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.

Today is General Election Day 2017. Haven’t voted yet? It’s time to get that ballot in!

Today is General Election Day in Washington State and in many states across the United States, particularly New Jersey and Virginia. Much is at stake.

Voters in the aforementioned East Coast states will be electing governors and state legislators, while in Washington State, five special elections will determine who controls the State Senate through the end of 2018.

Most of Washington’s cities and ports are holding their regularly scheduled elections. Some of Washington’s home rule counties, like King, Snohomish, and Whatcom, are also holding their regularly scheduled elections.

(A home rule county is a county that has adopted a charter to govern itself. Home rule counties operate differently than code counties, which have no charter.)

In Oregon, there are no candidates on today’s ballot, but there are a few jurisdictions with ballot measures, including these in Multnomah County.

Have you voted yet? If you have, congratulations on fulfilling your civic duty. Haven’t voted yet? It’s time to get that ballot in! You’ve only got a few hours left before time runs out to participate. There’s no excuse for not voting.

You should have received your ballot in the mail a few weeks ago from the county you reside in. If you did not receive a ballot, or if you have misplaced your ballot, you should call your county auditor or elections office to obtain a provisional ballot.

Don’t forget to sign your ballot before putting it in a drop box or the mail. Washingtonians, locate the nearest drop box to you by going here.

If you live in Oregon, don’t take your ballot to a post office, as it’s too late to mail it. Find a drop box instead, and take your ballot there.

Not sure who to vote for? If you belong to or prefer a particular political party, you may want to consult their list of endorsements.

There’s also the Progressive Voters Guide maintained by Fuse Washington.

NPI has taken positions on the following statewide ballot measures in Washington (we do not endorse candidates for office).


We also urge you to vote YES on your local levies, to support essential public services like fire and rescue (unless you’ve got a very good reason not to).

But above all…. VOTE! Then go make sure your family and friends have voted.

Burien City Council candidate Jimmy Matta reflects back on an ugly campaign season

This past election season has been like none that Burien City Council candidate Jimmy Matta has ever seen before. Speaking to NPI in the final hours before Election Day, Matta reflected on the ugliness that the community has endured in this autumn’s city council races, which have put Burien in the regional spotlight.

A series of incidents involving racially motivated attacks, a Facebook group called “Take Back Burien” that has become a platform for extremist rants, and the enabling actions of incumbent councilmembers (like Matta’s opponent Debi Wagner) were discussed in a September 6th article in The Stranger by Sydney Brownstone, which described the situation as “a microcosm of national politics”.

Two of Matta’s own family members have been victims of assault and harassment in the last month alone. Still, he remains convinced that the loudest voices capturing local headlines do not represent the majority in his hometown.

He is even able to find a silver lining in all of the ugliness, noting that the negative attention has drawn in a strong, fired-up volunteer force that understands the importance of shifting the power on Burien’s city council.

Jimmy Matta speaks at the 2017 M.L. King County Labor Day Picnic

Burien City Council candidate Jimmy Matta speaks at the 2017 M.L. King County Labor Day Picnic (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Matta could also become the city’s first ever Latino councilmember. If he wins, it would be a strong repudiation by the voters of the against the hateful rhetoric that has plagued City Hall in recent months.

Matta likes to lead by example, and says one reason he is running for city council is to plant the seed of participation in young people and others who may feel excluded by the political process. He has been involved in community organizations and a leader in his union since the beginning of his career. His children are already following in his footsteps.

His son was recently named a union delegate, and his daughter having become a student senator at Highline’s Aviation High School.

Voters have also been open to having candid conversations with him, he says, describing himself as a community-minded candidate. One memorable doorbelling experience he had this campaign began with distrustful and prejudice remarks but ended with tears, a hug, and a statement of support from the voter.

Matta hopes to help continue these conversations after taking office. He plans to work with the King County Sheriff’s Office (which contracts with the City of Burien for policing services) to participate in more open, community forums between deputies and citizens. He believes this greater investment in the community will establish more trust, respect, and understanding on both sides.

Who turns out to vote in this election will determine whether Burien is governed by by a reactionary, right wing gang or by a progressive majority.

Remember to return your ballots to a drop box by tomorrow (Tuesday, November 7th) or to a post office by the last outgoing mail collection time.

Will Washington State once again set a new record for low general voter turnout in 2017?

Tomorrow — Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 — is General Election Day across Washington State. Although there are no statewide positions at stake or even statewide initiatives on the ballot this year, five legislative districts are holding special elections — the outcome of which will determine who controls the Senate in 2018.

At the same time, thousands of local governments across Washington State (most cities and some counties, plus ports, and special districts) are holding their regular elections. Most jurisdictions have several legislative positions to fill, but some have executive and/or judicial positions as well, including the state’s largest cities (Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett all have open mayoral positions).

Sadly, voter turnout remains extremely low as of this morning, with just thirty hours to go before the deadline arrives to return ballots. Only 16.8% of registered voters had returned their ballots as of this morning’s 8 AM report.

Alarmingly, Washington State appears to be on course to set a new low record for voter turnout in a general election, erasing the dubious distinction set in November 2015 during the last local election year.

Two years ago, the morning before Election Day, the Secretary of State reported that 17.2% of registered voters had returned ballots. That’s a couple of ticks higher than the turnout authorities are currently reporting for 2017. And that 2015 election became the record setter for the worst turnout in the recorded electoral history of Washington State, with only 38.45% of registered voters participating.

It would appear we are on pace to do even worse this year… unless we act quickly.

What can we do? Everyone reading this post has an obligation to do our part to boost voter turnout. That means going above and beyond voting ourselves. It means checking up on friends and family and asking them to do their civic duty.

We are blessed to live in a democratic republic where we get to choose our leaders as opposed to an authoritarian regime where we have no voice and no vote in our governance. Voting is an important obligation of citizenship.

There are no acceptable excuses for not voting, especially not when three weeks are provided to fill out and return ballots, which is the case here in Washington.

So please: Talk to your colleagues, family, and friends about tomorrow’s election. Ask them if they’ve voted. If they have, thank them.

And if they haven’t, offer to help them make a plan for voting. Research shows that people are more likely to vote when they make a plan to vote.

Here’s the complete set of figures for turnout in 2015 versus 2017.

