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.
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Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Anti-Trump PAC finds that “Teflon Don” still has powerful bond with Republican voters

Don­ald Trump has been out of the White House for more than half of a pres­i­den­tial term and is in greater legal per­il than he’s ever been at any point in his life, yet his bond with Repub­li­can vot­ers remains incred­i­bly strong, a right wing polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee named Win It Back has concluded.

The PAC — which The New York Times’ Jonathan Swan described as “a well fund­ed group of anti-Trump con­ser­v­a­tives” — has been fruit­less­ly search­ing for argu­ments against Trump’s 2024 can­di­da­cy that res­onate with Repub­li­can vot­ers, and it has come up com­plete­ly emp­ty, which won’t come as a sur­prise to many pro­gres­sive and Demo­c­ra­t­ic strate­gists who keep an eye on cur­rent dynamics.

A memo sent by Win It Back­’s top oper­a­tive David McIn­tosh, which the New York Times got a hold of and pub­lished, “acknowl­edges to donors that after exten­sive test­ing of more than 40 anti-Trump tele­vi­sion ads, ‘all attempts to under­mine his con­ser­v­a­tive cre­den­tials on spe­cif­ic issues were ineffective.’ ”

“Every tra­di­tion­al post-pro­duc­tion ad attack­ing Pres­i­dent Trump either back­fired or pro­duced no impact on his bal­lot sup­port and favor­a­bil­i­ty,” McIn­tosh wrote.

“This includes ads that pri­mar­i­ly fea­ture video of him say­ing lib­er­al or stu­pid com­ments from his own mouth. The best per­form­ing ads include non-script­ed Repub­li­cans shar­ing reser­va­tions in their own words that touch on the themes and broad­ly accept­able mes­sag­ing men­tioned above. Notably, when the same tes­ti­mo­ni­al-type of ad pro­vides com­men­tary on a spe­cif­ic issue in Pres­i­dent Trump’s record, they are large­ly inef­fec­tive,” McIn­tosh added.

Some ads were worse than inef­fec­tive — they actu­al­ly helped increase Trump’s sup­port, accord­ing to mes­sage test­ing con­duct­ed by Win It Back. Yes, you read that right: some of the group’s ads made the “Teflon Don” prob­lem worse!

You can read the memo your­self below:

Win It Back memo on chal­leng­ing Don­ald Trump

“The memo will pro­vide lit­tle reas­sur­ance to the rest of the field of Mr. Trump’s Repub­li­can rivals that there is any elu­sive mes­sage out there that can work to deflate his sup­port,” Swan sug­gest­ed in his write­up for the New York Times.

Polling has, as many Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers are like­ly aware, sug­gest­ed for months that the 2024 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion is Trump’s to lose.

But this memo is just strik­ing. It’s a real­ly impor­tant piece of evi­dence that backs up the body of avail­able polling. After pro­duc­ing more than forty tele­vi­sion ads test­ed in twelve in-per­son focus groups and four online ran­dom­ized con­trolled exper­i­ments, Win It Back has­n’t been able to find any real­ly potent argu­ments against Don­ald Trump with Repub­li­can vot­ers. It’s an omi­nous piece of news for the Repub­li­can field, includ­ing the sev­en can­di­dates who debat­ed last night.

“Can­di­dates on the debate stage should not be afraid to attack Don­ald Trump,” New Hamp­shire Gov­er­nor Chris Sununu argued just a few weeks ago in an August essay for The New York Times’ Opin­ion sec­tion. “While it’s true that Mr. Trump has an iron grip on more than thir­ty per­cent of the elec­torate, the oth­er six­ty per­cent or so is open to mov­ing for­ward with a new nominee.”

Last night, pret­ty much the whole field took Sununu’s advice. Even Ron DeSan­tis took swings at Don­ald Trump. But get­ting some­thing, any­thing, to stick — well, Win It Back­’s research sug­gests that is going to be real­ly, real­ly, real­ly difficult.

Even if the field were to shrink, leav­ing Repub­li­can vot­ers with just one major alter­na­tive to Trump, it’s hard to see that rival can­di­date get­ting traction.

Trump’s oper­a­tion is so con­fi­dent it’s got this that it has pub­licly sug­gest­ed the RNC quit hold­ing pres­i­den­tial debates because Trump’s nom­i­na­tion is inevitable.

“Chris LaCivi­ta, a senior advis­er to Trump’s cam­paign, called on the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee to scrap all future pri­ma­ry debates so that the par­ty and its can­di­dates can coa­lesce behind Trump and turn their focus to defeat­ing Pres­i­dent Joe Biden in 2024,” McClatchy report­ed in an arti­cle filed by Max Green­wood.

The mes­sage to the RNC is clear: Trump is your mas­ter. Bow down and accord Don­ald the def­er­ence he would get if he were the incumbent. 

Although it has­n’t changed its name, the Repub­li­can Par­ty no longer looks or func­tions like a major polit­i­cal par­ty any­more, let alone one com­mit­ted to repub­li­can­ism and democ­ra­cy. It has instead become a dan­ger­ous cult that wor­ships a wannabe auto­crat — Don­ald Trump. It mat­ters not that Trump’s pres­i­den­cy was a dis­as­ter, that he tried to over­throw the gov­ern­ment of the Unit­ed States by incit­ing an insur­rec­tion, or that he’s at risk of los­ing key sym­bol­ic assets like Trump Tow­er due to his fraud­u­lent busi­ness prac­tices.

It also does­n’t mat­ter that Trump is a patho­log­i­cal liar and nar­cis­sist who manip­u­lates peo­ple and push­es their but­tons to get what he wants. Repub­li­can vot­ers seem ready to for­give any trans­gres­sion and dis­miss any evi­dence that Trump does­n’t actu­al­ly care about what they care about, or share their values.

Win It Back con­clud­ed that the only mes­sen­gers many Repub­li­cans will take seri­ous­ly are vot­ers who pro­fess to have pre­vi­ous­ly sup­port­ed Don­ald Trump.

“It is essen­tial to dis­arm the view­er at the open­ing of the ad by estab­lish­ing that the per­son being inter­viewed on cam­era is a Repub­li­can who pre­vi­ous­ly sup­port­ed Pres­i­dent Trump; oth­er­wise, the view­er will auto­mat­i­cal­ly put their guard up, assum­ing the mes­sen­ger is just anoth­er Trump-hater whose opin­ion should be sum­mar­i­ly dis­missed,” McIn­tosh explained in a sec­tion titled “key learnings.”

Win It Back is hop­ing to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to “max­i­mize an alter­na­tive can­di­date’s bal­lot share when the field begins to consolidate.”

But that con­sol­i­da­tion may not hap­pen until Trump has the 2024 nom­i­na­tion all locked up. Unlike the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, which con­sis­tent­ly uses pro­por­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion, many Repub­li­can Par­ty nom­i­nat­ing events are win­ner-take-all, espe­cial­ly after the ear­ly states have gone, which makes it much eas­i­er for a fron­trun­ner to sew up the del­e­gates they need to get the nom­i­na­tion.

Trump owes his remark­able resilien­cy in large part to his eli­gi­bil­i­ty for the pres­i­den­cy in 2024. Repub­li­cans in Con­gress, and specif­i­cal­ly in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to seri­ous­ly weak­en Trump by con­vict­ing him of incit­ing an insur­rec­tion and then vot­ing to bar him from hold­ing office again.

This could have hap­pened in ear­ly 2021, after Trump had left office, at the con­clu­sion of Trump’s sec­ond impeach­ment tri­al.

Had Mitch McConnell cho­sen to pro­vide the Repub­li­can votes nec­es­sary to con­vict Trump, Trump could have been boot­ed from the 2024 are­na with the adop­tion of a motion in the Sen­ate to dis­qual­i­fy him as a future can­di­date for fed­er­al office. This would have paved the way for some­one like Ron DeSan­tis, Nik­ki Haley, or Vivek Ramaswamy to win the 2024 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nomination.

Instead, like Kevin McCarthy, who had made a pil­grim­age to Mar-a-Lago to get back into Trump’s good graces, McConnell sided with Trump.

Sev­en Repub­li­cans, of their own voli­tion, vot­ed to con­vict Trump back in Feb­ru­ary of 2021. (Pre­sum­ably, they also would have vot­ed to bar Trump from run­ning again.) All it would have tak­en to get the job done would have been ten more Repub­li­can votes: McConnell and nine oth­er Repub­li­can oth­er sen­a­tors. That would have yield­ed six­ty-sev­en votes to con­vict, meet­ing the two-thirds threshold.

McConnel­l’s feck­less­ness then is cer­tain­ly hav­ing pow­er­ful reper­cus­sions now. Despite access to ample resources, anti-Trump forces aren’t find­ing any­thing that can real­ly stick to “Teflon Don,” as McIn­tosh con­ced­ed. 2015–2016 may not be exact­ly repeat­ing itself, but it’s rhyming, as the pop­u­lar say­ing goes. As in life, noth­ing is cer­tain in pol­i­tics, but if there is a path to the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for any­one oth­er than Don­ald Trump, it’s not one that we can see right now.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

Republican rivals bash Trump and each other in party’s second 2024 presidential debate

Strate­gists may hope the Repub­li­can Par­ty speaks with one voice in 2024, but mul­ti­ple voic­es shout­ed over one anoth­er and gen­uine dis­likes emerged as sev­en Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls held their sec­ond debate tonight on par­ty-aligned FNC at the Rea­gan Pres­i­den­tial Library in Simi Val­ley, California.

Rea­gan orig­i­nat­ed the par­ty’s famous 11th Com­mand­ment: “Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of any fel­low Repub­li­can.” It was dis­obeyed dozens of times tonight.

Ex-New Jer­sey Gov­er­nor Chris Christie said of fron­trun­ner Don­ald Trump, who delib­er­ate­ly skipped the debate: “He put $7 tril­lion on the nation­al debt and he should answer for that.” “Don­ald Duck,” as Christie called Trump, would rather “hide behind his golf clubs” that defend his days in office.

Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis of Flori­da, who hoped to but has failed to attract Trump’s fol­low­ers, final­ly opened up on the ex-Pres­i­dent. Trump is “com­plete­ly miss­ing in action,” said DeSan­tis, and his eco­nom­ic poli­cies set the stage for today’s inflation.

After a strong Mil­wau­kee debate appear­ance, for­mer Unit­ed Nations Ambas­sador Nik­ki Haley came out like Mar­garet Thatch­er when Britain’s “Iron Lady” faced Ques­tions With­out Notice as Prime Min­is­ter in the House of Commons.

She went after entre­pre­neur Vivek Ramaswamy, a kind of Trump sub­sti­tute who drew atten­tion in the first debate.

Ramaswamy has embraced the Chi­nese-owned social media plat­form Tik­Tok, which he joined after call­ing it “dig­i­tal fen­tanyl” in ear­li­er appear­ances. Tik­Tok is banned from gov­ern­ment-issued devices, but Ramaswamy said it is a device for Repub­li­cans to chal­lenge Democ­rats’ hold on young voters.

“Every time I hear you, I feel a lit­tle dumb­er for what you say,” Haley shot back. She lat­er had Vivek twist­ing in knots try­ing to explain his past invest­ments in Chi­na, a coun­try he demo­nizes today. Ex-Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence chimed in: I’m glad Vivek pulled out of his busi­ness deal in Chi­na. That must have been about the same time you decid­ed to start vot­ing in pres­i­den­tial elections.”

Vivek made news in the first debate by describ­ing every­body else on the stage as cor­rupt. Tonight, he was evok­ing Reagan’s 11th Amend­ment and say­ing Repub­li­can hope­fuls should not start engag­ing in “per­son­al insults.”

Not like­ly, since the new­com­er is open­ly disliked.

Don­ald Trump prob­a­bly enjoyed hear­ing about the snip­ing in the debate.

He is far ahead in the polls and no clear rival emerged from the shout-fest. Christie even addressed him, say­ing of (and to) Trump: “He needs to be vot­ed off the island and he needs to be tak­en out of the process.”

Trump was speak­ing to sup­port­ers and strik­ing auto work­ers at a non-union busi­ness in Macomb Coun­ty, Michi­gan, one of the nation’s key swing areas.

