Elections

Republican megadonor Brian Heywood opens his wallet to fund six-initiative signature drive

A wealthy donor to the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty has begun fun­nel­ing seri­ous mon­ey into a sig­na­ture dri­ve that aims to qual­i­fy a slew of six right wing ini­tia­tives to the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture, reports filed this week with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion by his polit­i­cal com­mit­tee show.

Bri­an Hey­wood, who lives just out­side of NPI’s home­town of Red­mond on a prop­er­ty known as Wil­low­crest Sta­bles, is one of the rich­er men in Wash­ing­ton, and by his own admis­sion, he real­ly, real­ly does­n’t like pay­ing taxes.

His net worth is esti­mat­ed to be between $10 and $25 mil­lion, so he’s not a bil­lion­aire by any stretch, but he’s cer­tain­ly rich enough to be among those who has to pay Wash­ing­ton State’s new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy.

Hey­wood is the co-chief exec­u­tive of Taiyo Pacif­ic Part­ners and has exten­sive expe­ri­ence work­ing abroad in Asia, includ­ing for com­pa­nies such as JD Pow­er and Citibank. His cor­po­rate biog­ra­phy notes that he is flu­ent in Japan­ese and has a deep under­stand­ing of Japan­ese cor­po­rate procedures.

In the last few years, Hey­wood’s inter­est in right wing pol­i­tics has deep­ened con­sid­er­ably. An advanced search of the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion’s data­base indi­cates that Hey­wood has giv­en a total of $2,438,266.35 ($2.4 mil­lion!) to right wing can­di­dates and caus­es since 2010, with over 95% of the con­tri­bu­tions hav­ing been received between 2019 and the present.

About half of that sum — $1,228,626.21 — has gone to a polit­i­cal com­mit­tee Hey­wood con­trols that is focused on get­ting the right wing back in the ini­tia­tives busi­ness. Hey­wood calls his com­mit­tee Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton, but a more accu­rate name would be Let’s Regress, Wash­ing­ton! since its pri­ma­ry goal is to weak­en Wash­ing­ton’s com­mon wealth by giv­ing the rich and oil com­pa­nies big tax breaks.

Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton tried to qual­i­fy a grand total of eleven ini­tia­tives (yes, eleven!) to the 2023 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture last year, but they all flopped. Hey­wood and his asso­ciates were unable to col­lect enough sig­na­tures to even attempt a turn-in for one of the eleven mea­sures.

But they’re still very much enam­ored with the fan­ta­sy of qual­i­fy­ing a whole slew of bad right wing ideas to either the Leg­is­la­ture or the bal­lot at the same time.

So, they’re try­ing again. And this time, instead of attempt­ing to rely pri­mar­i­ly on vol­un­teers (which any­one with deep exper­tise work­ing on bal­lot mea­sures could have told them was­n’t going to work), they’re run­ning a paid sig­na­ture dri­ve. Hey­wood and fel­low Repub­li­can Sharon Hanek even formed their own com­pa­ny to employ sig­na­ture gath­er­ers ear­li­er this year — TDM Strate­gies.

The plan, judg­ing by the job post­ing for peti­tion­ers pub­lished by TDM Strate­gies, was to pay crews of sig­na­ture gath­er­ers by the hour rather than by the sig­na­ture, as is the typ­i­cal indus­try prac­tice. Evi­dent­ly, Hey­wood and his oper­a­tives were hop­ing to con­trol costs and run a more effi­cient sig­na­ture dri­ve by employ­ing peti­tion­ers in house and offer­ing ben­e­fits along with hourly wages.

But they seem to have con­clud­ed this approach is just not going to get them there, judg­ing by the con­tents of their August C4 report.

(The C4 is the form where com­mit­tees’ finances are sum­ma­rized, includ­ing con­tri­bu­tions received, expen­di­tures made, and oblig­a­tions incurred.)

That report shows on August 29th, Hey­wood gave $400,000 to a long­time shady play­er in Wash­ing­ton’s sig­na­ture gath­er­ing indus­try: Brent John­son, a con­vict­ed forg­er. John­son runs Your Choice Peti­tions, LLC out of Spokane, and has worked for Roy Ruffi­no and Eddie Agazarm’s “Cit­i­zen Solu­tions” in the past.

The report also shows that in addi­tion to Hey­wood’s in-kind dona­tion, the com­mit­tee has incurred an oblig­a­tion of $3.6 mil­lion to Your Choice Peti­tions for sig­na­ture gath­er­ing ser­vices. That’s a total of four mil­lion dol­lars. We haven’t seen an out­lay for peti­tion­ing that large in Wash­ing­ton for many, many years.

As of the end of August, the com­mit­tee’s receipts for 2023 now total $1,281,986.71, with expen­di­tures adding up to $5,010,327.52.

