does not. In fact, “regulated” actually appears in the text of the Second Amendment, which begins with these words: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”

The Roberts and Rehnquist courts have been interpreting the Second Amendment the way the National Rifle Association wants it interpreted. But theirs is not the only interpretation, let alone a sensible one. Justice John Paul Stevens:

When each word in the text is given full effect, the Amendment is most naturally read to secure to the people a right to use and possess arms in conjunction with service in a well-regulated militia.

So far as appears, no more than that was contemplated by its drafters or is encompassed within its terms. Even if the meaning of the text were genuinely susceptible to more than one interpretation, the burden would remain on those advocating a departure from the purpose identified in the preamble and from settled law to come forward with persuasive new arguments or evidence.

We cannot allow the NRA’s uninformed and uncompromising interpretation of the Second Amendment to prevent us from improving our laws to save lives. Since Newtown and Aurora, we’ve made progress in a few states, but in far more, the NRA has succeeded in loosening gun safety and gun responsibility laws. They are a powerful lobby, and quite experienced at intimidating our elected representatives. Fortunately (and unfortunately), here in Washington, we have the initiative, which, when used for good, can be the means of bypassing a gridlocked Legislature.

Initiative 594 will be on the ballot this fall. If it passes, it will be the law of the land, barring a legal challenge. Even if that happens, its passage will still represent an important victory for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Washington made history in 2012 by becoming one of the first states to vote in favor of marriage equality at the ballot. This year, we have an opportunity to make history again by standing up to the NRA and taking action – real, meaningful action – to prevent what happened today from happening again.

Let’s make it happen by getting out the vote for I-594.

Tim Eyman’s latest slew of initiatives includes scheme to end Seattle’s new $15/hour wage

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.

Ken Schram: 1947-2014

Today, our region lost one of its feistiest and most spirited broadcast personalities with the death of longtime KOMO commentator Ken Schram. Schram, sixty-six, had been battling an internal infection for many months, and finally succumbed to his illness today. KOMO anchor Eric Johnson, who just took over Dan Lewis’ duties last week, has a story up on the station’s website celebrating Schram’s life and legacy.

As Johnson put it:

[Ken Schram] talked tough, but if you knew him at all, you knew that he cared about people — all people: rich and poor; the lucky ones and the messed up ones too. He was constantly giving $5 to a homeless guy. “Go get something to eat,” he’d say.

Some tough guy.

Chief photographer Randy Carnell summed him up best.

“He’s funny and he’s mean and he’s nice… he’s crazy,” Carnell said. “He has everything going on in that head of his. He’s a nut.”

He was like creme brulee: All crusty on the outside, soft and gooey and sweet underneath.

Ken Schram and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but we did share an intense dislike of Tim Eyman’s destructive initiatives. To Ken’s credit, he saw through Eyman’s  persona from the very beginning, recognizing Eyman for what he was. During the more than ten years that Eyman’s foray into politics overlapped with Schram’s broadcasting career, Schram lambasted him dozens of times.

Here are some of his greatest zingers. First, from “A Grim Fairy Tale”, which aired on February 1st, 2002, after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an expose by Neil Modie about Tim Eyman pocketing his own donors’ money for his personal use:

[Eyman] took the people’s money and didn’t spend it on THE PLAN they gave it for. Tim says he could use their money for a future PLAN, even if the people who gave the money don’t support it.

Or, he could just use the money to buy himself a big boat.

From “Eyman’s Biggest Lie Not About Money, But Measures”, February 4th, 2002:

Tim Eyman told the truth because the lies were catching up to him. He was going to get caught. He confessed. That doesn’t make him noble, just savvy… The initiatives are mostly a ruse. They hurt more then help us, and allow lawmakers to continually wiggle away from making tough, but necessary decisions.

From “Is Tim Eyman lying?”, July 2nd, 2002:

What Eyman deserves will ultimately be decided when Washington state gets him to court with its lawsuit against him.

And unlike his e-mail, in court Eyman must show proof that what he says is actually true. That could be a problem for Tim, who seems to have a tough time telling the difference between truth, and what he wants people to believe.

Is Eyman lyin’? Don’t know. Is the Pope Polish?

From “A Whole New Racket For Tim Eyman”, July 11th, 2002:

Let’s see if I got it right:

Tim’s asking people to send him money to bail him out of the trouble he’s in for taking money that at one time he said he never took.

Now, since Tim certainly couldn’t pay taxes on money he lied about taking, he’s in that hole.

And, since he got caught with campaign dollars stuck to his fingers, Tim’s also being sued by the state.

Which means he’s got legal bills and fines likely lurking in his future.

And so, that’s why Tim has come back to the people who’s money he took, asking them to send him more money.

From “The Road to Ruin”, July 23rd, 2002:

That’s because Tim Eyman is like an Enron accountant who wants to show you the bottom line, but doesn’t want to open the books so you can check all the math.

Eyman’s ‘new’ initiative is actually made up of recycled ideas that’ve already failed in the legislature.

They failed for good reason. They were bad ideas then and – except for opening carpool lanes to everyone during off-peak hours – they’re bad ones now.