With relent­less rep­e­ti­tion of the par­ty line, FNC has pro­duced a drilled, angry “dit­to­head” audi­ence. The debate saw devi­a­tions from the Fox com­fort zone.

Sen­a­tor Tim Scott of South Car­oli­na, the lone African-Amer­i­can Repub­li­can in the Sen­ate, ques­tioned DeSan­tis about changes to black his­to­ry in Florida’s school cur­ricu­lum, which crit­ics say has air­brushed the expe­ri­ence of slav­ery and Jim Crow racism in America.

“That’s a hoax that was per­pe­trat­ed by (Vice Pres­i­dent) Kamala Har­ris,” DeSan­tis shot back, say­ing African-Amer­i­can schol­ars craft­ed his much crit­i­cized les­son plans, and flub­bing the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Har­ris’ name. DeSan­tis was bet­ter onstage than in Mil­wau­kee. The Flori­da gov­er­nor tried to stitch in rehearsed sto­ries of vot­er encoun­ters on the cam­paign trail, but awkwardly.

Oppo­si­tion to envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies of the Biden-Har­ris Admin­is­tra­tion has become Fox and Repub­li­can doc­trine. Even DeSan­tis has had to dis­count cli­mate dam­age as a fac­tor in inten­si­fy­ing hur­ri­canes that hit Flori­da. Pence said he would “unleash” the ener­gy indus­try and open fed­er­al lands to drilling. “Joe Biden’s Green New Deal agen­da is good for Bei­jing and bad for Detroit,” said the ex-veep. “We ought to repeal the Green New Deal.” DeSan­tis, a Horowitz on the sound bite key­board, promised an ener­gy pol­i­cy of “Mid­land over Moscow.”

The Green New Deal cham­pi­oned by pro­gres­sive lead­ers has nev­er been enact­ed and Biden has nev­er announced sup­port for it. Nev­er mind.

The aggres­sive Haley attacked DeSan­tis as a clos­et green. She upbraid­ed DeSan­tis for being “against frack­ing and against drilling,” stands he has tak­en as a state whose beach­es draw tourists from around the world.

Pol­i­cy did come into play. DeSan­tis took a dovish stand on Ukraine, say­ing: “It’s in our best inter­ests to end this war.” Ramaswamy demo­nized Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Zelen­sky in words that could have been broad­cast on Radio Moscow. Haley shot back that “a win for Rus­sia is a win for Chi­na,” allud­ing to China’s designs on Tai­wan. Christie spoke of “the naivete of some peo­ple on this stage,” adding: “If we give him (Putin) any of Ukraine, next will be Poland.”

There were out­right false­hoods, such as Scott charg­ing that as U.N. Ambas­sador Haley “lit­er­al­ly spent $50,000 on cur­tains.” His researchers got it wrong. It was $52,000, spent by the State Depart­ment dur­ing the Oba­ma administration.

The can­di­dates were togeth­er on cer­tain themes.

All of them demo­nized NEA and AFT (the two major unions rep­re­sent­ing edu­ca­tors), depict­ing Biden as a union stooge and one mar­ried to a teacher for thir­ty-two years. (Dr. Jill Biden teach­es com­mu­ni­ty col­lege students.)

But Pence, while endors­ing vouch­ers and char­ter schools, allowed that he has “been sleep­ing with a teacher for thir­ty-eight years.” (He calls her “Moth­er.”)

Fox faith­ful could take com­fort in denun­ci­a­tions of “rad­i­cal gen­der ide­ol­o­gy” and promis­es to ban gen­der tran­si­tion surgery for teenagers.

Like­wise, every­body agreed that crime should be punished.

DeSan­tis wants to send U.S. troops into Mex­i­co after drug traf­fick­ers. Pence is all for an expe­dit­ed death penal­ty for mass killers.

Nobody men­tioned gun safe­ty legislation.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

Cory Booker, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell join calls for Bob Menendez’s resignation

A grow­ing num­ber of Sen­a­tor Bob Menen­dez’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues are call­ing on him to resign from office after being indict­ed for con­spir­a­cy to com­mit bribery, con­spir­a­cy to com­mit hon­est ser­vices fraud, and con­spir­a­cy to com­mit extor­tion under col­or of offi­cial right, includ­ing his seat­mate, New Jer­sey’s Cory Booker.

Menen­dez was indict­ed on those three charges last week in the South­ern Dis­trict of New York (SDNY) by the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, rep­re­sent­ed by Unit­ed States Attor­ney Dami­an Williams, oblig­at­ing Menen­dez to sur­ren­der the chair­man­ship of the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee, as Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus rules require. His wife and oth­er co-con­spir­a­tors are also fac­ing charges.

The indict­ment alleges:

ROBERT MENENDEZ, the defen­dant, is the senior U.S. Sen­a­tor from the State of New Jer­sey. From at least 2018 up to and includ­ing in or about 2022, MENENDEZ and his wife, NADINE MENENDEZ, a/k/a Nadine Arslan­ian the defen­dant, engaged in a cor­rupt rela­tion­ship with three New Jer­sey asso­ciates and busi­ness­men — WAEL HANA, a/k/a Will Hana JOSE URIBE, and FRED DAIBES, the defen­dants — in which MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ agreed to and did accept hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars of bribes in exchange for using MENEN­DEZ’s pow­er and influ­ence as a Sen­a­tor to seek to pro­tect and enrich HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES and to ben­e­fit the Arab Repub­lic of Egypt. Those bribes includ­ed cash, gold, pay­ments toward a home mort­gage, com­pen­sa­tion for a low-or-no-show job, a lux­u­ry vehi­cle, and oth­er things of value.

The thir­ty-nine page indict­ment describes the DOJ’s evi­dence and the inves­ti­ga­tion into Menen­dez in sig­nif­i­cant detail; it is worth read­ing.

Menen­dez has respond­ed defi­ant­ly, assert­ing that he did noth­ing wrong, but not actu­al­ly refut­ing any of the charges. Ini­tial­ly, he declared that unnamed per­sons and enti­ties were tar­get­ing him; with­in the past forty-eight hours, he has tried to explain why fed­er­al author­i­ties found over $480,000 in cash in his home, incred­u­lous­ly argu­ing that he with­drew large sums out of his savings.

“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeat­ed­ly attempt­ed to silence my voice and dig my polit­i­cal grave,” Menen­dez said in a state­ment about the indict­ment, which inter­est­ing­ly has not been post­ed to his Sen­ate web­site, nor shared on social plat­forms. “Since this inves­ti­ga­tion was leaked near­ly a year ago, there has been an active smear cam­paign of anony­mous sources and innu­en­dos to cre­ate an air of impro­pri­ety where none exists.”

He went on to say: “I have been false­ly accused before because I refused to back down to the pow­ers that be and the peo­ple of New Jer­sey were able to see through the smoke and mir­rors and rec­og­nize I was innocent.”

It’s odd that Menen­dez is com­plain­ing about “innu­en­dos” and an “air of impro­pri­ety” giv­en that he is no longer fac­ing rumors, but an actu­al indict­ment. The charges are seri­ous, and while he does enjoy the pre­sump­tion of inno­cence, the nature of the charges makes it impos­si­ble for him to faith­ful­ly and effec­tive­ly serve the peo­ple of New Jer­sey as a Unit­ed States Senator.

It’s impor­tant to note that a few years ago, the Unit­ed States Supreme Court made it much more dif­fi­cult to con­vict a pub­lic offi­cial of bribery. The Depart­ment of Jus­tice has gone after Menen­dez before, and was­n’t able to land a con­vic­tion. It’s unlike­ly pros­e­cu­tors would be try­ing again unless they felt their evi­dence was very com­pelling and very strong. As Matt Ford wrote for The New Repub­lic:

“Cor­rup­tion, in the jus­tices’ eyes, is when a rail­road tycoon hands a politi­cian a burlap sack with a big dol­lar sign on it. But that extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high hur­dle alleged­ly didn’t stop New Jer­sey Sen­a­tor Bob Menen­dez from leap­ing over it.”

“Pros­e­cu­tors went to great lengths this time not only to show how spe­cif­ic gifts and goods were tied to spe­cif­ic favors — Nadine Menendez’s per­sis­tence in tex­ting her asso­ciates for pay­ment helped tremen­dous­ly here—but also to show how Menen­dez used the for­mal and semi­for­mal pow­ers of his elect­ed posi­tion to car­ry out the scheme,” Ford added lat­er in his col­umn, cit­ing the indictment.

Menen­dez might feel that since he sur­vived the last round, he can do so again. But oth­er Democ­rats aren’t bet­ting on him (nor should they). The calls for his res­ig­na­tion are grow­ing, and they are com­ing from a lot of key fig­ures: Gov­er­nor Phil Mur­phy of New Jer­sey, New Jer­sey Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair LeRoy Jones, and Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Andy Kim of New Jer­sey, who brave­ly decid­ed to be the change and run against Menen­dez in the 2024 Demo­c­ra­t­ic primary.

Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor John Fet­ter­man of Penn­syl­va­nia, who often speaks suc­cinct­ly and with great moral clar­i­ty, quick­ly became the first Sen­a­tor to call for Menen­dez to step down. He has now been joined by most of the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus, includ­ing Sen­a­tors Book­er, Mur­ray, and Cantwell.

Book­er said:

For near­ly a decade, I’ve worked in the Sen­ate along­side Sen­a­tor Menen­dez. As New Jersey’s junior Sen­a­tor, I imag­ine that I’ve had more pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ences with him than most oth­ers, and I’ve wit­nessed his extra­or­di­nary work and bound­less work ethic.

I’ve con­sis­tent­ly found Sen­a­tor Menen­dez to be intel­lec­tu­al­ly gift­ed, tough, pas­sion­ate, and deeply empath­ic. We have devel­oped a work­ing rela­tion­ship and a friend­ship that I val­ue and believe has fur­thered our effec­tive­ness in serv­ing New Jersey.

Sen­a­tor Menen­dez is again fac­ing a fed­er­al indict­ment, one that con­tains shock­ing alle­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and spe­cif­ic, dis­turb­ing details of wrong­do­ing. I’ve found the alle­ga­tions hard to rec­on­cile with the per­son I know.

It is not sur­pris­ing to me that Sen­a­tor Menen­dez is again deter­mined to mount a vig­or­ous defense. And I still believe he, like any­one involved with our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, deserves our pre­sump­tion of inno­cence until proven guilty. A jury of his peers will make the ulti­mate deci­sion as to whether he is crim­i­nal­ly guilty.

There is, how­ev­er, anoth­er high­er stan­dard for pub­lic offi­cials, one not of crim­i­nal law but of com­mon ideals. As Sen­a­tors, we oper­ate in the pub­lic trust. That trust is essen­tial to our abil­i­ty to do our work and per­form our duties for our constituents.

The details of the alle­ga­tions against Sen­a­tor Menen­dez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jer­seyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effec­tive have been shak­en to the core.

As Sen­a­tor Menen­dez pre­pares to mount his legal defense, he has stat­ed that he will not resign. Sen­a­tor Menen­dez fierce­ly asserts his inno­cence and it is there­fore under­stand­able that he believes step­ping down is patent­ly unfair. But I believe this is a mistake.

Step­ping down is not an admis­sion of guilt but an acknowl­edg­ment that hold­ing pub­lic office often demands tremen­dous sac­ri­fices at great per­son­al cost. Sen­a­tor Menen­dez has made these sac­ri­fices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe step­ping down is best for those Sen­a­tor Menen­dez has spent his life serving.

Mur­ray said:

The charges against Sen­a­tor Menen­dez are extreme­ly seri­ous and the details released are deeply dis­turb­ing — while Sen­a­tor Menen­dez is enti­tled to his day in court, I believe he should step down and focus on his legal defense. If Sen­a­tor Menen­dez refus­es to resign, I encour­age the Sen­ate Ethics Com­mit­tee to open an inves­ti­ga­tion into this, sep­a­rate from the ongo­ing crim­i­nal case.