2015 turnout as of 9:45 AM the Monday before Election Day (11/02/2015)

STATE TOTAL3,966,277  680,324 17.2%
ADAMS6,180 1,28920.9%
ASOTIN13,323 3,72327.9%
BENTON99,328 16,16416.3%
CHELAN40,567 9,26822.8%
CLALLAM47,374 9,31219.7%
CLARK251,348 48,33319.2%
COLUMBIA2,621 87233.3%
COWLITZ59,411 9,38415.8%
DOUGLAS19,595 4,00720.4%
FERRY4,567 1,16025.4%
FRANKLIN30,460 3,91512.9%
GARFIELD1,540 46530.2%
GRANT36,592 8,17322.3%
GRAYS HARBOR38,621 9,41624.4%
ISLAND50,338 12,04323.9%
JEFFERSON22,949 6,98930.5%
KING1,193,711 181,28415.2%
KITSAP153,824 29,69619.3%
KITTITAS22,192 4,40019.8%
KLICKITAT13,307 2,23316.8%
LEWIS43,703 10,89324.9%
LINCOLN6,865 2,31933.8%
MASON35,711 8,82124.7%
OKANOGAN21,434 5,21424.3%
PACIFIC13,504 4,71934.9%
PEND OREILLE8,414 2,38528.3%
PIERCE449,340 63,21014.1%
SAN JUAN12,151 3,77331.1%
SKAGIT69,069 13,11419.0%
SKAMANIA7,094 1,27217.9%
SNOHOMISH421,389 53,69812.7%
SPOKANE285,258 57,89920.3%
STEVENS29,046 2,3017.9%
THURSTON163,893 26,43016.1%
WAHKIAKUM2,964 76425.8%
WALLA WALLA32,176 7,99924.9%
WHATCOM128,345 27,82521.7%
WHITMAN20,353 4,23720.8%
YAKIMA107,720 21,32519.8%
STATE TOTAL3,966,277  680,324 17.2%

2017 turnout as of 8 AM today (11/06/2017)

County# of VotersReturnedPercentage
STATE TOTAL4,267,160717,25316.8%
GRAYS HARBOR41,1548,79121.4%
PEND OREILLE8,8282,39327.1%
SAN JUAN12,9023,49327.1%
WALLA WALLA33,5186,89720.6%
STATE TOTAL4,267,160717,25316.8%

Stadium opponent Tim Eyman goes to Texans-Seahawks game, brags about his great seats

Yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans played a topsy-turvy, thrilling bout of gridiron at CenturyLink Field, with the Seahawks ultimately prevailing 41-38 after coming from behind to overtake the Texans in the final seconds. The game is likely to go down in Seahawks lore as one of the team’s most memorable victories, and will surely be remembered for a long time by the fans who witnessed it — including everybody’s favorite disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman.

Turns out that Eyman was able to score some really, really good seats to yesterday’s game for himself and his eldest son, and he felt like telling everybody.

So this morning, he sent out an email blast boasting of his good fortune.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Me and my oldest son Jackson got front row seats in the end zone of CenturyLink field to watch — up close and personal — yesterday’s amazing Seahawks game against Texas (thanks to some very generous friends).

When the two of us appeared on TV screens across the nation, I got tons of text message pics of the two of us from friends and family far and wide.

Tim Eyman, thrilled to be on national TV

But as a co-sponsor of our $30 Tabs Initiative, I realized afterward that I was derelict in my duties — I shoulda wore one of my uber-orange $30 Tabs t-shirts to the game. As it turned out, I coulda gotten our $30 Tabs Initiative promoted on national TV!


We could not have been closer to the action — here we are on the south end of the field before the game started.

Tim Eyman at CenturyLink Field

Here’s Jackson petting Taima, the Seahawk’s [sic] hawk.

And I had the great honor and privilege of getting a picture with iconic Seahawks superfan Lorin “Big Lo” Sandretzky (for the uninitiated).

An amazing day, an amazing game, an amazing experience.

You know, it’s funny… amazing days, amazing games, and amazing experiences are precisely what Seahawks owner Paul Allen had in mind when he proposed building CenturyLink Field with taxpayer dollars back in the 1990s.

Allen, one of Washington’s richest denizens, insisted on the stadium’s construction as a stipulation of his deal to assume ownership of the Seahawks. Allen pledged to keep the team in Seattle, but insisted that he needed public funding to finance a new best-in-class stadium to replace the Kingdome. He offered to pay for the cost of a special election to allow voters to decide the fate of his proposal.

In June of 1997, that election was held. 820,364 votes were cast in favor and 783,584 in opposition, giving Allen the victory he had sought.

Among those in the 1990s who were fighting against public funding for sports stadia was a guy who would in a few years become infamous for his unceasing attacks on Washington’s public services and plan of government… Tim Eyman. In fact, it’s the cause that got Eyman started in politics. Not vehicle fees, not affirmative action. As he says on his website’s “resume” page:

Got started with an initiative to force a public vote on the first sports stadium (I got a “whopping” 100 signatures at Greenlake Park, a few blocks from our previous Seattle home) – initiative qualified and voters said “no” to the sports stadium, but the Legislature said “yes, this sports stadium is a state emergency.” That single, arrogant legislative act was the catalyst that inspired my political activism.

By “the first sports stadium”, Eyman means nearby Safeco Field, where the Seattle Mariners play. Safeco Field is owned by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, and Eyman is among its regular patrons. He opposed building it, but now that it exists, he simply loves going to games there… both with his family and with friends, as you can see from this April 2016 photo.

Tim Eyman at Safeco Field

Tim Eyman at Safeco Field

Eyman says the House and Senate’s “single, arrogant legislative act” was the “catalyst that inspired my political activism”. And although Eyman has a penchant for lying about, well, everything, that statement could be true.

But considering that Eyman really seems to enjoy going to games in Seattle’s publicly owned stadia, he ought to be grateful to everyone who had a role in getting these special places built. Lawmakers serving in the 1990s correctly foresaw that building Safeco Field would provide fans like Eyman the opportunity to happily take in major league sporting events, concerts, and rallies for candidates like Bernie Sanders in a classy, modern, versatile venue well into the twenty-first century.

And not long after that, a majority of voters reasoned that CenturyLink Field would complement Safeco Field as an outstanding venue for gridiron and football (soccer). So both stadiums were built, partly with public dollars.

It’s fine to believe that there are better uses for public dollars than sports stadiums. I hold this view myself. The owners of America’s professional teams are rich. Very rich. They have the means to finance the sporting palaces of their dreams without making demands of taxpayers. Ditto for billionaires who aspire to own a team.

In the 1990s, though, voters and elected leaders were told that if taxpayer dollars weren’t provided to build new stadiums for baseball and gridiron, Seattle could lose its teams. Those weren’t empty threats, either. Ken Behring was ready to move the Seahawks to California before he sold the team. The state was given a choice: put up the money or lose the teams. Was it a false choice? Maybe, but at the time, nobody stepped forward with a credible alternative plan to keep the teams.

Had those Washingtonians who were opposed to building the SoDo stadiums with public money prevailed, it’s very possible that the Mariners and Seahawks might have left town, leaving Seattle mostly bereft of pro sports franchises. There would have been a personal cost, to Tim Eyman, of getting his way: no “amazing” experiences with his son in the stands on days like October 29th, 2017.

