Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Emerald City teachers overwhelmingly ratify new contract with Seattle Public Schools

Teachers in Seattle have voted overwhelmingly to approve a new contract with Seattle Public Schools, which means classes will be held as scheduled tomorrow and in the months beyond, the Seattle Education Association announced tonight.

The agreement had three components. All were ratified with large margins.

“Today was a great day for unity in Seattle on behalf of Seattle’s school children.  SEA’s members have redefined what it means to advocate for children. We have powerful, unified, resolute members who will take their passion for doing what is right for children to Olympia,” said Jonathan Knapp, SEA president.

“From day one of this bargain, it’s been about putting our students first,” said Michael Tamayo, an elementary teacher and member of the SEA Bargaining Team.

“We got many new things in our contract that will benefit students,” said Shelly Hurley, a special education teacher and member of the SEA Bargaining Team.

According to a press release sent out by the Washington Education Association and SEA, negotiations with district administrators produced a contract which includes:

  • Guaranteed recess for students
  • Caseload limits
  • Pay raises
  • Racial equity committees at 30 schools
  • Testing reforms and improvements in how teachers are evaluated (test scores will no longer be part of teacher evaluations in Seattle)

The team at NPI congratulates SEA on having successfully bargained for and won a fair contract. The gains secured by SEA will benefit teachers, parents, and students alike over the next three years, as well as the community as a whole.

In going on strike earlier this month, Seattle teachers demonstrated their resolve to fight for better public schools. That’s the kind of courage we’d like to see from all of our state legislators. Too many recent legislative sessions have ended with the adoption of underwhelming, mediocre budgets that have left our chronic school funding crisis unaddressed. Real progress has sadly been rare and elusive.

It’s time the Legislature learned how to become proficient at fulfilling our state’s paramount duty instead of raising procrastination to an art form.

Lawmakers in both houses can expect to be hearing soon from parents in and out of Seattle who have been freshly recruited into activism as a result of the strike. Newly-formed groups like Washington’s Paramount Duty plan to channel their energies into grassroots lobbying now that school has resumed and teachers have won a fair contract. This is exactly what our state needs: more people organizing and mobilizing for progressive change to end our school funding crisis.

President Barack Obama headed here next month to raise money for Patty Murray

President Barack Obama will be returning to the great Pacific Northwest next month to raise money for U.S. Senator Patty Murray and the Washington State Democratic Party, according to an invitation posted by the party.

The invitation reads:

Fundraising luncheon with President Obama and Patty Murray

Tickets start at $250. Tables can be sponsored for $2,500 or $5,000.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Murray Victory, a joint fundraising committee authorized by People for Patty Murray and the Washington State Democrats.

The President’s visit will result in street and highway closures on October 9th, as will Chinese President Xi’s visit next week. It pays to plan ahead, so leave extra time for your commute on the 9th, and possibly also the day before (October 8th).

Typically, when President Obama visits the Seattle area, he flies into Boeing Field, but not always (Paine Field has also been used).

Often, when the President comes out to the Left Coast, he makes stops in other states, so he may also be visiting Oregon and California next month.

The White House has not yet announced the trip, so other details about the President’s itinerary are not yet available. But we wouldn’t be surprised if the President swings by a waterfront mansion for a more intimate fundraising event with major Democratic donors from our region. Whether the White House will schedule any official events is less certain, but we’ll keep you posted.

Washington’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen files to run for reelection

Washington’s incumbent Democratic Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen recently filed paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission to start up a reelection campaign for 2016, PDC documents show, joining several other statewide Democratic incumbents who have active 2016 campaigns, including Governor Jay Inslee, Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, and Treasurer James McIntire.

Owen, sixty-five, has been Washington’s lieutenant governor since January 15th, 1997. He is currently the longest-serving lieutenant governor in the United States. As lieutenant governor, he presides over the Washington State Senate and fills in for Governor Jay Inslee when Inslee is out of state or unable to fulfill his duties.

Owen previously served alongside Governors Chris Gregoire and Gary Locke.

Though Owen is widely considered to be a fair, even-handed President of the Senate, it is an open secret in Olympia that top Senate Republicans don’t care for him. Owen has regularly used his authority as Lieutenant Governor to uphold the decorum of the Senate as well as the Washington State Constitution.

For instance, back in March, Owen ruled that a new rule imposed by Senate Republicans requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue was unenforceable because it violated the Washington State Constitution, citing the Supreme Court’s February 2013 League of Education Voters decision.

A few weeks earlier, Owen sent a letter of reprimand to Republican Senator Pam Roach after Roach embarrassed herself, her caucus, and the Senate by turning a public hearing on initiative reform legislation into The Pam Roach Show.

“People appear before your committee to provide information and answer questions; they do not appear in order to hear you talk,” Owen wrote in the letter. “Our goal is to hear from the people, not ourselves.”

He referred to Roach’s interaction with representatives from NPI’s NO on I-517 coalition partners The Washington Food Industry Association and the Northwest Grocery Association as “stunningly inappropriate”, and warned Roach that if she continued her bad behavior, there would be consequences.

And a few weeks prior to that, Owen angered militant Republicans when he prohibited firearms from being openly carried into the Senate’s public gallery.

“I don’t want the people who are on the floor being fearful of doing their job,” Owen said at the time, in remarks that were reported by the Associated Press. “I don’t want parents concerned about the safety of their kids as pages.”

Owen has also been willing to assist Senate Democratic leadership when they have needed his help. For instance, during the Gregoire years, the Senate deadlocked on a key bill. Owen broke a 24-24 tie by casting the decisive vote in favor, as permitted by the Washington State Constitution, allowing the bill to pass the Senate.

Owen also supported Lisa Brown’s challenge to Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones, which unconstitutionally required a two-thirds vote to raise revenue during the late 2000s and early 2010s. Brown’s lawsuit, which became the case Brown v. Owen, was planned with Owen’s knowledge and support.

After the Supreme Court dismissed the case, denying Brown the writ of mandamus she sought, The Olympian’s Brad Shannon talked to Owen about the outcome.

“I didn’t agree with them [the justices],” Owen told Shannon. “I think it was an issue they should have ruled on… I felt it was something that needed to have a finer interpretation, rather than punting. I thought Brown made a good point. That’s why we needed an interpretation.”

Although Brown v. Owen was unsuccessful, the Supreme Court ultimately did strike down the supermajority vote requirement at the heart of I-601 and its clones I-960, I-1053, and I-1185 (all sponsored by Tim Eyman) in League of Education Voters v. State of Washington, referenced above. As mentioned, Owen relied on that ruling when he declared Republicans’ ill-conceived change to the Senate’s rules to require a two-thirds vote to advance a revenue bill unenforceable.

Owen already has two Republican opponents for 2016, according to the PDC, but if history is any indication, he will easily cruise to reelection.

In 2012, Owen faced a strong challenge by Republican Bill Finkbeiner, who once represented the 45th District and served as Senate Majority Leader, but was nevertheless reelected handily with 53% of the vote.

LIVE from Clyde Hill: Special Democratic nominating caucus underway in 48th District

Good evening from Clyde Hill Elementary in the heart of the 48th Legislative District (Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Clyde Hill, Medina, Hunts Point, Yarrow Point). Tonight, the Democratic precinct committee officers of the 48th have assembled to draw up a list of candidates to succeed Ross Hunter in the Washington State House of Representatives, who recently stepped down from his position in the Legislature to helm the state’s Department of Early Learning.

Due to Hunter’s departure, a vacancy now exists for state representative in the 48th. The Washington State Constitution stipulates that the process for filling a Democratic legislative vacancy begins with the naming of three candidates from the same district and of the same party by the King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC), because the 48th falls entirely within King County’s borders.

The WSDCC, of which I am a member, specifies in its bylaws that when a vacancy is declared, the county party chair shall call a special nominating caucus of precinct committee officers from that district for the purpose of drawing up a list of three names for the KCDCC to ratify. That’s what’s happening tonight. I will be updating this post at periodic intervals to summarize the proceedings that are taking place.

7:07 PM: The meeting has been called to order by KCDCC State Committeeman Javier Valdez, who is filling in for KCDCC Chair Rich Erwin. Javier has welcomed everyone to the meeting and is turning the microphone over to DNC Committeeman and parliamentarian David McDonald to explain the rules.

7:20 PM: After hearing a presentation from David, the caucus has just decided what method of voting to use in drawing up the list of three names. The state party offered two different voting methods. The caucus opted to use the first proposed method of voting, which will consist of a set of three elections… one for the first spot on the list, another for the second spot on the list, and still another for the third spot. PCOs may only vote for one candidate on each ballot.

