Pledge to vote NO on I-2117
NPI opposes Initiative 2117 and urges readers to join us in pledging to vote no this autumn at no2117.com. (Coalition artwork)

This morn­ing, react­ing to the news that the NO on I‑2117 coali­tion has raised over $11 mil­lion in ear­ly mon­ey, includ­ing from Bill Gates, Ama­zon, Microsoft, and BP, long­time KVI talk show host and Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­er John Carl­son urged his lis­ten­ers to “hit back” by donat­ing mon­ey to Bri­an Hey­wood’s Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton com­mit­tee, which remains in the red due to Hey­wood’s deci­sion last year to fun­nel mon­ey into the com­mit­tee via loans instead of out­right contributions.

“What can you do? You’re hear­ing this, you’re get­ting angry? What can you do about it? […] Make a con­tri­bu­tion to the Ini­tia­tive 2117 cam­paign… stop the hid­den gas tax. Yes. I know that not a lot of peo­ple out there lis­ten­ing are gonna drop in a mil­lion dol­lars like Gates and some of the oth­er tech exec­u­tives. But you know what? A whole lot of peo­ple putting in small con­tri­bu­tions can even­tu­al­ly reach that plateau. So, let’s get busy. Let’s hit back at the cli­mate indus­tri­al gov­ern­ment com­plex,” Carl­son said after a seg­ment with Todd Myers of the right wing Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter, which Carl­son was involved in found­ing many decades ago. (Both Carl­son and Myers dis­like the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act and want to make it go away with I‑2117).

The big mon­ey brought in by the NO on I‑2117 cam­paign from big names is cer­tain­ly get­ting plen­ty of media atten­tion, and deserved­ly so. When the likes of Bill Gates write a mil­lion dol­lar check to a cam­paign, that’s a sto­ry. When our region’s largest cor­po­ra­tions decide to get involved in a bal­lot mea­sure cam­paign, that’s a sto­ry. We have pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws pre­cise­ly so that the pub­lic can see who’s try­ing to influ­ence them and secure their vote. And time­ly report­ing allows the infor­ma­tion that pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws require to be more wide­ly and effec­tive­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed to the vot­ing public. 

How­ev­er, there’s more to this par­tic­u­lar sto­ry than what we heard from Carl­son this morn­ing. There’s two dynam­ics in par­tic­u­lar that I think are worth flagging. 

First is the absence of mon­ey com­ing in to Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton to help sell I‑2117.

I’m get­ting the sense that the right wing is espe­cial­ly angry about the NO on I‑2117 fundrais­ing haul because they don’t have their own haul to brag about. They qual­i­fied for the Novem­ber bal­lot thanks to one rich guy: Bri­an Hey­wood. Now a bunch of oth­er rich guys are com­ing in and open­ing their wal­lets to defeat I‑2117, where­as Hey­wood & Co. aren’t get­ting any deep-pock­et­ed rein­force­ments. They may have expect­ed that oil com­pa­nies would come in and start writ­ing checks — after all, in 2018, Big Oil spent over thir­ty mil­lion — that’s right, thir­ty mil­lion dol­lars! — to defeat Ini­tia­tive 1631.

But that was then. 

The Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, unlike I‑1631, was pro­posed through the leg­isla­tive process. Every­one who want­ed to have a say in its draft­ing had that oppor­tu­ni­ty, includ­ing lob­by­ists work­ing for big oil com­pa­nies. And the result­ing law is some­thing they’d rather have than not have. It is a mar­ket-focused approach to fight­ing pol­lu­tion over time which pro­vides sta­bil­i­ty and pre­dictabil­i­ty. So they’re not going to be help­ing Hey­wood and Walsh out. Quite the oppo­site. BP, for its part, wants I‑2117 defeat­ed and is mak­ing funds avail­able to the oppo­si­tion to ensure that happens.

Momen­tum shifts are an impor­tant facet of pol­i­tics. Bri­an Hey­wood and Jim Walsh and their side have been rolling along, thanks in large part to Hey­wood’s checks, for many months. They were able to over­come major prob­lems plagu­ing their six-mea­sure paid sig­na­ture dri­ve and qual­i­fy. Then the Leg­is­la­ture decid­ed to adopt half their slate into law for strate­gic rea­sons. They had oppor­tu­ni­ties to take sev­er­al vic­to­ry laps, and did.

But now the momen­tum is shift­ing to the oppo­si­tion cam­paigns. Our side is doing a ton of orga­niz­ing to ensure these mea­sures get the vig­or­ous oppo­si­tion they deserve, and work­ing on build­ing the biggest, broad­est, best pos­si­ble NO cam­paigns. Carl­son can see it and feel it. So can any­one track­ing I‑2117 and its brethren I‑2109 and I‑2124.

When Geek­Wire report­ed on Ama­zon and Microsoft­’s involve­ment in the NO on I‑2117 cam­paign, reporter Lisa Stiffler reached out to Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton’s Hal­lie Balch with some ques­tions. One of those ques­tions was: where’s your list of endorsers and coali­tion part­ners? Balch came back with this, as report­ed by Stiffler for GeekWire:

When asked about the initiative’s sup­port­ers and donors, Balch said by email: “We don’t have an offi­cial list of big cor­po­ra­tion or bil­lion-dol­lar spon­sors because the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton state are the supporters.”

