Three important things to know about Tim Eyman’s Initiative 947

Ballot WatchdoggingRethinking and ReframingThreat Analysis

1. Initiative 947 is really about gutting Sound Transit, not lowering vehicle fees

Just as with Initiative 776 in 2002, the main intent of I-947 is not actually to lower vehicle fees, it’s to sabotage the work of Sound Transit.

As far as Eyman is concerned, the lower vehicle fees are a welcome side effect. Eyman’s real aim is to nullify the 2016 Sound Transit 3 vote. And he’s now starting to openly admit that with his new slogan: “Let’s stick it to Sound Transit!”

Eyman has been nursing a deep grudge against Sound Transit for years, as is evident from his email today in which he rants at length against the agency, even falsely accusing it of having every law firm around on its payroll.

Eyman has previously contended that “voters are smart” and that the typical voter is perfectly capable of listening to the arguments made by ballot measure proponents and opponents, then making up their minds on their own. But Eyman clearly doesn’t believe that himself, as he is once again trying to overturn their will. Every time you get the chance, ask Eyman, “Why are you trying to overturn the will of the voters?”

Read more about Eyman’s obsession with taking out Sound Transit and how it inspired the creation of NPI’s Permanent Defense project — and later NPI itself.

2.  Eyman is trying to raise money for I-947 while also trying to raise $600,000 to pay legal bills

The cost of getting on the ballot exclusively with hired help runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even more money is needed when the initiative sponsor wants to arrange to receive illegal kickbacks from the company providing the signatures.

Those kickbacks and other serious public disclosure law violations are the basis for four — yes, four — lawsuits filed by the State of Washington against Tim Eyman.

Like his idol Donald Trump, Eyman is claiming to be the victim of a “witch hunt”. He recently sent out an appeal for money via the United States Postal Service, writing, “I need help, a lot of help…. For the past five years, the AG has been investigating me and it has been incredibly stressful, burdensome, and costly to me and my family.”

“I implore you. Please help me get through this,” Eyman adds.

He says his goal is to raise $600,000 for his legal defense — about what a signature drive would cost minus the kickbacks Eyman has received in the past. Eyman says he has seeded his own legal defense fund by taking out a loan against his house.

How is Eyman going to manage to raise over half a million for a new initiative at the same time he’s trying to raise over half a million for his legal defense? That’s a lot to ask, even of his wealthy benefactors, who have been less and less generous since 2015.

3. Initiative 947 is actually Eyman’s sixth attempt to slash vehicle fees, not his third

Some of the accounts of Tim Eyman’s “announcement” from yesterday have portrayed Initiative 947 as Eyman’s third attempt to set vehicle fees at thirty dollars. It is actually Eyman’s sixth attempt to do so. Eyman doesn’t like talking about his many failures, which is why he painted an incomplete picture yesterday.

Here’s a rundown of the prior initiatives:

I-695, 1999: Voted on in November of 1999. Gutted the statewide motor vehicle excise tax, eviscerating funding for ferries, roads, bridges, transit, and a host of other local public services. Declared unconstitutional by the courts; partially reinstated by the Legislature. Read more about the impacts of I-695.

I-776, 2002: Voted on in November of 2002. Repealed local motor vehicle excise taxes in King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Douglas counties and also revoked Sound Transit’s authority to collect vehicle fees. I-776 ended up not applying to Sound Transit because the vehicle fees were used as the basis for bond sales. Read more about the impacts of I-776.

I-917, 2006: Failed to qualify to the 2006 ballot. Using Michael Dunmire’s money, Tim Eyman hired petition crews to gather signatures for I-917, but he didn’t buy enough to qualify the measure. It took the Secretary of State the rest of the summer to check all of the I-917 signatures. In September of 2006, the office announced I-917 had not qualified for the ballot. Read more about the spectacular collapse of I-917.

I-1421, 2016: Failed to qualify to last year’s ballot. In February of 2016, Tim Eyman made a similar announcement to the one he made yesterday, saying the time was ripe for another initiative to slash vehicle fees. He summoned reporters to a morning press conference, made a big show of being the first to sign, and then send out a flurry of fundraising emails. But I-1421 didn’t go anywhere. It turned out there wasn’t much interest. Only a few months later, Eyman was forced to acknowledge I-1421 had been abandoned.

I-869, 2016: Failed to qualify as an initiative to the 2017 Legislature. After the failure of I-1421, Eyman started over with a clone, I-869, rebranding the effort as “We Love Our Cars”. But it was no more successful than I-1421. In December of 2016, it died a quiet death, without so much as passing obituary from Eyman.

Given that Eyman’s last three attempts to qualify an initiative slashing vehicle fees have ended in failure, we should all be skeptical that I-947 is going anywhere until Tim Eyman shows us the commitments from his wealthy benefactors. Eyman has not gotten on the ballot with mostly volunteer labor since 1999. His initiative factory relies on big money to function — it’s not a grassroots operation. Without sizable commitments from the likes of Kemper Freeman, Jr., Kenneth Fisher, or Clyde Holland, Eyman will not be able to get a signature drive going for I-947.

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