7:25 PM: On to candidate nominations.

  • Becky Lewis nominated Patricia (Patty) Kudererer
  • Doug Dicharry nominated Kim Allen
  • Sue Boone nominated Santiago Ramos
  • Karen Tennyson nominated Nick Pernisco

Acting Chair Javier Valdez has closed nominations.

7:50 PM: The speeches have concluded. All thirty-nine precinct committee officers are present (which means we have turnout of one hundred percent!). The first ballots have been cast and are now being counted. We are in recess.

7:57 PM: Here are the results from the first round of voting:

  • Patty Kuderer: 25 votes
  • Kim Allen: 8 votes
  • Santiago: 6 votes
  • Nick Pernisco: 0 votes

We don’t need a second ballot because Patty Kuderer received an outright majority.

On to the next round of voting, for the second-ranked spot.

8:04 PM: Results from the second round of voting are as follows:

  • Kim Allen: 20 votes
  • Santiago Ramos: 14 votes
  • Nick Pernisco: 5 votes

Kim received an outright majority, so she will be listed second on the list.

On to the final voting of voting, for the third-ranked spot.

8:14 PM: Results from the third round of voting are as follows:

  • Santiago Ramos: 32 votes
  • Nick Pernisco: 6 votes

Santiago received an outright majority, so he will be listed third on the list.

And with that, we’re done with the special nominating caucus!

8:16 PM: Javier Valdez just called to order a special meeting of the King County Democratic Central Committee (KCDCC) executive board. A quorum was present. The only item of business was the ratification of the results of the special nominating caucus. This was unanimously agreed to, and the meeting was subsequently adjourned. The names of Patty Kuderer, Kim Allen, and Santiago Ramos will be transmitted for the King County Council for consideration.

Britain’s Labour heads in a more progressive direction with new anti-austerity Leader

This is a big, big deal. Via The Wall Street Journal:

Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left former union organizer, was elected the leader of the U.K.’s Labour Party on Saturday, a result that signals a more socialist direction for the country’s main opposition and could herald a realignment of British politics.

The 66-year-old lawmaker, long on the margins of British politics, secured a convincing victory with 59.5% of votes, winning 170,955 more than his closest rival. Mr. Corbyn’s antiausterity, antiwar and egalitarian message energized thousands of grass-roots supporters who had become disillusioned with the party.

Mr. Corbyn will now have to try to unite a party that is deeply divided, a situation laid bare by infighting during the leadership contest. Following the party’s crushing defeat in May’s general election, Labour members and politicians have battled over whether to tack left or claim the center ground in the footsteps of Tony Blair, its longest-serving prime minister.

The Guardian notes:

He won with nearly 59.5% of first-preference votes, beating rivals Andy Burnham, who trailed on 19%, and Yvette Cooper who received 17%. The “Blairite” candidate Liz Kendall came last on 4.5%.

Minutes after his victory, Corbyn said the message is that people are “fed up with the injustice and the inequality” of Britain.

“The media and many of us, simply didn’t understand the views of young people in our country. They were turned off by the way politics was being conducted. We have to and must change that. The fightback gathers speed and gathers pace,” he said.

Tom Watson was elected as the party’s deputy leader.

The BBC has a chronology of reaction to Corbyn’s win, which is well put-together.

Corbyn will need to form a new leadership team, because seven Labour frontbenchers led by Cooper (evidently sulking after her loss) have declared they will not serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. (A shadow cabinet consists of those leaders of the Queen’s Opposition who would step into ministerial roles if the opposition were to become the governing party as a result of snap elections.)

This could be for the best… it will allow Corbyn to form a leadership team that believes in his vision and direction for the Labour Party.

Corbyn’s victory is a profound moment in British politics. It signals that Labour is finally stepping out of the shadow of Tony Blair and will more aggressively challenge the Tories of the United Kingdom, led by current Prime Minister David Cameron. Labour’s failure to distinguish itself from Cameron’s austerity policies arguably contributed to its very poor showing in the last election under Ed Miliband.

Miliband, incidentally, is calling on his party to unite around Corbyn, saying that is appropriate for Corbyn’s rivals to respect his big mandate.

Labour’s establishment did not want Corbyn, and overwhelmingly preferred other candidates, but the parliamentary faction of the party was overruled by the party’s base. That is a great thing to see. The establishment needed a kick in the pants.

The Guardian’s report on Corbyn’s victory sums up some of his views on the issues, which we’ll see him speak to in Westminster in the weeks to come:

In the campaign, he promised to give Labour members a much greater say in the party’s policymaking process, in a move that could sideline MPs. His key proposals include renationalisation of the railways, apologising for Labour’s role in the Iraq war, quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, opposing austerity, controlling rents and creating a national education service.

Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson. We wish them the best as they assume the mantle of the Labour Party. At last, Labour has twenty-first century leaders who dignify the legacies of legends like Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson.

Randy Pepple’s gut was wrong again: 45th LD’s Andy Hill won’t run for governor in 2016

This just in: Republican State Senator Andy Hill (R-45th District: Unincorporated King County, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville, Sammamish, Duvall) will not be a candidate for Governor of Washington State in next year’s presidential elections.

In a message sent out to his email list, Hill announced that, after some consideration, he has ruled out a challenge to Democratic Governor Jay Inslee.

He writes:

Many of you have spoken with me over the past several months and have encouraged me to consider becoming a candidate for governor in 2016. I am humbled so many of you would think that I could make a difference and I’m honored by the tremendous outpouring of support on my behalf. I believe strongly that this state lacks leadership and that we desperately need a new voice and a new direction. And, while I also believe it is a great time politically to undertake this effort, I’ve decided it would not be best for the Hill family at this time. While Molly and the kids have always supported my efforts and worked along-side many of you on my campaigns, the fact remains that I have two kids in high school this year– a senior considering colleges and a freshman new to the high school experience. I want to be there for them.

The past year and a half has been exciting with a high-profile re-election campaign, followed quickly by a long legislative session. Many of you may remember me on the campaign trail joking about how there was a cardboard cut-out of me at home while I ran for re-election. This legislative session meant even more time away from my family and I know a statewide campaign would continue that absence far too long. Despite the kids’ assurances, Dad knows best on this one.

2016 is an important year. I plan to work hard on the issues and for the candidates who can make a difference for Washington families. There’s so much at stake and much to do. I hope you’ll commit yourself to helping advance our goals and once again, thank you so much for your continued support. I hope you had a great summer vacation and are enjoying the return to school. I know I’m going to enjoy being there for this exciting part of my kids’ lives.

Hill had been seen by a number of Republicans as an ideal candidate for governor. Notably, former Secretary of State Sam Reed met with him earlier this year and encouraged him to be a candidate.

In a recent story about Washington’s 2016 gubernatorial race, Rob McKenna confidante and Republican strategist Randy Pepple predicted to KING5 Television that Hill would get into the race. From KING5’s reporting (emphasis mine):

The other rumored Republican hopeful possibly considering a run is State Senator Andy Hill (R-Redmond). He’s avoid answering questions on the subject, so far, but Republican strategist Randy Pepple says don’t count him out.

“My gut tells me that Andy Hill, Senator Hill, is going to get into the race,” Pepple said.

Looks like Randy Pepple’s gut was wrong… again.

Pepple had been previously bullish about the prospect of a Rob McKenna victory in 2012. When it didn’t happen, Pepple began to grouse about the existence of Seattle (and particularly the heavily Democratic 36th and 43rd Districts), which helped propel Jay Inslee to victory. And he has hardly stopped since.

The way Pepple talks, you’d think he actually believes Seattle voters robbed McKenna of the governorship…  as if that most important of offices were a hereditary position passed down from one attorney general to the next.

But Washington’s governorship is not a throne. Jay Inslee won it fair and square. And Inslee seems well-positioned to do well in 2016.

Though the state’s Republican establishment claims Inslee is vulnerable, polls indicate he would beat anyone who Republicans might put up against him.

And as of yet, the Republican establishment hasn’t been able to find a candidate it likes. Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant is running, but his campaign got off to somewhat of a rocky start, and has since been mostly invisible.

State Party Chair Susan Hutchison seems to be pinning her hopes on recruiting Dave Reichert into the race, but it’s not clear that Reichert will run, or that even if he does, he would be a compelling challenger to Inslee. Reichert once famously told a gathering of Republicans that he votes the way his caucus tells him to.

It’s an open secret that Reichert’s staff do a lot of his heavy lifting. That’s helped keep Reichert going in Congress, but it won’t work in a gubernatorial campaign.

