Permanent Defense: Protecting Washington Since 2002
Permanent Defense: Protecting Washington Since 2002

This Mon­day, as a sign of our com­mit­ment to con­tin­ue oppos­ing Tim Eyman and the big mon­ey behind his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry into 2017 and beyond, we will be debut­ing a sleek new web­site for Per­ma­nent Defense, NPI’s old­est project, which for four­teen years has pro­vid­ed a first line of defense against threats to the Con­sti­tu­tion and com­mon­wealth of our beloved home state of Washington.

Code­named Fidal­go, this ninth ver­sion of is the most pol­ished, acces­si­ble, and respon­sive ver­sion of the site yet. It looks and func­tions much bet­ter on mobile devices than the cur­rent incar­na­tion does. And it’s been designed to show­case beau­ti­ful pho­tog­ra­phy from NPI’s grow­ing library of images.

It seems fit­ting that Fidal­go­’s launch book­ends a spring of good news: Uni­ver­si­ty Link light rail opened ahead of sched­ule and under bud­get, Tim Eyman’s I‑1366 was struck down as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al by a unan­i­mous Supreme Court, and Eyman failed to qual­i­fy any­thing for the 2016 bal­lot. Those are vic­to­ries worth savor­ing and cel­e­brat­ing. But we’re also going to be lay­ing the ground­work for the bat­tles ahead, because we know that Tim Eyman is not going away.

Seat­tle Times colum­nist Dan­ny West­neat has a col­umn on that very sub­ject in tomor­row’s paper (it’s already up online). West­neat writes:

The sto­ry going around, in lib­er­al cir­cles any­way, is that Tim Eyman is hav­ing a ter­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble, no-good, very bad year.

The gre­gar­i­ous ini­tia­tive hus­tler just had yet anoth­er of his anti-tax mea­sures tor­pe­doed by the courts. He appar­ent­ly is still under state inves­ti­ga­tion for alleged­ly run­ning an ini­tia­tive kick­back scheme. And his anti-car-tax ini­tia­tive for this fall nev­er got off the ground.

“It appears the good peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton will once again be able to enjoy an Eyman-free elec­tion this autumn …” wrote Andrew Vil­leneuve, who runs an anti-Eyman group called Per­ma­nent Defense. “That’s a vic­to­ry we will be cel­e­brat­ing all sum­mer long.”

All of that is true — for now. But there’s some­thing else going on with Eyman that has got­ten almost no atten­tion. He’s hold­ing an ace in the hole that’s like­ly to make him a major play­er in the huge tax and spend­ing fights on the hori­zon, per­haps for years to come.

Eyman’s got a billionaire.

West­neat goes on to explain that Eyman has hooked up with Ken­neth Fish­er, one of the rich­est men in the state (and the world, for that mat­ter). Fish­er is one of the wealthy bene­fac­tors who under­wrote Ini­tia­tive 1366, which appeared on last year’s bal­lot, along with Van­cou­ver-based real estate devel­op­er Clyde Holland.

This isn’t news to us. Dur­ing last year’s sig­na­ture dri­ve, we repeat­ed­ly dis­cussed the big mon­ey behind Eyman’s I‑1366, con­clud­ing that it was cer­tain to make the bal­lot. I point­ed out in a May 2015 post here that Eyman has been able to stay in busi­ness pre­cise­ly because he keeps reel­ing in whales like Fisher:

Hav­ing fought Tim Eyman for over thir­teen years, we know he has a knack for con­vinc­ing wealthy right wing donors to give him lots of mon­ey to under­write destruc­tive ini­tia­tives. He has cre­at­ed a very prof­itable busi­ness out of sell­ing bad ideas.

The list of wealthy bene­fac­tors that have enabled Eyman to get on the bal­lot year after year is now pret­ty long. It includes deceased heli­copter titan Wes Lemat­ta, deceased invest­ment banker Michael Dun­mire, Belle­vue Square devel­op­er Kem­per Free­man, Jr., oil giants like BP, Tesoro, and Cono­coPhillips, the Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Busi­ness, gam­bling con­glom­er­ates like Great Cana­di­an Gam­ing, Fre­mon­t’s Suzie Burke, and North Seat­tle’s Faye Garneau.

Con­sid­er­ing Eyman’s track record, and con­sid­er­ing that Eyman suc­cess­ful­ly con­vinced Hol­land and Fish­er to dump lots of mon­ey into an ini­tia­tive that was bla­tant­ly uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, we fig­ured Eyman would have the mon­ey to buy his way onto the 2016 bal­lot. Eyman even report­ed $1.2 mil­lion in loans from him­self and his bene­fac­tors to one of his com­mit­tees at the end of last year. Then, a few weeks into 2016, he announced he plan to qual­i­fy a sec­ond ini­tia­tive to the 2016 bal­lot.

