Tag Archives: Initiative Process Reform

Panicking Tim Eyman tries new gimmick to stop initiative reform: Impersonating Secretary of State Kim Wyman

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and Reframing

Bipartisan legislation that would address abuse of our state’s initiative and referendum powers by combating issues like signature fraud and petitioner misconduct continues to progress closer to becoming a reality in Olympia, thanks to the new dynamic in the statehouse created by Manka Dhingra’s victory in the 45th District last year.

That’s welcome news for Washingtonians, but not for disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who is in full-blown panic mode over the prospect of the bill’s passage.

This week, following the Senate’s overwhelming passage of ESSB 5397, Eyman tried to convince Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman to publicly oppose the bill by instructing his followers to email her at both her official and nonofficial email addresses, and to copy him on those messages. But Wyman hasn’t budged. She’s chosen to be neutral.

Frustrated, Eyman decided today to send out an email with a false premise and false subject line… one that made it sound like Wyman had come over to his side (Sec of State Kim Wyman’s heroic & courageous opposition to anti-initiative bill).

“In the Legislature, ninety-nine times out of one hundred, powerful special interest groups call the shots, politicians bow to their will, and the voices of grassroots citizens are completely ignored. That’s what makes what Sec of State Kim Wyman did today so unique. Don’t you find this statement inspiring?” the email began.

Eyman then proceeded to impersonate Wyman in a lengthy statement that made a lot of bogus and erroneous arguments against ESSB 5397.

Only at the end of his message did Eyman concede the whole thing was a fabrication made up by him, sulkily admitting: “Too bad Kim Wyman didn’t send out that statement. Instead she skipped yesterday’s hearing [in the House State Government Committee] and just sent out an email this morning saying she’s neutral on the bill.”

Eyman did not bother to include the text of Wyman’s message from her Legislative Relations Director stating her actual position. But we’ve included it below for reference.

Sadly, this kind of duplicitous communication is par for the course for Eyman, who has a long history of resorting to inappropriate stunts and gimmicks in an attempt to attract media coverage and dupe people into backing his agenda.

NPI’s Permanent Defense project has now worked for sixteen years to counter Eyman’s misinformation and remains committed to ensuring that Eyman gets the vigorous, unceasing opposition that he deserves.

Kim Wyman’s actual position on ESSB 5397

Thank you for reaching out to the Office of Secretary of State to communicate your concerns regarding Senate Bill 5397.

To be clear, this bill does not change or alter the process in which the Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office certifies an initiative or referendum, nor does it create any additional requirements for volunteer signature gatherers.

It would, however, require entities [campaigns] that hire petition signature gatherers to disclose to the public the identities and other information of those [companies] who employ paid signature gatherers. The bill places those disclosure processes with the Public Disclosure Commission.

Both the initiative and referendum filing and certification processes would remain unchanged by this bill. The State Elections Division checks every signature sheet submitted for evidence of fraud and also checks suspect petition signatures against signatures in the Washington State Voter Registration Database. The courts have found that our signature-checking process is the most effective way to prevent fraudulent signatures from getting an unqualified measure on the ballot.

The Washington State Constitution guarantees citizens the right to initiative and referenda – a right I fully support and do not want to see diminished. I also support transparency in the elections process, which is critical to maintaining the integrity of the system and upholding the public trust.

For these reasons, and because this bill has no impact on [legitimate] petition signatures, does not change the initiative and referendum process, nor does it change my office’s role in certifying a submitted ballot measure, I have taken a neutral position on Senate Bill 5397 and its companion, House Bill 1537, throughout this legislative session.

I encourage you to contact your representatives in the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives and share your concerns, as they will ultimately determine the fate of this legislation.


Direct democracy turns one hundred in Washington: Time to bring back the *citizen* initiative

Legislation & TestimonyThreat Analysis

One hundred years ago, the people of Washington prevailed upon their legislators to offer an amendment to the state’s Constitution providing for citizen lawmaking through the initiative and the referendum. That amendment, which the people adopted, was meant to give Washingtonians a stronger voice in their own government, complementing the legislative process rather than supplanting it. At many points during the last ten decades, the initiative and referendum have served as a helpful check on the Legislature, paving the way for change that otherwise would have fallen victim to dithering, inaction, or corruption.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the powers of direct democracy have been used more for ill than good, as exemplified by the emergence of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory.

Last week, Permanent Defense celebrated and commemorated its tenth anniversary, and a few days later, in honor of the one hundredth birthday of the initiative and referendum in Washington, Washington State University organized a forum on direct democracy in Olympia to ponder the question of whether the initiative process really still belongs to the people. (In our view, that’s no longer a question: the answer is no, and the evidence backing up that answer is overwhelming).

Eyman, who participated in the forum, sent out an email today attempting to portray himself as a tolerant good-guy looking out for the people’s right to make law at the ballot – ironic given that he has done more than anyone else to co-opt the initiative process on behalf of powerful interests.

His email included this paragraph worth of statistics which caught our attention:

An interesting fact: over the past 13 years, voters have passed into law 21 initiatives. Of those, 11 were liberal ideas and 10 were conservative. Of the 10 conservative initiatives, 7 of them were ours.

Since it is always a bad idea to trust Tim Eyman’s numbers, we went and looked up the electoral history ourselves. As it turns out, Eyman only fudged one number – the total number of initiatives Washington voters have passed into law over the last thirteen elections. It’s actually twenty-three, not twenty-one.