Mitch “Filibuster” McConnell furious after Senate Democrats thwart vote on Iran

The shoe is on the other foot now, and it hurts:

Republican efforts to stop the nuclear deal with Iran ended in failure Thursday, thwarted by unflinching Democratic support for President Obama’s landmark accord and familiar GOP infighting.

With no clear strategy remaining to prevent the internationally backed deal, Republican leaders in Congress were left conducting largely symbolic votes that will register lawmakers’ rejection of the deal but do nothing to upend it.

In the Senate, Republicans were met with a Democratic filibuster that blocked a resolution of disapproval, preventing it from being sent to the president’s desk and depriving the GOP of a hoped-for veto showdown. On a vote of 58 to 42, the Democratic and independent senators backing the agreement stopped Republicans from reaching the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the disapproval measure.

Four Democrats who opposed the deal joined all 54 Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to try again.

“No amount of saying this is over makes it over,” McConnell said, adding that if Democrats were so proud of the Iran deal, they should embrace the outcome. “Break out the champagne. Celebrate. Take credit for it. You own it.” He set up a vote next week to “move past this procedural snag.”

Cry us a river, Senator McConnell. Under the arcane, undemocratic U.S. Senate rules you have so often abused to your advantage, it takes a supermajority to do almost anything of consequence. You knew you needed sixty votes for this resolution of disapproval, and you thus needed the Senate Democratic caucus to seriously fracture to pass a resolution disapproving of the JCPOA with Iran.

That didn’t happen, and now you’re mad.

You’re a first-class hypocrite, Senator McConnell. When you were Minority Leader, you used Senate rules on countless occasions to block Congress from taking action to solve a problem. Your use of delaying and blocking tactics was extensive and unprecedented. You can hardly complain that Democrats are now availing themselves of the same procedural remedies you so often used to attain your ends during the first six years of Barack Obama’s presidency. And yet, you are anyway.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) framed it as one of the most important foreign policy debates of the past decade and suggested Democrats would pay a political price.

He called the Democratic obstruction “a tragedy.”

“This is a deal that will far outlast one administration. The President may have the luxury of vacating office in a few months, but many of our responsibilities extend beyond that,” he said. “The American people will remember where we stand today.”

McConnell filed a motion Thursday afternoon setting up another vote on the disapproval measure next week.

Many members of Congress will also be vacating office in a few months. Senator McConnell may not even be Majority Leader after the 2016 presidential elections, if Democrats are successful in recapturing the majority. (Democrats only have ten Senate seats to defend next year, while Republicans have twenty-four.)

Contrary to what Senator McConnell believes, there is nothing tragic about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a big win not only for American diplomacy, but for our national defense and the world community. Will it work? That remains to be seen.

But, as former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft has written, “Iran is fully implementing the interim agreement that has placed strict limits on its nuclear program since January 2014 while the final agreement was being negotiated. If Iran demonstrates the same resolve under the JCPOA, the world will be a much safer place. And if it does not, we will know in time to react appropriately.”

Democrats in Congress who voted to uphold the JCPOA have done a great service for their country. It is Mitch McConnell and his obstructionist Republican colleagues who are the wrong side of history, and deserve to pay a price.

In memoriam, fourteen years later

Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which destroyed New York’s World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Americans. In honor of those who died that day, we’re republishing a poem that we post annually here on The Cascadia Advocate.

New York's Twin Towers

Two thousand one, nine eleven
Two thousand plus arrive in heaven.
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait.
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, “Let’s sit, let’s chat.”

They settle down in seats of clouds,
A man named Martin shouts out proud,
“I have a dream!” and once he did
The Newcomer said, “Your dream still lives.”

Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
“We’re from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine”
The Newcomer said, “You died not in vain.”

From a man on sticks one could hear
“The only thing we have to fear…”
The Newcomer said, “We know the rest,
trust us sir, we’ve passed that test.”

“Courage doesn’t hide in caves.
You can’t bury freedom, in a grave.”
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankee twang from Hyannisport shores.

A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the two thousand plus that day.

“Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we’re not”

The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, “Don’t talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me.”

Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just ’cause they must

Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
“Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!”
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
“Even from nightmares, can be born a dream.”

Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in ’44

The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
“I see pain, I see 20 tears,
I see sorrow – but I don’t see fear.”

“You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You’re not really gone.

All of those people, even those who’ve never met you
All of their lives, they’ll never forget you
Don’t you see what has happened?
Don’t you see what you’ve done?
You’ve brought them together as one.”

With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
“Take my hand,” and from there he led
two thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.

— by Paul Spreadbury, dedicated to the victims of September 11th

Worth noting: Washington State’s elected justices can’t personally solicit campaign cash

On Tuesday, The Seattle Times ran a column from Danny Westneat titled “The trouble with union donations, school cases“, which expressed discomfort over the fact that the Washington Education Association has previously donated money to the campaigns of several of the justices who now sit on our state Supreme Court.

Almost from the moment that the Court handed down its decision striking down I-1240 (charter schools), Washington conservatives — already unhappy with the Court’s recent McCleary order fining the state for failing to make adequate progress towards funding basic education — have alternately raged at the Court and at the WEA, which was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, as well as an opponent of I-1240.

They’ve essentially accused the Court of being in WEA’s pocket because a majority of its current members were recipients of WEA PAC money in 2014 or 2012.

Now Westneat is echoing and amplifying their criticism. He writes:

How can it not be a conflict of interest for judges to weigh cases brought by a top campaign backer?

Even if the rulings are 100 percent correct, the court is definitely risking its reputation — its appearance for fairness — by taking big donations from a special-interest group that is also a key plaintiff.

Four of the justices — Debra Stephens, Mary Yu, Charles Johnson and Mary Fairhurst — all got $1,900 contributions from the WEA during the 2014 campaign. That means the donations came after the WEA had filed suit against the charter-school law, and after the case had been appealed to the state Supreme Court. So the justices knew the case was coming, with the WEA as plaintiff, but took their money anyway.

This isn’t quite accurate. If Westneat intends to venture into the thicket where our sad excuse of a campaign finance system intersects with judicial ethics, he ought to make an effort to be as accurate and precise as possible.

Let me make one thing clear first: As an institution, “the court” cannot accept campaign cash. The campaign committees of its individual justices may, but only when they are standing before the voters at election time.

That doesn’t actually happen all that often, because Supreme Court justices serve six year terms. Like our U.S. Senators, they are only up every third cycle, unless they’ve won a special election to fill an unexpired term.

Notice that I said campaign committees.

Westneat’s column doesn’t talk about all of the restrictions that judicial candidates, including candidates for our state Supreme Court, are subject to with respect to fundraising and campaigning. These are spelled out in the Code of Judicial Conduct, which executive and legislative candidates are not bound by. Among these restrictions is Rule 4.1(A)(7), which says that judicial candidates may not

… personally solicit* or accept campaign contributions other than through a campaign committee authorized by Rule 4.4, except for members of the judge’s family or individuals who have agreed to serve on the campaign committee authorized by Rule 4.4 and subject to the requirements for campaign committees in Rule 4.4(B).

In other words:

Judicial candidates are generally prohibited from personally soliciting campaign contributions or personally accepting campaign contributions. See Rule 4.1(A)(7). This Rule recognizes that judicial candidates must raise campaign funds to support their candidacies, and permits candidates, other than candidates for appointive judicial office, to establish campaign committees to solicit and accept reasonable financial contributions or in-kind contributions.

You’ll recall that in the very last bit of the column I excerpted above, Westneat calls out four of the Court’s nine justices for taking the WEA’s money in 2014. To quote Westneat again: “So the justices knew the case [against charter schools] was coming, with the WEA as plaintiff, but took their money anyway.”

Westneat makes it sound as though these justices personally took money from the Washington Education Association in 2014. But they didn’t, because the Judicial Code of Conduct doesn’t allow judges or justices to personally solicit or accept campaign contributions. It was their campaigns that took the money.

This isn’t a trivial distinction. Legislative and executive candidates are free to dial for dollars to their heart’s content, as long as they don’t use public resources to do so, or otherwise violate campaign finance laws. Judicial candidates can’t do that, nor can they make in-person or other direct asks for money. The pitch has to come from somebody else who is working on the candidate’s behalf.

From conversations I’ve had with judicial candidates over the years, I’ve gotten the impression that many judges and justices (or would-be jurists) don’t even want to know who’s giving them money at election time. They take care to find people who can run their campaigns for them (e.g. a treasurer and a campaign manager, and maybe a steering committee too) and then let those people handle the money. It is common for friends and family of the candidate to help run a judicial campaign.