Cantwell said:

I found the alle­ga­tions made in the indict­ment shock­ing and dis­turb­ing. While every­one deserves their day in court, con­stituents and the Sen­ate deserve the full atten­tion of their elect­ed Sen­a­tor. I don’t believe any­one under such a damn­ing indict­ment can effec­tive­ly serve, and I urge Sen­a­tor Menen­dez to step aside.

We at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute strong­ly agree that Bob Menen­dez should resign from the Unit­ed States Sen­ate with­out any fur­ther delay.

Menen­dez only rein­forced our grave con­cerns about his con­duct and lack of abil­i­ty to serve with his response, espe­cial­ly this line: “It is not lost on me how quick­ly some are rush­ing to judge a Lati­no and push him out of his seat.”

His seat, Menden­dez said, refer­ring to him­self in the third person.

Sen­a­tor Menen­dez, no one is enti­tled to a Sen­ate seat — they are posi­tions of pub­lic respon­si­bil­i­ty decid­ed on by vot­ers, not per­son­al pos­ses­sions or fam­i­ly heir­looms. As an elect­ed offi­cial entrust­ed with a lot of pow­er, you have an oblig­a­tion to behave eth­i­cal­ly and appro­pri­ate­ly at all times.

True lead­ers are role mod­els. They don’t use their posi­tions to enrich themselves.

You’ve for­feit­ed the trust of your con­stituents and your col­leagues through your alleged actions. Regard­less of whether these seri­ous charges are proven in court or not, their exis­tence makes it impos­si­ble for you to effec­tive­ly rep­re­sent the peo­ple of the Gar­den State. Please do the right thing for your­self, New Jer­sey, and the coun­try, and resign from office immediately.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

Take a look at the first general election ballot since 2011 to be free of Tim Eyman push polls

In just a few weeks, coun­ty elec­tion offi­cials across Wash­ing­ton will drop mil­lions of bal­lots into the mail for the 2023 Novem­ber gen­er­al election.

This will be the fif­teenth gen­er­al elec­tion in the vote-at-home era in Wash­ing­ton State his­to­ry and the third gen­er­al elec­tion in a row with no statewide mea­sures of any kind on the bal­lot. Notably, it will also be the first gen­er­al elec­tion in more than a decade with no anti-tax dis­in­for­ma­tion at or near the top of the ballot.

That’s because Tim Eyman’s push polls have gone into the dust­bin of history.

Yes — real­ly and truly!

These things…

Breaking down Tim Eyman's "advisory votes"

Break­ing down Tim Eyman’s “advi­so­ry votes”: A slide from NPI’s deck explain­ing why push polls don’t belong on our ballots

… are gone!

When you open your bal­lot this year, you will see can­di­date elec­tions and local propo­si­tions right there at the top. There won’t be any poor­ly word­ed, fake bal­lot mea­sures labeled “advi­so­ry votes” next to the instruc­tions, because our leg­is­la­tion to get rid of those incred­i­bly annoy­ing, vote-sup­press­ing pro­pa­gan­da pieces has gone into effect. It’s now the law of the land in Washington.

It was a great day when Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee signed our bill into law back in April, with our cham­pi­ons Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er and Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amy Walen stand­ing with us. It was again a great day when our bill took effect in July. And it was still again a great day when the fis­cal dash­board our bill cre­at­ed went online in ear­ly August thanks to the joint efforts of LEAP and OFM staff.

Now we’re about to begin the next chap­ter: our first gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ing sea­son in over a decade with no Tim Eyman push polls. No elec­tion work­er or activist will have to explain what they are or how to respond to them because they no longer exist. A stu­pid, ridicu­lous bar­ri­er to vot­ing has been dismantled!

Cour­tesy of our coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials, many of whom also stood with us in the noble effort to pass Sen­ate Bill 5082 we’ve obtained a set of sam­ple bal­lots for the Novem­ber 2023 gen­er­al elec­tion. Here’s a sneak peek at what you can expect to see — and not see! — when your bal­lot lands in your mail­box next month.

Let’s look at some King Coun­ty sam­ple bal­lots first.

2023 King County general election sample ballot (Seattle, English)

2023 King Coun­ty gen­er­al elec­tion sam­ple bal­lot (Seat­tle, Eng­lish, pro­vid­ed by King Coun­ty Elections)

Above, we have a sam­ple bal­lot for Seat­tle. As you can see, the first item on it is the elec­tion for King Coun­ty Asses­sor, fol­lowed by one for Elec­tions Direc­tor. These posi­tions are both being con­test­ed for three-year terms thanks to the suc­cess of NPI’s char­ter amend­ment to move elec­tions for coun­ty-lev­el posi­tions in King Coun­ty to even-num­bered years, a tran­si­tion which will be com­plete in 2028.

In addi­tion to elect­ing sev­en city coun­cilmem­bers, Seat­tle vot­ers will decide the fate of a hous­ing levy, and you can see that levy at the top of the final column.

2023 King County general election sample ballot (Espanol)

2023 King Coun­ty gen­er­al elec­tion sam­ple bal­lot (Espanol, pro­vid­ed by King Coun­ty Elections)

Above is the same sam­ple bal­lot for Seat­tle except in Span­ish rather than English.

2023 King County general election sample ballot (English, Redmond)

2023 King Coun­ty gen­er­al elec­tion sam­ple bal­lot (Eng­lish, Red­mond, pro­vid­ed by King Coun­ty Elections)

Next, we have a sam­ple bal­lot for Red­mond, NPI’s home­town. As with the Seat­tle one, every­thing fits on one page. Every­thing on the bal­lot is a real can­di­date elec­tion — there is no anti-tax adver­tis­ing. There’s noth­ing that does­n’t belong.

And now, let’s do a before and after com­par­i­son. The image on the left depicts what we dubbed the “Eymal­lot” from 2019: a bal­lot that was just loaded with right wing pro­pa­gan­da. There was so much of it that not a sin­gle can­di­date elec­tion appeared on the front side in King Coun­ty. Con­trast that with this year’s bal­lot: every­thing fits on one page and every item is for a real election.

Before (2019)

After (2023)

Some­times, as the say­ing goes, less is more. In addi­tion to mak­ing vot­ing eas­i­er in Wash­ing­ton, we are sav­ing mil­lions of dol­lars by not hav­ing any push polls on our bal­lots. For the small num­ber of peo­ple who came to leg­isla­tive hear­ings this past win­ter at Tim Eyman’s urg­ing, argu­ing that “advi­so­ry votes” are use­ful for track­ing rev­enue bills, we have good news for you: you can still track rev­enue bills act­ed on by the Leg­is­la­ture, 24/7/365, using our leg­is­la­tion’s fis­cal dash­board.

And not just the bills that raised tax­es, but the ones that raised fees, too!

Wash­ing­ton vot­ers, we hope you enjoy the expe­ri­ence of hav­ing a push poll-free bal­lot this Novem­ber as much as we enjoyed bring­ing it to you.

Hap­py voting!

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

Book Review: “What Are You Gonna Do About It?” presents the wisdom of Jolene Unsoeld

No Wash­ing­ton cit­i­zen or politi­cian was ever reviled over so many years, and in so many posi­tions, by the far-right Hamil­ton Cor­ner bill­board just south of Chehalis on Inter­state 5, than cit­i­zen activist, state leg­is­la­tor and Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jolene Unsoeld (D‑Washington).

Unsoeld was of a type on which the right wing loves to ladle with heavy ridicule. She dressed like a Quak­er lady, spoke lucid­ly, embraced caus­es like clean­ing up haz­ardous waste, and defend­ed Native Amer­i­can fish­ing rights. She refused to demo­nize the spot­ted owl for tim­ber har­vest declines at a time when 700 mil­lion board feet of raw logs were being export­ed across the Pacif­ic each year.

There was a deep­er rea­son. The “Gen­tle­la­dy from Wash­ing­ton” was tena­cious. The Unsoeld approach is summed up in a mes­sage to future gen­er­a­tions in the mem­oir: “What Are You Gonna Do About It? Sto­ries of a Hope­less Med­dler,” com­plet­ed after her death by son Krag Unsoeld.

“I hope you learned where we have failed.”

“No defeat is total.”

“No defeat is permanent.”

“Nor is any victory.”

“You live to come back and fight anoth­er day.”

Come to think of it, those are max­ims that align beau­ti­ful­ly with the creed of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute. Activism requires sta­mi­na. Vic­to­ries require advance prepa­ra­tion, but some­times are achieved after years-long effort. There is always blow­back or chal­lenge from a right wing megadonor, or hate talk radio dem­a­gogue, or an entrenched lob­by for entrenched interests.

Tenac­i­ty? Jolene Unsoeld was a pro­gres­sive daugh­ter who won the sup­port of her con­ser­v­a­tive father. She was the first woman to climb the north face of the 13,775’ Grand Teton, in com­pa­ny of hus­band Willi Unsoeld, who would lat­er climb the west ridge of Mount Ever­est with Tom Horn­bein. After the state passed sem­i­nal pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws, she com­piled the fig­ures on influ­ence pur­chas­ing with the mini-book “Who Gave? Who Got? How Much?”

She put 2,000 hours work into this mini mas­ter­piece, ran it off on a copy machine, and had an instant cap­i­tal bestseller.

She pub­lished the book “with a keen aware­ness of the sheer gall required to offer such a report to the pub­lic at all.”

Willi Unsoeld (“Bill” to Jolene) would have described this enter­prise to his Ever­green stu­dents as “learn­ing by doing.” She learned about emp­ty threats. “Sen­a­tor Jeanette Hayn­er (R‑Walla Wal­la) had a lawyer warn me that my con­clu­sions about her con­tri­bu­tions could be libelous ‘and an action for which you could be sued’.” No suit was filed, and the next edi­tion, at $3, sold even more.

The book recounts yesterday’s bat­tles but deliv­ers today’s lessons.

Jolene explains the work­ings of the state’s Fair Cam­paign Prac­tices Act. She was local as well as glob­al, recount­ing resis­tance to a Flori­da-based real­ty spec­u­la­tor who tried to sub­di­vide Olympia’s Coop­er Point Peninsula.

Penin­su­la res­i­dents orga­nized ear­ly, hired their own land use plan­ner, and pre­vailed in a series of bat­tles before Thurston Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­ers and Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court.

She pro­vides a cap­sule his­to­ry of “fish wars” of the 1960s and 1970s, in which indige­nous Pacif­ic North­west­ern­ers used civ­il dis­obe­di­ence to assert fish­ing rights under the Med­i­cine Creek Treaty. They would win in fed­er­al court when Judge George Boldt ruled that treaty tribes were enti­tled to half the com­mer­cial salmon catch. State Attor­ney Gen­er­al Slade Gor­ton fought the rul­ing – Boldt was a Nixon-named judge – and had his brief­case hand­ed to him.

Unsoeld uses his­to­ry, of a sort we need to know, to make a salient point. Over­fish­ing and dam-build­ing had dec­i­mat­ed the salmon runs to which tribes now had a fair share. Non-native and native fish­ers had to heal divi­sions and make com­mon cause, if there were to be any fish to catch. The leg­endary Bil­ly Frank, Jr., became a North­west hero in mak­ing it happen.

Jolene Unsoeld went on to the Legislature.

With action stymied, she coau­thored and helped put on the bal­lot Ini­tia­tive 97, reg­u­lat­ing and requir­ing cleanup of haz­ardous waste. Pow­er­ful busi­ness inter­ests gagged, hired their experts, and put a “com­pro­mise” mea­sure before vot­ers along­side I‑97. The win­ner would be whichev­er got the most votes.

What was the dif­fer­ence? Big.

As Unsoeld explains, “By exempt­ing major oil com­pa­nies from finan­cial lia­bil­i­ty, it seemed rather evi­dent that the Leg­is­la­ture was cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion with no incen­tive what­so­ev­er for the oil indus­try to coop­er­ate in future efforts to devel­op leg­is­la­tion to clean up and pre­vent leak­ing under­ground stor­age tanks.”

Back­ers of I‑97 were mas­sive­ly out­spent. Ex-Gov­er­nor Dan Evans worked for the alter­na­tive, which was backed by news­pa­pers includ­ing my own, the Seat­tle P‑I. On elec­tion day, how­ev­er, I‑97A received 860,835 votes to 676,469 for I‑97B. The law has been this state’s haz­ardous cleanup pol­i­cy for thir­ty-five years.