In the months that fol­lowed, though, Eyman failed to launch a paid sig­na­ture dri­ve for either ini­tia­tive. Instead, with mon­ey from Hol­land and Fish­er, he launched an ille­gal inde­pen­dent expen­di­ture against the major­i­ty of the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors. Eyman’s obses­sion with “unelect­ing” Democ­rats became the focus of his emails to his fol­low­ers for sev­er­al con­sec­u­tive weeks. It became appar­ent that the ini­tia­tives Eyman was claim­ing to be work­ing on weren’t going anywhere.

It seems that Hol­land and Fish­er weren’t on board with Eyman’s orig­i­nal plans for 2016. Had they been, Eyman would no doubt have launched a sig­na­ture dri­ve months ago, which would be in its final few weeks right now.

Eyman’s fail­ure to make the bal­lot in 2016 is an unex­pect­ed vic­to­ry. It is worth cel­e­brat­ing, because it unfor­tu­nate­ly does­n’t hap­pen very often.

But we agree with West­neat: it does­n’t mean Eyman is out of business.

We’re stu­dents of his­to­ry at NPI, and his­to­ry has shown that Eyman is a relent­less rebound­er. Per­sis­tence is his mantra. Past Eyman-free years (2003, 2006, 2014) have been tem­po­rary dry spells for his ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry. We are oper­at­ing under the assump­tion that Eyman’s bene­fac­tors have giv­en him the green light for I‑869 and that it will be appear­ing on the Novem­ber 2017 ballot.

We’re not going to waste valu­able time wait­ing to see what hap­pens — as soon as we have con­fir­ma­tion that Eyman is actu­al­ly doing a sig­na­ture dri­ve for I‑869, we will begin work­ing with our allies to orga­nize oppo­si­tion, so there is a cred­i­ble NO cam­paign in place to defeat it and pro­tect our invest­ments in bad­ly-need­ed infra­struc­ture like Link light rail, Amtrak Cas­cades, and bike paths.

(Speak­ing of bike paths… Eyman ought to have a new­found appre­ci­a­tion for the need for safe cor­ri­dors for bicy­clists, giv­en that he recent­ly got into a nasty bicy­cle acci­dent and broke his shoul­der. Sad­ly, with I‑869, he’s decid­ed to redou­ble his efforts to evis­cer­ate fund­ing for projects that would make it eas­i­er and safer for all of us to get around by bicy­cle. It once again shows that he does­n’t believe in the Amer­i­can tra­di­tion of com­mu­ni­ties pool­ing resources to get things done.)

While we’re doing all of that, we’re also team­ing up with fel­low pro­gres­sives to go on offense. NPI belongs to the coali­tions work­ing to qual­i­fy Ini­tia­tive 1433 and Ini­tia­tive 1491 to the Novem­ber bal­lot. I‑1433 would increase the min­i­mum wage and pro­vide paid sick leave to work­ers across Wash­ing­ton. To bor­row a fig­ure of speech from Eyman, we think it has the poten­tial to be wild­ly pop­u­lar.

I‑1491, mean­while, will make our neigh­bor­hoods safer by allow­ing judges to issue extreme risk pro­tec­tion orders tem­porar­i­ly bar­ring indi­vid­u­als who pose a threat to them­selves or oth­ers from buy­ing firearms. This ini­tia­tive is based on leg­is­la­tion that pre­vi­ous­ly failed to make it out of the state­house. It is an excel­lent fol­low-up to uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on gun sales, which vot­ers passed in 2014.

We also sup­port pas­sage of WAmend’s I‑735, which would put Wash­ing­ton on record as call­ing for an amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States to declare that cor­po­ra­tions are not peo­ple and mon­ey is not speech.

And we are com­mit­ted to work­ing with our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to reform our tax code and our ini­tia­tive process. A lack of progress in each of these areas has helped keep Eyman rel­e­vant over the years. As I’ve said before, pro­gres­sive tax reform is Eyman’s worst night­mare. Eyman wants the tax code to stay bro­ken and regres­sive so there will always be an appetite for his initiatives.

The key to mak­ing Eyman less rel­e­vant and min­i­miz­ing the harm that he and his wealthy bene­fac­tors can cause over the long term is to go on offense and to actu­al­ly address the con­di­tions that he is exploit­ing. That is what this orga­ni­za­tion, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, was found­ed to work on.

Going on offense is a lot eas­i­er when defense isn’t neglect­ed. Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry is a grave threat to Wash­ing­ton’s future. It needs and deserves year-round oppo­si­tion. NPI’s Per­ma­nent Defense pro­vides that opposition.

If you’d like to con­tribute to PD’s work and help us main­tain the vital first line of defense our Con­sti­tu­tion and com­mon­wealth need, you can eas­i­ly do so online.

And remem­ber to join us vir­tu­al­ly on Mon­day morn­ing as we unveil Per­ma­nent Defense’s sleek new web­site to the world!

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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