Here’s a table show­ing all of Hey­wood’s recent in-kind contributions:

The last time any right wing ini­tia­tives were on the bal­lot was four years ago, when Tim Eyman alleged­ly drained much of his retire­ment account to get I‑976 on the bal­lot. I‑976 sur­vived a well-fund­ed oppo­si­tion cam­paign but nev­er went into effect due to being struck down as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in its entirety.

Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry is defunct, but he’s hap­pi­ly set­tled into a new role as a pitch­man and peti­tion­er for the Let’s Regress, Wash­ing­ton! effort. (Eyman must always have some­thing to sell, and if he can’t sell his own mea­sures, he’ll sell some­body else’s.) Each of the ini­tia­tives that Let’s Regress, Wash­ing­ton! hopes to qual­i­fy to the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is spon­sored by State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and new­ly elect­ed State Repub­li­can Par­ty Chair Jim Walsh.

These six mea­sures and the aims of each are as follows:

  • I‑2109: Repeal the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy
  • I‑2117: Repeal the state’s cap and invest system
  • I‑2111: Pro­hib­it the levy­ing of any income taxes
  • I‑2124: Sab­o­tage the state’s new long term care system
  • I‑2113: Allow dan­ger­ous police pur­suits to resume
  • I‑2081: Imple­ment a “parental noti­fi­ca­tion” scheme for school curricula

The ini­tia­tives also have the sup­port of Dann Mead Smith’s Project 42 network.

(At a media event Project 42 and the nation­al right wing group Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­i­ty orga­nized this week in Kent to bash the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, peo­ple were being giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sign peti­tions for I‑2117.)

Right wing oper­a­tive Glen Mor­gan, who has spent years try­ing to weaponize Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws against Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates and orga­ni­za­tions, is also a cog in Hey­wood’s grow­ing polit­i­cal machine. On YouTube, you can find a series of videos where Mor­gan inter­views Hey­wood about the ini­tia­tives he’s hop­ing to get qual­i­fied and his polit­i­cal aspirations.

To get all six mea­sures qual­i­fied, Hey­wood’s com­mit­tee will need to gath­er around 2.4 mil­lion sig­na­tures by the end of the year — around 400,000 for each measure.

If they’re suc­cess­ful, all six ini­tia­tives would be placed before the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled Wash­ing­ton State House and Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate in January.

The Leg­is­la­ture would have three options as to what to do with each measure:

  1. Pass into law (but the chances of that hap­pen­ing are basi­cal­ly nil)
  2. For­ward to the vot­ers in Novem­ber by tak­ing no action
  3. For­ward to vot­ers along with an alter­na­tive — a com­pet­ing proposal

By open­ing his wal­let to ramp up the sig­na­ture dri­ve for this ini­tia­tive slate, Hey­wood is demon­strat­ing he’s seri­ous about qual­i­fy­ing these six initiatives.

He has stat­ed to sup­port­ers that he con­sid­ers last year’s effort to have been a test run. This year’s do-over is meant to be the real thing.

It’s prob­a­bly going to take more than $4 mil­lion to reel in the 2.4 mil­lion sig­na­tures the six ini­tia­tives col­lec­tive­ly need. But hav­ing com­mit­ted a sig­nif­i­cant sum thus far already, we imag­ine Hey­wood will be writ­ing more checks in the weeks ahead. And per­haps he’ll recruit oth­er wealthy Repub­li­cans to do likewise.

Hey­wood has semi-pub­licly bragged that he has com­mis­sioned polling for the six ini­tia­tives in King, Pierce, Sno­homish, and Spokane coun­ties (the four largest in Wash­ing­ton) that found sup­port for each ini­tia­tive between six­ty and nine­ty per­cent. More inter­est­ing­ly, he has claimed that his poll sam­ples did not skew Repub­li­can (as many sur­veys released pub­licly by right wing poll­sters do), but instead prop­er­ly rep­re­sent the num­ber of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers in the electorate.

In polling, how­ev­er, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple isn’t enough to yield sound, cred­i­ble data. The ques­tions must also be neu­tral­ly word­ed — it isn’t pos­si­ble to find out what peo­ple real­ly think if they are told what to think first. We know from our own research that our argu­ments in sup­port of the poli­cies Hey­wood wants to repeal res­onate con­sis­tent­ly with majori­ties of like­ly vot­ers in Washington.

It would be inter­est­ing to see what ques­tions Hey­wood’s group asked, and how or even whether they effec­tive­ly pre­sent­ed pro­gres­sive argu­ments to respon­dents of their sur­vey, but the like­li­hood of them show­ing us their work seems very low.

