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

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Right Wing Initiatives Still A Threat

It's tempting for Evergreen State progressive activists to spend a lot of time and pixels focusing on major high profile races for elected office - like Maria Cantwell's U.S. Senate race, or Darcy Burner's U.S. House race.

While there's no doubt those races are important, we can't forget that our state is still threatened by several major right wing initiatives which have the potential to do tremendous damage to our communities.

Despite the failure of Referendum 65 last week (which actually wasn't an initiative) there are three other right wing ballot measures with active campaigns behind them, vying to get on the ballot. These three initiatives are:
I-917 - Guts needed transportation funding
I-920 - Eliminates money for public schools
I-933 - Creates loopholes for wealthy developers
Any of them could make the ballot. In fact, all of them could make the ballot.

You may remember that Initiative 917 is Tim Eyman's other ballot measure. A week ago, Eyman appeared in Olympia in a Darth Vader costume with several boxes of what he said were I-917 petitions (which he didn't turn in to the Secretary of State).
Since Eyman hasn't turned in signatures yet, it's likely the case that he doesn't have enough. In a recent letter (mailed to supporters last Monday), Eyman claimed he only had 142,000 signatures. That's about half of what he needs to get on the ballot.

If that number is true (and we have no idea whether it is or not, since Tim Eyman cannot be trusted to tell the truth) then Eyman has a lot of ground to cover with less than a month to go until the deadline.

But expect that Eyman will make it. His wealthy backer, Michael Dunmire, gave him another $75,000 last month, according to PDC filings, for an aggregate total of $307,000 to Eyman's I-917 committee.

Eyman also gave almost $50,000 last month to his friend, Roy Ruffino, to finance a force of paid signature gatherers to collect signatures for Initiative 917. That's not a surprise, of course - Eyman and Ruffino have been working together for years.

But more worrisome is that the I-920 campaign, led by Dennis Falk, is now doing the same thing. The I-920 campaign gave a whopping total of $90,000 to Ruffino's Citizen Solutions last month to hire paid signature gatherers for I-920.

This explains the recent surge of reports Permanent Defense has been getting from activists who tell us that they were asked to sign a petition for I-920 (which would repeal the estate tax, a major source of funding for public education).

So where's the money coming from? Who's bankrolling I-920?

It seems the I-920 campaign has found its own sugar daddy: developer Martin Selig. Selig has contributed over $100,000 to the campaign in the last thirty days. On May 12th, he donated $20,000 to the campaign; on May 22nd, he donated $30,000. On May 30th he donated $40,000. On June 2nd he donated another $30,000, and a week later, he donated another $30,000. And just last Saturday - three days ago - he donated another $10,000, bringing his aggregate total to $167,500.

Neil Modie wrote a good article on I-920 last Friday - which I pointed out while I was in Las Vegas (Repeal of estate tax has wealthy backers). In the article, Modie notes that Selig and John Nordstrom (of the Nordstrom family) have essentially served as Michael Dunmires for Dennis Falk and his cronies:
Between them, the two have contributed more than two-thirds of the money raised so far by the Committee to Abolish the Washington State Estate Tax, according to its most recent campaign finance report.
But it appears that Selig is the one who's responsible for making the recently launched paid signature drive possible. If Selig keeps making donations - and it seems he will - there's a very good chance we'll be seeing I-920 on the ballot this fall. That's not good news, of course, but we ought to be prepared for the possibility.

There's one more right wing initiative that could and probably will make the ballot this year - and that's Initiative 933, which creates loopholes for wealthy developers.

Like I-917 and I-920, I-933 also has a sugar daddy: the out of state "Americans for Limited Government" group, which in the last thirty days has donated $150,000. The most recent contribution of $50,000 was made a week ago.

Most of the rest of the funding for I-933 comes from the Washington State Farm Bureau, which is sponsoring the initiative.

What's the Farm Bureau spending all this money on? A paid signature drive, of course. Guess who they hired to run it?

The answer is none other than Roy Ruffino's Citizen Solutions. In the last month, the Farm Bureau has doled out $85,000 to Ruffino's group (in three payments) for the I-933 signature drive.

So Ruffino is doing the signature gathering for not just one right wing initiative, but ALL of them. If you encounter a petitioner collecting signatures for I-917, I-920, or I-933, there's a good chance the person is working for Ruffino and subsequently being compensated with Dunmire, Selig, or ALG money.

All of the figures I used in the above paragraphs are coming from very recent PDC reports - some filed just yesterday. The numbers demonstrate that we may unfortunately end up with a troika of major right wing initiatives that we need to defeat in November. And each poses a serious threat.

These signature drives would not be possible without the support of multimillionaires and special interests, proving our point that the initiative process has indeed been hijacked.

There is now less than a month to go before the deadline to turn in initiative petitions. During these last few weeks, it's absolutely critical that you report right wing signature gathering activity if you observe it.

Permanent Defense has buttons available that you can add to your own blog or website pointing to the reporting tool. The smaller version of the button is on the Official Blog's sidebar (to your right) while Permanent Defense's main page has been using the larger version.

Feel free to download either or both:

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity
(Smaller version - 14 KB)

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity

(Larger version - 16 KB)

Help us track how the right wing signature drives are going and allow us to mobilize volunteers that we can send out to exercise our free speech rights.

Telling voters who might sign these petitions the other side of the story is extremely important if we want to stop our sustainable future from being destroyed. Thanks to everyone who adds a button to their site or uses the reporting system for their help.

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