The political and economic landscape has changed since the 1990s, and thankfully, here in the Evergreen State, we’re seeing progress on the arena financing front.

A group with substantial means has now stepped forward with an offer to renovate KeyArena exclusively with private dollars — a project the Seattle City Council may sign off on by the end of the year. (KeyArena, like the SoDo stadiums, is publicly owned.) Completion of this project, if it is greenlit, could result in Seattle being awarded new NHL and NBA franchises down the road.

And that would be an exciting development for our region. Just as the construction of our two SoDo stadia were back at the turn of the century.

To paraphrase the ghostly voice from Field of Dreams, one of the best baseball themed movies ever made: if you build it, they will come.  That mantra partly sums up the philosophy of those of us in politics who are builders — who believe in creating, maintaining, and sustaining public goods and public services. I am a builder: I believe we become stronger as a society when we roll up our sleeves and work together to build what we and future generations need.

Tim Eyman, on the other hand, is a destroyer. He believes in destroying public goods and public services. Accordingly, his politics are incredibly destructive. (Solving problems like homelessness or pollution doesn’t interest Eyman; it’s why you never hear him express support for ideas that would improve or save lives.)

Yet despite being a destroyer, Tim Eyman is a user of public goods and services just like the rest of us, as he perhaps inadvertently reminded us today. That’s what makes his boasting especially amusing. The irony here seems lost on him.

Eyman’s behavior and choice of language suggest that he either doesn’t have the capacity to think long term and appreciate the consequences of the initiatives he sells, or he does and he just doesn’t care. Those of us who want Washington to be strong can’t afford to think that way, though. It’s extremely self-defeating.

CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field are built and mostly paid for. But other needed public goods are still on the drawing board and in the planning stages.

Like light rail.

Gutting light rail is Tim’s latest obsession. Eyman and his amen chorus on talk radio (that means you, Dori Monson) want to “stick it” to Sound Transit, which is trying to liberate commuters everywhere from gridlock by giving them mobility options.

Tim may think that light rail is a waste of money, that “choo choo trains” will soon be obsolete, that Sound Transit is an insidious conspiracy against taxpayers, and other such nonsense. But I have a suspicion that one day, his kids will be Link riders even if he himself never decides to Travel Light. And I imagine that they, like young people everywhere, will be glad that light rail got built and that schemes to defund it — such as Eyman’s I-947, which we must defeat — did not come to pass.

Mueller Monday: Ex-Trump campaign advisers Papadopoulos, Manafort and Gates indicted

The first shoes have dropped in Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation:

Special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III on Monday revealed charges against three former Trump campaign officials — former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his longtime business partner Rick Gates and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos — marking the first criminal allegations to come from probes into possible Russian influence in U.S. political affairs.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner who claimed to have high-level Russian connections, and the agreement was unsealed Monday. Court documents described extensive efforts Papadopoulos made to try to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign, though some emails show his offers were rebuffed.

Highlighting is ours.

White House resident Donald Trump immediately tried to deflect the news, angrily suggesting his opponents should be the target of any investigation, while also declaring, “there is no COLLUSION!” The more Trump makes such denials, though, the more he reinforces the narrative about potential collusion.

It’s Don’t Think of An Elephant 101:

When we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.

Richard Nixon found that out the hard way. While under pressure to resign during the Watergate scandal, Nixon addressed the nation on TV. He stood before the nation and said, “I am not a crook.” And everybody thought about him as a crook.

Here’s the beginning of The Washington Post’s story about that extraordinary statement, delivered to a gathering of Associated Press editors:

Declaring that “I am not a crook,” President Nixon vigorously defended his record in the Watergate case tonight and said he had never profited from his public service.

“I have earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life I have never obstructed justice,” Mr. Nixon said.

“People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

Manafort and Gates are due to be arraigned in court today.

(UPDATE: They’ve pled not guilty to the charges, as expected.)

Manafort, as mentioned above in The Washington Post’s story, was the Trump campaign’s chairman for a crucial chunk of 2016, while Gates was his deputy. Manafort came aboard in March of 2016 (bringing Gates with him) and remained at the helm until being ousted in August of 2016.

Manafort and Gates were hired by the Trump operation months after Trump vowed to “surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” in an August 2015 interview. “We want top of the line professionals,” Trump claimed.

How about lying, money laundering criminals?

“You don’t see this sentence every morning: The former campaign chairman of the president of the United States will be charged with a federal crime,” noted David Leonhardt of The New York Times, who pointed out that Trump is an incredibly weak position overall despite having a firm grip on the Republican Party.

Book Review: Bernie Sanders’ “Guide to Political Revolution” aims to be teen resource

Democrats still get into arguments about the merits (or lack thereof) of Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ candidacies for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. It’s why many of us on the left continue, inexorably, viewing contemporary events as a chance to re-litigate that contest and who was right.

Bernie Sanders' Guide to Political Revolution

Guide to Political Revolution, by Bernie Sanders (Hardcover, Henry Holt)

To say that Bernie Sanders: Guide to Political Revolution is just for teenagers will invite cheap jokes.

Merely by existing, it has helped reignite the conversation about who actually had the better fire extinguisher a year and a half ago, even as the grease fire continues to spread throughout the house.

So let’s be clear: If you liked Bernie Sanders’ campaign and the policy directions he emphasized during his many stump speeches, you’ll probably like this book.

But you may not enjoy actually reading it unless you’re in your teens. That is its intended audience, and it’s a solid collection of ideals and policies for teens to think critically about. But it also has its problems, including some inherited from its namesake author.

First, it’s intentionally designed like a textbook and peppered with the summarizing design features teenagers supposedly need to ingest and enjoy reading beyond one smartphone-screen length. Some infographics, like those breaking down average CEO pay or the greenhouse gas effect, are effective and communicate their information well. Others, like how many hours Americans work compared to other countries or higher education costs, are extraordinarily bad.

If the e-book version has them all in color, that could help some, but as it is, these graphics have a poor hit-or-miss ratio.

Second, I’m not sure how much fresh work went into this. It’s definitely written in the voice of Bernie Sanders, seemingly down to cadences, when talking about wealth inequality, breaking up the big banks, and raising the minimum wage.

Other portions, such as criminal justice reform, are literally taken word-for-word from his campaign site — although they did take the trouble to update the book with subsequent victims of extrajudicial police executions.

The rehashed versions of his well-worn anecdotes are similarly word-for-word: My father came to this country from Poland at the age of seventeen without a nickel (sometimes penny) in his pocket (sometimes plus ‘little education’).

More importantly, with the possible exception of raising the minimum wage for federal contractors by executive order, none of the “we should” statements included in Guide to Political Revolution are doable through executive action alone. Voters would need to elect a progressive Congress, not just a president like Bernie Sanders, in order for the ideas expressed in this book to be realized.