There are other special prohibitions that apply to all judicial campaigns as well.

For instance, judicial candidates are not allowed “to solicit contributions for a candidate’s current campaign more than one hundred and twenty days before the date when filing for that office is first permitted and may accept contributions after the election only as permitted by law.” (That’s Rule 4.4, section B, subsection 2).

Read the entirety of Canon 4, and you’ll get a pretty good sense of the higher standards that judicial candidates are held to. These rules are in place specifically to protect the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.

As the Canon’s commentary on general considerations explains:

[1] Even when subject to public election, a judge plays a role different from that of a legislator or executive branch official. Rather than making decisions based upon the expressed views or preferences of the electorate, a judge makes decisions based upon the law and the facts of every case. Therefore, in furtherance of this interest, judges and judicial candidates must, to the greatest extent possible, be free and appear to be free from political influence and political pressure. This Canon imposes narrowly tailored restrictions upon the political and campaign activities of all judges and judicial candidates, taking into account the various methods of selecting judges.

[2] When a person becomes a judicial candidate, this Canon becomes applicable to his or her conduct.

There is certainly merit to the argument that our current system leads to conflicts of interest, even for judicial candidates. We at NPI would be very much in favor of instituting public financing for judicial elections. This is an idea that’s been proposed in the past in the Legislature, but unfortunately hasn’t been passed into law. Perhaps the 2016 session would be a good time to reconsider the idea.

In the meantime, though, commentators like Westneat ought to keep in mind that conservatives view the Washington Education Association as a major impediment to achieving their agenda, and would like nothing more than to bust the union and prevent teachers from bargaining collectively for professional pay and benefits.

This is why they rarely, if ever, pass up an opportunity to attack the WEA and its locals (especially when a strike is in progress). They’re trying to set the stage for the union’s demise by constantly undermining its reputation, and attempting to discredit its work and advocacy on behalf of its members. Naturally, they love it when a respected voice like The Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat — who has far more credibility than they do — turns one of their arguments into a column.

Momentum builds for defeat of Tim Eyman’s odious I-1366 as coalition roster swells

With Labor Day 2015 now behind us, the traditional home stretch of the annual autumn campaign season has begun. The November 3rd general election is less than two months away, and ballots will be mailed in about thirty-five days.

Unfortunately, the Washington State Supreme Court declined to issue an injunction last Friday in Huff v. Wyman, which means Tim Eyman‘s hostage-taking Initiative 1366 will be on the ballot. We had anticipated from the outset of the case that the Court might not block I-1366 (even though it is blatantly beyond the scope of the people’s initiative power), so we’ve continued our coalition-building efforts, in preparation for a battle in the court of public opinion.

Amusingly, this morning, Tim Eyman sent out another fundraising appeal to his followers in which he sneered, “Opponents are despondent, discouraged, and downcast.” I had to laugh when I read that.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The coalition opposed I-1366 went to court not because we were afraid of losing, but because I-1366 is so dangerous and destructive that it needed to be fought on multiple fronts.

Polling recently conducted by Stuart Elway shows I-1366 starting out at under fifty percent, a bad place for an initiative to be before an autumn campaign.

The Supreme Court may not have issued the injunction we wanted, but it did retain the case on appeal for a decision on the merits. Tim Eyman has neglected to mention that last Friday’s order won’t be the Court’s last word on this matter.

(Eyman has also neglected to mention to his followers that he’s been ordered to appear in court after having failed to promptly turn over records subpoenaed by the Public Disclosure Commission as part of its investigation into his I-517 campaign.)

We at NPI are energized about accelerating our coalition-building work. Over Labor Day weekend, we secured the support of a number of elected officials and candidates for NO on I-1366, adding to the list already in progress. Here’s the updated list published to the coalition website on Monday night:

Current and former elected leaders

Dan Evans, former Governor
Sam Reed, former Secretary of State
Ralph Munro, former Secretary of State
King County Executive Dow Constantine
King County Assessor Lloyd Hara
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott
Louise Miller, former King County Councilmember
Senator Sharon Nelson, Democratic Leader
Senator David Frockt
Sentor Pramila Jayapal
Adam Kline, former Senator
State Representative Reuven Carlyle
State Representative Zack Hudgins
State Representative Gael Tarleton
State Representative Roger Goodman
Eugene V. Lux, former State Representative
Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci
SeaTac City Councilmember Kathryn Campbell
Kirkland City Councilmember Dave Asher
Kirkland City Councilmember Shelley Kloba
Kirkland City Councilmember Jay Arnold


Vandana Slatter, candidate for Bellevue City Council
Rob Johnson, candidate for Seattle City Council
Sandy Brown, candidate for Seattle City Council
Leslie Harris, candidate for Seattle School Board

Titles are listed for identification purposes only.

And this is just the beginning. As this campaign rolls along, we expect to add many more elected leaders and candidates to our coalition roster.

We also continue to receive organizational backing. I’m very pleased to report that last week, NO on I-1366 gained the support of AARP Washington State and OneAmerica Votes. And just tonight, the Mason County Democrats voted unanimously to join us. We’re very pleased to have them all aboard.

Later this week, we will have even more endorsements to announce. We’ll soon be adding a preliminary list of activists and concerned citizens who are opposed to I-1366. If you’d like to join, you can sign up here.

Former Republican state party chair Chris Vance launches challenge to Patty Murray

Last week, rumors surfaced that former Washington State Republican Party Chair Chris Vance would be launching a campaign for U.S. Senate in 2016, seeking the seat currently held by Patty Murray. Yesterday, to the relief of current state Republican Chair Susan Hutchison, Vance made it official: He’s in.

Vance, fifty-three, has a history of running for office. He served stints in the Washington State House of Representatives and King County Council before becoming party chair. Since then, he has been a lobbyist and consultant, working for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, among other clients.

Vance has been unsuccessful running for statewide and federal office, however, He lost a 1996 bid for the position Dorn currently holds, and was crushed by Congressman Adam Smith in 2000 when he ran for U.S. Representative in the 9th Congressional District. (The 9th has since been redrawn… twice.)

Murray, sixty-four, will be running for her fifth term. She’s been unopposed up until now because Republicans haven’t been able to find a candidate. We had thought that Hutchison might pluck a candidate out of the Senate Republican caucus, but maybe none of them were interested in a quixotic challenge to Murray, who is the state’s second-longest serving federal officeholder (behind Jim McDermott).

“I’m running because I’m fed up with the gridlock in Congress and the politicians in both parties who won’t tell the American people the truth about the challenges we face,” said Vance, in a statement posted to his website. “The truth is, the gap between rich and poor is widening because our economy is not producing enough good middle class jobs. We are over $18 trillion in debt, and Social Security and Medicare are on the road to insolvency. There are answers to these problems but Republicans and Democrats refuse to compromise and work together.”

“We are less than thirty days away from another government shutdown. The dysfunction in Washington, D.C. is nothing short of a national disgrace.”

“And unfortunately the truth is, after twenty-four years in the Senate, Patty Murray is part of the problem,” Vance added.

Democrats, for their part, are not the least bit impressed with Vance’s candidacy.

“Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance is Washington state’s Karl Rove: He is a long-time Republican insider and partisan operative who has spent his career cheerleading for failed Republican politicians like George W. Bush and conservative policies that hurt Washington State families and seniors,” said Democratic State Party Chair Jaxon Ravens in an email last Wednesday, before Vance announced.

“If Republicans think they can beat a Senator who fights for Washington State middle-class priorities and delivers bipartisan results with a partisan Republican Party Chairman like Chris Vance, they are going to have a long, painful road to Election Day,” Ravens added, suggesting Vance will face difficulty getting traction.

Curiously, Vance has previously gone out of his way to praise Murray, calling her “an incredibly skilled lawmaker”. Now, of course, she’s “part of the problem”.

I’m guessing that when Vance made his previous comments about Murray, he wasn’t expecting to be challenging her for U.S. Senate in 2016. But his party needed a candidate, and apparently they couldn’t find a more credible challenger.

Whether Vance’s party’s base will get excited about his candidacy remains to be seen. Vance has indicated that he wants to run a civil campaign and is advertising himself as a more reasonable kind of Republican, more in the mold of Rob McKenna or Sam Reed than the vitriolic members of the state’s Senate Republican caucus.

Republicans have long held a dim view of Patty Murray, but every attempt they have made to defeat her has failed. They tried with Linda Smith in 1998. She lost. They tried with George Nethercutt in 2004. He lost. They tried with Dino Rossi in 2010. He lost. It’s not clear why they think 2016 will be any different.

