Why I decline to sign CarbonWA's I-732
Why I decline to sign CarbonWA's I-732

Car­bon­WA’s Ini­tia­tive 732, a sup­pos­ed­ly “rev­enue neu­tral” pro­pos­al to levy a statewide tax on car­bon emis­sions while low­er­ing Wash­ing­ton’s sales and B&O tax­es, has nar­row­ly qual­i­fied as an ini­tia­tive to the 2016 Leg­is­la­ture fol­low­ing a ran­dom sam­ple check, says the chief spokesman for Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman.

In an ear­ly evening press release, Wyman’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­tor David Ammons explained why I‑732 near­ly failed its ran­dom sam­ple check despite hav­ing been sub­mit­ted with a large cush­ion of extra sig­na­tures. He wrote:

It was a close call, though, despite spon­sors turn­ing in 363,126 sig­na­tures, near­ly 120,000 more than the bare num­ber of valid vot­er sig­na­tures required (246,372).

That’s because there an unusu­al­ly high error rate was dis­cov­ered when elec­tion crews checked a 3 per­cent ran­dom sam­ple of 11,061 sig­na­tures.  The error rate was 27.59 per­cent, well above the his­toric aver­age of 18 per­cent. That was due pri­mar­i­ly to dupli­cate sig­na­tures, but also reflect­ed invalid sig­na­tures, pri­mar­i­ly those of peo­ple not found on the Wash­ing­ton vot­er rolls.

In fact, if a few more dupli­cate sig­na­tures had turned up in the ran­dom check, the Elec­tions Divi­sion would have had to check all 363,126 sig­na­tures. Ini­tia­tives can­not be reject­ed the ran­dom sam­ple method.

As it was, the sig­na­ture check projects that spon­sors brought in only a slim cush­ion of 16,568 sig­na­tures, or 262,940.

The error rate was the high­est in at least 25 years.

I can’t say we’re sur­prised. When you hire asso­ciates of Tim Eyman to run your sig­na­ture dri­ve, as Car­bon­WA did, you can expect to run into problems.

PDC data shows Car­bon­WA paid hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to Brent John­son’s Your Choice Peti­tions, LLC to col­lect sig­na­tures for I‑732.

What many peo­ple don’t know is that Brent John­son is a prime sub­con­trac­tor for Tim Eyman’s pals Roy Ruffi­no and Eddie Agazarm, who run the trou­bled sig­na­ture gath­er­ing out­fit Cit­i­zen Solu­tions. Cit­i­zen Solu­tions has got­ten into trou­ble with Wash­ing­ton’s Depart­ment of Labor & Indus­tries for fail­ing to prop­er­ly com­ply with the state’s work­er pro­tec­tion laws, as we have pre­vi­ous­ly reported.

John­son’s crews helped get Tim Eyman’s I‑1366 on the bal­lot ear­li­er in 2015, and Eyman & Co. will no doubt be rely­ing on John­son again to help with the new ini­tia­tive Eyman that has planned for this year.

Pro­gres­sive cam­paigns ought to know bet­ter than to do busi­ness with shady sig­na­ture gath­er­ing out­fits that enable the likes of Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Car­bon­WA went into busi­ness with the wrong peo­ple. By hir­ing Brent John­son, they not only risked the suc­cess of their own sig­na­ture dri­ve, they helped sus­tain a busi­ness that pro­vides sup­port to Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive factory.

Though I‑732 has qual­i­fied, it faces uncer­tain prospects. Non­par­ti­san leg­isla­tive staff have cal­cu­lat­ed that the ini­tia­tive isn’t real­ly rev­enue neu­tral, a con­clu­sion Car­bon­WA’s pro­po­nents heat­ed­ly dispute.

The polling that’s been done to date has shown extreme­ly poor sup­port for I‑732 (the bal­lot title starts out with around 39%, accord­ing to one poll).

I‑732 pro­po­nents con­cede that the bal­lot title is an Achilles’ heel, but believe that the ini­tia­tive can muster enough sup­port to win nonetheless.

We think that opti­mism is mis­placed. NPI has worked for and against Wash­ing­ton State bal­lot mea­sures every year since its incep­tion, and we know a weak, flawed pro­pos­al when we see one. All oppo­nents will have to do to win is fer­til­ize the exist­ing seeds of doubt, and I‑732 will go down to defeat.

And there will be a cam­paign, because Sen­ate Repub­li­cans like Doug Erick­sen have no inten­tion of giv­ing I‑732’s pro­po­nents a vic­to­ry in the Legislature.

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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