That remains, for me, the most frustrating aspect of Sanders’ 2016 campaign and continued relevancy. Sanders inspired progressives all over the country with his campaign, but there is still a Republican Congress… and Republicans still control most of the states too. They have trifectas in nearly every region of the country.

I appreciated the book devoting pages to calls to action under the heading Mobilize (these calls to action mainly explain how young people could get involved with nonprofits), but it never offered the scaffolding of what governmental power already exists, and what would need changing to set the stage for a twenty-first century equivalent of the Progressive Era.

Sanders, or his ghostwriter, never clarifies why we ought to support any of these “we shoulds” — why guarantee a $15 per hour minimum wage and not $20, or why that instead of Universal Basic Income or investing in public housing?

Nowhere in the text does Sanders offer a coherent worldview to underpin his list of “we shoulds”, which means his teen readers aren’t getting the benefit of a primer explaining the logic of progressive values. (Those values are what connect all of the policy directions and specific policies that progressives believe in.)

Good jobs that pay a living wage, universal healthcare, tuition-free college, paid family leave — these are worthy ideas. But so is transit for all. So are amply funded K-12 public schools in every jurisdiction. So are reproductive rights.

This text is more of a guide to Bernie Sanders’ favorite 2016 campaign themes than a comprehensive progressive manifesto, but Bernie Sanders’ Favorite Political Ideas Guide isn’t as alluring of a title as Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution.

Flaws aside, this book is a good starting point for thinking about facile socioeconomic issues, and if paired with, say, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” is a solid foundation for anyone starting to think about the world of politics and what a teen should strive to have changed by the time they’re an octogenarian.

Panicking Republicans lash out furiously at Manka Dhingra in desperate bid to defeat her

On Tuesday, November 7th, voting will conclude in what has become the most expensive state Senate race in the history of the Evergreen State. The outcome of the contest in the suburban 45th Legislative District will determine who controls Washington’s Senate through 2018, and maybe beyond.

If Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra wins, the Democratic Party will regain the majority it lost when Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon defected to the Republicans in 2012. If Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund wins, the Senate Republicans will remain in power and retain their ability to kill progressive legislation.

A majority of voters in the August Top Two election backed Dhingra, who finished with 51.52% of the vote. Trailing far behind in second place was Englund with 41.46%. Independent Parker Harris got 7.02% of the vote and was eliminated.

A month later, the Washington State Wire released the toplines of a poll commissioned from Myers Research to ascertain how the general election might turn out. The poll findings mirrored the results of the Top Two election, with 51% of respondents saying they’d vote for Dhingra and 41% for Englund.

Republicans have tried to paint a rosier picture by claiming their own internal polling shows Englund gaining ground on Dhingra. But they haven’t released any numbers, which suggests that even their own research finds that Dhingra is winning.

The prospect of a double digit Dhingra victory isn’t sitting well with Republicans or their funders, who are loathe to give up their stranglehold on the state Senate. With no evidence of a shift in their favor, they’ve become increasingly panicky, and are taking out their frustration on Dhingra and her campaign.

Just look at what they’re saying and doing.

Fake Facebook profiles

Republicans attack Manka Dhingra with Facebook ads like thisTo impugn Dhingra and misrepresent her positions on the issues, Republican operatives created multiple fake Facebook profiles using Manka’s name, accompanied by an ugly, yellow-tinged image of her face.

The profiles were then used as a launching pad for ads which falsely scream that Dhingra’s “extreme pro-drug agenda is a threat to our community”.

This is a line of attack Republicans are pushing hard. They’ve switched from fearmongering on the basis of higher taxes (which didn’t work in the summer election) to fearmongering on the basis of safe consumption sites.

After users complained about the fake profiles, one was taken down and the name of the other was changed to “Unofficial Manka Dhingra“. But there’s no such thing as an unofficial person — Facebook ought to force the Republicans to change the name of the page again.

Red Scare style attacks

A “Red Scare” is promotion, real and imagined, of widespread fear by a society or state about a potential rise of communism, anarchism, or radical leftism. The term is most often used to refer to two periods in the history of the United States with this name.

— Wikipedia

Republican operatives have also created a video ad which ends with a young person standing in front of Emil Venkov’s bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin in Fremont, Seattle, wearing glasses, a beanie hat, bandanna, and a purple t-shirt with Dhingra’s campaign logo on it (similar to the kind her staff and volunteers wear) plus sporting three buttons: one depicting a hammer and sickle, one that says “Sawant!” and one that says “Raise Taxes!” It’s captioned “Seattle Liberals ♥ Manka Dhingra”.
Republican attack ad airing in opposition to Manka Dhingra

“I am truly offended and shocked at how low and how deceptive the Washington State Republican Party has gotten with this ad!,” Dhingra said in response.

“They went so far as to make a fake T-shirt with my campaign logo to trick voters into thinking this ad is from my campaign. If you are as outraged as I am, make sure you vote and tell all your friends to vote. We need honesty and integrity in the Washington State Senate. Not lies and false information.”

Jinyoung Lee Englund’s campaign has produced its own similar ads.

Jinyoung Lee Englund attack mailer

This mailer was paid for by Friends of Jinyoung Englund

Mailers that mimic the design and wording of the opposition’s mailers

Evidently envious of the work of their counterparts on the Democratic side, Republican operatives have also recently created mailers that closely mimic the design and wording of the ads that the Democratic Party and its allies have been paying for in opposition to Englund since the springtime. (Charles Caleb Colton said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… but is it really?)

Here’s an example of a mailer the Democrats have sent to voters opposing Englund:

Mailer in opposition to Jinyoung Lee Englund (front)Mailer in opposition to Jinyoung Lee Englund (back)And here’s an example of a recent mailer the Republicans created against Dhingra, which employs the same design, color scheme, and wording:

Mailer in opposition to Manka Dhingra (back)Mailer in opposition to Manka Dhingra (back)But two can play at that game. The Democrats decided a few months back to create a political committee to spearhead their anti-Englund campaigns called the Eastside Leadership Council, riffing on the name of the Senate Republicans’ long-established PAC, which is blandly called The Leadership Council.

Dismissing Manka Dhingra’s experience as a prosecutor

Republicans say they are all about family values, but to borrow a phrase from Jinyoung Lee Englund, that’s just a party talking point. Time and again, Republicans have demonstrated that real family values mean nothing to them.

The latest proof of this is Republicans’ cringe-worthy attempts to discredit Manka Dhingra’s work experience, which is one of her strengths as a candidate.

Dhingra doesn’t work full time for King Count Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, the only Republican presently serving in a countywide position, because she has two children and a husband she wants to spend as much time with as possible.

