Elections

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 a 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 a 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

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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