Washington Realtors says it “strongly opposes” I-517

EndorsementsFrom the Campaign Trail

Another one of the trade associations that backed Tim Eyman’s I-1185 last year has decided to take a formal position against I-517, Eyman’s initiative on initiatives, which he and his associates at “Citizen Solutions” qualified for the ballot by piggybacking on the I-1185 signature drive last year. (We believe this piggybacking occurred in violation of Washington State’s public disclosure laws).

The Washington Realtors announced earlier today that its legislative steering committee has finished studying Eyman’s I-517 and overwhelmingly concluded it was poorly written and infringed on property rights. They have chosen to take a position against the measure, urging a no vote. From their press release (PDF):

“While we respect the initiative process, as an organization that champions private property rights as well as the health and recovery of small businesses we have major concerns with I-517,” said Michael Schoonover, a commercial real estate broker and the 2013 vice president government affairs for the Washington Realtors. “I-517 would impede and interfere with both.”

The Washington Realtors’ legislative steering committee, the 25 member group appointed to determine the organization’s policy positions based on their impact on the real estate industry, reviewed the provisions of I-517 and overwhelmingly voted to oppose the measure on behalf of its more than 15,000 members.

“I-517 does not allow business owners to restrict or inhibit in any way signature gathering at the entrance and exits of their shops, an activity that often irritates the public who do not want to engage in any given political debate,” says Schoonover.

“Many of our members have storefront offices and, like so many other small businesses, work hard to attract clients and customer through their doors. It is their rights at stake here.”

Last year, the Washington Realtors donated a total of $50,000 to the Association of Washington Business’ political action committee; most of that money was then sent to Eyman’s associates Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm at Citizen Solutions to cover the cost of the I-1185 signature drive.( The AWB activated its PAC last year principally for the purpose of helping raise money for I-1185).

By the time summer weather had set in, AWB and its members, along with other business trade associations like the Realtors and the Restaurant Association, had written checks in excess of a million dollars to Eyman’s PAC or directly to Citizen Solutions for signature gathering. Approximately $1.2 million of the $1.4 million raised ultimately went to Citizen Solutions.

But they were duped by Eyman, Ruffino, and Agazarm. The true cost of the I-1185 signature drive was only a fraction of this amount.

We know from talking to petitioners that they were being paid one dollar a signature, and the Secretary of State recorded 320,003 signatures as having been submitted. That means the signature drive could not have cost much more than $320,000.

Even if there were, say, $100,000 in additional or miscellaneous expenses, that still leaves more than three quarters of a million dollars unaccounted for. Where’d it go? We can only assume into the pockets of Eyman and his associates,who also ripped off their own workers. (They told petitioners they needed to collect for both I-517 and I-1185 at the same time or they’d be fired… and they were expected to collect I-517 signatures without any compensation).

This arrangement was documented in the Public Disclosure Commission complaint filed by Sherry Bockwinkel last year. The investigation remains open and ongoing; the PDC says it won’t be finished until after the election is over.

We’re glad to see that the Realtors have joined the diverse and bipartisan coalition working to defeat I-517. I-517 is Tim Eyman’s most self-serving initiative yet. It was conceived to make getting signatures cheaper and easier so that Eyman & Co. could make more money. NPI’s Permanent Defense strongly urges a no vote on I-517.

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