The Dunmire Initiative Process

Since 2004, retired Woodinville investment banker Michael Dunmire has given at least $2,747,193.71 to Tim Eyman and his various initiatives.

That’s nearly half a million dollars a year.

Over the past six years Dunmire’s impressive bank account has provided the bulk of the money used to buy the signatures necessary to get Eyman’s initiatives on the ballot, and the bulk of Eyman’s personal compensation. Without the largesse of this one man, none of Eyman’s recent initiatives would have qualified for the ballot.

Is that the citizens initiative process the populist framers of our state constitution imagined?

I don’t think so.

Talk of doing away with the initiative process is a nonstarter; even significant reforms would require a constitutional amendment, and nobody ever wins an election asking for less democracy. But I do have one idea that might return the initiative process closer to its populist roots, and just may be constitutional in the process: impose contribution limits on the signature gathering portion of the campaign.

The courts have been clear that the state cannot impose contribution limits on issues, as that would interfere with free speech, but as far as I know, separating the mechanics of collecting signatures from the messaging, while imposing contribution limits on the former but not the latter, has never been attempted.

Perhaps the courts would not allow this either; I don’t know, and perhaps folks with more expertise in this aspect of the law could chime in with their opinion. But at the very least such an effort at reform would create a much needed public discussion of whether our democracy is served by making the initiative process the private playground of wealthy individuals and powerful special interest groups.

Comments

  1. 1

    SJ Troll Patrol spews:

    I will leave the legal expertise issues here to the Wabbit, but I think this is unlikely to be legal as Goldy has put it.

    There must be better way to vett initiatives. At a minimum it seems to me that initiatives should always be pretested by the courts to assure that citizens are not wasting their time on matters that do not pass the smell test.

    Adding this layer would bring in some other issues. First, there would be additional moneys needed as the initiatives would need to be framed and presented by lawyer$, Second, the question of which court would vett the intiatives and whether this pre-empts further litigation should they pass would become very important. Third, this would allow us to place some objective standards on the information needed to inform the public about an initiative. E.g. an initiative to rule out global warming, or its effects, might force the sponsor of then initiative to show that he/she can also fund the needed educational resources so people can vote from knowledge.

  2. 2

    Roots spews:

    I would love to see this bill introduced in an election year legislature. Oh, may I sell admission tickets?

    I like the basic PDC law, just disclose the money, so we all can see it, and then get the lazy print and electronic media out of the doughnut room so they can report about it……..

    My opinion is let all comers come…and let the public decide….the public unions that sweep up all the tax dollars for their wallets have pretty much lied their way to defeat of 1033…so there is a balance in mulch of obfuscation.

  3. 3

    spews:

    Oregon has prohibited the payment of money to signature gatherers based on the number of signatures they get. They must be paid by the hour. This reduces the potential for fraud. This has not been ruled unconstitutional. So there are reforms that can be made.

    A simple reform to limit somewhat Eyman’s ability to file repeated petitions, shopping for the ballot title that he likes best, is to increase the filing fee from the current $5 to $50 or $100 per petition to pay for the time the Secretary of State, the code revisor , and the Attorney General’s office has to spend reviewing and writing ballot titles for his initiatives.

    Eyman is obviously using public resources and wasting taxpayer dollars to further his initiative business and at $5 per initiative is not paying the costs associated with the state processing his measures.

    So far this year Eyman has filed 20 initiatives to the legislature and 11 to the people as he shops multiple versions trying to get a good sounding ballot title.

    One solution that Oregon came up with to deal with this multiple filing of initiatives is to require that for an initiative to be processed and receive a ballot tile, they require the filing of the signatures of 1000 voters as sponsors of the measure.

    This eliminates the multiple filing of initiatives in the seach for a favorable ballot title and the associated cost to the taxpayers. Eyman is gaming the system at public expense. It is ridiculous.

  4. 4

    Ekim spews:

    Signature gathers are taking part in the process of changing state law. Therefore they should be required to be registered voters of the state.

  5. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    I haven’t checked on the state court decisions, but my personal preference is that no signature gatherer should be paid, either on a per-signature basis or on an hourly basis.

    The intent of the provision in the Constitution was to allow a method for direct citizen involvement in the lawmaking process, not to create a new profession for failed watch salesmen. If there really was a groundswell of public support for an initiative, it shouldn’t be that hard for them to get enough volunteer signature gatherers.

  6. 6

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    I suppose Eyeman’s paid signature strong armers are all “independent contractors”. Har. Har.