That devotion to her family got her this:

Republicans and independent political groups have turned her résumé against her, noting that Dhingra hasn’t worked full-time as a prosecutor since 2003. Instead, she’s worked part-time to help raise her family. She’s paid for sixteen hours a week, but [Mark Larson, chief deputy of the office’s criminal division and Dhingra’s boss] said Dhingra works more than that. Still, [Washington State Republican Party Chair Susan] Hutchison argues that her limited work schedule means she’s “not a career prosecutor.”

Emphasis is mine. Seriously, what an insult to every working mother in the 45th Legislative District and the State of Washington.

You might think Republican Party brass would show more respect to someone who is employed by the only Republican still holding office in the state’s largest county. But on that score, you’d be wrong. In Manka Dhingra, Susan Hutchison and the people who work for her don’t see an accomplished woman worthy of their respect. They see only an obstacle to their continued grip on the Senate.

This kind of campaigning may strike Washingtonians as repugnant, but it worked in other states for Donald Trump, just as it has worked in the past here for Tim Eyman before this organization began taking him on with a mindset of Permanent Defense. The party of Dan Evans, John Spellman, and even Slade Gorton has become the party of Donald Trump and Tim Eyman. And Eastside voters have taken notice.

The nastier and more craven Republicans get in their attacks, the more at risk they are of destroying what’s left of their credibility with suburban voters.

But it seems they’re so desperate to avoid losing on November 7th in the 45th that they’re not thinking through the consequences of their self-defeating behavior.

Stick it to Tim Eyman by voting “Maintained” on all “Advisory Votes” (Push Polls 16, 17, 18)

Washington’s thirty-nine counties have now mailed ballots for the November 2017 general election. Although there are no statewide initiatives or referenda this year (which is unusual and hasn’t happened since 1985) we unfortunately still have Tim Eyman’s unconstitutional “advisory votes” cluttering up our ballots.

Until we can get rid of these stupid things, we urge you to join us in sticking it to Tim Eyman by voting “Maintained” on all three of them. Voting “Maintained” is the best way to protest the existence of what are really push polls cooked up by Eyman to stoke anti-tax sentiment from Neah Bay to Clarkston.

Vote Maintained on Tim Eyman's push polls

Vote “Maintained” to stick it to Tim Eyman. Click on the graphic to see our full ballot guide for 2017.

These push polls are required by a ten year old Eyman initiative that hasn’t been fully struck down or repealed yet: I-960, which narrowly passed in 2007.

For the first few years after I-960 was enacted, the provision requiring the push polls was not enforced, with even Eyman having admittedly forgotten about it.

Since 2012, elections officials have complied with the provision at significant cost to taxpayers — even though it is probably not constitutional. (Washington’s Constitution only provides for binding initiatives and referenda plus constitutional amendments; it doesn’t authorize any other kind of ballot measure).

We maintain a page over at Permanent Defense which nicely breaks down what the “advisory votes” are, and why they are really right wing push polls subsidized with taxpayer dollars. Be sure to check out this resource if you haven’t before.

As the “advisory votes” are an Eyman scheme, they are only triggered when the Legislature adopts a bill that raises or recovers revenue for the state treasury. Conversely, bills that cut taxes or public services do not trigger an “advisory vote”, because cuts are to Eyman’s liking.

The three bills that the Attorney General identified as raising/recovering revenue this year are part of the state’s operating budget. They are:

Tim Eyman actually sued the state in August to demand that provisions within the aforementioned bills be subjected separately to an “advisory vote”. That would have resulted in even more wasteful clutter on our ballots. Thankfully, Eyman lost.

Joining NPI in urging Washingtonians to vote “Maintained” on all of Eyman’s latest batch of push polls are The Stranger, Fuse Washington, and The Seattle Times (Yes, The Seattle Times! Even a broken clock is correct twice a day.)

The Stranger’s mantra — especially with respect to House Bill 2242 — is “Vote Maintained, then demand better funding solutions from our state legislators.”

We agree. For the time being, vote “Maintained” — the best way to stick it to Tim Eyman. In 2018, we’ll once again have opportunities to insist that the Legislature finally take steps to make our upside down, worst in the nation tax code less regressive. And we may end up with a Senate Democratic majority that will be far more receptive to the reforms we need than the Senate Republican Caucus of No.

Vice President Joe Biden endorses Manka Dhingra for the Washington State Senate

Democratic State Senate hopeful Manka Dhingra has picked up the endorsement of Vice President Joe Biden, her campaign announced this afternoon.

“I am proud to endorse Manka Dhingra to represent the Eastside in the Washington State Senate,” said Biden in a statement. “Manka is an experienced prosecutor who has dedicated her life to strengthening her community. I especially appreciate her efforts to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault, protect victims of crime, and advocate for improved mental health programs. If elected, she’ll break the gridlock on issues like gun responsibility, women’s rights, and education funding. She will help solve real problems for Washington’s middle class families.”

Biden served with distinction and honor as Vice President of the United States from January 2009 until January 2017. Previously, he represented Delaware for decades in the United States Senate. Biden received the enthusiastic support of voters across the Eastside in 2008 and 2012 when he and President Barack Obama were the Democratic nominees for the highest offices in the land.

“I deeply appreciate Vice President Biden’s endorsement,” said Dhingra. “Like him, I’m committed to ensuring that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed, that everyone is respected and valued before the law whether they are a woman, LGBTQ+ or an immigrant, and that every middle class family can afford to live and grow without fear of losing their health care or their home. Vice President Biden’s tireless commitment to criminal justice reform and opposing domestic violence is inspiring and I’ve worked hard on these same issues here in our community.”

Biden was the principal drafter of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013.

Biden’s endorsement will undoubtedly help Dhingra make her closing pitch to voters. The deputy King County prosecutor bested her Republican opponent Jinyoung Lee Englund in the Top Two election by more than ten points.

In last year’s heated contest for Senate in the 41st District, Democratic standard bearer Lisa Wellman’s campaign received a similar boost from President Barack Obama, who also endorsed Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves in the 30th LD.

Wellman went on to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Steve Litzow, while Pellicciotti defeated Linda Kochmar and Reeves defeated Teri Hickel.

Seattle Times endorses Jinyoung Englund to keep spiteful Senate Republicans in power

Continuing a long tradition of endorsing Republicans in key state and federal races, the Blethen-controlled Seattle Times editorial board has belatedly published an endorsement of Jinyoung Lee Englund, the Republican Party’s candidate for the state Senate in Washington’s 45th Legislative District.

To the surprise of many, the Times neglected to make an endorsement in the contest prior to the Top Two election — which Englund’s Democratic opponent Manka Dhingra easily won. But with ballots due to be mailed for the November general election in a matter of days, the Blethens have decided to back Englund.