Back to the Hamil­ton Cor­ner sign.

Unsoeld had been elect­ed to Con­gress by the skin of her teeth in 1988, over­com­ing a Repub­li­can cam­paign backed by the state’s most promi­nent young con­ser­v­a­tives (e.g. Kir­by Wilbur, John Carl­son). The bill­board began to car­ry such mes­sages a: “Jolene Un-Sold­out Our State to the Envi­ron­men­tal Elite” and “Jolene Unsoeld Wants to Save the Owls and Put Log­gers Out of Work.”

U.S. Dis­trict Judge William Dwyer had ordered a halt to the log­ging of old growth trees on fed­er­al land, rul­ing under the Nation­al For­est Man­age­ment Act that the U.S. For­est Ser­vice had failed to pro­tect the endan­gered North­ern spot­ted owl. Our region’s remain­ing ancient forests in nation­al forests, when not pro­tect­ed with wilder­ness des­ig­na­tion, were being logged at a rate of 60,000 acres a year. The land was marked to become tree farms.

Why was this? Because big tim­ber com­pa­nies dis­cov­ered they could make more mon­ey send­ing logs around the mill – to Asia – than through the mill. They had stripped old-growth forests on pri­vate tim­ber land, and on such state-owned land as the Clear­wa­ter, Sul­tan, and South Fork-Nook­sack Riv­er valleys.

Repub­li­cans, notably now-Sen­a­tor Slade Gor­ton, saw a “wedge” issue.

Unsoeld refused to go along. In a speech at the time, she said: “Had the Rea­gan-Bush admin­is­tra­tion act­ed in good faith to enforce exist­ing man­age­ment laws – laws already on the books to main­tain sus­tain­able pop­u­la­tions of wildlife – we might not be in the mess we are today.”

Jolene took her case face-to-face to the angry loggers.

She would dri­ve up to a meet­ing behind the wheel – Unsoeld liked to dri­ve – with her admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant ner­vous in the pas­sen­ger seat.

She would speak the truth, that cur­rent lev­els of cut­ting were “unsus­tain­able.” She won some respect and sur­vived three terms.

Unsoeld was in 1988 the only woman elect­ed to Con­gress in our state and the region, begin­ning a repop­u­la­tion that flow­ered in the “1992 “year of the women.” She joined sev­en oth­er female lead­ers in a 1991 march on the U.S. Sen­ate to protest the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Committee’s bul­ly-boy tac­tics direct­ed at law pro­fes­sor Ani­ta Hill, who tes­ti­fied to sex­u­al harass­ment by Supreme Court nom­i­nee Clarence Thomas, now also famous for his lack of ethics.

They were pic­tured on the front page of the New York Times. The group end­ed up dress­ing down Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man Joe Biden on refusal to call wit­ness­es ready to back up Hill’s testimony.

Clarence Thomas lied his way onto the high court by a nar­row 52–48 Sen­ate vote. But a new wave of activism brough women to Con­gress, includ­ing Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray, Dianne Fein­stein and Car­ol Mose­ley Braun.

The Unsoeld book, once again, pro­vides valu­able back­ground on activist North­west women, from Montana’s Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeanette Rankin – a paci­fist who vot­ed against U.S. entry into both world wars – to Fusae Ichikaawa, who would become a mem­ber of Japan’s Diet.

Jolene Unsoeld lost her House seat in the Repub­li­can land­slide of 1994, defeat­ed by Lin­da Smith, a prod­uct of Phyl­lis Schlafly’s far-right Eagle Forum.

Smith was the sort of per­son who began a Kel­so Cham­ber of Com­merce speech with the words, “This is your meet­ing. I want to hear from you”, and then talked for forty-sev­en min­utes. It became a jour­nal­ists’ game to count first per­son ref­er­ences in her speech­es. (Smith was hand­i­ly dis­patched by Pat­ty Mur­ray in the state’s 1998 U.S. Sen­ate con­test, and left pub­lic ser­vice after that loss.)

Just before leav­ing Con­gress, Unsoeld was the lone Demo­c­rat in Washington’s del­e­ga­tion to vote against the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment. She took with her such caus­es as oppo­si­tion to drift net fish­ing, in which Japan­ese, Chi­nese and Russ­ian boats were destroy­ing sea life at the bot­tom of the ocean.

The 1994 defeat may have extend­ed her life. Unsoeld was a noto­ri­ous night owl, work­ing late on her vast cor­re­spon­dence, and dog tired when she had to rise for ear­ly U.S. Capi­tol break­fasts. She con­tin­ued her activism, as a fel­low at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment, ACLU board mem­ber and as a guber­na­to­r­i­al appointee to the Wash­ing­ton Fish & Wildlife Commission.

The old boys nev­er got used to her or for­gave her. The Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate refused to con­firm her to a full term on the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Per­haps they couldn’t endure such Unsoeld opin­ions as: “When I was in Con­gress, women tend­ed to be prob­lem solvers and to be issue ori­ent­ed. Men tend­ed to be inter­est­ed in acquir­ing pow­er and mov­ing up the lead­er­ship ladder.”

Jolene Unsoeld died on Novem­ber 28th, 2021, just short of her nineti­eth birthday.

Today, eight of twelve mem­bers of Washington’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion are female. So is the Speak­er of the State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. There is a female super­ma­jor­i­ty on the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court.

Unsoeld had to vis­it Japan to get an abor­tion – she was already the moth­er of four – while today our laws strong­ly sup­port repro­duc­tive free­dom. Our pub­lic dis­clo­sure laws have been enforced against a grifter, Tim Eyman, as well as a pow­er­ful Wash­ing­ton, D.C., lob­by, the Gro­cery Man­u­fac­tur­ers Association.

Some peo­ple talk change, Jolene helped make it happen.

It requires an awful lot of work, per­sis­tence and vig­i­lance by indi­vid­u­als and by orga­ni­za­tions like this one, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute.

How do you get this book? From Krag Unsoeld. Krag kind­ly gave me a copy to read and review at Tom Hornbein’s memo­r­i­al ser­vice. You can pro­cure your own copy by reach­ing out to Krag through LinkedIn.

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

WGA, AMPTP reach tentative agreement to end lengthy 2023 writers’ strike

Things are look­ing up in Hol­ly­wood tonight!

From the Writ­ers Guild of Amer­i­ca, here is the word on the out­come of today’s nego­ti­a­tions with the Alliance of Motion Pic­ture and Tele­vi­sion Producers:

Dear mem­bers,

We have reached a ten­ta­tive agree­ment on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple on all deal points, sub­ject to draft­ing final con­tract language.

What we have won in this con­tract – most par­tic­u­lar­ly, every­thing we have gained since May 2nd – is due to the will­ing­ness of this mem­ber­ship to exer­cise its pow­er, to demon­strate its sol­i­dar­i­ty, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncer­tain­ty of the past 146 days. It is the lever­age gen­er­at­ed by your strike, in con­cert with the extra­or­di­nary sup­port of our union sib­lings, that final­ly brought the com­pa­nies back to the table to make a deal.

We can say, with great pride, that this deal is excep­tion­al – with mean­ing­ful gains and pro­tec­tions for writ­ers in every sec­tor of the membership.

What remains now is for our staff to make sure every­thing we have agreed to is cod­i­fied in final con­tract lan­guage. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we can­not do that until the last “i” is dot­ted. To do so would com­pli­cate our abil­i­ty to fin­ish the job. So, as you have been patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again – one last time.

Once the Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment with the AMPTP is com­plete, the Nego­ti­at­ing Com­mit­tee will vote on whether to rec­om­mend the agree­ment and send it on to the WGAW Board and WGAE Coun­cil for approval. The Board and Coun­cil will then vote on whether to autho­rize a con­tract rat­i­fi­ca­tion vote by the membership.

If that autho­riza­tion is approved, the Board and Coun­cil would also vote on whether to lift the restrain­ing order and end the strike at a cer­tain date and time (to be deter­mined) pend­ing rat­i­fi­ca­tion. This would allow writ­ers to return to work dur­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final deter­mi­na­tion on con­tract approval.

Imme­di­ate­ly after those lead­er­ship votes, which are ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for Tues­day if the lan­guage is set­tled, we will pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive sum­ma­ry of the deal points and the Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment. We will also con­vene meet­ings where mem­bers will have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn more about and assess the deal before vot­ing on ratification.

To be clear, no one is to return to work until specif­i­cal­ly autho­rized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, sus­pend­ing WGA pick­et­ing. Instead, if you are able, we encour­age you to join the SAG-AFTRA pick­et lines this week.

Final­ly, we appre­ci­at­ed your patience as you wait­ed for news from us — and had to fend off rumors — dur­ing the last few days of the nego­ti­a­tion. Please wait for fur­ther infor­ma­tion from the Guild. We will have more to share with you in the com­ing days, as we final­ize the con­tract lan­guage and go through our unions’ processes.

As always, thank you for your sup­port. You will hear from us again very soon.

NPI con­grat­u­lates the WGA (WGAW and WGAE) on reach­ing an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple with the stu­dios that will hope­ful­ly ensure the future of the writ­ing pro­fes­sion in the enter­tain­ment indus­try. With few details to scru­ti­nize at this time, we don’t have much to go on, but it does sound promising.

The Los Ange­les Times report­ed that the accord “would boost pay rates and resid­ual pay­ments for stream­ing shows and impose new rules sur­round­ing the use of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.” It took four long days of nego­ti­a­tions to ham­mer out the agree­ment in prin­ci­ple, which saw per­son­al involve­ment from stu­dio chiefs.

“Day 4 on Sat­ur­day most­ly involved lawyers for the guild and AMPTP hash­ing out the fine print of lan­guage around com­pli­cat­ed and ground­break­ing addi­tions to the WGA’s Min­i­mum Basic Agree­ment,” Vari­ety report­ed. “The nit­ty-grit­ty details of lan­guage around the use of gen­er­a­tive AI in con­tent pro­duc­tion was one of the last items that the sides worked on before clos­ing the pact.

This news undoubt­ed­ly comes as a relief to a lot of peo­ple in show­biz, espe­cial­ly in the Los Ange­les and New York met­ro­pol­i­tan areas. How­ev­er, before Hol­ly­wood can get back to nor­mal busi­ness, the stu­dios will also need to reach an accord with the actors, who remain on strike, as the WGA point­ed out.

“SAG-AFTRA con­grat­u­lates the WGA on reach­ing a ten­ta­tive agree­ment with the AMPTP after 146 days of incred­i­ble strength, resilien­cy and sol­i­dar­i­ty on the pick­et lines,” said the actors’ union in a state­ment. “While we look for­ward to review­ing the WGA and AMPTP’s ten­ta­tive agree­ment, we remain com­mit­ted to achiev­ing the nec­es­sary terms for our mem­bers,” the mes­sage went on to say.

“Since the day the WGA strike began, SAG-AFTRA mem­bers have stood along­side the writ­ers on the pick­et lines. We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical con­tract and con­tin­ue to urge the stu­dio and stream­er CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our mem­bers deserve and demand.”

“Though still ten­ta­tive in nature, the agree­ment is a momen­tous devel­op­ment for an indus­try that has been hob­bled by the dou­ble WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the first time both have occurred at once in over six­ty years,” The Hol­ly­wood Reporter point­ed out in its sto­ry on the reach­ing of the agree­ment.

“The WGA strike had an imme­di­ate impact: Film­ing in Los Ange­les declined 29 per­cent between April and June 2023 com­pared with the same peri­od last year as the writ­ers’ work stop­page began May 2, local office Film­LA report­ed on April 19. A wide array of major projects were halt­ed in their tracks and/or post­poned, includ­ing Netflix’s Stranger Things, Apple TV+’s Loot, Marvel’s Blade 2 and Thun­der­bolts and oth­ers. When SAG-AFTRA joined the stop­page, a num­ber of addi­tion­al projects includ­ing Ven­om 3, Glad­i­a­tor 2 and Dead­pool 3 fol­lowed.”

