Washington state

...now browsing by tag

 
 

The Lion of Woodinville

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Mike Dunmire passed away last weekend. Mike helped me form the Liberty Initiative Fund, serving as an original board member. But he was best known as a key funder of Tim Eyman’s Washington State ballot initiatives.

Indeed, Eyman’s incredible success at the ballot box — I once called him “America’s Number One Freedom Fighter” — would not have been possible without Dunmire, who was happy to help: “I honestly think he is the only one who gets anything done, and the money could not be better spent.”

Dunmire loved the initiative process. When legislators considered adding a $100 fee for citizens to file a ballot measure, Dunmire eloquently objected:

This hundred dollars may not seem like very much. It will eliminate some people who have fringe ideas. But let me tell you once it was a fringe idea that the world was round. I don’t think we want to suppress these ideas, and I think that all this bill does is buy a tremendous amount of ill will. . . . You maybe will make $10,000 off of this, but you stick a finger in every citizen’s eye. . . .

A native of Woodinville, Washington, he balanced humility with wit, hard work with compassion. He once jokingly introduced himself as “the Woodinville Think Tank President” at a legislative hearing.

“Although starting out with very little, I’ve been fortunate,” Mike once wrote. “I live in the most beautiful state in the union, I have my health, a wife I love, and had a career that brought me financial success. I’ve supported many philanthropic efforts during my life. In recent years, I’ve supplemented my ‘normal’ charitable giving by supporting political efforts to hold government more accountable.”

Mike Dunmire remains alive in the hearts of all those he helped.

This is Common Sense. I’m glad I knew you, Mike.

The Initiative Initiative

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

This morning I’ll stand in Washington State’s capitol in Olympia to turn in more than 340,000 voter signatures on petitions — enough to place Initiative 517 on the ballot next November.

I’ll be there representing Citizens in Charge, the major funder of the initiative, joined by Eddie Agazarm, former head of Citizen Solutions, and Tim Eyman, the leader of Voters Want More Choices.

I-517 strikes three critical blows for protecting the state’s citizen initiative process: (1) providing more time to gather signatures, (2) protecting the First Amendment rights of people circulating or signing a petition, and (3) guaranteeing issues will be voted on if sufficient signatures are gathered.

Currently, Evergreen State petitioners are allowed only six months to gather petition. I-517’s one-year petitioning window will give less well-funded grassroots groups a better chance to place an issue onto the ballot.

Petitioning is “a guaranteed First Amendment free speech right and it deserves protection,” points out Mr. Agazarm. “I-517 sets penalties for interfering with or retaliating against petition signers and signature gatherers.” Such harassment has been happening with greater frequency in recent years.

Tim Eyman is best known for his tax cut initiatives, but I-517 is close to his heart because of his experiences petitioning against red-light cameras. In each of his campaigns they were sued by “out-of-state red-light camera corporations with their lawyers funded by camera profits, and city officials with their lawyers funded with our own taxpayer money.”

I-517 simply requires that initiatives backed by enough signatures be voted on by the people. Even when an initiative is precluded from taking effect, for whatever legal reason, a vote of the people can help educate public officials.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Put Federalism In Your Pipe

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Though centralized power, coalescing in Washington, D.C., has increased in recent years as a bipartisan effort to grow government, it’s worth noting that true federalism is not dead.

Take one of America’s longest-running atrocities, the “War on Drugs.” The American people are rebelling, leaving their political representatives, state and national, in the back seat. The recently successful marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington State are already taking effect, thus marking a major retreat in the once-popular, now increasingly hopeless war.

Last Friday, The Seattle Times reported that King County has dismissed 175 cases involving people over 21 and possession of one ounce of cannabis or less. “Although the effective date of I-502 is not until December 6, there is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month,” explained the county prosecutor.

A smaller number were dismissed in Pierce County, with its prosecutor saying that, “as a practical matter, I don’t think you could sell a simple marijuana case to a jury after this initiative passed.”

In Colorado, a major drug task force has been disbanded. The excuse is lack of funds, but I suspect that Colorado officials had read the writing on the wall, and it wasn’t “Mene, Mene, Tekel, u-Pharsin” — it was the wording of Colorado’s Initiative 64.

The federales don’t have the manpower to enforce federal law in the 50 states, or the constitutional authority to dictate state enforcement of either federal law much less the nature of state criminal laws.

Courtesy of the citizen initiative, we could be seeing the next major devolution of power away from the nation’s capital.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

“Top Two” Goes South

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Washington State has a long history of popular antagonism to political parties. For years, the state enforced an open primary, which meant that Republicans could vote in Democratic primaries and Democrats in Republican primaries. This was very popular, because it led to widespread strategic voting.

