by Darryl, 07/22/2011, 10:36 AM

Washington’s initiative process has failed as a tool of The People. It has largely become a means for the wealthy to pass their own pet laws.

The problem is so bad that even the Seattle Times has had to acknowledge it:

WITHOUT addressing specific pros and cons of any of the three statewide initiatives that appear likely to qualify for November’s ballot, it is hard to deny one glaring truth: None are truly grass roots in origin.

Got enough money and a bug up your ass about something? Buy yourself an initiative! It’s easy. It’s fun!

Just ensure the initiative dangles a small, tangible, immediate benefit to voters, and their eyes glaze over with green dollar signs as they unwittingly vote to dismantle the The Commons that they previously supported and put in place. Seriously…it’s a perverse exploitation of human greed.

This year’s prime example is Tim “biggest lie of my life” Eyman’s I-1125, which is likely to qualify for the ballot (maybe today).

The initiative will severely restrict the State’s ability to toll highways AND prevent light rail from crossing on I-90.

An initiative born of a populist grassroots uprising? Hardly. The effort is primarily funded by Bellevue real-estate baron Kemper Freeman, who has contributed over a million dollars to the initiative campaign.

Freeman has a bug up his ass…he doesn’t like light rail or something. So, he is attempting to purchase himself a law.

The law would thwart the will of the voters, who have twice voted to bring light rail to the east side. Freeman sued to stop it, and lost. So now, Freeman will exploit fear of and self-interest over tolling to pass an initiative that will stop light rail—something that voters have made abundantly clear they want.

Yesterday, King County executive Dow Constantine was on KUOW. He pointed out:

“If you shop at Bellevue Square you contribute to [the I-1125] campaign.”

Conversely, you, your family, your friends can choose to take your money elsewhere.

Ultimately, the initiative process itself must be repaired. My first choice for repair is to get rid of paid signature gatherers altogether, as Oregon did in 1935. But Oregon’s current process, passed in 1985, that prohibits signature gatherers being paid per signature would be an okay start.

Until reform happens, the wealthy will retain the privilege of purchasing their own laws.

25 Responses to “Legislation by the wealthy”

1. Roger Rabbit spews:

If money can buy initiatives, it also can buy legislatures. I don’t need to point out any examples; American history is replete with them. A hundred years ago, the right of the people to bypass bought-and-paid-for legislatures via initiative was a powerful instrument for social and economic reform. We can’t afford to give it up; it may be needed for that purpose again some day, especially given that the influence of money is growing and the say of ordinary voters is waning in American elections. But I agree with abolishing paid signature gatherers. (But making it against the law won’t stop it; when did powerful moneyed interests ever respect laws?)

2. slingshot spews:

Amen, brother. The initiative process is maximum FUBAR. And then don’t forget the horse’s ass himself.

3. Change in Time spews:

Our political process is so corrupted by money, it would actually be a surprise for this to be any other way. How much different is initiative bankrolling than Paul Allen’s paying for a special election to get the state to fund a new football stadium? With the Citizen’s United ruling, a political process that pays any heed to the working class among us is even further from reality. It would be nice to think rupert murdoch’s empire is imploding, and we would have a better chance at actually getting information to the people. Not likely, and even if newscorp vanished, some other misinformation source would likely appear.
Never-the-less, I hope at least the fact that I-1125 even has horsesass eyman’s name on it help reduce it’s chance of passage.

4. proud leftist spews:

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of the initiative process. I’d get rid of it, or at least prohibit initiatives that involve budgetary policy. I’m okay with initiatives that involve values issues–legalizing marijuana, trapping animals, gay marriage. But, the populace should not be voting on fiscal matters. That’s what representative democracy is for.

5. Lauramae spews:

Because of eyeman and Costco and this jackass, I think the whole initiative process is shit. People are not careful thinkers and vote for initiatives that compete directly with previous initiatives in the past.

6. Rujax! spews:

Just eliminate the paid signature gathering.

That would fix it.

7. MikeBoyScout spews:

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but some rich bastard will pony up cash for another horse’s ass of an initiative all of the time.”

– eyman’s initiative mill’s mission statement.

8. Michael spews:

Getting rid of paid signature gatherers would get us most of the way on reforming the system. Do that and see what happens.

9. Tlazolteotl spews:

I hate the Freeman family so much I try to avoid spending any money at all in Bellevue.

10. rhp6033 spews:

Remember a couple of years ago (or so), when attempts to reform the initiative-signature process were defeated, with Tim Eyman insisting that there was “no evidence” of a problem?

Check out the article in today’s P.I. The SEIW sponsored I-1163, and hired an independent firm, PCI Consultant’s Inc., to manage the initiative process. PCI, in turn, hired a sub-contractor to collect signatures for I-1163, which they did at the same time they collected signatures for other initiatives.

Turns out that a fair number of the signatures from this specific sub-contractor looked suspicious, and after checking them out, PCI concluded that they were fraudulent. PCI did not submit those signatures to the I-1165 campaign, and they were not submitted to the Secty of State. Instead, the matter was referred to the authorities, and the Wash. State Patrol has started an investigation.

State Patrol to Investigate Possible Initiative Signature Fraud

So here you have evidence that there is indeed a problem with paid-per-signature system here in Washington state. If not for the internal controls at PCI, those signatures might have been submitted to qualify the initiative for the ballot, subject only to the normal random check. Someone who has a vested financial interest or strong ideological stake in the outcome might not be quite so inclined to self-audit and self-report.

Of course, expect the right wing and Eyman to try to deflect by making the unions the fall guy, even though they were entirely innocent in all this, and are cooperating with the investigation.