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (September 18th-22nd)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Sep­tem­ber 22nd, 2023.

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

PROCEDURAL MOTION ON REPUBLICAN MILITARY APPROPRIATIONS BILL: The House on Sep­tem­ber 21st reject­ed a res­o­lu­tion to con­sid­er the Depart­ment of Defense Appro­pri­a­tions Act (H.R. 4365), spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ken Calvert, R‑California, as well as two oth­er bills.

The appro­pri­a­tions bill would spend $826 bil­lion on mil­i­tary pro­grams in fis­cal 2024, includ­ing a 5.2 per­cent pay increase for mil­i­tary members.

A res­o­lu­tion sup­port­er, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tom Cole, R‑Oklahoma, said: “Pro­vid­ing fund­ing for our nation­al defense is both Con­gress’ priv­i­lege and its respon­si­bil­i­ty. In order for our brave men and women in uni­form to do their jobs, Con­gress must do its job.” An oppo­nent, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive James P. McGov­ern, D‑Massachusetts, said: “This bill has hor­ri­ble, harm­ful pol­i­cy rid­ers that strip peo­ple’s rights and push MAGA cul­ture wars.” The vote was 212 yeas to 216 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Vot­ing Nay (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Val Hoyle, and Andrea Salinas

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Vot­ing Nay (8): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strickland

Cas­ca­dia total: 6 yea votes, 12 nay votes

OVERSIGHT OF EDUCATION FOR VETERANS: The House on Sep­tem­ber 18th passed the Isak­son-Roe Edu­ca­tion Over­sight Expan­sion Act (H.R. 3981), spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mor­gan McGar­vey, D‑Kentucky, to adopt added require­ments for edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions with mil­i­tary vet­er­ans who are using GI Bill ben­e­fits to help pay for their tuition. McGar­vey said the bill sought to ensure “that the men and women who put on the uni­form of our coun­try aren’t defraud­ed by dis­hon­est insti­tu­tions that fail to set our vet­er­ans up for success.”

The vote was unan­i­mous with 410 yeas.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Yea (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Yea (6): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Val Hoyle, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Andrea Sali­nas; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Yea (9): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan Newhouse

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 16 yea votes, 2 not voting

Read More »

Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

Kevin McCarthy, House Republicans can’t even agree on how to waste time anymore

The U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which suc­ceed­ed the Con­gress of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of 1781–1789 fol­low­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States, is sup­posed to be the coun­try’s leg­isla­tive engine.

It wields the nation’s check­book, pos­sess­ing what’s known as the pow­er of the purse, and is respon­si­ble, along with the U.S. Sen­ate, for writ­ing budgets.

Keep­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment open to serve the peo­ple is arguably Con­gress’ most impor­tant respon­si­bil­i­ty, yet it is a duty that has been delib­er­ate­ly neglect­ed in recent years by Repub­li­cans when they have con­trolled the House.

Hav­ing learned noth­ing from the fail­ure of past hostage-tak­ing attempts, extreme ultra MAGA Repub­li­cans are once again putting the coun­try on the path to a gov­ern­ment shut­down. But this time, they are doing so with­out an agenda.

They don’t know what they want and lack a strat­e­gy for get­ting it, so, ridicu­lous­ly, Repub­li­cans can’t even agree on how to waste time anymore.

Polit­i­cal the­ater is get­ting sup­plant­ed by utter chaos and paral­y­sis. Rene­gade Repub­li­cans have recent­ly been vot­ing against rules pack­ages for bills, upend­ing the cham­ber’s week­ly sched­ules and demon­strat­ing that nobody’s in charge.

That’s why, despite the near­ness of Octo­ber 1st (the date when cur­rent appro­pri­a­tions laws are due to lapse), Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and the “lead­er­ship” of the House Repub­li­can con­fer­ence decid­ed not to keep the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in ses­sion. Instead, planned votes were scrapped, and mem­bers were encour­aged to go home ear­ly for the weekend.

Numer­i­cal­ly, Repub­li­cans hold a slim major­i­ty in the House, but since some of them seem to be more often in dis­agree­ment with their col­leagues than not, an observ­er could cred­i­bly argue that the House has no true major­i­ty right now.

While Kevin McCarthy holds the title of Speak­er, he lacks the pow­er that has his­tor­i­cal­ly been wield­ed by that office. The events of the past few weeks have demon­strat­ed that he does­n’t have suf­fi­cient loy­al­ty or sup­port need­ed to pass leg­is­la­tion or even pro­ce­dur­al motions in the House. Mean­while, the obstruc­tion­ist fac­tion that is open­ly defy­ing him isn’t win­ning over con­verts to their cause, so while they can frus­trate McCarthy’s schemes and pro­pos­als, they’re not present­ly get­ting any­where with their plot to engi­neer McCarthy’s removal as Speaker.

“McCarthy will be the weak­est Speak­er of the House in mem­o­ry,” I wrote back in Jan­u­ary. “He’ll wield lit­tle real pow­er and will like­ly lurch from cri­sis to cri­sis as he strug­gles to hold togeth­er a nar­row major­i­ty full of peo­ple who don’t like each oth­er and don’t trust each oth­er… a cau­cus that is already at the mer­cy of mil­i­tant extrem­ists who believe in destroy­ing gov­ern­ment rather than improv­ing it.”

That is indeed the dynam­ic we are see­ing now.

There are the­o­ret­i­cal­ly enough votes in the House to pre­vent a gov­ern­ment shut­down: Every Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber would vote for a clean con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion if one were put on the floor, so only a few Repub­li­can votes would be need­ed, and there’s a bloc of them who pro­fess to be a fierce­ly opposed to a shutdown.

But not even that group seems inter­est­ed in that obvi­ous and log­i­cal solution.

And so the clock ticks on with no action hav­ing been tak­en to avert one.

“The clowns are run­ning the cir­cus here,” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jim McGov­ern of Mass­a­chu­setts, the top Demo­c­rat on the Rules Com­mit­tee, told The New York Times. “There are a lot of Repub­li­cans who are ratio­nal human beings who are hor­ri­fied by this, but don’t seem to have the guts to stand up to it and push back.”

Nebraska’s Don Bacon, who is among those McGov­ern was allud­ing to and is known for his can­dor, offered this assess­ment in that same New York Times arti­cle: “A lot of these folks are just hap­py to be in the minor­i­ty… They don’t want to vote for any­thing. If you are going to gov­ern, you’ve got to hold your nose at times. But some of these folks are purists.”

Purists? No, that’s too charitable.

Try snakes, agents of chaos, or wreckers.

For once, Carl Hulse’s edi­tors at The New York Times came up with a fit­ting head­line. The arti­cle those two quotes above are from begins with the words The Wreck­ing-Ball Cau­cus. That is def­i­nite­ly what these House Repub­li­cans are.

And while Bacon has open­ly com­plained about his ultra MAGA brethren plen­ty of times, includ­ing in Hulse’s arti­cle dat­ed today, Sep­tem­ber 23rd, he and his sup­pos­ed­ly more rea­son­able col­leagues have sim­ply not stood up against them.

It’s as if they are wait­ing for some exter­nal force to come to their rescue.

Per­haps in the next elec­tion, Repub­li­cans will be rel­e­gat­ed back to the minor­i­ty in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and then it will not mat­ter so much that the ultra MAGA bunch are fanat­i­cal extrem­ists. In the mean­time, a man­u­fac­tured fis­cal cri­sis looms, a cri­sis that top House Repub­li­cans have known was com­ing for the dura­tion of this entire Con­gress. It is a cri­sis that they still have no plan to avert.

Bow­ing to the demands of their intra­cau­cus oppo­si­tion, McCarthy and Scalise have sched­uled votes for next week on a bunch of annu­al appro­pri­a­tions bills that they could have tak­en up weeks ago, but did not. (The House, as its cus­tom, took all of August off… time that could have at least been spent debat­ing legislation.)

“[I]f you look at the events of the last two weeks, things seem to be kind of com­ing my way,” gloat­ed McCarthy crit­ic Matt Gaetz in Thurs­day evening remarks to the press that were report­ed by The Asso­ci­at­ed Press. Gaetz vehe­ment­ly oppos­es the pas­sage of a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion to buy more time for Con­gress to avert a shut­down. He instead wants to take up those annu­al appro­pri­a­tions bills.

But doing so will actu­al­ly just waste more time and bring us clos­er to a shut­down, because the win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty to pass all of those appro­pri­a­tion bills and nego­ti­ate with the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty before the cur­rent appro­pri­a­tions laws lapse closed back in the sum­mer. As senior Demo­c­rat Rosa DeLau­ro of Con­necti­cut explained: “We can in no way pass eleven bills in eight days.”

Well… make that four days, since the House was­n’t in ses­sion Fri­day, yes­ter­day, or today, and it won’t be tomor­row, either.

The AP arti­cle goes on as fol­lows: “DeLau­ro, a vet­er­an law­mak­er, esti­mat­ed it would take at least six weeks to pass the bills in both cham­bers of Con­gress, then nego­ti­ate them between the House and Sen­ate. She urged Repub­li­cans to embrace a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion to allow gov­ern­ment agen­cies to stay open.”

No con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion, how­ev­er, has become the ral­ly­ing cry of ultra MAGA Repub­li­cans like Gaetz and Anna Pauli­na Luna, also of Flori­da. They aren’t going to flip. And Kevin McCarthy is so afraid of being tossed out as Speak­er that he won’t cross them. So if Bacon and his sup­pos­ed­ly more rea­son­able Repub­li­can col­leagues don’t want a shut­down to occur, they are going to need to stage their own upris­ing in the House this week and help Democ­rats pass a clean C.R.

That’s basi­cal­ly the only option left to avert a shut­down since the time to do any­thing else has already been squan­dered by House Republicans.

It is an option that the likes of Bacon prob­a­bly won’t pursue.

They know that if they did, they’d be invit­ing a pri­ma­ry chal­lenge in 2024 and would be tar­get­ed by Don­ald Trump’s appa­ra­tus. (Trump, as you might expect, is lazi­ly cheer­ing on the ultra MAGA extrem­ists and urg­ing them not to give an inch.)

A pro­longed gov­ern­ment shut­down thus seems to be in the offing.

In the very first Fed­er­al­ist essay, future Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Alexan­der Hamil­ton wrote: “It has been fre­quent­ly remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the peo­ple of this coun­try, by their con­duct and exam­ple, to decide the impor­tant ques­tion, whether soci­eties of men are real­ly capa­ble or not of estab­lish­ing good gov­ern­ment from reflec­tion and choice, or whether they are for­ev­er des­tined to depend for their polit­i­cal con­sti­tu­tions on acci­dent and force.”

Those words still ring true today.

It’s been a long, long time since con­gres­sion­al Repub­li­cans have wield­ed pow­er wise­ly. They are not inter­est­ed in gov­ern­ing, only seiz­ing pow­er and then inap­pro­pri­ate­ly using it, or fail­ing to use it. Yet thanks in part to ger­ry­man­der­ing, vot­er sup­pres­sion, and the influ­ence of big mon­ey, they have remained com­pet­i­tive in fed­er­al elec­tions. It’s a sor­ry state of affairs that is going to need to be addressed if we are to suc­ceed in keep­ing the repub­lic that we’ve inherited.

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

On the campaign trail with the First Lady: Jill Biden greets kids and headlines another fundraising event on Mercer Island

Good evening, hap­py autumn, and wel­come back to NPI’s con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of First Lady Jill Biden’s Sep­tem­ber 2023 vis­it to the Seat­tle area!

Not long ago, FLOTUS, as Dr. Biden is referred to in the lin­go of the White House press corps, com­plet­ed the final stop on her pub­lic itin­er­ary for the day: a Biden Vic­to­ry fund recep­tion at a lake­side home on Mer­cer Island.

It was the sec­ond of two cam­paign events the First Lady head­lined today for the Biden-Har­ris cam­paign and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. I chron­i­cled both on behalf of the White House press corps as the edi­to­r­i­al pool reporter.

