NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Bill to require more transparency in ballot measure advertising moves forward

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.

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