Why? Because a Jinyoung Englund win means that Republican Mark Schoesler and his spiteful Caucus of No will remain in power and remain in a position to obstruct, quash, and delay… which the Blethens absurdly say is in the state’s best interest.

The Times’ unsigned editorial tacitly admits the editorial board considers Manka Dhingra to be the superior candidate. “A senior deputy King County prosecutor, Dhingra has a longer list of professional accomplishments, working on issues important to our region and this editorial board, such as crisis-intervention training, mental health and criminal-justice reform,” the editorial notes.

This editorial is the latest proof that the person really doesn’t matter more than the party, at least not to newspaper publishers like Frank Blethen.

We seem to hear that mantra a lot from newspaper editorial boards in this state, including The Seattle Times. If they truly believed in people above parties, they’d make endorsement decisions based on merit, and merit alone. But, as we can see, for the Blethens, party politics trumps qualifications, resume, and experience.

Manka Dhingra may have lived on the Eastside for decades. She may know her neighbors exceptionally well. She may have a “longer list of professional accomplishments”, in the words of the editorial, than her opponent. She may be better prepared to assume this important elected position than Englund.

But none of that ultimately matters.

What does matter is that Manka Dhingra belongs to the Democratic Party and would vault the party into the majority in the Senate if she wins.

Democratic control of both legislative chambers is not something Frank Blethen wants. Hence, the Times editorial page is backing Englund.

“Englund makes a persuasive case that her election will preserve a ‘balance of government’ that will better serve Washington state,” the unsigned editorial proclaims. “For that reason, voters in the 45th should elect her.”

In other words: Vote Republican! The Times is basically saying to voters in the 45th: Don’t worry about assessing which candidate is better qualified to represent you — just vote for the candidate who identifies with the Republican Party.

I happen to be a partisan voter and party official myself, so I have no problem with the logic of recommending a candidate or voting for a candidate because they belong to a particular political party. But I do think it’s ridiculous when newspaper editorial boards try to have it both ways… profess to be above party politics, but later turn around and make endorsement decisions on the basis of party politics.

I emphatically disagree that divided government is serving the state well. Back in the summer, I filed a lengthy post here explaining why Mark Schoesler and his Caucus of No need to be ousted from power by voters. Read that post if you’d like to hear the Times’ endorsement rationale rebutted and refuted.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the Blethen-owned Times has a long tradition of endorsing Republican candidates in key state and federal races going back to the turn of the century. This is an editorial page that has backed:

  • Dino Rossi over Chris Gregoire (twice);
  • Mike McGavick over Maria Cantwell (in 2006);
  • Cathy McMorris Rodgers over Don Barbieri (2004);
  • Dave Reichert for the United States House over all of his Democratic opponents except for Dave Ross (2004) and Suzan DelBene (2010);
  • Susan Hutchison over Dow Constantine (2009);
  • Rob McKenna over Jay Inslee (2012);
  • … and perhaps most infamously, George W. Bush over Al Gore (2000).

In most of the aforementioned matchups, the Democratic candidate has gone on to win in spite of not receiving the Blethens’ support… and then, after demonstrating a capacity to govern, has ended up securing an endorsement from the Blethens in the course of their next campaign. This has happened to U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and others.

When endorsing Republicans for executive positions, the Times’ rallying cry has often been, we need a culture change and the Democratic candidate can’t provide it. For example, here’s what they said in 2009 when they endorsed Susan Hutchison:

Susan Hutchison is a political outsider and brings a host of fresh ideas of how to tackle the budget. Because of this potential, she earns the endorsement of The Seattle Times.

Her opponent, Metropolitan King County Council Chairman Dow Constantine, has been on the council since 2002 and has led the budget committee. He is an insider who has had his chance to effect change at the county. He has not done so and it seems unlikely he would be able to as the executive.

Emphasis is mine. Constantine routed Hutchison in the election and quickly established a reputation as a competent executive with a passion for excellence.

Four years later, in 2013, the Blethens admitted they were wrong about Dow and enthusiastically hitched their wagon to Team Constantine.

Dow Constantine deserves to be re-elected — and no doubt will be re-elected — as King County executive.

He has done a good job even in the eyes of many who voted for his opponent. He has been an able administrator of county government during a time of prolonged economic weakness.

Because of his success, nobody of stature has run against him. His opponent, Alan Lobdell, is a man who has never held political office and has raised almost no money.

Emphasis is mine.

Similarly, in 2000, the Times said George W. Bush would make a good president.

Bush won, unlike Susan Hutchison, and turned out to be a disaster, prompting the Seattle Times to backtrack and endorse John Kerry in 2004.

Four years ago, this page endorsed George W. Bush for president. We cannot do so again — because of an ill-conceived war and its aftermath, undisciplined spending, a shrinkage of constitutional rights and an intrusive social agenda. The Bush presidency is not what we had in mind. Our endorsement of John Kerry is not without reservations, but he is head and shoulders above the incumbent.

If voters in the 45th District ignore the Blethens’ ill-advised prescription for Washington’s future and elect Manka Dhingra, she may well go on to earn an endorsement from them next year when she stands for election again.

The Blethens and their editorial board are on record in support of many ideas they know don’t have a chance of passing the Legislature so long as Republicans run the Senate… like the Voting Rights Act or tougher restrictions on oil trains. Don’t they want to see those ideas get considered? If not 2018, when?

The longer Republican control of the state Senate goes on, the worse off Washington will be. The status quo has produced disastrous results. Especially this year. We have no capital budget and a hastily-assembled operating budget that didn’t get the public input and scrutiny it needed before it was voted on.

Three times in four years, Republicans have brought the state to the verge of a government shutdown in order to gain leverage in budget talks. Their behavior keeps getting more extreme, and their rhetoric more arrogant.

And yet the Blethens want to keep them in charge. They are so invested in the concept of divided government they’re willing to overlook awful results.

But I imagine my neighbors in the 45th will feel differently as they sit down to cast their ballots these next few weeks. This district voted for change in August by a big margin. Now we’ll see if we get a similar result in the final round.

Senate Republicans naturally don’t want to give up their power. But if voters in the 45th take it away, the 2018 legislative session could go from being more of the same gridlock we’ve endured for years to refreshingly fruitful and productive, giving organizations like NPI and newspapers like the Seattle Times plenty of opportunities to flex our advocacy muscles in support of worthy ideas Washington needs.

Book Review: Read Zoë Quinn’s “Crash Override” to understand the Trump error

In response to a recent Buzzfeed article about behind-the-scenes goings-on of Milo Yiannapoulus’ and Breitbart’s propagation of racist, white nationalist thought, Washington Post journalist Philip Bump declared, “An early chapter of every book documenting the Donald Trump era will be about Gamergate.”

Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoe Quinn (Hardcover, PublicAffairs)

If Bump’s prediction comes to pass, Zoë Quinn’s book Crash Override will be cited by scholars for decades to come as an essential text to understanding the Trump error.