The jour­ney to Mer­cer Island began in Shore­line, our pre­vi­ous stop. The First Lady’s motor­cade depart­ed at 4:48 PM Pacif­ic and head­ed south.

A lit­tle more than ten min­utes before the time adver­tised on the First Lady’s sched­ule for the sec­ond recep­tion (6 PM), we were on the island.

As we approached the event loca­tion, we passed a neigh­bor wav­ing and hold­ing a big sign that read “We Love Jill Biden.” At about 5:55 PM, a very short dis­tance from our des­ti­na­tion, we made an impromp­tu stop so that the First Lady could greet a group of enthu­si­as­tic kids from the neighborhood.

Appar­ent­ly, Dr. Biden saw the crowd of young peo­ple and want­ed to say hello.

I was invit­ed to wit­ness this and took sev­er­al pho­tos. You can see for your­self how excit­ed the kids and their par­ents were to see the First Lady:

First Lady Jill Biden makes an impromptu campaign stop on Mercer Island

First Lady Jill Biden greets a group of kids on Mer­cer Island pri­or to arriv­ing at cam­paign recep­tion (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Biden briefly dis­cussed her vis­it to Mer­cer Island and then explain that she will be get­ting in her plane to go to Cal­i­for­nia after she departs the neighborhood.

One child joy­ful­ly said, “Wel­come to Plan­et Earth!” in response, prompt­ing a big round of laugh­ter and chuck­les from all of the adults in the vicinity.

The First Lady then posed for a pho­to with the kids (sev­er­al of whom were wear­ing Girl Scout uni­forms) pri­or to get­ting back into the motorcade.

We were on the move again moments lat­er and it took all of two min­utes for us to fin­ish our jour­ney. After a brief hold, I was escort­ed to the back of the home of Joe and Judy Schock­en, who host­ed this sec­ond Biden Vic­to­ry Fund recep­tion, accord­ing to the cam­paign. Their prop­er­ty abuts Lake Wash­ing­ton, with a dock and shore­line. Most of the guests were seat­ed for the remarks.

l was in posi­tion to observe at 6:19 PM. The sun was get­ting low as the event began, cast­ing the yard in a beau­ti­ful evening light.

The First Lady walked out at 6:22 PM to be intro­duced by Joe Schocken.

U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Adam Smith, and Kim Schri­er (who each rep­re­sent slices of East King Coun­ty) were present. They were acknowl­edged and thanked dur­ing the intro­duc­tion along with the event’s many co-hosts, such as for­mer Ambas­sador Suzi LeVine, who couldn’t attend.

An eagle flew over­head just before Dr. Biden stepped to the podi­um, which caught the atten­tion of many of the atten­dees. Many audi­bly mar­veled at the sight. The First Lady got a stand­ing ova­tion and began speak­ing at 6:28 PM.

“I think that was a sign, that eagle,” she said.

As in Shore­line (see my pre­vi­ous report here), Dr. Biden asked if any­one was from Philadel­phia, and two peo­ple indi­cat­ed that they were.

And again, as at the pre­vi­ous event, she recount­ed meet­ing Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, their first date, and Joe Biden’s many mar­riage proposals.

“I knew if I said yes to Joe, it had to be for­ev­er,” the First Lady said.

“Over the years I’ve been con­tin­u­al­ly inspired by his resilience and his optimism.”

“Any­one can tell you what they want to do. Joe can tell you what he’s done.”

The First Lady high­light­ed many of the same accom­plish­ments she tout­ed in Shore­line (notably, the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act and its cli­mate action pro­vi­sions, Jus­tice Jack­son’s con­fir­ma­tion, cre­at­ing jobs for Amer­i­cans), but also declared that Joe Biden had restored Amer­i­ca’s cred­i­bil­i­ty on the world stage.

She men­tioned her recent trip to New York and empha­sized how many peo­ple came up to her and said how thank­ful they were to see wise lead­er­ship at the helm of the Unit­ed States again.

Refer­ring to the Trump years, she drew a con­trast with the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion, denounc­ing “U.S. pol­i­cy dic­tat­ed by late night tweet­storms,” “relent­less attacks on our insti­tu­tions” and “con­tempt for the rule of law.”

The First Lady framed the options fac­ing vot­ers in the forth­com­ing 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as a choice between “chaos, cri­sis, and cor­rup­tion, or strong and steady lead­er­ship that actu­al­ly gets things done.”

“You helped put him in the White House last elec­tion, and we need your help to fin­ish the job. I want to ask you to start now and talk to your friends about what’s at stake in this elec­tion. I want you to talk about how much my hus­band Joe Biden has deliv­ered for Amer­i­ca,” she said.

The First Lady then asked atten­dees to remem­ber how they felt the morn­ing after the Novem­ber 2016 elec­tion, repeat­ing her Shore­line comments.

The end of the 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cycle is more than a year away, but Dr. Biden urged Biden Vic­to­ry Fund donors to get engaged now.

“I know it’s ear­ly, but we’re going to start ear­ly,” she said.

She con­clud­ed with (what sound­ed to me like, word for word) the same clos­ing line from the Shore­line event and got anoth­er stand­ing ovation.

The press van sep­a­rat­ed from the motor­cade and depart­ed from the recep­tion at 6:42 PM, while the First Lady was still min­gling with guests.

Dr. Biden is next head­ed to Cal­i­for­nia for the sec­ond leg of this West Coast trip, which will include cam­paign recep­tions in Los Ange­les and San Diego.

That’s it from the NPI team today! We hope you enjoyed our cov­er­age of the First Lady’s Sep­tem­ber 2023 vis­it to the Emer­ald City.

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

On the campaign trail with the First Lady: Get engaged early, Jill Biden tells guests at Biden Victory Fund reception in Shoreline

Good after­noon, hap­py autumn, and wel­come back to NPI’s con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of First Lady Jill Biden’s Sep­tem­ber 2023 vis­it to the Seat­tle area!

FLOTUS, as Dr. Biden is referred to in the lin­go of the White House press corps, has just fin­ished the sec­ond stop on her pub­lic itin­er­ary for the day: a Biden Vic­to­ry fund recep­tion in Shore­line with about one hun­dred supporters.

It’s one of two cam­paign events the First Lady is head­lin­ing today for the Biden-Har­ris cam­paign and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. I’m chron­i­cling both on behalf of the White House press corps as the edi­to­r­i­al pool reporter.

Our jour­ney to the Shore­line event began almost imme­di­ate­ly after the First Lady fin­ished par­tic­i­pat­ing in a lis­ten­ing ses­sion at Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Research Cen­ter, which you can read about here. The motor­cade left the Fred Hutch cam­pus at 3:28 PM Pacif­ic Time, bound for Shoreline.

We arrived at 3:54 PM after a sun­ny and pleas­ant drive.

A few folks who might have been near­by res­i­dents snapped pho­tos of the motor­cade as we pulled into the neighborhood.

The First Lady’s fundrais­er in Shore­line took place at the home of Jaime Van Horne Robin­son and Jai­son Robin­son, accord­ing to the Biden-Har­ris campaign.

They reside in a man­sion on a large, beau­ti­ful, and leafy estate with a cir­cu­lar dri­ve­way and a spa­cious, detached garage.

At 4:12 PM, I was ush­ered into the event space.

(It is stan­dard pro­to­col at cam­paign fundrais­ing events for edi­to­r­i­al pool reporters to be brought in for the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent, First Lady, or Sec­ond Gen­tle­man’s remarks and then be escort­ed out once those remarks are finished.)

The recep­tion was held on the back patio of the man­sion, which has a nice view of Puget Sound flanked by trees. A buf­fet and cock­tail tables were set up along one side of the man­sion for the guests. Among the more than one hun­dred guests was Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Car­rie Barnes.

Some guests were seat­ed for the remarks, but some were standing.

Jaime intro­duced Dr. Biden.

“I can’t tear myself away from this beau­ti­ful view,” Biden said after step­ping up to the podi­um. She spoke of how hap­py she is to be back in Seattle.

She asked if any­one was from Philly; sev­er­al raised their hands.

The First Lady recount­ed meet­ing Pres­i­dent Biden for the first time and joked about how many times he had pro­posed to her, and how she had seen him live out his faith. “He has an unshake­able hope in the future of our coun­try,” she said, going on to tout the administration’s record.

She got applause when she men­tioned pas­sage of the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act (and specif­i­cal­ly its cli­mate action pro­vi­sions), the con­fir­ma­tion of Jus­tice Ketan­ji Brown Jack­son, and Pres­i­dent Biden’s work to cre­ate jobs.

“He did all of this with integri­ty, with human­i­ty, and with wis­dom,” Dr. Biden said.

The Pres­i­dent needs four more years to get the job done, she told the crowd.

“My hus­band… has always been a cham­pi­on for women,” she emphasized.

She men­tioned Joe Biden’s decades-long work, includ­ing as a Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor, to defend access to con­tra­cep­tion, access to abor­tion, and writ­ing the Vio­lence Against Women Act. And she con­trast­ed it with the way that the oth­er major par­ty has been con­duct­ing itself in our nation’s capital.

“Look what’s going on. Watch what’s going to go on this week,” the First Lady said, lam­bast­ing House Repub­li­cans for fail­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion to pre­vent a gov­ern­ment shut­down and launch­ing an impeach­ment inquiry.

“Your choic­es are so clear,” she said, refer­ring to the upcom­ing 2024 elec­tion, char­ac­ter­iz­ing the Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion as marked by chaos and corruption.

She asked atten­dees to go out and talk to their friends about Biden’s record.

“We need you. All of you. Don’t let it be like that elec­tion in 2016, when we woke up and said to our­selves, My God, what have we done,” she said.

“Togeth­er, we’re going to win this elec­tion, and then we’re going to fin­ish the job,” she said in closing.

Very short­ly after that, around 4:26 PM, I head­ed back to the press van to be ready to depart to our next stop, which will be on Mer­cer Island.

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

First Lady Jill Biden tours Seattle’s Fred Hutch campus, discusses Cancer Moonshot

Good after­noon, hap­py autumn, and wel­come to our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of First Lady Jill Biden’s Sep­tem­ber 2023 vis­it to Seattle.

The NPI team is here at the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Research Cen­ter, where Dr. Biden just com­plet­ed a cam­pus tour and spoke to reporters about the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion’s Can­cer Moon­shot, an ini­tia­tive which holds per­son­al sig­nif­i­cance for them giv­en their late son Beau’s bat­tle with cancer.

“Accel­er­at­ing the fight against can­cer is a core com­po­nent of the President’s Uni­ty Agen­da, a set of pri­or­i­ties that Amer­i­cans from every walk of life can sup­port,” the White House says. (Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers may recall that the Pres­i­dent empha­sized the Uni­ty Agen­da in his last State of the Union address.)

“Since the start of the Admin­is­tra­tion, the First Lady has par­tic­i­pat­ed in more than forty Can­cer Moon­shot engage­ments and has vis­it­ed six­teen cities in almost a dozen states. This includes a vis­it to the Sylvester Com­pre­hen­sive Can­cer Cen­ter in Broward Coun­ty, Flori­da last Octo­ber to high­light breast can­cer survivorship.”

The First Lady’s office not­ed in an advance press brief­ing for reporters that Dr. Biden’s advo­ca­cy for can­cer edu­ca­tion and pre­ven­tion began in 1993, when four of her friends were diag­nosed with breast cancer.

Fol­low­ing that year, she launched the Biden Breast Health Ini­tia­tive to edu­cate Delaware high school girls about the impor­tance of can­cer prevention.

Nat­u­ral­ly, her advo­ca­cy and enthu­si­asm for defeat­ing can­cer con­tin­ues today.

The First Lady’s vis­it to Fred Hutch began with a tour of the lab­o­ra­to­ry of Dr. Cyrus Gha­jar. Dr. Gha­jar and a few mem­bers of his research team briefed Dr. Biden on their work. Their research focus­es on metasta­t­ic breast can­cer among breast can­cer sur­vivors and is sup­port­ed with a Depart­ment of Defense grant.

The First Lady was accom­pa­nied on the tour by sev­er­al guests: King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, Dr. Thomas Lynch, Pres­i­dent and Direc­tor of Fred Hutch, and Leigh Mor­gan, Chair of the Board of Direc­tors of Fred Hutch.

