Big money is flowing into a right wing ballot campaign to repeal state capital gains tax

New cam­paign finance reports filed with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion show that a polit­i­cal com­mit­tee formed to force a statewide vote on Wash­ing­ton State’s recent­ly enact­ed state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy got a sig­nif­i­cant influx of cash in March from sev­er­al rich right wing donors.

The com­mit­tee, helmed by long­time Repub­li­can oper­a­tive J. Van­der Stoep, has not dis­closed its plans to the pub­lic, but its aim appears to be to qual­i­fy a mea­sure to the Novem­ber 2022 statewide bal­lot that would com­plete­ly repeal ESSB 5096, the pop­u­lar 2021 law that levied cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy to fund ear­ly learn­ing, child­care, and K‑12 edu­ca­tion.

Van­der Stoep’s oper­a­tion report­ed receiv­ing $211,900 in cash and in-kind con­tri­bu­tions since its last report in Feb­ru­ary. About half of that sum, $100,000, came from Stan Baty, the Vice Pres­i­dent of Colum­bia Pacif­ic Management.

Anoth­er $50,000 was pro­vid­ed by Mary Kay McCaw and a fur­ther $10,000 was pro­vid­ed by Matt McIl­wain of Madrona Ven­ture Group, a fierce and well known oppo­nent of pro­gres­sive tax reform. (McIl­wain is among those who have already donat­ed to the I‑1929 effort in months past.)

The com­mit­tee also report­ed a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of new pledges, total­ing $415,000, just $85,000 shy of half of a mil­lion dollars.

The pledges came from indi­vid­u­als and enti­ties that have a long his­to­ry of back­ing Tim Eyman and oppos­ing right wing tax reform, includ­ing the Build­ing Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton (BIAW Mem­ber Ser­vices Cor­po­ra­tion) and the Puget Shound chap­ter of the Nation­al Elec­tri­cal Con­trac­tors Asso­ci­a­tion PAC.

Here’s all of the March pledges:

The com­mit­tee also report­ed sev­er­al new expenses:

  • $70,000 to Moore Infor­ma­tion, one of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s best known Repub­li­can-aligned polling firms, for “sur­veys, polling, research costs”
  • $27,762 to Davis Wright Tremaine for legal fees
  • $12,000 to OK Indus­tries for web­site and design services
  • $342.16 to GoDad­dy for hosting
  • Mul­ti­ple five fig­ure expen­di­tures to con­sul­tants: Peri Hall & Asso­ciates, Mark Funk Pub­lic Affairs, The Clarke Com­pa­ny, and R.L. Stein­man & Associates

Van­der Stoep is the spon­sor of an ini­tia­tive to the peo­ple (I‑1929) that was filed last month with the Sec­re­tary of State to nuke ESSB 5096.

I‑1929 recent­ly received a bal­lot title from the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office that was prompt­ly chal­lenged, includ­ing by dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman.

Van­der Stoep has not involved Eyman in his I‑1929 oper­a­tion, but Eyman is known for latch­ing on to oth­ers’ efforts or hijack­ing them.

For instance, in 2006, Eyman launched a ref­er­en­dum sig­na­ture dri­ve to strip LBGTQ+ pro­tec­tions from Wash­ing­ton’s recent­ly amend­ed Law Against Dis­crim­i­na­tion. (The ref­er­en­dum did not qual­i­fy for the bal­lot due to Eyman’s incom­pe­tence, anger­ing many in the reli­gious right.)

The C4 filed on Fri­day by Van­der Stoep’s com­mit­tee only cov­ers receipts and expen­di­tures from March 1st — 31st, 2022. There has undoubt­ed­ly been more activ­i­ty since the end of last month, which won’t have to be report­ed until a month from now. It’s pret­ty evi­dent that Van­der Stoep and his crew of right wing oper­a­tives are gear­ing up for a sig­na­ture dri­ve and sub­se­quent fall campaign.

By the time the I‑1929 bal­lot title chal­lenge is dis­pensed with, how­ev­er, they will prob­a­bly be left with just nine to ten weeks for sig­na­ture gath­er­ing. Their hired peti­tion­ers will need to col­lect around 50,000 sig­na­tures per week to make it.

The cost of a suc­cess­ful sig­na­ture dri­ve alone might eas­i­ly top $2.5 mil­lion, on top of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars Van­der Stoep has already spent on lawyers, poll­sters, and con­sul­tants. ($12,000 for a cam­paign web­site which in all like­li­hood won’t have more than a few pages… really!?)

If they get on the bal­lot, Van­der Stoep and his crew are like­ly plan­ning to spend mil­lions more to sell their scheme to give Wash­ing­ton’s wealth­i­est fam­i­lies a big tax break. Their bal­lot title, what­ev­er it ends up being, is unlike­ly to sell itself: NPI’s research found last year that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans did not respond enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly to a scheme pro­posed by Tim Eyman and Jim Walsh that tried to neg­a­tive­ly brand the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy as an income tax.

Pro­gres­sive lead­ers from SEIU 775NW, WEA, WFSE, Civic Ven­tures, and the Wash­ing­ton Bud­get & Pol­i­cy Cen­ter have formed a coali­tion to oppose I‑1929, No Tax Cut for the Super Rich, which filed its C1 reg­is­tra­tion on March 25th.

NPI’s Per­ma­nent Defense project, which has been suc­cess­ful­ly com­bat­ing right wing ini­tia­tives for over twen­ty years, will be doing its part to ensure that I‑1929 is defeat­ed should it qual­i­fy for the bal­lot. Our research has con­sis­tent­ly found pub­lic sup­port for cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy. We’re con­fi­dent that if Wash­ing­to­ni­ans under­stand that I‑1929 would slash edu­ca­tion fund­ing to enable Van­der Stoep’s wealthy bene­fac­tors to get a big tax cut, they’ll vote no.

Andrew Villeneuve

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