Perhaps they don’t expect to win, but are putting on a brave face because it would be very embarrassing to concede the contest.

Vance’s campaign website doesn’t offer much in the way of a campaign platform, beyond calls to “fix the debt”, which Vance cites as his top priority:

We are now over $18 trillion in debt.

Our debt is larger than our Gross Domestic Product, meaning our debt is larger than the output of our economy. Left unchecked, the debt will grow to 120% of our GDP by 2050. And Social Security and Medicare will be insolvent in less than 20 years.

This level of debt is unsustainable, and it slows economic growth and the creation of new jobs.

Congress knows what needs to be done, they just lack the political courage to do it.

How interesting. I don’t remember hearing Chris Vance voice any concern about the national debt back when he was Republican Party Chair and George W. Bush was serving up tax cuts for the wealthy while financing the occupation of Iraq on credit.

I get that it was Vance’s job back then to be a cheerleader and toe the party line, but why did he hold that job if he is opposed on principle to our country running a large national debt? It’s his own party that’s to blame for the fiscal irresponsibility of the mid-2000s. Republicans were in control of every branch of the federal government for years. They held the presidency and both houses of Congress. Plus, conservative justices appointed by Republicans have long had a majority on the Supreme Court.

We are not opposed to making strides towards paying down our national debt. There’s an easy way to do that without resorting to harmful cuts in public services: Raise taxes on America’s wealthiest families. Our nation’s billionaires possess the means to support their country and ought to be paying their fair share in dues anyway. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and pay dues. As Warren Buffet declared a few years ago, there is no need for Congress to coddle the super rich.

With that said, as Paul Krugman recently observed in his New York Times column, those who obsess over our national debt as though it’s a scourge don’t deserve to be listened to. We have carried debt since before we were actually a country, and it hasn’t stopped us from becoming the global superpower we are today. Krugman makes the case that having a national debt is actually a healthy thing. He writes:

Believe it or not, many economists argue that the economy needs a sufficient amount of public debt out there to function well. And how much is sufficient? Maybe more than we currently have. That is, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that part of what ails the world economy right now is that governments aren’t deep enough in debt.

I know that may sound crazy. After all, we’ve spent much of the past five or six years in a state of fiscal panic, with all the Very Serious People declaring that we must slash deficits and reduce debt now now now or we’ll turn into Greece, Greece I tell you.

But the power of the deficit scolds was always a triumph of ideology over evidence, and a growing number of genuinely serious people — most recently Narayana Kocherlakota, the departing president of the Minneapolis Fed — are making the case that we need more, not less, government debt.

Vance would probably say that Krugman is crazy, along with other macroeconomists who hold the same view. But we think Krugman’s macroeconomic analysis is solid. As the Nobel laureate goes on to explain, public debt serves a useful function.


One answer is that issuing debt is a way to pay for useful things, and we should do more of that when the price is right.

The United States suffers from obvious deficiencies in roads, rails, water systems and more; meanwhile, the federal government can borrow at historically low interest rates. So this is a very good time to be borrowing and investing in the future, and a very bad time for what has actually happened: an unprecedented decline in public construction spending adjusted for population growth and inflation.

Beyond that, those very low interest rates are telling us something about what markets want. I’ve already mentioned that having at least some government debt outstanding helps the economy function better. How so? The answer, according to M.I.T.’s Ricardo Caballero and others, is that the debt of stable, reliable governments provides “safe assets” that help investors manage risks, make transactions easier and avoid a destructive scramble for cash.

If Vance’s top priority were tackling America’s infrastructure deficit, as opposed to fiscal deficits, he’d be one of the most intriguing Republican candidates this state and country have seen in recent times.

Sadly, he appears to be just another Pete Peterson acolyte, singing the same tired Fix the Debt tune that has been sung by Beltway insiders for years.

Vance’s claim that Social Security and Medicare will be insolvent in “less than twenty years” is completely, utterly, totally wrong. Social Security and Medicare are well-run vital public services that Americans rely on every day. The danger they face is not insolvency, but intentional dismantling at the hands of Republicans like Vance.

In their excellent book Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All, authors Nancy Altman and Eric Kingson extensively debunk the myth that Social Security and Medicare will soon be insolvent. Their analysis is well worth reading. They write:

CHARGE: Spending on entitlements — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — is by far the major cause of federal deficits and debt. Left unchecked, this spending will bankrupt the nation.

TRUTH: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are very different programs, with different structures and purposes. Lumping them together confuses clear analysis.

Moreover, as discussed in chapter 9, “entitlement” sounds to typical Americans like a government handout. Social Security and Medicare are earned through hard work, deductions from pay, and premiums. Medicaid ensures that the very sick and poorest among us can obtain medical care, sometimes lifesaving medical care.

When one treats these three programs as distinct, several points become clear. First, Social Security does not add a penny to the public debt. By law, it cannot pay benefits without sufficient income to cover the costs, and it has no borrowing authority.

Moreover, the drivers of our current, short-term budget deficits were two wars fought on a credit card, tax cuts for the wealthy, the Great Recession, and the spending required to bail out the banks that crashed the economy [the Troubled Asset Relief Program] and begin to restore the economy more generally.

In the long term, our projected deficits are caused by unsustainable health care costs, private as well as public. In chapter 8, figure 8.1 shows that Social Security’s costs are essentially a flat line, at around 6 percent of GDP. In contrast, figure 10.1, produced in 2007 by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, illustrates that, if healthcare costs — private and public — were to continue to rise as they did from 1975 through 2005, these costs would consume a whopping 99 percent of GDP in seventy-five years.

Obviously, not even a country as wealthy as ours can spend 99 percent of its GDP on healthcare. Figure 10.2 uses more recent data, including a recent slowdown in healthcare costs and the projected impact of the Affordable Care Act. It also projects out just a few years.

Still, the trend is the same. What figures 10.1 and 10.2 reveal is that the rising costs of Medicare and Medicaid are symptoms of our inefficient and overly expensive healthcare system, not causes. Indeed, Medicare’s per capita administrative costs are lower than those in the private sector — around 2 percent of program expenditures versus 11 to 17 percent in private plans —  despite covering seniors and people with disabilities, groups that, on average, need more medical care.

Even more striking, Medicaid, which has the complicated administrative burden of means-testing those it covers, also has much lower administrative costs than private insurance — just 4.52 percent in 2012.

If the United States had the same per capita healthcare cost as any other industrialized country, our nation would project long-term federal budget surpluses for the next seventy-five years and beyond.

(The highly respected Center for Economic Policy Research has an online calculator that allows you to pick any of those other countries and see the effect on the U.S. budget.)

Nancy and Eric are spot on. What we need are not more candidates like Vance, but real champions who will protect and expand Social Security, as well as Medicare.

By expanding Medicare (America needs Medicare For All!), we could arrest the aforementioned skyrocketing healthcare costs and cover everybody under one system. Our vision as progressives is a family doctor for every American family. Healthcare shouldn’t have to be affordable, it should just be available, period.

A decade ago, Patty Murray stood up against George W. Bush’s attempts to privatize and destroy Social Security (as did many other Democrats). At the time, she had just been reelected to her third term in the Senate, easily defeating Congressman George Nethercutt, who had beaten Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley in Washington’s 5th Congressional District ten years prior.

During the campaign the preceding year, she went all around the state giving a stump speech decrying the policies of the Bush administration. Murray would describe and denounce an action taken by the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress, and then emphatically declare, “They’ve got the wrong priorities!” It was a very compelling speech that reliably and repeatedly brought Democratic audiences to their feet. I can picture Murray giving it to this day.

Like the Republicans of the Bush error, Chris Vance has the wrong priorities. That’s why I don’t foresee him doing very well against Patty Murray in 2016. There’s a reason Patty has won four consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate representing Washington: she has a strong connection with the people of our great state. She’s been a dependable leader and is unquestionably a formidable candidate.

Republicans underestimate Patty Murray at their peril.

Why I decline to sign I-732

As I was walking into my neighborhood Fred Meyer store here in Seattle a few weeks ago, I encountered a young woman with a clipboard. She asked me if I wanted to sign the petition for Initiative 732, sponsored by Carbon Washington.

I refused.

It’s not that I’m opposed to raising revenue by putting a price on pollution and carbon emissions. Far from it. In 2010 I helped defeat a ballot initiative backed by the oil companies that would have repealed California’s landmark law to combat global warming, including the state’s pioneering cap-and-trade system.

I’ve worked to support various clean energy projects both as an activist and as a staffer for an elected official as well.

That experience, combined with the flaws of I-732, suggests to me that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the wrong way to solve the climate crisis.