Take Tim Eyman. Please. Okay. I know. It’s an old joke.

But so is Tim Eyman.

From “Let’s Talk About Tim”, September 17th, 2002:

I realize that the Eyman Mukilteo enclave is insulated from the world mere mortals live in, so I’m not surprised at the latest initiative that Tim will reap a personal profit from.

And I’m not surprised that Tim joyously noted what he calls the “sheer coincidence” that he mailed his I-267 petitions out on September 11th.

“Very neat,” said Tim, that his efforts coincided with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Yep, ‘very neat’ Tim. Nice of you to ‘honor’ the date by ‘coincidentally’ using it to promote your transportation initiative.

From “Tim Eyman’s Scam… Er, Plan”, May 20th, 2003:

Tim Eyman might call it ‘soliciting donations’, but fact is, he’s begging.

Tim has once again become the equivalent of those folks we see standing forlorn alongside freeway exits.

‘Send money’ Eyman’s letter read — personal money, not political money — money that Tim won’t have to publicly account for, or pay taxes on. Me? I figure if Timmy’s gonna panhandle, he should go at it like everyone else: holding a cardboard message, standing by the side of the road.

From “Eyman Sure Is A Character–Several, In Fact,” April 2nd, 2004:

Of all the Tim Eyman characters, “Indignant Tim” could be my favorite.

Beats the hell out of “Contrite Tim”, the one who tearfully admits lying, and trounces all over “Arrogant Tim”, who proclaims himself to he the champion of all taxpayers.

“Greedy Tim” is my least favorite character.

“Greedy Tim” recently took a $46,000 chunk-a-change in payment for what he called “effective lobbying”, then even more recently announced he’s going to be drawing $3,100 a week in salary while pushing his “gambling is better than taxes” initiative.

From “Initiative Amoeba Is On The Move”, November 4th, 2004:

Three of Timmy’s last 4 initiatives didn’t even make the ballot, and the one that did went down in flames this week.

Timmy paid himself $3,100 a week for that debacle.

I’m sure he’d say it was a bargain. But hey, as long a Timmy can get people to write him checks, he’ll keep writing e-mails about all he’s done, even if he hasn’t really done squat.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the jelly-like cytoplasm of an amoeba.

If not, train your eyes on Tim Eyman and let me know if you can see right through him.

From “Timmy Is Turning To God”, May 22nd, 2006:

Timmy is turning to God.

I guess Mr. Eyman figures that since Jesus turned water into wine, the Lord would be willing and able to transform church-going Christians into bigots. That, and maybe he’d made an extra buck or ten.

And so on the 7th day, Timmy helped orchestrate “Referendum Sunday.” Timmy describes this as an “opportunity” for 500,000 voters in 5,400 churches to sign a petition to cancel out gay rights legislation passed in Olympia earlier this year.

Timmy says it’s all about ending “preferential treatment.”

I say it’s all about legalizing discrimination against gays and lesbians.

And I think that Timmy’s just trying to turn conservative Christians into another tool in his money-making initiative arsenal.

From “My ballot is in the mail”, November 5th, 2007:

Initiative 960: Tim Eyman’s latest smoke and mirror measure. I wish I could have voted “no” on this several times.

If it passes, look for a gridlocked Legislature doing battle over things like raising hairdresser license fees.

From “Schrammie: Eyman goes ape over P-I demise”, March 18th, 2009:

Little Timmy makes a mighty fine living off the public’s discontent and doesn’t take kindly when his bully pulpit is challenged, as the [Seattle] P-I was almost always inclined to do.

And since he always blames everyone but himself for a succession of initiative failures, he took particular glee in the P.I. folding.

So Timmy, it’s not for your political antics that you get this award, it is for your lack of class; it’s for your small-minded, petty and spiteful nature that I say, take a bow, because this “Schrammie” is for you.

From “The Schrammie: You’re a scoundrel”, April 14th, 2010:

With not one whit of thought given to the economic disaster to the state’s programs and services should that happen, Eyman is as Eyman does: Manipulating circumstances to his own advantage.

Playing off people’s disdain for increased taxes, Timmy gets to make splashy headlines in an effort to paint himself as a champion of the people as he pushes for donations to accomplish the near impossible: Gathering several hundred thousand signatures on each one of his eight measures by July 2.

Timmy, you’re a scoundrel.

And finally, from “Handcuffing the Legislature,” October 18, 2010:

If you want to impede economic growth, protect special tax breaks for big corporations, put children’s programs and education at further risk, then jump right in and vote yes on I-1053.

But if you’re not interested in buying into the “cut off your nose to spite your face” charge led by Tim Eyman, then by all means be sensible. Vote “no” on initiative 1053.

Ken Schram retired from KOMO prior to the qualification of Initiative 517 last year, Tim Eyman’s most self-serving initiative ever, which voters overwhelmingly defeated in November (NPI helped organize the opposition). Had Schram still been on the air, I have no doubt he would have eviscerated I-517 more than once.

