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Friday, April 27, 2007

Tim Eyman's Initiative 960 is the latest incarnation of a right wing money triangle

We're just past the halfway point in the 2007 initiative season, which runs from almost the beginning of the new year to Independence Day in early July. And as usual, Tim Eyman and his cohorts are working to qualify yet another right wing initiative to the ballot. (More on why they're still in business in a bit).

After tax cuts and legalization of discrimination fizzled last year, Tim has chosen to revive his failed 2003 initiative with a few additional twists.

Initiative 960, Tim's 2007 vehicle, undermines the very concept of representative democracy by requiring two thirds supermajority votes in each house of the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Republicans have been losing seats in the statehouse over the last few cycles, and since they're having a difficult time getting elected, Tim hopes to empower them to control budgeting decisions with this initiative.

(It's kind of funny how that "respect the will of the voters" thing works).

What I-960 does is allow a minority to veto important fiscal decisions and block the state from raising needed revenue to pay for public services the people want. It turns the whole idea of a republic upside down.

Just imagine living in a small town with one hundred residents which operates under democratic principles. One day, someone proposes changing the rules to require that at least 66 of the 100 residents be in agreement before any additional funds for the town treasury could be collected.

Under that scenario, even if 65 residents out of the hundred wanted to give the town government more money, they could be told "no" by a minority.

That's not democracy. But that's Initiative 960 in a nutshell.

There is an excellent possibility that I-960 won't pass constitutional muster, but there's no reason to wait and hope that a court will invalidate it if it passes. I-960 is an unwelcome idea that we don't need.

Responding to a public outcry, the Legislature just weeks ago approved a constitutional amendment which removes the unfair supermajority requirement for school levies. That amendment ironically required a supermajority to pass out of the statehouse. It's now going before the voters.

Eyman wants to make every decision to raise revenue just as difficult. He seems to have nothing but contempt for elected leaders and the legislative process. He isn't getting his way, so he's trying to change the rules.

But I-960 hasn't attracted much support. Without huge cash infusions from Eyman's chief backer, Woodinville multimillionaire Michael Dunmire, the I-960 campaign would have run aground and collapsed already.

An analysis of Eyman's public disclosure reports shows Dunmire has directly provided about 71% of the funds to I-960 so far. The following chart illustrates where all of this year's financial donations are coming from.

Initiative 960 Contributions Through March 2007

But this 71% figure is actually misleading, because Eyman has transferred money from previous campaigns to his I-960 effort as in-kind donations.

At least one of those transfers includes significant chunks of Dunmire money as well. The pale blue slice above represents a transfer from Eyman's SaveOur30Tabs committee at the beginning of the year to Voters Want More Choices, the vehicle for I-960. (The red slice is a transfer from Help Us Help Taxpayers).

The actual percentage totaling Dunmire's donations, if you add in this indirect financial support, is somewhere in the mid-eighties - possibly about 85%.

Three donors have contributed a total of $3,250 to the campaign. One of them, John Lashley, doesn't even live in Washington State. The others are the Northwest Healthcare Alliance, a traditional Eyman supporter, and Thomas Schulstad.

Only 11% (about $37,500 in total) of the contributions to I-960 are amounts less than $1,000. (And, as some of those contributions are from repeat donors, the number of actual contributors is even smaller).

These lopsided figures clearly demonstrate that without Dunmire, Eyman's nothing. A whopping 89% of all his incoming funds through March 2007 are either transfers from his other accounts or huge checks from his sugar daddy. Of course, almost none of Eyman's previous campaigns have been grassroots either.

Now, here's a chart showing Eyman's expenditures. As with the previous visual, the numbers here do not reflect April 2007 data because it isn't available yet.

Initiative 960 Expenditures Through March 2007

There's also a dominant feature in the expenditures. The biggest by far is the $267,000 Eyman has turned over to Citizen Solutions of Lacey, WA, run by his friend Roy Ruffino, to pay for signature gathering.

Eyman has been dispensing money to Ruffino every few weeks since early January (when the first payment was made). He has also spent money on printing, including almost $16,500 for what appears to be advertising in Fishing & Hunting News.

(Other printing expenses have been for petitions and repeated mailings to supporters. Printing vendors include L&I Printing and Puget Sound Envelope. Data Resources was compensated for mailing costs).

Eyman and the Fagans have also reimbursed themselves for nearly $5,000, including over $3,000 for travel expenses (what for, we're not sure - it seems like an awful lot of money for a few trips to Olympia, for instance).

Eyman also compensated the firm of Groen Stephens & Klinge LLP for legal assistance. (Groen, you might recall, ran for State Supreme Court last year against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander with support from the BIAW).

Looking at this data, we can clearly see a right wing money triangle - with Michael Dunmire at one vertex, Tim Eyman at the second, and Roy Ruffino at the third. The triangle works very simply: during a campaign Dunmire writes big checks to Eyman, who turns around and dispenses most of the money to Ruffino's Citizen Solutions, which then pays petitioners to collect signatures for Tim's initiatives.

After the drive is completed, Dunmire then writes another hefty check or two to Eyman's compensation fund. The money is then split between Eyman and the Fagans, who each pocket tens of thousands of dollars as salary.

That is why Eyman's initiative factory is still in business despite so many failures. Every year, Eyman pulls a stale right wing scheme off the shelf (for example, tax cuts or spending limits), dusts it off, and runs with it. I-960 is just the latest incarnation of this right wing money triangle.

As of the last filings, Eyman's committee has only $13,832 cash on hand. Almost all of the contributions collected so far (a total of over $352,000) have gone out the door as expenditures. As long as Michael Dunmire is willing to write another check or two, Eyman should be able to buy his way onto the ballot this year.

But if for some reason Dumire were to cut off support (which we think is unlikely), I-960 would likely flounder and then die.

You can help us track Eyman's petition drive by reporting any right wing signature gathering activity you observe to Permanent Defense. We will also continue to closely monitor the reports filed by Eyman & Co. with the PDC, and when the April numbers are available, we'll bring you another update.

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