To vet­er­ans of past bal­lot mea­sure cam­paigns who know what it takes to qual­i­fy an ini­tia­tive, Hey­wood’s gam­bit might come across as absurd. Run­ning just one ini­tia­tive, par­tic­u­lar­ly in a pres­i­den­tial cycle like 2024, is a tough and com­plex endeav­or; try­ing to do that six times over is beyond next lev­el dif­fi­cult. This is an unprece­dent­ed effort, cer­tain­ly at least in mod­ern polit­i­cal times.

But Hey­wood has this going for him: Repub­li­can precinct com­mit­tee offi­cers and right wing vot­ers need an out­let… some­thing to devote their ener­gy to that they can believe in. The par­ty is on the outs in so many ways: it has­n’t won a guber­na­to­r­i­al con­test since 1980, a pres­i­den­tial vote since 1984, or a U.S. Sen­ate elec­tion since 1994. Democ­rats con­trol every statewide exec­u­tive office and have firm majori­ties in both cham­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture. Last year’s sup­posed red wave was a total bust and turned out to be anoth­er blue wave instead.

With the Repub­li­can brand in Wash­ing­ton in awful shape, there’s no prospect of elect­ing a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor or leg­is­la­ture in 2024, 2026, 2028, or any cycle over the hori­zon. And recent right wing legal chal­lenges have been unsuc­cess­ful in gut­ting the big pro­gres­sive accom­plish­ments that Repub­li­cans intense­ly dislike.

That leaves the ini­tia­tive process.

Tim Eyman demon­strat­ed for more than a decade how the peo­ple’s ini­tia­tive pow­er could be abused and manip­u­lat­ed to force votes on bad ideas intend­ed to destroy the state’s essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices and wreck government.

Thank­ful­ly, after many years of inac­tion, the Leg­is­la­ture has begun to imple­ment safe­guards to pre­vent future ini­tia­tive spon­sors from decep­tive­ly con­ceal­ing the con­se­quences of their mea­sures. Sev­er­al of Hey­wood and Wal­sh’s ini­tia­tives seek to par­tial­ly defund Wash­ing­ton’s trea­sury, and if they qual­i­fy for the bal­lot, their bal­lot titles will be extend­ed to include a fis­cal impact dis­clo­sure required by a law that NPI cham­pi­oned. That means vot­ers will be informed, before they fill in an oval, of the loss of rev­enue that a Yes vote would entail.

Walsh is well aware of this fis­cal impact dis­clo­sure require­ment, which our research showed is wild­ly pop­u­lar with Wash­ing­ton vot­ers. Amus­ing­ly, Walsh tried to amend our bill repeal­ing Tim Eyman’s push polls to get rid of the require­ment back in April. The House nixed his amend­ment. The dis­clo­sure require­ment stayed, while Eyman’s push polls went away for good, in anoth­er win for voters.

Our team believes that even if Hey­wood gets all six of his mea­sures qual­i­fied, they can be defeat­ed… yes, each and every one of them.

We are con­fi­dent it can be done because it has been done, right here in the PNW.

NPI, which has a region­al focus rather than a sin­gle-state one, has seen a threat like this before… down in Ore­gon. The year was 2008, and Bill Size­more — Tim Eyman’s Ore­gon equiv­a­lent — was able to qual­i­fy five right wing ini­tia­tives to the statewide bal­lot then with the help of wealthy bene­fac­tor Loren Parks.

Despite fac­ing a gaunt­let of bad bal­lot mea­sures, we in the pro­gres­sive move­ment were able to rise to the occa­sion that year in Ore­gon. We built strong no cam­paigns and invest­ed in GOTV and vot­er edu­ca­tion. We knew pro­gres­sive turnout would be strong in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and were prepared.

We took full advan­tage of the more favor­able elec­toral envi­ron­ment, and dis­patched Size­more, defeat­ing all five of his mea­sures. Yes — all five!

It was a great moment in Ore­gon polit­i­cal history.

Should Hey­wood qual­i­fy his slew of schemes, pro­gres­sives in Wash­ing­ton can and must strive for the same out­come: the defeat of the whole bad batch. Wash­ing­ton has made a lot of progress these past few years and we sim­ply can’t afford to go back­wards. By build­ing an effec­tive oppo­si­tion cam­paign, we can max­i­mize our chances of pro­tect­ing Wash­ing­ton from the forces of greed.

We main­tain a project devot­ed to the task of deal­ing with these kinds of threats when­ev­er they emerge: Per­ma­nent Defense. It is so named because eter­nal vig­i­lance is the price of lib­er­ty, as Wen­dell Phillips once said.

There will always be threats to our Con­sti­tu­tion, our com­mon wealth, and our future. It’s imper­a­tive that pro­gres­sives be able to respond to them quick­ly, ener­get­i­cal­ly, and capa­bly. We have over two decades of expe­ri­ence com­bat­ing right wing ini­tia­tives, and we’ll put it all to work to ensure that Bri­an Hey­wood and Let’s Regress, Wash­ing­ton! are unsuc­cess­ful in their endeavors.

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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