The real point is that the current system is very flawed, and needs to be changed. Immediately.

11. Steve spews:

@9 I like the Goodwill store over there. Rich people toss some great stuff. I found a couple of like-new original Gene Sarazin sandwedges there for $1.50 each – probably worth a couple hundred each. I also found a couple of really nice pool cues for buck each.

Hmm, I’ve actually done some consulting for Freeman. Nothing evil, mind you. Hell, I’ll take his money.

12. MikeBoyScout spews:

Briefly….
The voter’s initiative process as conceived by progressives in the Progressive Era was thought to be a way to enable the average person to get around the bought & paid for state legislatures.

The buyers & payers have adapted.

Sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.

13. ArtFart spews:

Living in Seattle and working on the eastside, I’ve occasionally shopped at Blah-Vue Square over the years. I’m sure as hell not going to anymore. Also, instead of fighting the traffic to go to that little piddly-ass excuse for a jazz festival, in the future my bride and I are going to go to the real thing in Monterey.

On the train.

14. rhp6033 spews:

I work in Bellevue, but I usually don’t go anywhere near Bellevue Square. When I do go, it’s usually to take a visitor from Asia who wants to go shopping at an American mall.

It’s funny how much of a difference there is between Bellevue Square, Northgate, Southcenter (or whatever else they are calling it these days), and Alderwood Mall. The stores are pretty much the same (chain stores are the same everywhere), but the customers vary. At Alderwood I see middle-class families and teenagers. At Bellevue the relative wealth of the customers is quite evident in how well they dress just to go to the mall. Up north at Everett Mall, which is pretty small by comparison, it’s mostly working-class combined with sailors and their girlfriends form the naval base.

15. That there is Cundalini....and Cundalini wants his hand back spews:

@14

why does that difference surprise you?

Seems to me that you are stating the obvious..again.

16. americafirst spews:

@1. Roger Rabbit spews:

If money can buy initiatives, it also can buy legislatures. I don’t need to point out any examples; American history is replete with them. A hundred years ago, the right of the people to bypass bought-and-paid-for legislatures via initiative was a powerful instrument for social and economic reform. We can’t afford to give it up; it may be needed for that purpose again some day, especially given that the influence of money is growing and the say of ordinary voters is waning in American elections. But I agree with abolishing paid signature gatherers. (But making it against the law won’t stop it; when did powerful moneyed interests ever respect laws?)
—————————————–
Right, but your objection to paid signature gatherers is misplaced; there is a distinction between paying for legislation and paying for an opportunity for people to vote on legislation. This strikes me as based upon class envy; Dems would rather see the people have no right to vote upon an initiative at all than to allow them to vote on an initiative funded by those you perceive as class enemies.

17. Roger Rabbit spews:

@16 How much sense does it make to have an initiative process on the books as a counterweight to the influence of monied interests over legislative bodies if those same interest can also buy control of the initiative process? Might as well not bother with it.

If you can’t find enough unpaid volunteers to gather signatures for an initiative, maybe the initiative isn’t worth voting for.

18. Deathfrogg spews:

@ 15

So you have no issue with people buying legislation? Corporations should never be involved in the process whatsoever. None. When you put corporations ahead of citizens, you have fascism. When the money is the only measure of speech, you get people like the Koch Brothers and the Waltons.

But you already knew that, and don’t seem to have an issue with that either.

19. proud leftist spews:

15, 16
Please don’t propose the GOP as the party of “the people.” If you fucks are that deluded, then you need therapy. And antipsychotic medications.

20. That there is Cundalini....and Cundalini wants his hand back spews:

@18

I was commenting on RHP’s paragraph concerning shopping mall patrons you nitwit.

same goes for you commie boy @19.

go buy yourself a clue moron.

21. That there is Cundalini....and Cundalini wants his hand back spews:

@19

and neither party is a party of “the people” you brainwashed skeezer.

you are the mindless partisan automaton that votes the same old crooks into office time and again without using any brainpower other than to look for who has a D and who has an R behind their name.

people like you are the problem.

22. YLB spews:

21 – And Monson fan bois like you are the solution?

Hilarious!

You haven’t proposed any “solution” here beyond worn out right wing cliches and taking cheap pot shots at people..

But such is to expected of an asshat… How’s the Makers Mark taste tonight?

23. That there is Cundalini....and Cundalini wants his hand back spews:

@22

go eat a dick you ball-less pussy….you dont even wear the pants in your own family, why the fuck would anyone listen to you for a solution to anything other than basement decorating?

and I prefer Pendleton……

24. YLB spews:

23 – LMAO! Strong medicine to vomit up hate!

Keep going tool. We’ll never the see the faintest outlines of a coherent thought from your dumb ass.

Thanks for making our point.

25. Sarah spews:

Across the state, school districts are deciding how to deal with the education budget shortfalls. Most are left no choice but to replace a bunch of full schooldays with half days. This is a pain in the neck for parents who have to figure out what to do for childcare for the other half of the day (and it’s no good for student learning eiher), but I have an excellent solution to the problem: let’s ask Tim Eyman to babysit! I figure if you use your blog and your column in The Stranger to illustrate the connection between Eyman’s idiotic initiatives and the fact that 100s of 1000s of Washington parents are going to have to take time off from work and/or pay for childcare to compensate for the slashed education budget, AND if you provide contact information so that those Parents can get ahold of Uncle Timmy and a choice handful of anti-education lawmakers to arrange for babysitting, we could get a message across and have a lot of fun. Not that I’d leave my kids with those bunch of dipsticks, but…

Just an idea,

Sarah