Here are some of the reasons why I won’t sign I-732.

It’s revenue-neutral

One of the supposed selling points for I-732 is that it is revenue-neutral, meaning that it won’t bring in any money for the State of Washington.

Supposedly, this approach will be appealing to conservatives, because the new tax won’t result in any additional funding for public services.

Why any progressive or environmentalist would think this is somehow a good thing is beyond me. Our state badly needs more revenue to fund the essentials of a 21st century society. We need more money for schools, human services, and for sustainable infrastructure. Revenue neutrality is one of the last things this state needs. Why on earth would we pass up an opportunity to invest in our future?

As we’ll see below, revenue neutrality is also not very convincing to conservatives. But regardless of how the electorate perceives a revenue-neutral proposal, such an idea is not going to help us produce the reductions in carbon dioxide we need.

You often hear that “we have to put a price on carbon dioxide” if we’re going to cut emissions. That’s a necessary step, but it’s not sufficient. Our carbon dioxide emissions aren’t the product of a free market. They’re the product of seventy years of failure to invest in renewable energy infrastructure.

Simply making it more expensive to pollute will not, in and of itself, magically lead to building infrastructure we need to allow people to live more sustainably.

Don’t take my word for it. A recent article in Nature points out that any system to price pollution on its own isn’t sufficient to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other polluting gases. We need more renewable energy, and that is going to require subsidies and other steps to promote the construction of new renewable energy projects. California’s cap-and-trade system is providing that funding. I-732 won’t, because it’s revenue-neutral.

California’s cap-and-trade system is generating at least $2 billion a year that is being plowed into sustainable infrastructure projects, from solar panels to high speed rail. British Columbia’s revenue-neutral carbon tax, however, provides no such funds.

The Vancouver B.C. metro area was recently forced to ask voters to raise local taxes to provide a badly needed expansion of the region’s rail network. That measure failed, and it’s unclear where the money will come from to pay for a transit expansion that is essential to providing major, long-term pollution reductions. Eventually, B.C. will have picked all the low-hanging fruit of carbon emission reductions. They’ll need significant new infrastructure to go further, but there’s no way to pay for it.

Revenue neutrality is unjust

The basic concept behind I-732 is that if you raise the costs of polluting high enough, the market will somehow magically decide to start building alternatives to infrastructure that relies on burning carbon. The problem with this approach should be obvious: what happens to people in the meantime? What if the market takes its sweet time to build the green infrastructure we need? As much as we want to see a price on pollution, that price should also be economically just.

I-732’s details also suggest that low-income Washingtonians and people of color will be left out of the process and excluded from most of the benefits. That’s the argument that Tony Lee and Carolina Gutierrez made earlier this summer in calling for a more equitable policy than I-732:

As a “revenue neutral” proposal, Initiative 732 (which is collecting signatures) aims to disturb the status quo as little as possible. It redirects most of the revenue generated by its carbon tax as rebates to rich and poor alike, without investing in pollution reduction nor community benefit…

True climate justice looks like transit serving affordable housing, clean energy in low-income neighborhoods, healthy food systems and good locally rooted jobs. It takes an equitable policy, and at a time of great need, that means investments targeted for communities of color and people of lower incomes.

Climate advocates and movements fighting for justice are aligned, but our proven solutions are being held hostage to the fossil fuel industry. Achieving equitable policy requires mobilizing those most impacted by climate change.

Tony and Carolina are absolutely right. Progressives should listen to these voices, rather than chase conservative voters who aren’t likely to vote for I-732 anyway.

Conservatives won’t support it

Despite the many problems of revenue neutrality, backers of I-732 claim that their carbon tax has to be revenue neutral to earn support from conservative voters.

This is a badly misguided view of how right-wing voters think and act. Conservatives aren’t just opposed to spending money to provide essential public services. They’re also opposed to raising additional revenue, period. They vehemently oppose any new tax, or any increase of an existing tax, for any reason. They won’t care that I-732 lowers other taxes, because they believe those other taxes should be cut anyway, and not as part of some political deal benefiting liberals.

David Roberts at Vox recently explained why dreams of a bipartisan coalition for a carbon tax are wrong:

I see this kind of political naiveté among carbon tax supporters quite a bit. A revenue-neutral tax is “politically moot” only if you envision politics as a kind of ideological grid, with certain sweet spots where all of both sides’ criteria are met. It makes sense that every politician “should” support any policy in those sweet spots.

It ignores the fact that the GOP is not a policy checklist but a highly activated, ideological demographic that views Democrats as engaged in a project to fundamentally reshape America along European socialist lines. A coalition that will trust Democratic promises of revenue neutrality about as far as it can throw them. A coalition of which virtually every member has signed a pledge never to support any new tax, ever. (Ezra Klein once asked Grover Norquist about a revenue-neutral carbon tax, actually. Norquist warned that “a Republican Party which creates a new tax would not be long for the world.”)

And it’s a coalition that draws substantial support from companies involved in fossil fuels and suburban sprawl — though, side note: Big oil is less likely to oppose a carbon tax than big coal.

We’ll come back to that final point in a moment.

But the larger point is crucial: conservatives are unlikely to vote for any kind of system to price carbon or other forms of pollution. So why design that system around the desires of people who will never support it in the first place?

Keep in mind that British Columbia’s conservative government, which touts the province’s carbon tax, has not allowed it to keep up with inflation. (As a consequence, B.C.’s emissions have been going up, not down, as the B.C. Sierra Club has pointed out.) Neither has the United Kingdom’s conservative government.

And one of the very first things that Australia’s current conservative government did upon winning power in 2013 was repeal that country’s pollution tax.

I-732 began as a conservative idea

The lack of right-wing support for a carbon tax is particularly ironic given that I-732 was first dreamt up by the Washington Policy Center, a right-wing think tank that has received funding from the State Policy Network, itself funded by the Koch brothers.

In May of 2008, Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center made the case for a carbon tax. In doing so, he explicitly attacked the idea of using government to cut pollution and carbon emissions, and proposed a carbon tax in order to undermine government:

The [cap-and-trade] plan relies on forcing families to make significant lifestyle changes and subsidizes technologies that many are already questioning… The problem with such an approach is that it relies on the supposed ability of government officials to make wise decisions about a number of industries, keep up with the rapid pace of economic development, understand the complex exchanges that occur in the economy, and anticipate the unintended consequences of the decisions of millions of people in Washington.

This is some deeply right-wing stuff: attacking green technology, claiming that efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are “forcing lifestyle changes,” and claiming that government cannot meaningfully help solve the issue – even though California’s cap-and-trade system is working very well.

Although the Washington Policy Center has not endorsed I-732, Todd Myers is on Carbon Washington’s advisory board (in fairness, so are some very progressive people). I-732 still reflects the Washington Policy Center’s basic approach as laid out in 2008: create a carbon tax, cut sales taxes, and keep government out of the process in part by denying our state the revenue it needs to build sustainable, carbon-free infrastructure. There’s no reason why progressives should support a proposal championed by conservatives, especially one this flawed.

I-732 is doomed if it ever gets to the ballot

Given all of the above, it should be no surprise that polls indicate that just 39% of voters support I-732 when read the ballot title.

If I-732 makes it to the ballot, it’s going to go down in flames. That’s not going to help the cause of addressing the climate crisis. There’s a better way.

Cap-and-trade is a better alternative

A cap-and-trade system, like the one proposed by Governor Jay Inslee or the one in operation in California, is a far better solution. California’s cap-and-trade system has been in operation for nearly five years. In that time it’s raised billions of dollars that is helping the state provide green infrastructure that will help people, especially those with low incomes, afford to live a sustainable lifestyle.

Here’s just some of the things that California’s cap-and-trade system has funded:

  • High speed rail
  • Clean vehicle rebates
  • New trains and stations for local rail lines
  • Weatherization for low-income homes
  • Rooftop solar power for low-income homes
  • Electric buses
  • Affordable housing

It also has more public support. 61% of California voters rejected the effort to repeal the state’s cap-and-trade initiative. That came at the 2010 election, which was not nearly as favorable for progressive causes as a presidential year will be.

Cap-and-trade is vehemently opposed by the oil industry, which tried in vain to get fuels exempted from the system in California. They claimed that applying cap-and-trade to fuels would cause gas prices to soar.

They were wrong — gas prices were barely impacted.

The oil industry’s main concern is that cap-and-trade creates new revenue that states can use to build infrastructure that allows people to buy less oil. A carbon tax does no such thing. Because it doesn’t pay for new infrastructure, the oil industry sees it as less of a threat to their customer base.

