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.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Tim Eyman: an irresistible failure

Initiative profiteer, right wing zealot, and admitted liar Tim Eyman may be mired in a difficult slump, but that hasn't stopped the traditional media from treating him with all the relevance, respect, and reverence you'd expect an honorable dignitary or seasoned international statesman to receive.

Whenever Tim Eyman wants to announce something, he knows he can call up the Associated Press and request an article. The AP periodically obliges him, as it has twice this week - first on Monday when the session convened and Eyman filed the latest incarnation of his Minority Rules Initiative, and for the second time yesterday when Eyman announced how he and his partners were divvying up Michael Dunmire's reward to them for failure.

Neil Modie has another article about Eyman's haul in the P-I this morning. While we still don't think it deserves to be a story in the newspaper, at least Modie's article was solid reporting:
Eyman's e-mail touted a new tax-limiting initiative he has filed for 2007. But it made no mention of his defeats in 2006: two statewide measures for which he failed to obtain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot; a Seattle proposition that voters passed over his opposition, and court rulings that went against two of his previous initiatives.
Eyman almost never talks about defeats and setbacks, but that doesn't mean the media should follow his example. Even with access to a millionaire's coffers, Eyman is still a failure. His track record is horrible. But what he is very good at is lining his pockets. Though he had no accomplishments to speak of in 2006, Tim didn't hesitate to help himself to Michael Dunmire's money.

Eyman is nothing more that a front man for a special interest....a wealthy conservative Woodinville multimillionaire.

The Associated Press aren't the only folks in the state who treat Eyman with a reverence and relevance he doesn't deserve.

Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman wrote a post this week about Representative Appleton's bill to reform the initiative process by changing the way paid petitioners can be compensated:
A person who pays or receives consideration based on the number of signatures obtained on an initiative or referendum petition is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable to the same extent as a misdemeanor that is punishable under RCW 9A.20.021.
Appleton has a significant number of cosponsors for her bill, including several Republicans. It's a common sense reform that we strongly support. Postman, of course, wanted a reaction to the bill, and contacted Tim Eyman because he "has used paid signature gatherers extensively".

There are many other groups who have also used paid signature gatherers extensively. Eyman didn't have a measure on the ballot in 2006, yet Postman still asked him for his reaction.

Why did Postman go to Eyman? Because Eyman is visible.

And why is Eyman visible, despite failure after failure? Because of endless media coverage, which Postman just played a part in reinforcing.

What bothers us more, though, is that Postman then printed Eyman's response (which included an obvious lie) without any comment of his own. Here's Eyman:
This radically increases the cost of qualifying an initiative for the ballot. This won't impact the big guys -- doctors, lawyers, teachers'
unions, and other special interest groups -- they've got the money to overcome this doubling of the cost. Who's affected? Initiative campaigns like ours that draw thousands of small contributions from thousands of heroic supporters.
That last sentence is nothing short of a complete, baldfaced lie. Eyman knows he doesn't have a grassroots operation. Around eighty percent of recent initiatives have been funded solely by Michael Dunmire and his wife, including I-917 and I-900. And before that, the gambling industry subsidized I-892. Tim Eyman is no different than any other special interest - and he undoubtedly knows it.

If an initiative truly has grassroots, populist support, its sponsors shouldn't need to rely extensively on paid petitioners for the collection of signatures. Eyman does because he doesn't have "thousands of small contributions from thousands of heroic supporters."

Eyman can't even get away with that outrageous claim on a technicality. Look it up yourself. I just reviewed the PDC reports for Eyman's I-917, and confirmed what we already knew. It didn't even have one thousand contributions, let alone one thousand contributors. (Many of Eyman's supporters are repeat contributors).

Eyman vastly exaggerates the number of supporters he has. We know because we were able to compare his claims to an actual number we could tabulate after he carelessly made his entire e-mail list public.

Unfortunately, David Postman added no postscript to Eyman's comments, which surprised us. We would have expected Postman to point out Eyman's lie immediately, and we have asked him to...but so far, he hasn't.

What Tim Eyman can get away with is shocking. He's in a category all by himself.

Direct democracy has become a business and citizens' signatures have become a commodity. Naturally, Tim Eyman opposes any change that improves honesty, transparency, and openness - though he claims to want those things in government. He has a double standard.

All Representative Appleton wants to do is make it illegal to pay by the signature, thus removing the incentive for signature fraud and removing the incentive for petitioners to pressure citizens into signing petitions.

It doesn't seem to matter that Tim Eyman is an utter failure. It doesn't seem to matter that he thinks it's okay to trick the press corps and show callous disregard for journalists' time. It doesn't seem to matter that Tim Eyman is an admitted liar. The traditional media in this state still finds him irresistible. He gets airtime, guest columns, news briefs, quotes, credibility and respect.

Eyman's saintly treatment seems to be just part of a pattern, a trend in the media which Media Matters President and CEO David Brock skillfully documented in his 2004 book, The Republican Noise Machine. (If you haven't read it - what are you waiting for?). Eric Boehlert followed Brock last year with a book that had a more specific focus (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush).

Alternative media is experiencing tremendous growth partly because the traditional, corporate media has fallen down on the job. Evergreen State media outlets, with the possible exception of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have shown no indication they're going to end their sponsorship of Tim Eyman's free ride anytime soon.

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