Earlier today, along with NPI board member Steve Zemke and NPI contributor Steve Breaux, I participated in a public hearing in support of House Bill 2499, prime sponsored by Representative Andy Billig. HB 2499 would require advertising for or against ballot measures in Washington to include the name and address of the entity paying for the advertising; entities that are political committees would also have to disclose the names of their top five contributors.
The bill wouldn’t stop big moneyed interests from hijacking the initiative process, but it would make astroturfing more difficult. If HB 2499 is enacted, it will be harder for the likes of BP and Bank of America to hide behind fake names like “Citizens for Fiscal Restraint” in their advertising. And that would be a good thing.
Our old buddy Tim Eyman showed up at the hearing yesterday to denounce HB 2499 and another bill sponsored by Billig which won’t be moving forward (HB 2500). Eyman said nothing we haven’t heard before — he used up pretty much all of his time condemning the very public hearing he war participating in.
Hilariously, only a few minutes later, after all of the testimony had been given, the four Republicans on the committee retreated into an adjacent conference room for the purposes of caucus — with Tim Eyman as their invited guest.
After they returned, executive session resumed. House State Government Committee Vice Chair Sherry Appleton moved that HB 2499 be reported out of committee with a “do pass” recommendation.
At least two of the Republicans took the opportunity to condemn the bill, attempting (and failing) to refute some of the points that we had made in our testimony. However, they offered no amendments.
The bill was subsequently reported out, with all seven Democrats (Representatives Hunt, Appleton, Darneille, Dunshee, Hurst, McCoy, and Miloscia) voting in favor and all four Republicans (Representatives Taylor, Overstreet, Alexander, and Condotta) voting against. Prior to the vote, Republicans asked that the bill be sent through Ways & Means, despite it not having a fiscal note. If this happens, there will probably be another hearing on the bill. Otherwise it moves to House Rules.
Whether HB 2499 gets to the floor for discussion and debate will be up to House Democratic leadership, including Speaker Frank Chopp. But at least it survived the first cutoff and remains alive for the time being.