It's the Pam Roach Show, with the Incredibly Obnoxious Pam Roach!

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, as some read­ers may have heard on Twit­ter, I made a spe­cial trip down to Olympia with the inten­tion of tes­ti­fy­ing in favor of Sen­ate Bill 5375, one of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s pri­or­i­ty bills for this session.

I was hop­ing to be able to explain to the Sen­ate Gov­ern­ment Oper­a­tions and Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee than SB 5375 is a thought­ful­ly-craft­ed bill mod­eled on suc­cess­ful leg­is­la­tion passed in Ore­gon that is designed to stand up to con­sti­tu­tion­al scrutiny.

But I nev­er got the chance.

Repub­li­can Pam “Who Moved My Flow­ers!?” Roach refused to allow me and many oth­ers (includ­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Sec­re­tary of State’s office!) a chance to tes­ti­fy in favor of SB 5375, after seem­ing­ly los­ing inter­est in repeat­ed­ly attack­ing the bill with fel­low Repub­li­can Don Ben­ton and their mutu­al friend Tim Eyman.

Sen­ate Bill 5375, prime spon­sored by Demo­c­rat Marko Liias of the 21st Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, would sub­ject the sig­na­ture gath­er­ing indus­try to bad­ly need­ed over­sight and account­abil­i­ty. As in Ore­gon, paid peti­tion­ers would be required to reg­is­ter with the Sec­re­tary of State’s office, but their per­son­al con­tact infor­ma­tion would be exempt­ed from pub­lic dis­clo­sure, so as to pro­tect their privacy.

Sen­ate Bill 5375 was one of eight bills that was sup­posed to receive a pub­lic hear­ing yes­ter­day. I say sup­posed to because Roach turned what was osten­si­bly a meet­ing of the Sen­ate Gov­ern­ment Oper­a­tions and Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee into The Pam Roach Show. I have to say, I’ve been in pol­i­tics for thir­teen years now, and rarely have I seen a pub­lic hear­ing devolve into such a farce. Roach’s behav­ior was absolute­ly out­ra­geous and unbe­com­ing of an elect­ed official.

I’ve seen Roach in action before, so I was expect­ing a live­ly and con­tentious hear­ing. But again, this turned out not to be a pub­lic hear­ing at all. It was The Pam Roach Show, star­ring the incred­i­bly obnox­ious Pam Roach.

It is no exag­ger­a­tion to say that Roach dom­i­nat­ed the pro­ceed­ings. Instead of lis­ten­ing (which is the point of hav­ing a pub­lic hear­ing), she talked inces­sant­ly. She con­tra­dict­ed her col­leagues after they asked ques­tions and, from the begin­ning of the com­mit­tee meet­ing until the end, edi­to­ri­al­ized in response to near­ly every­thing said by every­one who spoke.

Per­haps most shame­ful­ly of all, Roach used her perch at the ros­trum to gloat about her suc­cess­ful reelec­tion cam­paign last autumn in front of a pan­el of four peo­ple from the Wash­ing­ton Food Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion and the North­west Gro­cery Asso­ci­a­tion, two of NPI’s coali­tion part­ners from the NO on I‑517 campaign.

For those unaware, most of Wash­ing­ton’s retail­ers backed anoth­er Repub­li­can, Cathy Dahlquist, for Roach’s seat last autumn in the 31st Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict… but as Roach taunt­ing­ly remind­ed the pan­el from the ros­trum, “I won.”

(As an aside, I want to point out that NPI, unlike many oth­er orga­ni­za­tions active in Wash­ing­ton state pol­i­tics, does not endorse can­di­dates for office or par­tic­i­pate in elec­tion­eer­ing activ­i­ties for or against any can­di­date. We do take posi­tions on bal­lot mea­sures and par­tic­i­pate in bal­lot mea­sure coalitions.)

I sus­pect the only rea­son she sched­uled a hear­ing on this bill and invit­ed WFIA and NWGA’s pan­el to step for­ward was so she could inter­ro­gate and belit­tle them.

To say that she was dis­re­spect­ful would be a big understatement.

I men­tioned ear­li­er that the Sec­re­tary of State’s office, which sup­ports SB 5375, was not allowed to tes­ti­fy. Ordi­nar­i­ly, when a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the exec­u­tive branch is present, the chair asks that indi­vid­ual to speak right after the com­mit­tee staff and prime spon­sor do. That’s the usu­al pro­to­col. It’s what the fair-mind­ed Sam Hunt (Roach’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­ter­part in the House) would have done.

But Roach had no inter­est in hear­ing from Kim Wyman’s staff.

Roach made sure the dis­cus­sion kept veer­ing off-top­ic, which is exact­ly the oppo­site of what a com­mit­tee chair is sup­posed to do.