Let’s support cap-and-trade instead

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (of which the Northwest Progressive Institute is a member) is currently working on the details of a cap-and-trade initiative.

This summer, they said they would:

… explore possible climate ballot measures with the goal to file and qualify an initiative to the people in 2016. Our priority is to develop a policy that is effective, viable and representative of the diverse breadth of our coalition.

Unfortunately, they’re moving too slowly. While the Alliance debates the exact details of the proposal they plan to put on the ballot, CarbonWA has been busy building a grassroots movement to support I-732. The Alliance hasn’t done that kind of work yet, partly because they don’t have a specific proposal to organize around.

They’ve brought together organizational leaders, but that’s not the same as going out and recruiting rank and file activists and progressives to join a movement to support a specific proposal. CarbonWA is already doing that, earning the loyalty of people who should be supporting cap-and-trade instead but see I-732 as the only pollution pricing game in town.

By the time the Alliance finally decides what they want to put on the ballot, they may find it’s too late – the activist base may already have sided with I-732.

Even if the Alliance is behind the curve, they still have a chance to gain public support. It’s clear that I-732 still isn’t winning over the electorate – even in Seattle. As I was walking out of the store, I noticed that most other customers weren’t stopping to sign the initiative either. No wonder CarbonWA is now paying signature gatherers to try and get onto the ballot.

We desperately need to do more in Washington State to reduce pollution and carbon emissions, particularly by building green infrastructure. I-732 won’t make that happen. I declined to sign it, and I hope others will make the same choice.

State attorneys go after Tim Eyman’s bank records to help PDC finish I-517 investigation

Late Thursday night, just a few hours before the Washington State Supreme Court released its order allowing Initiative 1366 to proceed to the November 2015 ballot, The Herald of Everett published a remarkable story breaking the news that state authorities are finally, finally taking action to complete the stalled investigation into Tim Eyman’s campaign to qualify Initiative 517 from 2012.

I-517, Cascadia Advocate readers may recall, was Eyman’s “initiative on initiatives”. Eyman and his associates ran the signature drive for I-517 three years ago in stealth mode (meaning they didn’t promote the initiative to the press, or even clue in Eyman’s own followers). At the time the drive began, Eyman was also trying to qualify I-1185 (the last of his I-601 clones) to the ballot.

Eyman and his buddies Eddie Agazarm and Roy Ruffino came up with the idea to piggyback I-517 on top of I-1185. Their goal with I-517 was to change state law to make it easier and cheaper for them to qualify initiatives to the ballot in the future, so that their shared business could become more profitable.

Petitioners who had been hired to collect signatures for I-1185 (a measure unconstitutionally requiring a two-thirds vote to raise revenue) were instructed to also collect signatures for I-517… without being provided compensation. Petitioners who balked at this arrangement were told to comply, or else be fired.

We know this because we talked to petitioners who worked on the campaign. We also have copies of Agazarm’s correspondence with petitioners and petition crew chiefs. In one of these messages, dated April 18th, 2012, Agazarm tried to justify the policy of requiring petitioners to collect signatures for I-517 without compensation by telling his crew chiefs the following:

Somebody said that they’d have to be asking their people to work I-517 for free. That is definitely not the case as ALL petitioners and ALL managers will get paid very handsomely once I-517 passes. Think of the extra money we ALL make when we can work big turf ALL the time. Think of the money we can ALL make when we have petitioning year round. Think of all the extra petitions we can carry. Oh… we are gonna get paid for sure.

I-517, however, did not pass. We at NPI worked incredibly hard to help organize the coalition that fought I-517. And we were successful: I-517 went down to defeat in a landslide, with 62.71% of Washington voters voting no.

Midway through the I-517 signature drive, veteran activist Sherry Bockwinkel of Tacoma (a signature gathering pro who now runs a lamp repair business) realized that the stealth I-517 signature drive was being run in violation of Washington’s public disclosure laws. On August 20th, 2012, she filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission. It took over six months for the PDC to review the complaint and formally reply, but in the spring of 2013, the PDC finally wrote back and said it would launch an investigation. That investigation continues today.

The PDC has a policy of not saying much about investigations that are active. Staff simply don’t like to comment until they are done with their work.

That’s understandable, but it has been frustrating to watch months and years go by with no indication of progress. The PDC has a very small staff and limited resources, so its ability to promptly and thoroughly investigate complaints is partially dependent on respondents’ willingness to cooperate.

In this case, however, the respondents are Tim Eyman and his associates, who have a history of sloppy, careless reporting and disregard for the law. They’ve been less than forthcoming in response to the PDC’s requests for information. That has led the PDC to ask Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office for help.

And so, more than three years after the filing of Sherry Bockwinkel’s complaint, we are now at the point where state attorneys are filing motions in court in an attempt to find out the truth and compel Eyman’s cooperation. As The Herald reported:

State attorneys went after Tim Eyman’s bank records Thursday as they investigate whether he allegedly helped move money among two initiative campaigns in 2012, earning tens of thousands of dollars in the process.

A motion filed in Snohomish County Superior Court seeks to compel the Mukilteo resident to turn over records to the Public Disclosure Commission.

It’s trying to determine if a series of transactions involving Eyman and a signature-gathering firm violated any election laws.

The PDC has been seeking the records since December 2013. Eyman has been ordered to appear in court Sept. 22 to respond.

Eyman declined to comment Thursday, but he previously testified under oath that he did nothing wrong.

The Seattle Times reported yesterday evening that a similar motion has also been filed by the state in Thurston County Superior Court.

Eyman is represented by Bothell attorney Mark Lamb, who has been speaking to the mass media on Eyman’s behalf regarding the investigation (first to The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield, and then to The Seattle Times’ Joseph O’Sullivan).

There’s only one Mark Lamb registered to vote in Bothell, so we presume it’s the same Mark Lamb who serves on the Bothell City Council and got into trouble himself — coincidentally the same year Bockwinkel’s complaint was filed.

(Lamb’s trouble stemmed from a multi-year extramarital affair he had with an employee of his North Creek law firm, Micaela Mae, who wound up suing him in Snohomish County Superior Court for lost wages.)

Lamb claims that Eyman has been cooperative, but we don’t believe that. If Eyman has truly been cooperative, why is the investigation still open after two and a half years? Why is the Attorney General’s office filing motions in court on the Public Disclosure Commission’s behalf seeking his compliance? It doesn’t add up.

Eyman has refused to comment about the case himself, though he did earlier give a deposition in which he claimed to have done nothing wrong. Of course, Eyman has a penchant for fibbing, lying, distorting, and fabricating, so we’re not inclined to believe anything he says, regardless of whether he was under oath or not.

Here is what we think happened back in 2012, based on the evidence that we have, and the new pieces of information revealed by the state’s recent court filings:

  • During the first half of 2012, Tim Eyman persuaded Don Brunell and the Association of Washington Business (AWB, the state’s chamber of commerce) to once again act as his campaign bundler and supply him with money so he could qualify another I-601 clone to the Washington State ballot. They did.
  • Eyman deliberately requested or insisted on receiving far more money than he actually needed, figuring that the business community would simply pony up whatever he said was the minimum amount required, allowing him to handsomely profit. In the end, $1,173,324.99 was expensed for signature gathering. Less than half of that money was actually used to pay petitioners.
  • At the same time that they was attempting to qualify I-1185, Eyman, Agazarm, and Ruffino conspired to quietly launch a second signature drive for a second initiative, I-517, that they hoped would make it easier and cheaper for them to qualify initiatives to the statewide ballot going forward.
  • The trio deliberately kept AWB and I-1185’s other contributors in the dark about this second signature drive, neglecting to mention that they were piggybacking I-517 on top of I-1185.
  • At first they tried to get their petitioners to collect I-517 signatures in addition to I-1185 signatures without being compensated. Petitioners who balked were told they’d be fired if they didn’t comply. Eventually, the trio decided to stop paying a dollar for an I-1185 signature and start paying seventy-five cents for an I-1185 signature and twenty-five cents for an I-517 signature.
  • After the I-1185 drive ended, the trio needed resources to keep it going. So they plowed a fraction of the significant profits they had made from the signature drive into the I-517 drive through an intermediary: Paul Jacobs’ Citizens in Charge outfit, based out of Virginia. Citizens in Charge then turned around and gave the money back to help qualify I-517.

It seems Eyman arranged to transfer money to Citizens in Charge so he and Agazarm could mask the source of the funds. They wanted it to appear as though they were getting help externally for I-517, when in reality, they were simply using a portion of the surplus money from the I-1185 effort.

