I like to belittle Tim Eyman as a “professional” initiative sponsor, but the truth is, he really isn’t all that professional. Case in point, the breaking news that his volunteers and paid signature gatherers have wasted the past month collecting signatures on an invalid petition.
Tim Eyman’s current Initiative 917 petitions for $30 license tabs are invalid and violate Washington state law. He has resent “redesigned” petitions to his supporters but lies and tells them that signatures on the old petitions are “valid”.
This directly contradicts an announcement issued by the Washington State Secretary of State on Feb. 19, 2006 and posted on their website.
I cannot begin to tell you what a major, logistical fuck-up this is… and to add to his embarrassment, it’s not the first time. Steve caught the true meaning of Timmy’s lying letter because it was a near carbon-copy of one he sent to supporters back in 2003, when he inexcusably printed the wrong initiative text on the back of the I-807 petition. The campaign never recovered, and Timmy failed to qualify an initiative for the ballot.
It’s still too early in the signature gathering season to determine whether Tim’s latest screw-up is fatal, but it certainly will prove costly. As of the end of February, the I-917 campaign had already spent at least $90,000 on paid signature gathering, and over $25,000 on printing and mailing… all of it on totally invalid petitions. That’s about a quarter of the budget of a typical signature drive.
But at least as devastating is the chaos and confusion this creates amongst signers. Those who have already signed the invalid petition won’t know that they now must sign the newly “redesigned,” “better” (i.e. valid) petition. And if signature gatherers make an aggressive effort to ask people to sign again, they will likely end up collecting a large number of duplicate signatures.
Anyway, here’s how Eyman screwed up. In 2005 the Legislature amended the controlling statutes to require that all petitions carry a declaration from the signature gatherer attesting that people signed willingly and without compensation, and acknowledging the penalties for forgery and inducement. The new requirement went into effect January 1, 2006, but Eyman — the “professional” — apparently didn’t notice.
Well, apparently somebody else did, because the Secretary of State issued the following advisory on February 9:
It is the interpretation of the Office of the Secretary of State that this declaration must not only be printed on the back side of petition sheet, but must also be signed by the signature gatherer, and the signature gatherer’s name must be printed in the appropriate location. To interpret the law as not requiring the oath to be completed would render the new law meaningless. It is also the interpretation of the Office of the Secretary of State that lack of a signature on the declaration will cause the petition sheet to be rejected pursuant to RCW 29A.72.170(1).
Pretty clear, huh? Petitions lacking a properly completed declaration will not be counted.
Well, not according Timmy. In a letter to supporters sent out last week, Eyman wrote:
“All the signatures, whether on the old petition or redesigned petition, are valid and will count so get them filled out and sent back to me as soon as possible. […] But we ask everyone to start using the new, redesigned petition because it’s better.”
What a lying, sack of shit. Though, yeah… sure… the “redesigned” petitions are indeed “better”… in the sense that these petitions will actually count.
I checked with the SOS and they assured me that their interpretation was written in consultation with the Attorney General’s office. Rep. Toby Nixon has formally asked the AG for an official opinion, but it’s hard to see how a statute requiring this declaration could possibly be read to um… not require this declaration. Eyman is screwed.
And, like I said… a liar.
For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why anybody still takes this guy seriously. Eyman is a serial prevaricator who was caught red handed stealing from contributors, and lying about it afterwards. He has absolutely no grassroots organization whatsoever, and now manages to raise less than $100,000/initiative from his once vaunted contributor list. He can only afford the paid signature gatherers that qualify his initiatives for the ballot through the underwriting of a single, multimillionaire contributor, Michael Dunmire of Woodenville… but to call Timmy a “professional” would be to ignore the inexcusably amateur way he runs his campaigns.
Let’s be honest. If Timmy had been hired to run the signature drive for I-917, and had screwed up big time like this… he would have been fired. And this from the most prolific initiative sponsor in state history… I mean, even my dog eventually learns simple tasks through repetition.
Without Dunmire’s money and the inexplicable attention the traditional media still lavishes on him, Eyman would be nothing but just another lying, angry, right-wing blowhard. Perhaps that’s qualification enough to earn him a spot blogging on (un)Sound Politics, but it certainly doesn’t warrant the guest-column-on-demand status he currently enjoys in our state’s major newspapers.
It is not uncommon to read editorial boards railing against Eyman’s stupid, ill-conceived initiatives. Well here’s a hint guys: stop giving this lying, incompetent, self-serving horse’s ass so much damned free press!