  7. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 An argument could be made that regulating contributions for signature gathering is analogous to the “soft money” restrictions upheld by SCOTUS in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. Wikipedia explains the rationale:

    “Because the regulations dealt mostly with soft-money contributions that were used to register voters and increase attendance at the polls, not with campaign expenditures (which are more explicitly a statement of political values and therefore deserve more protection), the Court held that the restriction on free speech was minimal. It then found that the restriction was justified by the government’s legitimate interest in preventing ‘both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and … the appearance of corruption’ that might result from those contributions.”

    However, given the current 5-4 conservative alignment of the Court, and taking into consideration its rulings in more recent campaign contribution limits cases, the pending case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission could result in McConnell being overturned.

    Significantly, in June 2009, the Court ordered the parties to reargue the case on broader issues, and specifically directed United Citizens, a conservative group, “to address the following question: ‘For the disposition of this case, should the Court overrule either or both Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the part of McConnell v. FEC which addresses the facial validity of Section 203 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002?'” (quoted from Wikipedia).

    According to Wikipedia, “One issue in particular that likely contributed to the Court’s desire to have the case reargued was the statement by then-Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, representing the FEC, that the government would have the power to ban books, if those books constituted express advocacy.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.....Commission

    This suggests to me the conservatives on the Court are getting set to blow away most or all of the existing restrictions on advocacy spending on First Amendment grounds.

    For those interested, discussion of campaign limits judicature can be found at the Brennan Center’s website: http://www.brennancenter.org/c.....ion_limits

  8. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Citizens United was barred by McCain-Feingold from running TV ads promoting an anti-Hillary movie during the 2008 primaries. My guess is there are 5 conservative votes on the Court to overturn the D.C. District Court ruling against C.U.

  9. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 (continued) “At a minimum it seems to me that initiatives should always be pretested by the courts to assure that citizens are not wasting their time on matters that do not pass the smell test.”

    That won’t happen because it runs afoul of the “actual controversy” doctrine, which means courts don’t have jurisdiction unless there’s an actual dispute between adverse parties. Thus, a lawsuit filed to get a court’s opinion on an academic issue will always be dismissed for “lack of a justiciable controversy.”

  10. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    At this moment, as I type, Tom DeLay is embarrassing himself on TV’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” (i.e., he doesn’t know the answer). The question had to do with the setting of a TV show.

  11. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @2 “the public unions that sweep up all the tax dollars for their wallets”

    Uh, no. That’s wages earned for work performed. Public servants are entitled, like everyone else, to get paid for their work.

  12. 12

    Alki Postings spews:

    This always the sticky area of Democracy. When one or two people can ‘buy’ their way onto the ballot or get an initiative to the polls, and even fund the majority of the press supporting it…that’s not real democracy. If one of these little Tim initiatives actually originated with “the people” and not just one rich guy and his lackey, then I’d be more likely to not laugh them off.

  13. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @2 is typical wingnut fare:

    1. Government is an unmitigated evil;
    2. Public workers are leeches;
    3. The salaries paid to public workers are the same thing as welfare;
    4. Public workers either should work for nothing or shouldn’t have jobs at all;
    5. Anyone making over minimum wage, whether they work for King County or Boeing, is overpaid;
    6. The minimum wage is too high; in fact, there shouldn’t even be a minimum wage, or if there is, the minimum wage should be set at zero.

    A cheap labor conservative in full Halloween regalia!

  14. 17

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Why are DEMOCRATS so afraid of putting tax increases on the Ballot?
    It really isn’t that difficult, is it??
    I mean asking TAXPAYERS if they want to pay more….HEAVEN FORBID!

    And requiring Elected Officials to show voters they are good stewards of existing tax dollars if they are asking for more…OMIGOD!!

    You KLOWNS spend most of your time, almost all of it, scheming how to tax money out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the Bureaucratic Tub of Goo with the minimal amount of accountability.

  15. 18

    spews:

    17. Mr. Cynical spews:

    Why are DEMOCRATS so afraid of putting tax increases on the Ballot?
    It really isn’t that difficult, is it??
    I mean asking TAXPAYERS if they want to pay more….HEAVEN FORBID!

    And requiring Elected Officials to show voters they are good stewards of existing tax dollars if they are asking for more…OMIGOD!!

    You KLOWNS spend most of your time, almost all of it, scheming how to tax money out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the Bureaucratic Tub of Goo with the minimal amount of accountability.

    10/29/2009 at 7:00 pm

    Check the history of bond issues and other assesmants in the City of Seattle and King County, fuckhead.