Roach sug­gest­ed that WFIA and NWGA’s sup­port of Dahlquist stemmed from her refusal to grant a hear­ing to a bill sim­i­lar to SB 5375 last year. She argued that bil­l’s death in her com­mit­tee was­n’t her fault because he had­n’t been asked to give it a hear­ing (which is untrue), but then admit­ted she did­n’t like the bill.

And, as men­tioned, when she got bored, she decid­ed to sim­ply move on and pre­vent any­one else (includ­ing me) from con­tribut­ing their perspective.

Roach did read my name and NPI’s name off the sign-in sheet, so I’m guess­ing the com­mit­tee staff report of the “hear­ing” will at least reflect that I was there.

Of course, as she read NPI’s name, Roach could not resist mak­ing a con­de­scend­ing remark: “North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute — don’t know what that is.”

(Roach had made a sim­i­lar deroga­to­ry com­ment ear­li­er, after one of four mem­bers of the WFIA/NWGA pan­el intro­duced him­self, lead­ing Marko Liias to inter­ject apolo­get­i­cal­ly and say he was famil­iar with the com­pa­ny and its stores.)

A total of eight bills were sup­posed to be heard yes­ter­day, but the com­mit­tee only got through four, because Roach decid­ed to abrupt­ly shut down the pro­ceed­ings and walk out, leav­ing behind a packed room of stunned cit­i­zens and lobbyists.

TVW has the entire hear­ing archived on video, but of course, there’s a lot of con­text miss­ing, because much of what you see is Pam Roach talking.

TVW’s footage runs an hour and thir­ty eight min­utes and thir­ty five sec­onds (close to one hun­dred min­utes). I decid­ed it would be inter­est­ing to find out about how much of the time was tak­en up by Pam talk­ing, so I watched the hear­ing all over again — with a dig­i­tal stop­watch. I kept the stop­watch run­ning as Pam spoke or engaged in crosstalk and paused it when­ev­er she tem­porar­i­ly relin­quished the floor.

Accord­ing to the stop­watch, Pam Roach was speak­ing or engaged in crosstalk for close to thir­ty eight min­utes of the one hour and thir­ty eight min­utes of footage. In oth­er words, she was talk­ing for more than a third of the time.

Watch the footage on TVW, and you’ll see Pam inter­rupt peo­ple over and over again, either to dis­agree with them, or tell them to hur­ry up, or tell them she does­n’t under­stand what they’re talk­ing about.

If Roach was real­ly con­cerned about time man­age­ment, as she claimed to be, she would treat every­one the same, and show restraint so as to allow peo­ple who had trav­eled to be there to share their per­spec­tive to participate.

But instead we saw how she has a mas­sive dou­ble standard.

Roach told the League of Women Vot­ers’ Kathy Saka­hara, who spoke ear­li­er on a dif­fer­ent bill, to keep her remarks brief and con­cise and not repeat what the bil­l’s spon­sor Andy Bil­lig had said. NPI Advi­so­ry Coun­cil mem­ber Steve Zemke, who asked Roach to be allowed to speak for just a minute on that same bill after not being able to add his name to the sign-in sheet, was denied the oppor­tu­ni­ty, with Roach dis­mis­sive­ly declar­ing, “We’re mov­ing on.”

Yet Roach gave Tim Eyman as much time as he want­ed to denounce SB 5375, and even when Eyman was repet­i­tive, she did­n’t cut him off. In fact, she asked him at least twice whether he had any­thing more to say.

And of course, Eyman being Eyman, he glad­ly went on recit­ing his talk­ing points, many of which he cre­at­ed years ago to oppose ini­tia­tive reform bills that con­tained flaws SB 5375 does­n’t have.

Marko Liias tried to get Roach to bring up the Sec­re­tary of State’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, but as the footage shows, she refused, lead­ing Liias to lament that the com­mit­tee was­n’t going to get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask the Sec­re­tary of State about sig­na­ture fraud, the cas­es the Sec­re­tary of State has referred to the State Patrol, and the State Patrol’s dif­fi­cul­ty inves­ti­gat­ing those cases.

When Sen­a­tor Liias fur­ther stat­ed that he resent­ed not being able to address com­ments Don Ben­ton had made ear­li­er against the bill, which he felt were tan­ta­mount to Ben­ton call­ing him a liar, Roach slammed the gav­el, stood up to put on her coat, and walked out, leav­ing half of the bills on the agen­da hanging.

Again, as I said ear­li­er, this was eas­i­ly one of the most poor­ly and unfair­ly run meet­ings of a leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee I have ever wit­nessed. It was a joke.