Well, that’s a euphemism. In open primaries, what you get is not mere strategic voting so much as sabotage. I have heard of Democrats and others boasting of voting in Republican primaries, for example, supporting Pat Robertson. Why? They believed Robertson to be unelectable, and hoped putting Robertson ahead would undercut the GOP in independent voters’ eyes, and make running against the party easier in the general election.Shooting numbered ducks.

Well, a few years ago that system was thrown out as unconstitutional, as an abridgment of free association rights.

But instead of allowing party members to select candidates, Washington State movers and shakers cooked up something else altogether. They set up a system wherein anyone could use a party’s label — even if that party’s members don’t know said candidate or despise him. Robbing parties of any control over candidates offered in their name is far worse on the very constitutional issue that nullified Washington’s traditional open primaries. Though Top Two has been legally challenged, the U.S. Supreme Court just this week refused to hear arguments.

The name “Top Two” comes from the fact that only the top two vote-getters in this super-open primary are on the general election ballot. The new system has completely removed minor party candidates from the general election ballot, when most folks vote.

Top Two has had the same impact in California. Arizona voters will decide the issue this November, on their ballot as Prop 121.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Enemies, Bedfellows

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The Ron Paul 2012 campaign’s caucus-state delegate strategy, discussed here before, aims to work around the candidate’s biggest hurdle: Republican voters. Though Ron Paul has a strong appeal to the young and to independents — constituencies needed to win against a sitting president — older, mainstream Republicans voters aren’t especially responsive to the maverick’s charms. Concentrating on selecting actual delegates at the caucuses, rather than the media-hyped (and electorally meaningless) straw polls, is a clever strategy.

But what’s good for the goose is great for the gander. A video from Washington State shows a self-proclaimed “mainstream” GOP activist offering caucus participants a slate of 31 delegates allegedly divided up amongst Romney, Santorum and Gingrich supporters, explicitly promoted to make sure that Ron Paulers don’t “take over” the party as they did, to his horror, in the Seattle area.

The Ron Paul supporters touting the video call it “election fraud.” Well, “caucus fraud” might be more to the point, considering that the slate offered was rejected by Rick Santorum’s  supporters as a con job. Since then Santorum folks and Paul folks have united. As one Santorum activist put it, “[i]n order for us to win the nomination in Tampa in August, we must deny Romney delegates to that convention. If . . . Romney receives 1,144 delegates before the national convention, it is all over for our campaign. That is the reason why the Senator himself directed us to coalition with the Ron Paul delegates to deny Romney any state delegates.”

Whether as a grand dialogue of ideas or a horse race, this time around the politics is interesting.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Running Democracy’s Red Light

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In the traffic snarl of political ideas, the liberating concept behind America seems as straightforward as the freeway: The people are the boss, with rights above government, and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The people have a green light to pursue happiness, provided that in their liberty they don’t diminish someone else’s equal right. Conversely, government is limited, facing red lights, and flashing yellows, from the people.

In theory.

Too often our judges and our “elected” representatives don’t get it. They shine red lights at the people. Just happened in Washington State on the issue of . . . well . . . red light cameras.

In dozens and dozens of public votes held across the country on the issue of red-light cameras, voters have a 100 percent track record of saying “No,” to those Orwellian contraptions. That’s what happened in Mukilteo, Washington, thanks to a referendum pushed by Tim Eyman. It’s happened in numerous other Washington cities and localities.

So American Traffic Solutions, the company providing this cash-creating “service,” formed a front group and sued to block local citizens from petitioning the issue to the ballot box.

In a narrow 5-4 decision, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the majority: “The legislature granted to local legislative bodies the exclusive power to legislate on the subject of the use and operation of automated traffic safety cameras. The legislature’s grant of authority does not extend to the electorate.”

Say, what? The very power granted by the legislature, and now denied the people in court, came from the people. The voters are the ultimate “legislative authority.”

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Another Protected Incumbent

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

It’s an impasse worthy of Joseph Heller. The author of the comic novel Catch-22 provided us with the perfect term for a specific type of trap. In Heller’s story, you could only get out of the army if you were crazy — but if you asked to get out, that was proof of your sanity. Catch-22!

In Washington State, citizens may recall an elected official, but the recall effort must do two things: Prove to a court that the effort is not frivolous and abide by the state’s campaign finance laws.

Trouble is, for the court hearing you need an attorney. If your effort — like the current effort to recall controversial Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam — is popular enough to get pro bono work from a major law firm, too bad.

Bad? Well, the campaign finance regulation applies to attorneys, too — and, according to some bureaucrats, the campaign finance limit of $800 per person limits not merely citizen contributors, but volunteering lawyers as well. They may not contribute more than $800 worth of labor to the client!

So, a recall is technically possible. But practically, it is not.

Another typical pro-incumbency effect of campaign finance regulation.

In this case, the Institute for Justice has come to the rescue. They’ve sued: Farris et al. v. Seabrook et al. IJ has made it a mission to defend Americans thwarted by misguided campaign finance regulation.

Someone has to fight our Catch-22’s.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.