That’s what you say, I guess, when you haven’t been putting in the work of build­ing a strong coali­tion with lots of part­ners to achieve your desired objec­tive. When you’re just coast­ing along think­ing the sig­na­tures your paid peti­tion­ers col­lect­ed are sufficient. 

Wash­ing­ton is a big state with over sev­en mil­lion peo­ple and over four mil­lion vot­ers — reach­ing mil­lions of peo­ple is logis­ti­cal­ly com­plex. It helps to have resources and part­ners to do that outreach.

I’ve worked for and against statewide bal­lot mea­sures in Wash­ing­ton State for most of my life. Bal­lot mea­sure strat­e­gy is one of my fore­most areas of exper­tise. I con­sid­er the impor­tance of coali­tion-build­ing in a bal­lot mea­sure cam­paign to be para­mount. A cam­paign has a much bet­ter chance of suc­ceed­ing when it is inclu­sive and broad-based. 

That brings me to the sec­ond dynam­ic I think is worth tak­ing note of.

The fol­low­ing are a set of sta­tis­tics put togeth­er by the NO on I‑2117 coali­tion staff which speak to the cam­paign’s aspi­ra­tion to be broad-based and inclu­sive. Carl­son talked about match­ing big mon­ey with small dol­lar con­tri­bu­tions… but our side already has those, too. The cam­paign isn’t just rais­ing mon­ey from Bill Gates, Microsoft, Ama­zon, or oth­er well known names; it has grass­roots sup­port as well. Take a look:

  • Over 100: Num­ber of Wash­ing­ton orga­ni­za­tions endors­ing No on 2117
  • Over $11M: Amount raised or pledged to defeat I‑2117
  • Over 1,300: Num­ber of grass­roots donors to No on 2117
  • 95: Per­cent of No on 2117 donors con­tribut­ing $100 or less

And it’s only April! We have half a year to increase these numbers. 

I’ve been part of statewide cam­paigns that end­ed the cycle with only a frac­tion of the mon­ey and endorse­ments and sup­port that NO on I‑2117 already has. This is a very, very promis­ing start. And the cam­paign has so much poten­tial. This is a fab­u­lous oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring Wash­ing­to­ni­ans togeth­er in defense of the val­ues that make our state great, par­tic­u­lar­ly free­dom, empa­thy, mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty, and protection. 

We all deserve to live in a place with clean air, clean water, and clean soil. We all deserve to be free from cost­ly, can­cer-caus­ing pol­lu­tion. We all deserve to live in a place with laws that safe­guard what makes the Pacif­ic North­west the Pacif­ic North­west. Our snow­pack, our orcas, our salmon, our wildlife, our way of life… all are at stake! When we’re done bor­row­ing the plan­et from future gen­er­a­tions, what will our lega­cy be? 

There is no pol­i­cy we can adopt that will instan­ta­neous­ly reverse cen­turies of envi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate dam­age we caused by burn­ing fos­sil fuels. But in pass­ing the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives took a major step towards get­ting us on the path to a clean ener­gy future. How we get there mat­ters. The strat­e­gy we’ve cho­sen affords us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to address oth­er soci­etal prob­lems such as income inequal­i­ty and lack of hous­ing while we tack­le the cli­mate crisis. 

Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act dol­lars are already mak­ing it pos­si­ble for young peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton to ride tran­sit with­out pay­ing a fare. They’re mak­ing it pos­si­ble for school dis­tricts to pur­chase elec­tric school bus­es that don’t belch emis­sions. They’re mak­ing it pos­si­ble for cities to plant more trees to reduce the impact of dan­ger­ous heat waves. They’re help­ing rur­al com­mu­ni­ties invest in solar and wind energy. 

In its most recent bud­get, the Leg­is­la­ture approved direct assis­tance for low income util­i­ty ratepay­ers, appro­pri­at­ing $157 mil­lion in CCA funds for $200 elec­tric util­i­ty rebates to be dis­trib­uted to 750,000 low and medi­um income house­holds begin­ning this autumn. 

Those are all exam­ples of the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act in action. 

See more by vis­it­ing climate.wa.gov and open­ing the project map.

Bri­an Hey­wood, Jim Walsh, John Carl­son & Co. want to repeal the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act and replace it with… noth­ing. Irre­spon­si­bly, they don’t have an alter­na­tive cli­mate action plan. If you ask them for one, they’ll piv­ot to crit­i­ciz­ing the CCA or say­ing some­thing else, because despite Hey­wood’s claim that they agree with their friends on the left that pol­luters should­n’t get off scot-free, they don’t favor any poli­cies that would put a price on pol­lu­tion or phase out fos­sil fuels.

Their posi­tion is at odds with the val­ues this state was found­ed upon. It’s also not a posi­tion our research sug­gests most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans agree with. For years, we’ve been ask­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans about their sup­port for cli­mate action laws. No mat­ter how we phrase our ques­tions, we always find a major­i­ty that are sup­port­ive. A major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are even will­ing to put up with high­er prices for gaso­line and home heat­ing fuel to have strong cli­mate action laws. In the end, what mat­ters to most Ever­green State vot­ers is not how cheap reg­u­lar unlead­ed is, but what we do to take care of each oth­er and this great green land that has appro­pri­ate­ly been dubbed Cas­ca­dia.

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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