That the initiative process has been used in Washington in the past ten years to run rough-shod over state government's finances isn't evidence that the initiative system is broken, it is evidence that initiatives are the territory of the rich. Regular people, folks not like Michael Dunmire, don't get their ideas (or ideas they like) on the ballot.
Since the beginnig of Tim Eyman career, Dunmire has donated $1 million, almost totally to the Eyman initiatives blowing holes in the state's taxing authority.
It should also be noted that Eyman’s scandals have finally caught up with him, at least in terms of his so-called “grass roots” support. Of the $593,000 he raised for Initiative 900, over $514,000 can from a single source: investment banker Michael Dunmire of Woodinville. All it takes to qualify for the ballot is a half million dollars worth of paid signatures, and with a deep pocketed sugar daddy like Dunmire, Eyman is virtually assured ballot access. But that won’t mean his latest $30 car tab initiative has popular support.
That initiatives supported by Dunmire make it on the ballot is not a reflection on the public will.
It is a cynical reflection that if you have enough money, you can get your idea on the ballot and control the debate. While it is impossible, even unconstitutional, to stop guys like Dunmire from supporting ideas with all the money in the world, you can allow the rest of us to shoulder up to him.
By making the bar of participation so high in the initiattive process (for example, large sized initiative petitions) that state is benefiting people who can pay the price over folks who can't write $25,000 checks.
Cross posted at Olympia Time
Steve is correct when he reminds us that progressive's shouldn't hate the game, they should hate the player. It isn't the fault of the initiative process that it has been hijacked by right wing money makers like Eyman, it is our fault for giving the process over to them. A lot of good progressive things have come out of initiatives, as Steve points out. Read his post, it is good.
So, now that we've pretty much given over the process to guys like Eyman, what do we do? I have an idea that would hopefully encourage more regular citizen involvement in the process, but there are other ideas.
I'm not a big fan of Permanent Defense's "report right wing signature gathering" (even though I've got me some to report). I don't think it is an effective way to counter the signature gathering step in initiatives, and it boarders on encouraging harrasment.
While I'm talking about Permanent Defense also not a big fan of the name. For one, it is a take off on Eyman's Permanent Offense, you shouldn't allow your opponent to define you, even in what you call yourself. Plus it is a negative term, like "we're always on defense," or "you're so defensive."
The No on I-933 crowd seems to have struck on a great alternative to the "Report" scheme. They're encouraging people to sign a petition signifying that they aren't in support of I-933. While it would be interesting if someday a "No On" campaign could compete for signatures to keep an initiative off the ballot, this idea seems to be more powerful now as a campaign/PR tool.
Imagine Eyman getting out of his car at the Secretary of State's office finding dozens of anti-Whateverhesupto folks with their own petitions.
Plus, there wouldn't be any weird size requirments to the anti-petitions.
The meeting went well, I was early (way early) and so I scoured the first floor of the office building he's in for a nice bench so I could enjoy their nice public wifi. I ended up settling for an almost falling apart chair left outside a hearing room. No public seating in the John O'Brien building?
Rep. Sam Hunt walked by while I was waiting, and asked if the teacher had sent me out into the hall. Nope, only place I could find to sit down.
I had a two page handout for Rep. Williams, including this text (including a typo I caught while waiting), some proposed bill text (Nixon's without the width and height reference) and my example.
Anyway, Rep. Williams seemed supportive of my idea, even when I told him it had been sponsored by Rep. Toby Nixon a few years before. He said he'd look into why it didn't pass three years ago, and that I should approach the above mentioned Rep. Hunt about it too since he sits on the right committee. I did know this, but I had another reason to go talk to Rep. Williams first and I wanted to get that under my belt before I went to Hunt.
Not that I was nervous, I just didn't know what to expect.
I did serve up some of the criticisms of the idea, specifically the one that I've had the most probles refuting: that reducing the petition size to a commonly used size of paper would increase the amount of initiative fraud. Folks faking petitions, stuff like that.
Rep. Williams, though, responded quickly saying that that sort of thing could happen now if someone really wanted to do it, which has been my only response. Awesome.
All around, good first meeting.