It is very iron­ic that Pam Roach and Tim Eyman spent so much time glo­ri­fy­ing the First Amend­ment, con­sid­er­ing that many peo­ple who had come to speak were not allowed to say any­thing at all. That includes Toni from the Sec­re­tary of State’s office, Steve Zemke, myself, and peo­ple who had come to speak on the four bills Roach did­n’t get to at all thanks to her ter­ri­ble time man­age­ment and short fuse.

Pam Roach nev­er should have been entrust­ed with juris­dic­tion over a com­mit­tee begin with, but Repub­li­cans were des­per­ate for pow­er at the end of 2012, and they need­ed her vote to engi­neer the coup with Rod­ney Tom and Tim Sheldon.

Repub­li­cans have a two-vote major­i­ty now, but where Roach goes, Don Ben­ton fol­lows (and vice ver­sa, as we saw on the first day of ses­sion) so Repub­li­cans have left her in charge of the Gov­ern­ment Oper­a­tions and Secu­ri­ty Committee.

What we saw yes­ter­day is a dis­turb­ing exam­ple of how Repub­li­cans gov­ern. We can expect more of this if Repub­li­cans win con­trol of the state House in 2016 and retain con­trol of the state Sen­ate, as they are attempt­ing to do.

We at NPI have always believed in stand­ing up to bul­lies like Pam Roach, so we will be ask­ing the Sen­ate to inves­ti­gate what hap­pened yesterday.

And lat­er today, in a fol­low-up post, I’ll be cri­tiquing and respond­ing to some of the more egre­gious com­ments made by Roach, Ben­ton, and Eyman. I was­n’t per­mit­ted to address the com­mit­tee yes­ter­day, even though I was pre­pared to be respect­ful of oth­ers’ time, so I’ll be doing my best to cor­rect the record from here.

For­tu­nate­ly, nei­ther I nor any­one else at NPI needs to go through Pam Roach when we want to pub­lish some­thing to the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, or to Per­ma­nent Defense. These are our projects and pub­li­ca­tions, through which we exer­cise our First Amend­ment rights, and we’ll con­tin­ue to use them to edu­cate the pub­lic, reframe the debate, con­front intol­er­ance, and fight injustice.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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4 replies on “Hearing on SB 5375 turns into The Pam Roach Show — with special guest Tim Eyman”

  1. What does it take for an elect­ed offi­cial to be sanc­tioned, impeached, or removed from office? Set her up. She is going to get worse. Time to make all the Repub­li­cans account­able for obstruct­ing government.

  2. For the record I was signed up to speak on 4 bills before Sen­a­tor Roach’s Com­mit­tee for the King Coun­ty Democ­rats and had spent almost an hour and a half dri­ving through heavy rain, rush hour traf­fic and a traf­fic acci­dent slow­ing down traf­fic before I arrived in Olympia from north Seat­tle. I signed up to speak on 4 bills on the com­put­er in the hall­way after the meet­ing start­ed but before tes­ti­mo­ny was com­plet­ed on any of the 4 bills I came to speak on. I heard the end of the tes­ti­mo­ny on SB 5527 but did not hear my name men­tioned as wish­ing to tes­ti­fy. I had want­ed to urge the com­mit­tee to amend the bill to include same day reg­is­tra­tion as 10 oth­er states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia does. The next bill was Sen­a­tor Andy Bil­lig’s SB 5528 to lim­it the fun­nel­ing of cam­paign mon­ey between com­mit­tees to avoid pub­lic dis­clo­sure of donors. I want­ed to urge the com­mit­tee to change the thresh­old from 70% to 50% — mean­ing if you donat­ed the major­i­ty of the mon­ey to the com­mit­tee, it was in essence your com­mit­tee and you should have to dis­close all your donors. When my name was not men­tioned again by Sen­a­tor Roach to tes­ti­fy on the bill I asked to be able to tes­ti­fy as I had signed up. Sen. Roach ignored me and said she was mov­ing on to the next bill. At that point it was obvi­ous Sen­a­tor Roach was not inter­est­ed in hear­ing from the pub­lic. It was not that there was­n’t time for the pub­lic to speak. It was as Andrew Vil­leneuve not­ed she spent a third of the time the com­mit­tee was in ses­sion talk­ing about many things includ­ing her yard signs dis­ap­pear­ing dur­ing her cam­paigns and the food indus­try not sup­port­ing her or giv­ing her dona­tions and not­ing that she “won” despite their oppos­ing her. It was a bizarre hear­ing to say the least and very dis­re­spect­ful of mem­bers of the pub­lic who came to tes­ti­fy and who could not as she abrupt­ly end­ed the hear­ing leav­ing oth­ers who had come to tes­ti­fy on the bills on the meet­ing agen­da angry and frustrated.

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