  16. 19

    spews:

    Putrid motherfucker never knows what the fuck he’s talking about. What gets me is that the shithead isn’t even registered to vote in Washington. Easy for the Cyniklown to support initiatives that cripple the ability of the State, County and City to deliver services when he doesn’t even fucking live or vote here.

  17. 21

    spews:

    20. Mr. Cynical spews:

    Rujax–
    Head explosion!
    Do you have a permit for blowing up your noggin PINHEAD??

    10/29/2009 at 7:22 pm

    OWWWW…oooooo, that hurts…ouch. Ooooo…he really got me. Geez Louise…

  18. 23

    2cents spews:

    What was the big issue with the Anti Referendum 71 crowd? Aren’t they trying to allow bigger contribution limits on referendums? Why aren’t there contribution limits on initiatives?

  19. 24

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @17 You think parks, schools, roads, police and fire departments, libraries, snowplows, etc., are a “Bureaucratic Tub of Goo”??! No wonder you call yourself “cynical.”

    Don’t tell us how you got to be so cynical, Klown. We don’t want to know.

  20. 26

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Three-fourths of King County’s budget goes for public safety — police, courts, jails.

    This is what Klown refers to as “Bureaucratic Goo.”

    I feel sorry for you, old man. If I were as jaded as you, I’d have to kill myself.

  21. 29

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @19 His excuse is that being an absentee slumlord who pays property taxes gives him the right to run our state and county for us.

  22. 31

    proud leftist spews:

    Cynical is going nuts because he thought he could escape reason, empiricism, and what is by moving to Montana. Montana, however, has essentially become a blue state. Two US Senators–Democrats. Governor–Democrat. State legislature–Democrat. Obama would have won Montana if he’d made one last swing through there when he went to Colorado at the end of the campaign. But, internal polling told him he didn’t need Montana’s 3 electoral votes. As it was, McCain beat Obama by 3% in Montana. So, Cynical feels his world closing in upon him. He knows Oklahoma is his last refuge. Go man, go.

  23. 32

    proud leftist spews:

    Wingnuts all should move to Oklahoma. They will feel at home there. Oklahoma is the only state in the union where every single county voted for Palin/McCain. Y’all can go there and fight among yourselves for the heart and soul (not that there’s any of either left) of the Republican Party. Y’all can go down there and hobnob with Clay Bennett, that good ol’ boy who kind of lied when he bought the Sonics, and who is a hardcore Republican. Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Ada, Norman–think of the opportunities, my dear wingnut friends.

  24. 33

    SJ trollpatrol spews:

    Roger

    Cold wer have a law requiring that an initiative

    1. be legal, incl constitution
    2. include data for any fiscal impact, cost of same to be paid by group sponsoring initiative
    3. requiring all petition gatherers to be registered voters
    4. requiring any petition gatherers sponsored by any orgnaization with a registered tax status to identify that entity. This wold include petition gatherers acting as members of a union, political party. copr, 501 c, etc.
    5. make any violation of the initiative process, e.g. intentionally falsifying names or knowingly publishing false claims, a felony.

    Finally, ocld something like this itself be passed as an initiative?

  25. 34

    X'ad spews:

    17. Mr. Cynical spews:

    Why are DEMOCRATS so afraid of putting tax increases on the Ballot?
    It really isn’t that difficult, is it??
    I mean asking TAXPAYERS if they want to pay more….HEAVEN FORBID!

    And requiring Elected Officials to show voters they are good stewards of existing tax dollars if they are asking for more…OMIGOD!!

    You KLOWNS spend most of your time, almost all of it, scheming how to tax money out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the Bureaucratic Tub of Goo with the minimal amount of accountability.17. Mr. Cynical spews:

    Why are DEMOCRATS so afraid of putting tax increases on the Ballot?
    It really isn’t that difficult, is it??
    I mean asking TAXPAYERS if they want to pay more….HEAVEN FORBID!

    And requiring Elected Officials to show voters they are good stewards of existing tax dollars if they are asking for more…OMIGOD!!

    You KLOWNS spend most of your time, almost all of it, scheming how to tax money out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the Bureaucratic Tub of Goo with the minimal amount of accountability.

    Troglodytes (buy a dictionary, if you can figure out what one is) like you and the philosophy you represent were up for a vote last November.

    WE know how that worked out, even though you don’t seem to have comprehended it.

    In addition to being a morally depraved, greedy, representative of everything a Christian is not, you are a moe-ron.

  26. 35

    Tlazolteotl spews:

    nobody ever wins an election asking for less democracy.

    Well, unless you’re talking about limiting the civil rights of teh scaree gai peeple.