Accord­ing to pool reporter Elise Taka­hama, Biden looked through a micro­scope to see bone mar­row sam­ples from breast can­cer patients, and spoke with lab researchers about how they use var­i­ous mark­ers to pro­file patients’ cells.

Lat­er, Dr. Biden spoke with a group of Fred Hutch sci­en­tists, and a breast can­cer sur­vivor, about next steps in pedi­atric oncol­o­gy, can­cer sur­vivor­ship and decreas­ing the finan­cial bur­den of care.

Dr. Biden agreed that pre­ven­tion is key and that after the rate of can­cer screen­ings fell dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, “We’ve got to catch up.”

Lynch and Biden then joined a Fred Hutch team for a lis­ten­ing ses­sion which was attend­ed by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of many media orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing NPI.

Par­tic­i­pants included:

  • Dr. Scott Bak­er, Direc­tor of the Fred Hutch Sur­vivor­ship Program
  • Dr. Nan­cy David­son, Fred Hutch’s Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent of Clin­i­cal Affairs
  • Leah Mar­coe, Breast Can­cer Survivor
  • Dr. Veena Shankaran, Co-Direc­tor of the Hutchin­son Insti­tute for Can­cer Out­comes Research
  • Dr. Rachel Yung, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Clin­i­cal Research Division
  • Dr. Dou­glas Hawkins, Chair of the Children’s Oncol­o­gy Group (COG) and Clin­i­cian at Seat­tle Children’s

Biden offered intro­duc­to­ry remarks from the podi­um before join­ing the Fred Hutch team in a set of easy chairs for a discussion.

“Of all the things can­cer steals from us, time is the cru­elest. We can’t afford to wait anoth­er minute for bet­ter solu­tions, bet­ter treat­ments, bet­ter cures,” Biden told the Fred Hutch team and the assem­bled media representatives.

“That’s why my hus­band, Pres­i­dent Biden, and I reignit­ed the Biden Can­cer Moon­shot – our White House ini­tia­tive to build a world where can­cer is not a death sen­tence. Where we stop can­cer before it starts. Where we catch it ear­ly and help peo­ple live longer, health­i­er, hap­pi­er lives. Where we invest in inno­v­a­tive research and help patients and their fam­i­lies nav­i­gate this journey.”

“For sur­vivors, that jour­ney doesn’t end when they are declared “can­cer free.” Side effects from treat­ment and the con­stant fear of that next doctor’s appoint­ment linger through remis­sion. But with research and the right care for sur­vivors, we can mit­i­gate those side effects and help ease those fears.”

“That’s what’s hap­pen­ing here at Fred Hutch, where researchers are work­ing to pre­vent breast can­cer from com­ing back and metas­ta­siz­ing in sur­vivors, and where clin­i­cians are sup­port­ing sur­vivors with qual­i­ty care that’s designed to meet their unique needs,” the First Lady emphasized.

This post will be updated.

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

First Lady Jill Biden arrives in Seattle for multi-day September 2023 visit

Dr. Jill Biden is back in the Emer­ald City!

Moments ago, the First Lady of the Unit­ed States stepped off her Air Force trans­port after a cross-coun­try flight from the oth­er Wash­ing­ton, begin­ning a mul­ti-day vis­it to Seat­tle which will include both offi­cial and cam­paign stops.

Biden land­ed after night­fall at Boe­ing Field on a pleas­ant, dry Pacif­ic North­west evening. She was greet­ed by King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine and then stepped into a wait­ing motor­cade to head to her Seat­tle accommodations.

Pri­or to head­ing west, the First Lady joined Pres­i­dent Joe Biden in greet­ing Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyy and his wife, Ole­na Volodymyriv­na Zelen­s­ka at the White House. The cou­ple jour­neyed to the Dis­trict of Colum­bia to ral­ly sup­port for Ukraine on Capi­tol Hill after par­tic­i­pat­ing in the open­ing week of the Unit­ed Nations gen­er­al assem­bly in New York, New York.

“Putin thought he would break Ukraine. He thought he could break you. He had under­es­ti­mat­ed the con­se­quence of tak­ing on Ukrain­ian peo­ple. From your chil­dren to your grand­par­ents, I’ve nev­er seen so much courage exhib­it­ed by civil­ians. It real­ly is amaz­ing. It’s amaz­ing,” Zelen­skyy told Pres­i­dent Biden in remarks at the White House after an expand­ed bila­te­r­i­al meeting.

The First Lady’s meet­ing with Ole­na Volodymyriv­na Zelen­s­ka, which took place in the after­noon East­ern time, was closed press, with no pool spray.

Dr. Biden has no pub­lic events sched­uled tonight, but tomor­row, she will be at the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Research Cen­ter in Seat­tle and at two cam­paign recep­tions for the Biden Vic­to­ry Fund in Shore­line and Mer­cer Island.

Here’s the First Lady’s sched­ule for tomor­row as announced by the White House:

Sched­ule for First Lady Dr. Jill Biden
Sep­tem­ber 22nd, 2023
Seat­tle, Washington
All times Pacific

At 2:20 PM, as part of the Biden Administration’s Uni­ty Agen­da and Can­cer Moon­shot, the First Lady will vis­it the Fred Hutchin­son Can­cer Cen­ter in Seat­tle, WA to high­light the impor­tance of sup­port­ing can­cer sur­vivors through spe­cial­ized care and research, includ­ing sur­vivors of child­hood can­cers and breast cancer.

At 4:00 PM, the First Lady will deliv­er remarks at a polit­i­cal event for the Biden Vic­to­ry Fund in Shore­line, WA.

At 6:00 PM, the First Lady will deliv­er remarks at a polit­i­cal event for the Biden Vic­to­ry Fund in Mer­cer Island, WA.

The focus of the vis­it to Fred Hutchin­son will be cel­e­brat­ing the progress of the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion’s Can­cer Moon­shot, which the White House says “has spurred tremen­dous action across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and from the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, build­ing a strong foun­da­tion for the work ahead.”

“To date, the Can­cer Moon­shot has announced rough­ly fifty new pro­grams, poli­cies, and resources to address five pri­or­i­ty actions. More than one hun­dred pri­vate com­pa­nies, non-prof­its, aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions, and patient groups have also stepped up with new actions and collaborations.”

There is much more to do, of course, and we expect we’ll get a sta­tus update about some of the pro­grams the admin­is­tra­tion is sup­port­ing tomorrow.

The First Lady’s Sep­tem­ber 2023 West Coast trip will also include a Cal­i­for­nia leg with cam­paign recep­tions in the cities of Los Ange­les and San Diego.

NPI will pro­vide con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of the First Lady’s Seat­tle vis­it right here on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate through­out the day tomorrow.

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

Canada’s TransMountain pipeline is turning into the WPPSS of the Great White North

All records are made to be bro­ken, but nev­er in wildest imag­i­na­tion could one imag­ine a North­west cost deba­cle threat­en­ing to exceed the over­runs, con­struc­tion hitch­es, con­trac­tor shake­ups and com­ple­tion delays that struck the Wash­ing­ton Pub­lic Pow­er Sup­ply System’s efforts to build five nuclear plants at once in the late 1970s and ear­ly 1980s.

But WPPSS has met its match, per­haps its master.

The wool­ly mam­moth went extinct in North Amer­i­ca thou­sands of years ago, but a great white ele­phant is going to ground in British Columbia.

The Trans Moun­tain pipeline expan­sion was orig­i­nal­ly pegged at $5.4 bil­lion (Cana­di­an) when ini­tial­ly planned in 2013, with com­ple­tion planned for late 2017.

The project was mired in con­tro­ver­sy when pur­chased for $4.7 bil­lion by the Cana­di­an fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in 2018 but has since soared to $12.6 bil­lion (2020, $21.48 bil­lion (2022) and $30.9 bil­lion (2023). Its lat­est planned com­ple­tion date, set for late 2024, has encoun­tered a hitch in how the pipeline will cross Indige­nous ter­ri­to­ry and a lake east of Kamloops.

By con­trast, the WPPSS con­struc­tion pro­gram went from a $4.1 bil­lion orig­i­nal esti­mate, to $6.7 bil­lion first offi­cial esti­mate, and ulti­mate­ly $24.5 billion.

Four of the five par­tial­ly built nuclear com­plex­es sit for­lorn and aban­doned at Han­ford and Sat­sop. The one com­plet­ed project (the Colum­bia Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion) cost $3.2 bil­lion when com­plet­ed in 1984, twelve years after a red head­line in the Tri-City Her­ald announced: “$450 Mil­lion Nuclear Plant Started.”

Big con­struc­tion projects have big cost over­runs, as well as out­sized ratio­nales. WPPSS blamed chang­ing Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion reg­u­la­to­ry require­ments and the high cost of bor­row­ing mon­ey. A Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate inves­ti­ga­tion put a fin­ger on mis­man­age­ment. A then-wise Seat­tle City Coun­cil vot­ed not to buy into the ill-fat­ed WPPSS 4 and 5 reac­tors. Amidst con­struc­tion chaos, Mer­rill-Lynch tried to sell high-inter­est WPPSS bonds by pro­duc­ing cam­paign but­tons with the mes­sage: “I’m Bull­ish on the Sup­ply System.”

Trans Moun­tain ascribes fifty-five per­cent of its lat­est (2022–23) cost over­runs to such fac­tors as “engi­neer­ing and plan matu­ri­ty” as well as “sched­ule pres­sures and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty chal­lenges.” Robyn Allen, an inde­pen­dent econ­o­mist who has stud­ied the project, told Glob­al TV News: “What real­ly con­cerns me is that if they’re still doing design and engi­neer­ing plan­ning at this stage, they haven’t known what they were doing.”

Trans­Moun­tain, in turn, uses words famil­iar from the WPPSS days: “Some con­trac­tors’ work prod­uct did not per­form at pre­vi­ous­ly esti­mat­ed levels.”

Oth­er fac­tors include the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, require­ments of pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment, sat­is­fy­ing (some) Abo­rig­i­nal First Nations.

And, in Novem­ber of 2021, an enor­mous atmos­pher­ic riv­er pound­ed the Coqui­hal­la, Hope and Fras­er Val­ley sec­tions of the project.

Actions out­side its con­trol – COVID-19, extreme heat and wild­fires – have added $1.4 bil­lion to project costs, claims Trans Mountain.

The 1,150-kilometer pipeline is intend­ed to car­ry bitu­men crude oil, extract­ed from the tar sands of north­ern Alber­ta, from Edmon­ton down to the Westridge Marine Ter­mi­nal in Burn­a­by, just east of Van­cou­ver and just below Burn­a­by Moun­tain atop which sits Simon Fras­er University.

It fol­lows the path of an exist­ing pipeline, built in the 1950’s, and will boost capac­i­ty to 890,000 bar­rels a day.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has pur­sued a pol­i­cy one ana­lyst describes as “pipelines and wind tur­bines,” mov­ing to cap car­bon emis­sions while cham­pi­oning a key piece of the car­bon econ­o­my. The pipeline is intend­ed to bring oil to a salt­wa­ter port where it can be export­ed to Asia and the U.S. West Coast.

As Trudeau vows to cut car­bon emis­sions, he says Trans Moun­tain will devel­op “a mar­ket for our nat­ur­al resources.”

In the PM’s words, “Access to world mar­kets for Cana­di­an resources is a core nation­al inter­est. The Trans Moun­tain expan­sion will be built.”

But there are severe poten­tial pains to go with the gains. Traf­fic, in and out of the Burn­a­by oil port, will go from six­ty tankers a year to four hun­dred. The tankers will tra­verse Bur­rard Inlet, Haro Strait – which sep­a­rates the San Juan Islands from British Columbia’s Gulf Islands – and head out the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The route through sen­si­tive marine waters pass­es nation­al, provin­cial and state park­lands. The entrance to the Strait is flanked by our Olympic Nation­al Park and Canada’s Pacif­ic Rim Nation­al Park. Oil spills have occurred there.