Tim Eyman was hardly the only target of Ken Schram’s commentaries. But, in looking through Ken’s body of work over the last few years, I was surprised by just how many Eyman references there were. Schram periodically found ways to work slams of Eyman into his commentaries, even if his ire was trained on someone else. That’s how much he detested Eyman’s toxic politics and his initiative factory.

Politically, Schram was an independently-minded biconceptual, meaning that in some areas of his political thinking, he used the progressive value system, and in others, he used the conservative values system. From watching his commentaries, I always got the sense that he enjoyed being an unpredictable contrarian.

Sometimes Ken was spot on with a commentary, as he was when he lambasted Tim Eyman’s initiatives. Other times, he made no sense to me at all, as in 2005, when he complained about women breastfeeding in public. (As The Seattle Times’ Erik Lacitis noted, it generated more than 1,000 angry emails).

Ken always invited KOMO viewers and listeners to respond to his commentaries and on-air rants. Periodically, he would read from responses on air, and thank people for writing in. For many years, he co-hosted a radio show on KOMO AM 1000 with conservative talk show host John Carlson called “The Commentators”.

Schram left KOMO in 2012 when his contract was bought out. He still had a year left to go, but station management had by that time evidently decided to dispense with airing any more of his “Schram on the Street” commentaries. (KOMO, long owned by Fisher Broadcasting, was sold to the Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2013.)

After leaving KOMO, Schram began communicating more directly with fans, occasionally sharing upbeat messages and alerts when he was filling in on the radio. On July 29th, 2013, he posted the following message to his Facebook page:

Another day back in radio fun!

Filled in for Luke Burbank today on KIRO 97.3FM 9- Noon. Will be doing so again tomorrow and Wednesday. Then, on Thursday and Friday, I’ll be filling in for Tom Tagney; same time slot. Following that, 2-weeks vacation with the family!.

Love what you do; do what you love! Keep thinking of the Beach Boys: “Fun, Fun, Fun” Hope your world is treating you the way you deserve!

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell remembered Schram as colorful and fierce.

“Ken Schram had a forceful presence that could be felt right through the TV or radio. He was a legend in Northwest broadcasting – and his voice will never be forgotten,” she said in a statement. “Ken was a force of nature that we will long remember for his passionate views and opinions. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Sandi, to his family and his friends at KOMO-TV and radio.”

We join Senator Cantwell in conveying our condolences to Schram’s family.

So long, Ken, and thanks for all the commentaries… myopic and brilliant alike.

Oregon Republicans choose Monica Wehby as Jeff Merkley’s November opponent; Dennis Richardson to face Governor John Kitzhaber

As in several states on the East Coast, tonight is primary night in two of the three states in the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Idaho. Voters belonging to or identifying with the country’s major political parties are choosing the nominees who will go on to the autumn general election as the parties’ standard bearers.

In Oregon, there isn’t much excitement on the Democratic side, because most of the state’s top elected positions are already held by Democrats, and they’re all seeking reelection. On the Republican side, there are at least two noteworthy contests, as several Republicans are vying to take on Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate, and several more are vying to take on John Kitzhaber for Governor.

With 209,985 votes cast and counted as of this hour (that’s turnout of 9.91%), it looks like each race has a runaway winner.

For U.S. Senate, Portland pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby is easily in the lead, winning not only a plurality of the vote, but a majority. The vote for the gubernatorial nomination is even more lopsided – State Representative Dennis Richardson has more votes than all of his opponents put together twice over.

Here are the numbers:

U.S. Senate, Oregon (Republican Nomination)

Monica Wehby 45,876 votes 53.18%
Jo Rae Perkins 2,305 votes 2.67%
Mark Callahan 5,509 votes 6.39%
Timothy I Crawley 2,255 votes 2.61%
Jason Conger 29,973 votes 34.74%
Write-in Votes 349 votes 0.40%

Governor of Oregon (Republican Nomination)

Bruce A Cuff 6,847 votes 8.63%
Gordon Challstrom 7,864 votes 9.91%
Tim Carr 4,909 votes 6.18%
Dennis Richardson 52,635 votes 66.31%
Mae Rafferty 5,585 votes 7.04%
Darren Karr 829 votes 1.04%
Write-in candidate 712 votes 0.90%

Wehby had credible competition in State Representative Jason Conger, who had hoped to capitalize on a round of bad publicity for Wehby near the end of the campaign. Conger is well behind Wehby, and not likely to catch up. The Merkley campaign has called both Wehby and Conger deeply flawed candidates.

Meanwhile, in the 1st Congressional District, Jason Yates has a narrow lead over Delinda Delgado Morgan for the right to take on Democrat Suzanne Bonamici.

In the 2nd District, Democratic voters are favoring Aelea Christofferson to go up against entrenched Republican incumbent Greg Walden.

Walden is the only Republican member of the state’s congressional delegation; he himself faced a Tea Party-backed candidate in Dennis B Linthicum, but is prevailing with a very comfortable three-to-one margin.

There are no contests in the 3rd or 4th Congressional Districts.

In the 5th, Democratic incumbent Kurt Schrader is easily dispatching challenger Anita Brown. Tootie Smith is the Republicans’ choice to oppose Schrader in November by an almost two-to-one margin.

In other results:

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