In Crash Override, which is partly an autobiography, Quinn tells the story of Gamergate and how she’s worked to defend everyone against vicious online mobs since.

Quinn had first gotten widespread attention as a video game developer in 2013 for her text-based “Depression Quest“, an interactive representation of what it’s like to experience depression when you seem capable of making only the worst and most unhealthy decisions instead of any good ones.

Depression Quest was unique and creative and earned many positive reviews.

Then, in 2014, Quinn’s abusive ex-boyfriend went online to smear her reputation and accuse her of sleeping her way into getting good reviews.

A group of people — mostly angry young white men — began a sustained campaign of harassment, threats, and stalking that principally targeted Quinn and other women in a series of disturbing incidents that became known as Gamergate.

Quinn’s Crash Override: How Gamergate [Nearly] Destroyed My Life and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate is really more like four or five books, and it’s not exactly a criticism to say that each might have been a full work in their own right instead of portions of this fairly brief two hundred and thirty-eight page one.

Quinn believes the larger underlying problem involves people inside of tech companies being themselves unwilling to solve eminently solvable problems.

Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are staffed (in part) by the same sort of angry white males who are entirely capable of automating copyright infringement takedowns or visible nipples, but claim nothing can be done about specific, detailed rape threats or exhortations of genocide because free speech is sacrosanct.

Toward the end of the book, Quinn also examines the consequences of society’s failure to confront and counteract abusive behaviors in their early stages.

People have to gradually build their courage for dramatic action. Domestic violence is one of the few common threads connecting men involved in mass murder, even when ideology and means of accomplishing a destructive end differ.

Steve Bannon saw the potential of exploiting such people, but mostly angry young white men (in his words, rootless white men) who could be brought into a movement by first attacking vulnerable people on the Internet over video games and sci-fi culture. He recognized Quinn’s tormenters and people like them could be organized into a political force and harnessed to achieve even more corrosive ends.

Quinn writes that she wasn’t surprised by Donald Trump’s victory in the Electoral College because she had already felt the speartip of a movement driven by nothing more than the hatred of anyone expecting to be treated with equality.

There aren’t more of those people than decent people, but there are enough of them, and they’ve been properly activated and motivated to be harmful.

Having been at the receiving end of the fury of white nationalists and their enablers, Zoë Quinn understands Gamergate better than anyone. Read “Crash Override” if you want to better understand the primordial pools that nurtured juvenile, petty misogyny and racism until it could be brave enough to enthusiastically spread Russian propaganda on behalf of the Trump campaign and demonstrate in public.

They were a figurative torch-wielding mob lighting up their keyboards with “ironic” hatred and doxing before they were a literal torch-wielding mob, actually chanting Nazi slogans and assaulting people in communities like Charlottesville, Virginia.

But don’t just read Crash Override to understand how we got to this sad juncture in our nation’s history. Read Crash Override to understand what can be done now as we live with forms of intimidation and harassment that never could have existed prior to the advent of an always on, Internet-connected culture — and what we still need to do as a society to confront and stamp out these toxic behaviors.

Manka Dhingra says yes to simple majorities for school bonds, Jinyoung Englund says no

In a matter of weeks, voters in Washington’s 45th Legislative District will be deciding which political party controls the state Senate in 2018.

By electing Democratic candidate Manka Dhingra, voters in the 45th could oust Republicans from power and put the Senate under Democratic management for the first five in five years. On the other hand, by electing Republican candidate Jinyoung Lee Englund, voters in the 45th could preserve the status quo.

Given the huge implications of the contest, many civic organizations have been inviting Dhingra and Englund to appear at candidate forums to introduce themselves to voters and answer questions. Both have become accustomed to fielding questions about the McCleary case, traffic congestion, and other hot topics, as the organizers of each forum have tended to cover the same ground.

Refreshingly, the Northshore PTSA decided — in addition to asking boilerplate questions about McCleary — to inquire if the candidates agree that we should lower the threshold for passage of school bonds to a simple majority.

This a worthy idea that has been discussed in the Legislature, but hasn’t yet been referred to voters for their consideration as a constitutional amendment.

The candidates’ answers could hardly have been more different. Here is a transcript of the Northshore PTSA’s question and the candidates’ responses to it:

QUESTION FROM NORTHSHORE PTSA: Right now, to pass a bond to raise funds to build schools, a local bond ballot measure must have sixty percent plus one of the vote. Do you support changing the law [actually, the Washington State Constitution] so that a simple majority of the voters — fifty percent plus one — can pass a bond?


MODERATOR: You actually have twenty seconds.

MANKA DHINGRA: Oh. I’m good with that answer. You know? Well, it could go on. I refer you to my earlier answers about still having portables. You know, we worked hard at Einstein Elementary for two years to get enough money to build a playground, because we didn’t have the money… in Redmond, in one of these affluent areas, so that our kids could have a playground.

REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE JINYOUNG LEE ENGLUND: I oppose it, because when we build new buildings, I think we need to do our due diligence and educating the public in committing to what amounts to a second mortgage for families that live in these school districts. I think that — again, before we go to people and say we need more money — that whoever is asking for that needs to do their due diligence in providing a comprehensive plan so that the families that are having to pay it can be equipped to do that.

Very illuminating.

As noted by the PTSA, in order to construct new buildings and facilities, school districts throughout Washington State need to be able to borrow money. Before issuing bonds, districts need to obtain permission from voters at an election. Presently, the threshold for bond passage is three-fifths of at least forty percent of the registered voters in a school district — the so-called sixty/forty rule.

If minimum turnout is below forty percent, the bond fails. If turnout is sufficient but fewer than sixty percent (three fifths) of voters vote aye, the bond still fails… even if it gets 59.9% of the vote, which would ordinarily be considered a lopsided result.

As we’ve noted many times here on the Cascadia Advocate, when the threshold to pass a ballot measure or bill is greater than fifty percent, control over the outcome ends up being in the hands of a few as opposed to the many.

As recently as ten years ago, the threshold to pass a school levy was the same as a bond. But in the 2007 legislative session, the House and Senate — both then controlled by Democrats — referred to the voters a constitutional amendment making the standard for passage of such levies a simple majority.

Voters approved the amendment in November 2007, and ever since, the many have been in control of the fate of school levies, instead of a few.

But the sixty/forty rule has remained in effect for bond measures. That has made financing the construction of badly needed new facilities in many school districts difficult. In many cases, a majority of voters have been supportive, but not the requisite supermajority currently required to authorize a bond issue.

Recognizing that such decisions ought to be made by majority vote, Democratic Representative Mia Gregersen in 2015 proposed a constitutional amendment (HJR 4210) to lower the threshold for passage of school bonds to a simple majority — providing the bond measures appeared before voters at a general election.