The Cana­di­an Coast Guard has been slug­gish and inept in its response. (An excel­lent view of the tanker route can be had from Deer Park in the Olympics.)

Expan­sion was the idea of the Hous­ton-based own­er of the pipeline.

In words of Cana­di­an envi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist Blair King, “When Kinder Mor­gan pro­posed the pipeline, it had sim­ple plans. Build a pipeline for $4.6 billion-$7 bil­lion and then sell space (tolls) on the pipeline at a price that allowed it to recoup its costs plus gen­er­at­ing prof­it for its shareholders.”

That was then. The expan­sion gen­er­at­ed an envi­ron­men­tal uproar.

Sit-ins and encamp­ments took out­side the Burn­a­by ter­mi­nal. Two mem­bers of the House of Com­mons, Green Par­ty leader Eliz­a­beth May and future Van­cou­ver May­or Kennedy Stew­art, were arrest­ed. So was tele­vi­sion host and famous envi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist David Suzu­ki, along­side his envi­ron­men­tal­ist-snow­board­er grand­son Tamo Cam­pos. The arrests were lat­er thrown out.

The pipeline “will nev­er be built,” vowed Stew­art Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of British Colum­bia Indi­an Chiefs. Added Ian Camp­bell, Squamish Indi­an chief: “For us, we inher­it the major­i­ty of risk because this is where the pipeline is.”

Kinder Mor­gan threat­ened to bail, say­ing it was held up by protests and shift­ing gov­ern­men­tal reg­u­la­tions. At that point, Trudeau stepped in.

Alber­ta is the cen­ter of Canada’s “oil patch” and its holy grail is get­ting oil to a salt­wa­ter port from which it can be export­ed. The Oba­ma and Biden admin­is­tra­tions have put the kibosh on the Gulf-bound Key­stone XL pipeline.

When his gov­ern­ment took office in 2017, British Colum­bia Pre­mier John Hor­gan vowed to use “every tool in our tool­box” to stop the pipeline.

Join­ing him, and warn­ing about oil spills, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee said Wash­ing­ton would “do every­thing we can under Cana­di­an law” to fight the project, adding: “This does not move us toward a clean ener­gy future.”

A Cana­di­an appeals court flagged Trans Moun­tain for not ade­quate­ly engag­ing with Abo­rig­i­nal First Nations and not assess­ing impacts increased tanker traf­fic would have on orca whales. Ulti­mate­ly, in June of 2020, the Supreme Court of Cana­da turned aside chal­lenges from both British Colum­bia and Indige­nous groups. Sup­port for the pipeline expan­sion came not just from Alber­ta, but as a job gen­er­a­tor in inte­ri­or B.C.: It cur­rent­ly employs 13,500 people.

The pipeline expan­sion route is no flat­land dig.

It pass­es through the Cana­di­an Rock­ies, runs down the Thomp­son Riv­er past Kam­loops, plows through provin­cial parks and cross­es anoth­er moun­tain range until reach­ing hope, then runs down the Fras­er Val­ley and cross­es under the Fras­er Riv­er. A recent cost­ly hitch has developed.

At this late hour – it claims the project is eighty per­cent com­plete – Trans Moun­tain wants Cana­di­an ener­gy reg­u­la­tors for approval for yet anoth­er change in con­struc­tion meth­ods and route. It was going to use a least-dis­rup­tive plan in pass­ing through Jacko Lake east of Kam­loops, with micro-tun­nel­ing and tak­ing the pipeline under the lake. Now, how­ev­er, Trans­Moun­tain wants a more dis­rup­tive and direct route through Indige­nous lands.

Known, too, as Pipsell Lake, Jacko Lake is renowned for trout fish­ing, home to or vis­it­ed by 130 species of birds, 40 species of mam­mals and rat­tlesnakes. Human arti­facts dat­ing back 7,000 years have been found at the lake.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the lake is a source of “his­toric, cul­tur­al and spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion” to Indige­nous peoples.

“There is no amount of mon­ey that Cana­da has, that can replace a site that’s sacred,” said Ray­mond Car­di­nal of a group called SS1 First Nations.

The row over Jacko Lake is expect­ed to jack up costs even fur­ther and may jeop­ar­dize next year’s com­ple­tion schedule.

“Megapro­jects” are a part of Canada’s devel­op­ment psy­che. Some have proven vision­ary, such as the big James Bay hydro project in Quebec.

Oth­ers have become fias­cos, such as British Columbia’s attempt to build fast fer­ries, or B.C.’s $16 bil­lion Site C dam project on the Peace Riv­er, whose costs have more than dou­bled. Site C and Trans Moun­tain are com­pet­ing for work­ers, cre­at­ing a labor shortage.

Noth­ing to see here, and tax­pay­ers won’t get hit with the bill, or so claims Canada’s fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. “Trans Moun­tain will secure nec­es­sary fund­ing to com­plete the project through third par­ty financ­ing, either the pub­lic debt mar­ket or with finan­cial insti­tu­tions, Finance Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land told parliament.

Trans Moun­tain is bull­ish on mar­kets once the pipeline is built: “As coun­tries begin to devel­op the same qual­i­ty of life we enjoy here in Cana­da, they need to secure sources of ener­gy.” At the expense of the plan­et? But Robyn Allen, for­mer chair of the Insur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion of British Colum­bia, argues the pipeline is “not com­mer­cial­ly viable,” adding: “This is a huge tax­pay­er bur­den that we’re facing.”

Nobody has defend­ed the pipeline project more vocal­ly than Richard Mas­son, chair­man of the World Petro­le­um Con­gress in Cana­da. “Hav­ing anoth­er source of Cana­di­an oil is a big deal,” he said recent­ly, but went on to con­cede: “So it’s real­ly cost­ing more than any­one would have dreamed at the beginning.”

The Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment says it wants to even­tu­al­ly get out of the pipeline busi­ness and sell the com­plet­ed Trans­Moun­tain pipeline.

Mas­son has some bad news: “If the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is going to want to sell this, they’re going to have to take a write-down and sell it at a much reduced val­ue com­pared to what has been spent so far.”

Wednesday, September 20th, 2023

VICTORY! Right wing measure to destroy Dayton library removed from the ballot

A legal­ly dubi­ous right wing attempt to dis­solve the only pub­lic library in tiny Colum­bia Coun­ty was nixed today after Supe­ri­or Court Com­mis­sion­er Julie Karl put the kibosh on the mea­sure, rul­ing that it was “uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, pro­ce­du­ral­ly invalid and [that] the sig­na­ture gath­er­ing was marred by ‘poten­tial crim­i­nal acts,’” as con­cise­ly sum­ma­rized by Seat­tle Times reporter David Gut­man.

Kar­l’s deci­sion means that Propo­si­tion 2 will not go before vot­ers this autumn. The library will no longer face the immi­nent threat of dis­so­lu­tion from angry rur­al vot­ers incit­ed by a group of extrem­ists led by right wing activist Jes­si­ca Ruf­f­corn, who is obsessed with cen­sor­ship and bar­ring oth­ers from access­ing mate­ri­als she does­n’t approve of, includ­ing books that address top­ics such as consent.

Ruf­f­corn at first tried to intim­i­date library trustees into remov­ing books from the shelves. When she did­n’t get the response or the results she want­ed, she then sought to exploit a pro­vi­sion in a Wash­ing­ton State statute, name­ly RCW 27.12.320, that allows for rur­al library dis­tricts to be dissolved:

… pur­suant to a major­i­ty vote of all of the qual­i­fied elec­tors resid­ing out­side of incor­po­rat­ed cities and towns vot­ing upon a propo­si­tion for its dis­so­lu­tion, at a gen­er­al elec­tion, which propo­si­tion may be placed upon the bal­lot at any such elec­tion when­ev­er a peti­tion by ten per­cent or more qual­i­fied vot­ers resid­ing out­side of incor­po­rat­ed cities or towns with­in a rur­al coun­ty library dis­trict, an island library dis­trict, or an inter­coun­ty rur­al library dis­trict request­ing such dis­so­lu­tion shall be filed with the board of trustees of such dis­trict not less than nine­ty days pri­or to the hold­ing of any such election.

The Day­ton Memo­r­i­al Library dates back to 1937, when it opened after a near­ly twen­ty-year effort to secure the resources to build a library for the Colum­bia Coun­ty com­mu­ni­ty. For decades, the library was admin­is­tered by the City of Day­ton and sup­port­ed exclu­sive­ly with city tax dol­lars, but in the ear­ly 2000s, with the real­iza­tion that a larg­er and more sta­ble tax base was need­ed to secure the library’s future, the Colum­bia Coun­ty Rur­al Library Dis­trict was formed.

The cre­ation of the dis­trict empow­ered the com­mu­ni­ty the library was serv­ing out­side of the Day­ton city lim­its to pay dues in sup­port of the library. But since rur­al library dis­tricts can­not, by law, include res­i­dents of incor­po­rat­ed towns among their elec­tors, the peo­ple of Day­ton were fac­ing the prospect of hav­ing their library’s future decid­ed only by their more rur­al neigh­bors — with­out them.

On Sep­tem­ber 6th, Karl had grant­ed a tem­po­rary restrain­ing order (TRO) against Propo­si­tion 2, which expired as of 3:30 PM today. The TRO enjoined Colum­bia Coun­ty from send­ing out bal­lots with the mea­sure on them. Today, as planned, Karl heard argu­ments in favor of a pre­lim­i­nary injunction.

Kar­l’s deci­sion, issued from the bench, was wit­nessed by a packed court­room that includ­ed Kate Smith of the Wal­la Wal­la Union-Bul­letin. Like Gut­man, Smith empha­sized in her sto­ry that Karl found prob­lems at every lev­el with Ruf­f­corn’s mea­sure, includ­ing the sig­na­tures on the peti­tions Ruf­f­corn cir­cu­lat­ed:

Neigh­bors Unit­ed for Progress, a local polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee, filed a com­plaint alleg­ing that the mea­sure to dis­solve the county’s library dis­trict con­flicts with fed­er­al and state con­sti­tu­tions and dis­en­fran­chis­es city vot­ers and that the effort to get it on the bal­lot was invalid and wrought with fraud.

Karl agreed, find­ing that the state statute out­lin­ing the dis­so­lu­tion process for rur­al library dis­tricts like Colum­bia County’s was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and incon­sis­tent as applied.

“It doesn’t make sense to have peo­ple that live in the coun­ty be the only ones that vote on some­thing that so much affects the cit­i­zens of the city,” Karl said at the hear­ing. “We did away with tax­a­tion with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion a long time ago.”

Karl also said the peti­tion process was invalid and there is good cause to believe sig­na­ture gath­er­ing for the peti­tion was fraudulent.

“It is telling that in the ini­tial peti­tion pre­sent­ed, two-thirds of the sig­na­tures were invalid,” she said.

Sig­na­ture fraud is a long-run­ning prob­lem that our team at NPI has been study­ing and track­ing for many years. At the state lev­el, it is inves­ti­gat­ed by the State Patrol, and there have been times in the past where fraud­u­lent sig­na­tures on right wing peti­tions have been dis­cov­ered by elec­tion work­ers and referred to the Patrol for inves­ti­ga­tion. Catch­ing fraud­sters isn’t easy, but the Patrol has been able to iden­ti­fy and arrest the cul­prits in at least some of the cases.

Giv­en the evi­dence of fraud in this case, Colum­bia Coun­ty should open an inves­ti­ga­tion. Ruf­f­corn and her asso­ciates’ oper­a­tions should be probed.

If they broke the law, they should be prosecuted.

Ruf­f­corn is, accord­ing to Neigh­bors Unit­ed for Progress’ ini­tial com­plaint filed on August 29th, plan­ning to move to some­place in Repub­li­can-dom­i­nat­ed Texas rather than remain­ing in south­east­ern Wash­ing­ton, “on infor­ma­tion and belief.”

NPI con­grat­u­lates Neigh­bors Unit­ed for Progress on today’s great vic­to­ry over cen­sor­ship, fear, and oppres­sion. Democ­ra­cy and com­mu­ni­ty won today over right wing extrem­ism. This is a great out­come for free­dom in the Pacif­ic Northwest.

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