We have long suspected that Eyman receives kickbacks from his buddies at Citizen Solutions. And now we know it’s true. From The Herald’s reporting:

In July 2012, [Citizen Solutions] paid $308,000 to Eyman through a corporation he set up, Watchdog for Taxpayers.

That same month Eyman loaned $190,000 to Citizens in Charge, a Virginia organization that supports initiatives around the country. The group wound up underwriting the entire cost of gathering signatures for I-517.

Neither the payment nor the loan was reported to the Public Disclosure Commission, according to court documents.

Eyman told PDC investigators in a July 2014 deposition that Citizen Solutions was paying him to help find new clients for the firm in the future.

And he said he loaned the money to Citizens in Charge because he wanted to help the Virginia organization achieve its goals. He said he didn’t know the leader of the group, Paul Jacob, intended to use the money to support I-517.

“My LLC loaned Citizens in Charge money and what they did with that money afterwards I didn’t have any control over that,” he said in his deposition.

Uh huh. What a tangled, dark money web this is…

So, just to reiterate, this is how the racket works:

  1. Tim Eyman cooks up a scheme for an initiative and pitches that scheme to any rich right wing donors or prospective wealthy benefactors that he can find.
  2. His written pitch, or prospectus (see an example of one here), contains a dollar amount that Eyman claims is the minimum amount of money required to get the initiative on the ballot. In reality, this is just an invented number.
  3. Returning or potential new benefactors make the mistake of trusting Eyman and assuming he’s an expert at qualifying initiatives, because he’s qualified so many. They’re not aware of the true economics of signature gathering.
  4. Eyman secures pledges and collects the money required to seed the signature drive. He transfers the money from his political action committee, or PAC, to Citizen Solutions, in the form of several large payments.
  5. Citizen Solutions sets aside enough money to pay petitioners and petition crew chiefs for their labor. (It is worth noting that Citizen Solutions treats its laborers like independent contractors, and does not bother to comply with Washington’s worker protection laws, as it ought to.)
  6. The remainder of the money expensed for the signature drive is pocketed by Ruffino, Agazarm, and Eyman as profit, with Eyman getting his cut in the form of a kickback, apparently paid out to a dummy corporation.

We saw this racket in action again this year as Eyman qualified I-1366, just as we saw it in action in 2012 when Eyman qualified I-1185 and I-517.

We know what the true costs of Eyman’s signature drives are because we’ve taken the trouble to familiarize ourselves with the ways of the signature gathering industry.

We can estimate what the true costs of an Eyman signature drive are by finding out how much the signature gatherers are being paid (it’s always per signature) and then multiplying that by the amount of signatures the Secretary of State counts on Eyman’s submitted petitions. Then we factor in what the crew chiefs were paid. This is known in the industry as the override. Once we’ve calculated those figures, we’ve accounted for the vast majority of the drive’s actual costs.

We subtract the actual costs from what was expensed to Citizen Solutions by Eyman’s PAC (documented in PDC reports), and then we have a pretty good idea of what was left over and pocketed by Eyman & Co. as profit.

In 2012, Eyman used some of his signature drive profits to “loan” his friend Paul Jacob money… money that Jacob turned around and promptly contributed to the I-517 campaign. As mentioned in the above excerpt from Jerry Cornfield’s report, Eyman claims he didn’t know Jacob was going to turn around and use the money he gave him to help qualify I-517. We don’t believe that for a second.

We do believe, however, that a full forensic audit of Eyman’s books and bank records would reveal the extent to which he has profited from his initiative factory, broken the law, and duped his own followers along the way.

The evidence we have suggests that Eyman and his associates committed serious violations of Washington’s public disclosure law in the process of qualifying I-517. For that, they should be severely punished, especially considering that Eyman is a repeat offender who has broken the law before. We hope that the involvement of the Attorney General’s office will help PDC staff bring this case to a final conclusion. We’ll be keeping a close eye on it, and will let readers know what happens next.

Washington’s Supreme Court strikes down I-1240 (charter schools) in its entirety

Once again, the Washington State Supreme Court has ridden to the rescue of Washington’s beleaguered public schools system.

In a monumentally important 6-3 decision released late this afternoon, the Court struck down Initiative 1240, a charter schools measure voters narrowly passed in 2012, as unconstitutional in its entirety. The decision means that Washington’s experiment with charter schools is essentially over, as the law that allowed the schools to be set up is now completely unenforceable.

Six justices (Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens, Charlie Wiggins, Mary Yu) signed the majority opinion. Three justices (Mary Fairhurst, Steven González, Sheryl Gordon McCloud) dissented in part.

A King County Superior Court judge had previously invalidated one provision of the initiative, but upheld the remaining provisions. A majority of the Supreme Court has now reversed that decision, resulting in I-1240’s total demise.

The Court reasoned:

Our constitution directs the legislature to establish and fund common schools and restricts the legislature’s power to divert funds committed to common schools for other purposes even if related to education… The Charter School Act’s diversion of basic education funds allocated to the support of the common schools and common school construction funds is unconstitutional and void.

And contrary to what the Superior Court ruled, I-1240’s provisions aren’t severable:

The Act identifies charter schools as common schools and is expressly reliant on common school funding to support such charter schools. That a funding source is required for the existence of charter schools is self-evident. As discussed above, the Act specifically intends to use common school funding allocations as that source. Without a valid funding source the charter schools envisioned in 1-1240 are not viable. Moreover, I-1240’s voters’ pamphlet stressed that the funding for charter schools will come from existing funding sources in the form of a “shift [in] revenues” from “local public school districts to charter schools.” In sum, without funding, charter schools are not viable. Nor can it be believed that voters would have approved the Charter School Act without its funding mechanism.

In conclusion:

The portions of 1-1240 designating charter schools as common schools violate article IX, section 2 of the Washington Constitution and are invalid. For the same reason, the portions of 1-1240 providing access to restricted common school funding are also invalid. These provisions are not severable and render the entire Act unconstitutional. We affirm in part and reverse in part and remand for an appropriate order.

This is a huge victory for public education that is worth celebrating. We congratulate our friends at the League of Women Voters of Washington, the Washington Education Association, El Centro de la Raza, and the Washington Association of School Administrators for having prevailed in this landmark case.

We extend our thanks to Paul Lawrence and Pacifica Law Group for their fine representation of the plaintiffs as well.

I-1240 was backed by Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Alice Walton (a Wal-Mart heiress), Nick Hanauer, Connie Ballmer, and several other incredibly wealthy individuals, who collectively gave $11 million to fund a slick, aggressive campaign to persuade a slim majority of voters to experiment with charter schools.

Progressives raised less than $1 million to wage an opposition campaign, with most of that money coming in late (in October, just as ballots were being mailed). Despite the resource disparity, the vote was very close. After the initiative went into affect, the aforementioned plaintiffs sued to have it invalidated.

Prior to I-1240’s passage, Washingtonians had decisively voted three times to reject charter schools, with the last vote having taken place in 2004.

“The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along – charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding,” said Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association, in a statement lauding the decision.

“Instead of diverting taxpayer dollars to unaccountable charter schools, it’s time for the Legislature to fully fund K-12 public schools so that all of Washington’s children get the quality education the Constitution guarantees them,” she added.

What will happen to the state’s nine charter schools (eight of which just opened only recently) is unclear but presumably, they’ll have no choice but to become private schools. The Legislature is out of session and not likely to reconvene until January, so it will not be able to bail out the charter school operators.

Even when it does reconvene, House Democrats and Governor Jay Inslee are unlikely to be interested in reinstating the charter schools experiment, which siphons public funds away from the state’s public schools. I-1240’s backers had tried to characterize the charter schools authorized by their initiative as common schools, thinking that this would ensure I-1240 would pass constitutional muster.

The Supreme Court didn’t buy it, ruling:

[B]ecause charter schools under 1-1240 are run by an appointed board or nonprofit organization and thus are not subject to local voter control, they cannot qualify as “common schools” within the meaning of Article IX.

The Court relied on its holding in School District No. 20 v. Bryan, a case dating back to 1909. In that case, the Supreme Court defined common schools as follows:

[A] common school, within the meaning of our Constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.

Emphasis is ours.

Nothing in the Washington State Constitution prohibits the establishment of private schools, so the schools that have been set up under I-1240 don’t necessarily have to shut down. But as a result of this decision, they will no longer be able to siphon money away from the state’s publicly administered common schools.

They will need to find private sources of funding.

Maybe they can get it from the wealthy individuals who financed I-1240. Those folks certainly have the money to support the operation of a few distinguished private schools. If they were willing to open their checkbooks for a campaign, surely they’ll do so again now to help these charter schools flourish as private schools.

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