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.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Right-wing think tanks plotting Eymanesque campaign against our cities and counties

Last week, reporters for The Guardian pulled the cur­tain back on a net­work of well-fund­ed, well-orga­nized right-wing think tanks and their extreme agen­da.

Doc­u­ments obtained by The Guardian show the bland­ly-named State Pol­i­cy Net­work is work­ing to under­mine edu­ca­tion, health­care, and rev­enue col­lec­tion in near­ly every state in the coun­try. Their spe­cif­ic pro­pos­als are extreme­ly rad­i­cal, from pri­va­tiz­ing schools to gut­ting pub­lic health­care.

The Guardian’s report also shows how this network’s Wash­ing­ton affil­i­ates plan to launch the next phase of their attack on our eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty and our democ­ra­cy.

The State Pol­i­cy Net­work is a cre­ation of the noto­ri­ous Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), and is fund­ed by right-wing donors includ­ing the Koch Broth­ers to impose extrem­ist poli­cies at the state lev­el, bypass­ing a fed­er­al gov­ern­ment where Democ­rats remain pow­er­ful enough to block this rad­i­cal agen­da.

Here in Wash­ing­ton, the State Pol­i­cy Net­work has two affil­i­ates: the Free­dom Foun­da­tion and the Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter.

Both of these groups are well known for their right-wing pol­i­cy agen­da and their desire to dis­man­tle and destroy Washington’s pro­gres­sive achieve­ments.

The Guardian’s report­ing details two new lines of attack we can expect from these think tanks, based on grant requests they sub­mit­ted to the State Pol­i­cy Net­work. The Free­dom Foun­da­tion wants to launch a new cam­paign claim­ing that cities and coun­ties are some­how “bor­row­ing beyond their means” — try­ing to bring the log­ic of aus­ter­i­ty to local gov­ern­ment, demand­ing we cut back on spend­ing to address some sup­posed bor­row­ing prob­lem that does not actu­al­ly exist.

The Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter is plan­ning a cam­paign to take Tim Eyman’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al 23 rule for tax increas­es to the local lev­el, hop­ing to get more local gov­ern­ments to enact a super­ma­jor­i­ty require­ment to raise rev­enue.

We don’t know whether the State Pol­i­cy Net­work agreed to fund these cam­paigns, but they have fund­ed oth­er cam­paigns for these think tanks in the past.

Thanks to The Guardian, we know what they’re up to, and have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to antic­i­pate these attacks and stop them before they suc­ceed.

The Free­dom Foundation’s attempt to smear the fis­cal health of local gov­ern­ments is eas­i­ly debunked. Local gov­ern­ments in Wash­ing­ton State have been bor­row­ing mon­ey appro­pri­ate­ly and their cred­it rat­ings remain strong.

Seat­tle and King Coun­ty, for exam­ple, both have AAA rat­ings.

The Free­dom Foun­da­tion seeks to destroy local pub­lic ser­vices through cuts to vital pub­lic ser­vices, but knows that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans like these ser­vices and do not want to see them under­mined. In order to over­come that resis­tance, the Free­dom Foun­da­tion knows they must por­tray cities and coun­ties as in bad finan­cial shape, which is why they want mon­ey to launch a cam­paign to con­coct an entire­ly fic­tion­al sto­ry of local gov­ern­ments bor­row­ing beyond their means.

Ear­li­er this year the Supreme Court declared the two-thirds super­ma­jor­i­ty require­ment at the heart of Tim Eyman’s I‑601 clones to be uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. But it looks like the Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter is undaunt­ed by the LEV deci­sion, as they are now seek­ing to impose the same unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic scheme on cities and coun­ties.

We don’t have to look far to see how cre­at­ing an unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic thresh­old for rais­ing rev­enue can cause big prob­lems.

Many cities in Cal­i­for­nia are in dire straits because nei­ther local elect­ed offi­cials nor vot­ers can raise rev­enue with­out a two-thirds vote. Get­ting to 66.67% in any elec­tion is a tough hur­dle, and in any oth­er sit­u­a­tion, any­thing that gets more than 60% of vot­er sup­port is con­sid­ered to have won in a land­slide.

Yet just last year, a pro­pos­al to fund a major expan­sion of mass tran­sit in Los Ange­les “failed” because it got 66.11% of the vote, just short of the two-thirds thresh­old. If levies or rev­enue pro­pos­als in Wash­ing­ton required a two-thirds vote, deci­sions about fund­ing vital pub­lic schools like schools or police, fire, and emer­gency med­ical response would end up in the hands of the few, not the many.