Republican Representative Dick Muri reintroduced the proposed amendment this year with Gregersen as a cosponsor. Fittingly, it was assigned the number “4204” — the same number given to the successful constitutional amendment permitting school levies to pass by a simple majority vote ten years ago.

Similar amendments were introduced by Senator Mark Mullet in the Senate (SJR 8202) and Representative Monica Stonier in the House (HJR 4203) this year.

None of these proposed amendments advanced beyond a public hearing.

But next year could be different. It all depends on what happens in the 45th.

If the Senate gets new management and a new member from the 45th who supports simple majorities to pass school bonds, prospects for referring an amendment to the voters to consider at the next general election would brighten. But if Republicans remain in power in the Senate, the likelihood of there being a debate and floor vote in both houses on the idea in 2018 will be pretty much nil.

California DISCLOSE Act signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown to combat dark money

Fires, hurricanes, the Trump-Corker spat, and the fate of the JCPOA with Iran dominated the news this weekend. Amidst all of the bad news, though, there was some good news: California has a tough new law that takes aim at dark money in politics, thanks to Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the landmark California DISCLOSE Act (AB 249), the nation’s most comprehensive election disclosure law.

“No more fine print,” said the bill’s author, Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin. “California voters will now be able to make informed decisions, based on honest information about who the true funders are of campaign ads. This transparency is critical to our democracy and I am proud that California has taken this historic first step to shine the light on ‘dark money’. Hopefully this will encourage others to follow suit.”

Assembly Bill 249, authored by Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, requires ballot measure ads and independent expenditure ads for or against candidates to clearly and prominently disclose the identity of their top three funders, and includes first-in-the-nation follow-the-money rules to make ballot measure ads show their true funders.

“With the quiet gesture of a signature, Governor Brown has loudly proclaimed California to be the national leader on the most important issue of our era: taking our democracy back from the special interests and restoring it to the people,” said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign, sponsor of AB 249.

“Every American who cares about democracy owes Governor Brown, Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, and all the bold leaders in the California Legislature of both parties who helped AB 249 pass an enduring debt of gratitude.”

Thanks to AB 249, it will no longer be possible for big corporations or other moneyed interests to conceal their identities using shell PACs in ballot measure or independent expenditure advertising. This is a breakthrough worth celebrating.

NPI congratulates the California Clean Money Campaign and all the activists who worked tirelessly to make AB 249 a reality. This important new law will lead to fairer elections in the Golden State and hopefully inspire other states (like Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) to follow suit by enacting similar laws of their own.

At the beginning of this month, before Brown had acted on the bill, the San Jose Mercury News published an excellent story recapping how the bill made it through the California Assembly and the California Senate despite several obstacles, which ended with this well-written explanation of what AB 249 does:

What it would do: Assembly Bill 249, by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, proposes sweeping changes to disclosures on campaign ads. It would require the three largest contributors (of $50,000 or more) to be listed on ballot measure ads or ads about candidates by outside groups.

A new look: On video and TV, the disclosures must appear against a solid black background in a clear font that is not all-caps, fill the bottom third of the screen and stay up for a full five seconds. Each of the three major funders’ names must appear on a separate line. Disclosures on radio ads would need to be made with the same speed as the rest of the ad — no more speed-talkers.

Print, TV, video, radio, mass mailers, robocalls: The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign into law, would apply to print, online, TV and radio ads as well as mass mailers and robocalls. Requires radio ads and robocalls to name the two largest funders.

Here in Washington, Democratic State Senator Andy Billig has sponsored similar legislation several times (which NPI has supported), but it has regrettably never made it out of the Legislature. In 2018, though, it may have better prospects with a Democratic Senate majority. NPI is committed to working with Senator Billig to ensure that Washington State takes action to combat dark money in politics.

Documentary Review: Ava DuVernay’s “13th” offers eye-opening look at mass incarceration

If you have yet to see Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary “13th”, you should really make plans to screen it as soon as possible. This short commentary will surely not do it justice.

Ava DuVernay’s “13th”: The story never changes

Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 100 min
Director: Ava DuVernay
Watch the trailer

Kevin Gannon, Professor of History at Grandview University, who is white, sums up the challenge we as country face today early in the film: “History is not just stuff that happens by accident. We are the products of the history our ancestors chose, if we’re white. If we are black, we are products of the history that our ancestors most likely did not choose. Yet here we all are together, the products of that set of choices. And we have to understand that in order to escape from it.”

This powerful film discusses the ways slavery has continued to oppress black people in the United States, long after the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution was ratified and adopted in 1865. Though the Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery, there is a clause that creates one major loophole: “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

This loophole has been exploited continuously since the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to continue to legally enslave black people. In order to use this loophole to full effect, blacks were targeted for arrest for such “crimes” as vagrancy and rounded up in large numbers to work the fields they had only so recently escaped. Thus the the mythology of black criminality, which is still so insidious today, was born and spread in order to keep a steady flow of free labor.

The prison population of the United States remained fairly constant until the 1970s, when the modern era of mass incarceration began. Richard Nixon started us down this path, with his talk of “law and order” and a “war on crime.”

Ronald Reagan “turned a rhetorical war into a literal one,” according to Michelle Alexander, author of the “The New Jim Crow.”

President Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill further accelerated the rates of incarceration while also slowing the release of prisoners thanks to the “three strikes” scheme that requires life sentences for people convicted of three felonies.

All of this history covered in the film leads up to a jarring revelation: that there are more black people in the United States under criminal supervision now than there were enslaved in the South in the 1850s. Though our total population represents only 5% of the world’s population, we are home to 25% of the world’s prisoners.

Another shocking aspect of the film was that among the many academics, activists, and politicians interviewed was none other than former Speaker of the House and failed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Even more amazing (for me, at least) was what he had to say: “The objective reality is that virtually no one who is white understands the challenge of being black in America.” This acknowledgement of racism in America and the multiple effects it has on the lives of black people was refreshing to hear from a Republican.

Jelanie Cobb, Professor of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, addresses the harmful stereotypes that have been used against black people for centuries in the US in the context of the current fight against mass incarceration: “If you look at the history of black people’s various struggles in this country, the connecting theme is the attempt to be understood as full, complicated human beings. We are something other than this visceral image of criminality and menace and threat to which people associate with us.”

Watching this documentary would be a good first step to help dispel those stereotypes within ourselves and to hopefully inspire us to work together for greater racial justice in general, and reform in the criminal justice system specifically.

“13th” is currently available on Netflix, or can be seen at a screening by Wedgewood Meaningful Movies on Friday, October 13 at 7 PM. You can see a full list of locations and documentaries being shown by the Meaningful Movies Project here.

  • RSS Recent entries from the Permanent Defense Media Center