NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 10th, 2022

Mark Funk admits that initiative to overturn capital gains tax on the wealthy is kaput

A right wing effort to force a vote this Novem­ber on the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy enact­ed by the Leg­is­la­ture in 2021 has failed and will not be mov­ing for­ward, its com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant acknowl­edged today.

The Her­ald’s Jer­ry Corn­field made con­tact with Mark Funk, one of the oper­a­tives who has been try­ing to get Ini­tia­tive 1929 air­borne over the last few months, and Funk went on the record to con­firm that the group head­ed by for­mer Dino Rossi advis­er J. Van­der Stoep has thrown in the tow­el and won’t be try­ing to put togeth­er an eleventh hour sig­na­ture dri­ve this month.

“Our coali­tion has con­fi­dence in the strength of the court case and we believe that the low­er court deci­sion will be upheld on appeal,” Funk told Cornfield.

What was the point of Ini­tia­tive 1929, then?

Seri­ous­ly. Funk and Van­der Stoep spent a small for­tune on legal fees, polling, web devel­op­ment, and con­sult­ing for an ini­tia­tive that did­n’t go anywhere.

Now Funk is claim­ing that I‑1929 isn’t need­ed right now because the group are con­fi­dent in the strength of the legal chal­lenge that Rob McKen­na’s group of plain­tiffs pre­vi­ous­ly filed. Yeah, that’s a total­ly believ­able statement.

Clear­ly, they aren’t con­fi­dent in the strength of the court case, or they would­n’t have sunk so much time and mon­ey into an effort to ask vot­ers to nix ESSB 5096, the law that cre­at­ed Wash­ing­ton’s new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy.

Funk insists that the cam­paign’s inter­nal polling shows that vot­ers “over­whelm­ing­ly” favor repeal. But our own research and polling done for oth­er pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions shows exact­ly the opposite.

The I‑1929 bal­lot title is one of the worst per­form­ing bal­lot titles that our team has ever seen, and vot­ers sim­ply don’t find the argu­ments that the right wing has been mak­ing against ESSB 5096 per­sua­sive. (We test­ed those right wing argu­ments again just last week and found they’re still not resonating.)

Funk has not pro­duced any of the cam­paign’s inter­nal polling, so we don’t know what ques­tions they asked or how those ques­tions were answered, but nonethe­less, his claims that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are eager to vote for repeal are com­plete­ly con­tra­dict­ed by the polling that has been pub­licly released.

Funk and Van­der Stoep had been seek­ing mil­lions to launch a sig­na­ture dri­ve, qual­i­fy I‑1929 to the bal­lot, and then wage a well-fund­ed autumn cam­paign to get it past vot­ers. How­ev­er, from what we’ve heard, they sim­ply could not find enough tak­ers to under­write their mas­sive­ly bloat­ed, oper­a­tive-enrich­ing bud­get, and their fundrais­ing sput­tered to a com­plete halt a few weeks ago.

In a C4 report filed today with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion, Van­der Stoep’s oper­a­tion report­ed hav­ing raised zero dol­lars in the month of May, while hav­ing spent an eye-pop­ping $171,482.06 dur­ing that same period.

More than half of that amount went to Davis Wright Tremaine for legal fees.

Tens of thou­sands more went to Funk and sev­er­al oth­ers for cam­paign consulting.

Funk was paid $3,000, Peri Hall & Asso­ciates was paid $15,000, Sound Coun­sel Cri­sis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions was paid $7,500, R.L. Stein­man was paid $6,000.00, Joce­lyn McCabe Pub­lic Rela­tions was paid $4,000, Dena Derr was paid $3,000, and Bre­court Strate­gies was paid $2,500. And, of course, Heather Clarke earned $7,500 for keep­ing the books. And, no I’m not jok­ing: all of those enti­ties were paid those amounts dur­ing a month when Van­der Stoep’s cam­paign com­mit­tee was inac­tive and tak­ing in no receipts. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

The only thing that the I‑1929 effort will go into the his­to­ry books as hav­ing accom­plished is serv­ing up a metaphor­i­cal feast for right wing polit­i­cal con­sul­tants. A total of $702,750 was raised and $545,000 was pledged before the plug was pulled, and not a sin­gle sig­na­ture was gathered.

Wow. Just… wow.

The excess was so incred­i­ble that even Tim Eyman felt safe weigh­ing in and com­par­ing his now mori­bund ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry to Van­der Stoep’s operation.

“Their high-priced cam­paign con­sul­tants gob­bled up all the mon­ey they raised leav­ing noth­ing for the sig­na­ture dri­ve. They told their donors they need­ed $19 mil­lion. Pa-leeze,” Eyman wrote in a May 14th email mis­sive, in which he char­ac­ter­ized Van­der Stoep’s Ini­tia­tive 1929 as “doomed.”

Eyman also opined that I‑1929’s pro­gres­sive oppo­nents (like NPI) were cor­rect about the I‑1929 bal­lot title being a com­plete dis­as­ter, declar­ing: “Their bal­lot title was so bad that it made the ini­tia­tive un-winnable at the bal­lot box.”

Shop­ping for duplic­i­tous bal­lot titles with drafts chock full of uncon­sti­tu­tion­al pro­vi­sions is def­i­nite­ly some­thing that Tim Eyman knows an awful lot about. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Eyman, the I‑1929 alter­na­tive that he’s ped­dling right now as an ini­tia­tive to the Leg­is­la­ture also has a bal­lot title that does­n’t poll well, despite the involve­ment of attor­ney Joel Ard, who Eyman says is a legal genius.

Eyman has not been able to run a sig­na­ture dri­ve in four years due to hav­ing failed to find new wealthy bene­fac­tors to under­write his schemes. The last dri­ve he did was in 2018, for I‑976, which appeared on the bal­lot in 2019.

I‑1929’s demise is a wel­come vic­to­ry for the pro­gres­sive move­ment, which formed a coali­tion called No Tax Cut for the Super Rich to pre­pare a cam­paign to defeat I‑1929 in the event Van­der Stoep secured the mon­ey need­ed to move ahead. (NPI belongs to the coali­tion; our board took a posi­tion last month for­mal­ly oppos­ing I‑1929.) The coali­tion has relied exten­sive­ly on donat­ed staff time to sup­port its oper­a­tions, rather than burn­ing through huge amounts of cash.

The right wing legal chal­lenge against ESSB 5096 still must be over­come to keep the cause of tax fair­ness on track in Wash­ing­ton State, but it’s delight­ful to be free of the threat of I‑1929 in the com­ing autumn elec­tion season.

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One Ping

  1. […] It’s tru­ly reas­sur­ing to see that pub­lic sup­port for this cru­cial­ly impor­tant pro­gres­sive tax reform has remained intact despite the effort to turn Wash­ing­to­ni­ans against it. The recent spec­tac­u­lar demise of I‑1929 was a tac­it con­ces­sion from right wing forces …. […]

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