These pro­posed cam­paigns also show how Washington’s right-wing think tanks exist to advance the agen­da of wealthy nation­al donors, rather than the inter­ests of the peo­ple of the Ever­green State. These think tanks have had a lot of suc­cess shap­ing the agen­da in oth­er states, and in places like Wis­con­sin and Michi­gan are key to the Tea Party’s war on eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty. They haven’t had as much suc­cess in the Pacif­ic North­west… yet. But they are com­ing for us.

We need to be ready to stop them.

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8 Comments

  1. Tell me how I can help!

    # by Gretchen Anna Sand :: December 10th, 2013 at 1:59 PM
  2. Robert Cruick­shank’s report needs to be read by our pro­gres­sive may­ors and city and coun­ty coun­cil elect­ed offi­cials around the state. WPC and the “Free­dom” Foun­da­tion are not about good pol­i­cy or free­dom for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. Their stealth strate­gies under­mine local con­trol and local deci­sion-mak­ing — the kind of grass-roots gov­ern­ing we like out here in the Pacif­ic NW. Our non-par­ti­san local pol­i­tics are per­fect tar­gets for infil­tra­tion from the likes of the Koch Broth­ers. Our local elect­ed offi­cials tend to want to gov­ern and will look for com­pro­mise solu­tions. But this is a con­cert­ed effort to under­mine our con­fi­dence in our local elect­ed offi­cials — and we must do more than pro­tect. We have to advance with our own ideas and agen­da to make progress. Win­ning is the very best response.

    # by Gael Tarleton :: December 10th, 2013 at 5:41 PM
  3. I’m work­ing on this study, and I helped draft the request to bet­ter under­stand munic­i­pal debt. If any­one out there wants to send me infor­ma­tion, please feel free to do so. It should­n’t be a secret. We’ve been work­ing on these issues for 20 years. Your help to make this study as com­plete as pos­si­ble is great­ly appre­ci­at­ed.

    # by Glen Morgan :: December 11th, 2013 at 9:50 AM
  4. Democ­ra­cy sucks when peo­ple vote for things that you don’t like.

    And get your facts straight — the 23 require­ment was found uncon­sti­tu­tion­al for state gov­ern­ment, but that does­n’t mean it’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al for local gov­ern­ments. Let the vot­ers decide. That’s what democ­ra­cy looks like.

    # by Bob T. :: December 11th, 2013 at 11:27 AM
  5. The two thirds vote cam­paign is already under­way in this state. Pierce Coun­ty vot­ers passed it, it’s in place in Spokane and vot­ers in Yaki­ma passed it on this year’s Novem­ber bal­lot. It is hap­pen­ing under the radar of pro­gres­sives for the most part, as there has been lit­tle cam­paign­ing against it. Time to wake up for sure. Thanks for help­ing to pub­li­cize what’s hap­pen­ing.

    # by Steve Zemke :: December 11th, 2013 at 12:50 PM
  6. Last time I looked, this coun­try was NOT a democ­ra­cy, but a rep­re­sen­ta­tive repub­lic. Learn the dif­fer­ence before you rail against the sys­tem. Col­lec­tive think­ing, also known as mob rule, is what got us $17 tril­lion in debt…a debt that no amount of ‘bor­row­ing’ can ever repay. Yes, it is time to wake up, but to the fact that pro­gres­sive ideas are bank­rupt­ing cities and states.

    # by Steve Edwards :: December 11th, 2013 at 3:29 PM
    • Ah, Steve. Every once in a while some­one like you comes along and makes the hilar­i­ous claim that Amer­i­ca is not a democ­ra­cy. Actu­al­ly, Amer­i­ca is a democ­ra­cy, because a repub­lic is a democ­ra­cy. We’ve cov­ered this before over at Per­ma­nent Defense.

      If you look at actu­al data, Steve, you’ll see that deficits bal­loon while Repub­li­can pres­i­dents are in charge and shrink when Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dents (who are much more pro­gres­sive than Repub­li­cans) are in charge. It turns out that tax cuts for the wealthy, gen­er­ous sub­si­dies for big cor­po­ra­tions, and trick­le-down eco­nom­ics don’t work! It’s time for a return to pro­gres­sive eco­nom­ics and fis­cal respon­si­bil­i­ty at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment. We at NPI will do all we can to pre­vent com­mu­ni­ties from los­ing the abil­i­ty to demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly enact respon­si­ble bud­gets that fund our vital pub­lic ser­vices.

      # by Andrew :: December 12th, 2013 at 7:46 PM
  7. A vast right wing con­spir­a­cy! Wow! That’s fun.

    # by Melissa Genson :: December 11th, 2013 at 9:01 PM