We would agree that eleven of those twenty-three successful initiatives could be described as liberal ideas – they were measures that had progressive backing. We would also agree that ten of those successful initiatives could be described as conservative ideas – they were measures with right wing backing.

However, voters also considered three measures that we don’t think correspond to ideological battle lines: I-696 from 1999 (concerned fishing restrictions), I-713 from 2000 (concerned outlawing certain types of traps), and I-872 from 2004 (concerned with creating a “Top Two” winnowing election).

The former initiative was defeated and the latter two were passed.

Furthermore, there were  fifteen other measures on the ballot over the last thirteen years that did not pass. Most of those were right wing initiatives, as the data below shows. Figures in bold denote the numbers of initiatives that voters passed; figures in roman denote the numbers of initiatives that voters rejected.

Progressive (left-wing) initiatives

  • 1999: None
  • 2000: 728, 732
  • 2001: 773, 775
  • 2002: 790
  • 2003: None
  • 2004: 297, 884
  • 2005: 336, 901
  • 2006: 937
  • 2007: None
  • 2008: 1000, 1029
  • 2009: None
  • 2010: 1098
  • 2011: 1163

Total overall: 14
Total successful: 11

Conservative (right-wing) initiatives

  • 1999: 695
  • 2000: 722, 729, 745
  • 2001: 747
  • 2002: 776
  • 2003: 841
  • 2004: 892
  • 2005: 900, 912, 330
  • 2006: 920, 933
  • 2007: 960
  • 2008: 985
  • 2009: 1033
  • 2010: 1053, 1082, 1100, 1105, 1107
  • 2011: 1125, 1183

Total overall: 22
Total successful: 10

Please note that referendum bills and referendum measures are not included in the above figures – nor are proposed constitutional amendments, which may only be put on the ballot by the Legislature, and tend to be uncontroversial.

Though the data above paints a more complete picture of our recent electoral history than Tim Eyman did in his email, it still leaves out out a lot. Without discussion and analysis, context is lacking. The lists above are analogous to a line score: they tell us what happened, but not how or why.

For instance, one important thing we can’t see from looking at these numbers is that many of the progressive initiatives that voters passed over the last thirteen years were modest in scope and did not attract particularly strong opposition.

Conversely, nearly all the right wing initiatives (both successes and failures) were deliberately written to inflict a great deal of harm to our common wealth or plan of government and, as a consequence, were fought by a series of well-organized no campaigns. Such aggressiveness by conservatives may result in a lower statistical win/loss ratio, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a profitable strategy.

To the contrary: It pays serious dividends.

That’s because even when they don’t win, conservatives still force progressives to commit substantial resources to defending the state.

And when they are successful, they can cause a lot of damage in one broad stroke, since the ramifications of their schemes are so far-reaching.

When progressives brought direct democracy here a hundred years ago, they hoped future generations would use the initiative and referendum as tools to build Washington into a stronger state. And on many occasions, the initiative has been used to allow the people to vote on ideas to improve quality of life.

But unfortunately, in recent years, the citizen initiative has turned into the corporate initiative. With the help of a rogue’s gallery of wealthy benefactors, Tim Eyman has showed how the process can be abused and hijacked to serve destructive ends: sabotaging our Constitution, crippling our common wealth, eviscerating public services, eroding public trust in government, and discouraging civility.

In between sponsoring his ill-conceived initiatives, Eyman has become a regular visitor to the Capitol Campus in Olympia, appearing at legislative hearings to denounce efforts to return the initiative process to the people and falsely accusing those in favor of reform with wanting to do away with direct democracy altogether. Were the initiative process to be more grassroots-oriented (as the framers of the Seventh Amendment intended it to be), it would complicate Eyman’s operation, which cannot run without six figure checks from wealthy benefactors.

It should come as no surprise that Tim Eyman’s unrelenting, knee-jerk opposition to initiative reform has more to do with self-interest than principles.

Eyman acts to try to prevent initiative process reform

Legislation & Testimony

Initiative profiteer Tim Eyman, desperate for more media attention and hoping to preserve the status quo of an initiative process currently manipulated by special interests, announced he was filing an initiative Wednesday to stop lawmakers from tinkering with the initiative process – even though legislators aren’t currently attempting to make any drastic changes.

“If Tim files too many more initiatives, he’s going to become the laughingstock of the state. What he’s doing now is reacting to something that don’t even exist,” said Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve. “Eyman says legislators are making subtle attacks on the initiative process. But legislators know that Tim Eyman isn’t a force in Olympia any longer. They’re not worried about the initiative process because they have more important things to be concerned with. ”

This latest announcement is nothing extraordinary.

Eyman has been incapable so far of getting any initiative on the ballot for the last couple of years without special interest money. Eyman’s initiative is all about preserving the status quo of a manipulated initiative process and stifling reform that could put the power of the initiative back in the hands of ordinary citizens. But with his recent 0 for 4 record, it’s clear this latest Eyman initiative is all hype and no substance.

“Tim Eyman’s recent record on qualifying initiatives for the ballot and passing them speaks for itself. He isn’t going to be able to manage getting this or his performance audits initiative on the ballot this year unless he finds a new source of cash,” Villeneuve concluded.

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