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, September 3, 2010

Judge: Tim Eyman can't keep the names of those who signed his petitions a secret

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks this morning lifted the temporary restraining order he instituted last October prohibiting the release of the names of the people who signed several of the initiatives that Tim Eyman has qualified for the ballot over the last decade.

Eyman filed suit to keep the records a secret shortly after Referendum 71 proponents sued last year to prevent the Secretary of State from releasing the names of people who signed their petitions. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in June that Washington's public records act was not at odds with the Constitution of the United States, as the plaintiffs (represented by James Bopp Jr.) had asserted.

Eyman plans to appeal Hicks' decision. Not coincidentally, Bopp is representing him, along with another conservative attorney, Shawn Newman, who frequently shows up to testify against bills to reform Washington's initiative process.

But in the meantime, the names can be released. Former Republican Representative Toby Nixon and lobbyist Bryan Wahl have requested petitions for initiatives 722, 745, 747, 776, 900, 912, 917, 920, 960, 985, and 1033. Those are most of the right wing measures that have appeared on our ballots since 2000. Eyman was the sponsor for all but two of them.

"We have been for transparency since day one, and we believe the public wants its business, including citizen legislating, done in the light of day," said State Elections Director Nick Handy in a statement released by Sam Reed's office. "We have released two million petition signatures in recent years and we're unaware of a single problem arising."

We at NPI strongly agree. The public's business must be done in public. We are strong advocates for privacy, but we are also firm believers in open government. Signing a petition is like signing onto a bill. It is not a private act.

We wouldn't stand for allowing lawmakers to anonymously cosponsor bills. People who cosponsor initiatives by signing them are likewise not entitled to have their identities hidden. They're forcing the rest of us to vote on something; we have the right to know who they are.

I've signed petitions for several progressive initiatives since I turned eighteen. I have no problem with my fellow citizens requesting and receiving a copy of a petition that bears my name. Nor should Tim Eyman or any of his supporters.

Ironically, Eyman has done quite a bit of posting at a local right wing blog, unSound Politics, which maintains a publicly searchable database of voter registrations. If Eyman is such a big believer in privacy, why doesn't he ask his pal Stefan Sharkansky — who set him up with posting privileges — to shut down that database? (Because he's a double-dealer, that's why).

But his hypocrisy doesn't end there.

We at NPI know for a fact that Tim Eyman himself has previously taken advantage of our public records laws to obtain information he's wanted.

It's rich that a shameless snake oil salesman who regularly harasses others (hijacking press conferences, peltering elected leaders with unwanted emails, publicizing the contact information of people he doesn't like) is whining and complaining about the possibility that someone might harass his supporters.

Funny story: A few years ago, NPI board member Steve Zemke and I were at the Secretary of State's office observing one of Tim Eyman's press conferences (it was in 2004, if I recall correctly). At one point, Steve interrupted Eyman because he was sick and tired of Eyman's lying. Eyman's response was classic: "Get this guy out of here!" And he delivered that line like he owned the place.

I can't think of many people who are more arrogant than Tim Eyman. It's fitting that he has failed — for now — in his attempt to mask the identities of the people who have signed his many ill-conceived measures.


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