Election 2010: Follow the Money
Welcome to the Eat The State! endorsements for the 2010 Washington State, King County, and Seattle general elections. This year’s crop of ballot choices, while otherwise being among the most dreadfully dismal we’ve seen in the 14 years we’ve been picking endorsements, stands out for one crucial reason: Now, more than ever, “It’s all about The Benjamins.”
Rarely, indeed, has the influence of Big Money been so blatant as it is on this year’s Washington State ballot. That influence–and thus, this year’s most crucial ballot choices–can be seen most vividly in the initiatives. Remember when “citizens’ initiatives” were a genuinely grassroots means for genuinely “everyday people” to circumnavigate the influence of corporate power in electoral politics? Those days are evidently long gone, as evidenced by the influence that Costco, Coca-Cola, and the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), among others, have had upon our ballot choices here in the erstwhile Soviet of Washington.
Given how overwhelmingly Big Money has played a role in the creation of this year’s ballot choices, we’ve decided to make the running theme, as well as the title, of our endorsements for this year the trustworthy adage “follow the money.” It’s a well-weathered phrase that speaks to a healthy skepticism about the long-running antagonism between grassroots democracy and the feral predations of capitalism.
Examples abound: Ever wonder who’s pulling the puppet strings–and who stands to ultimately benefit–when a self-described “conservative” candidate for high public office claims that their political and legislative agenda is simply “lower taxes and smaller government”? Follow the money.
How about when an elected official in Washington, DC claims that the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are all about “defending America’s freedoms” and/or “defeating the terrorists”? Follow the money.
When an elected official in Seattle’s city government claims that a proposed “public-private partnership” will serve the purpose of “making Seattle a world-class city”? Follow the money.
Our usual caveats, as always, apply: These endorsements represent our shamelessly biased–and inevitably subjective–collective opinion; do your own research; make up your own mind. And, if you still have any faith in the concept of genuine grassroots democracy, try to ignore the sad fact that both Tim Eyman (Prefers Astroturf Party) and Dino Rossi (Prefers BIAW Party) are still haunting our ballots after all these years. Democracy, to paraphrase a certain erstwhile Pentagon figurehead, is not always pretty.
Washington State Ballot Measures
Initiative Measure 1053: He’s baaaa-aaack! Tim Eyman, that is. You might have thought that, given the resounding defeat of his last astroturf “citizens’” initiative in 2009, that he’d have given up that game for good and resigned his golden-years fate to the erstwhile-entrepreneur-turned-motivational-speaker circuit by now.
Eyman’s latest initiative would require the Washington State legislature to achieve a two-thirds supermajority to approve any new tax or fee increases. This might sound enticing to any given “Joe Six-Pack” struggling to make ends meet out there in the apocryphal heartland–but is that who Eyman’s really fighting for this time? Prolly not: I-1053′s passage would also, by serendipity or otherwise, require a two-thirds supermajority to impose new taxes that impact mega-corporations that do business in Washington State–such as, for example, the hazardous material tax levied on hazardous transported goods that the Democratic majority in Olympia has been trying to increase for years now in order to help pay for environmental cleanup in Puget Sound.
It just so happens that Eyman’s gotten serious donations in support of I-1053 from four Big Oil companies who would benefit greatly from further failures to pass such a tax in Olympia: $65,000 each from BP and Tesoro, and another $50,000 each from ConocoPhillips and Shell. Aside from Big Oil, Eyman’s also gotten donations from big banks who would benefit greatly from further failure by Olympia’s Democrats to close an existing tax loophole that primarily benefits out-of-state banks: $10,000 from Bank of America, $10,000 from Wells Fargo, and $7,500 from US Bank.
This is precisely the sort of disingenuousness that has led to the semantic expansion of the word “astroturf” to include the sorts of cynical political machinations that Eyman’s been engaging in for over a decade now. (In other words, “phony grassroots.”) Enough is enough. Vote No on I-1053.
Initiative Measure 1082: This initiative would open up workers’ compensation insurance in Washington State to private competition. Cui bono? The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) has donated at least a half-million dollars towards the passage of I-1082. The BIAW is a lobby group that serves mainly as an insurance pool for real-estate developers. The private business interests represented politically in Olympia by the BIAW would benefit greatly from the virtual destruction of Washington State’s workers’ comp system–which, all rhetoric from the more Machiavellian representatives of the Washington State business community aside, ain’t broke. So let’s not “fix” it with this transparently pro-profit, anti-social-safety-net measure. No on I-1082.
Initiative Measure 1098: I-1098 would establish a long-needed state income tax on high-income earners and would reduce certain other taxes for small businesses and the middle class in Washington State. It’s the only ballot measure this year not backed by major corporate donors, and, even granted the early role of Famous Rich Guy Bill Gates, Sr., in crafting and funding the measure, it made it onto the ballot by means of months of genuinely grassroots campaigning and lots of small donations.
Certain wealthy interests in Washington State are naturally hostile to I-1098, including and especially the Blethen family, publishers of the Seattle Times. So it’s no surprise that the Times editorial board has been bashing I-1098 incessantly in its opinion pages for weeks now–most recently, as of this writing, in an October 7 op-ed titled “Follow the Money” (well, fancy that!), in which they sloppily insinuated that, because “the unions” (specifically, the Service Employees International Union) are one of the major forces behind I-1098, the measure is as equally compromised by “self-interest” as the other measures on this year’s ballot.
To which we say: Horseflop. I-1098 has been driven mainly by many volunteers (including, yes, rank-and-file members of SEIU and other progressive unions) who gathered signatures over the summer to get the measure on the ballot and who have been campaigning heavily for its passage in recent weeks. It’s not a perfect solution to Washington State’s venal tax system–long infamous for being one of the most regressive in the nation–but it’s the best solution ever to arrive on a general-election ballot here. It’s been nearly a decade in the making, and it may be the last chance we’ll have in a truly long, long time to make our state’s tax system more fair and equitable.
Our recommendation here, in positive contrast to this year’s other initiatives, is a very emphatic Yes on I-1098.
Initiative Measure 1100: Speaking of Tim Eyman, remember I-695? That was the initiative that first put Eyman on Washington State’s political radar back in 1999, with its proposal to level the cost of all privately-owned vehicle license tabs to a flat $30 fee. That measure won handily thanks to its cynical appeal to voters’ short-sighted self-interest (“Dude! Wouldn’t it be totally awesome to only pay $30 for the tabs for your brand-new Hummer, dude?”).
I-1100, the Costco-backed measure to privatize and deregulate the sale of hard liquor statewide, reminds us uncannily of I-695 in its equally cynical appeal to voters’ short-sighted self-interest (“Dude! Wouldn’t it be totally awesome to be able to buy Jack Daniels at a 7-Eleven? Even when you’re already loaded at 1:45 in the morning? Party hearty, dude!”). It’s also cleverly designed to favor big breweries and wineries over smaller, more local craft operations in terms of shelf space in private retail outlets.
Lest our opposition to I-1100 seem prudish, make no mistake: The ETS! kitchen crew has its fair share of folks who, shall we discreetly say, can relate to Alexander Cockburn in more ways than the ideological. But we all–teetotalers and bon vivants alike–generally prefer to vote with our brains, rather than with our livers. I-1100, like I-695 before it, would very likely result in diminished state revenue, and, thus, diminished funding for schools, social services, infrastructure repairs, and more. And, really: If you know (in and/or out of advance warning) that you and/or your friends and/or restaurant customers will likely be craving a heaping helping of hooch sometime soon, you can always stock up early. And if you consider running out of the hard stuff at 2:01 a.m. a fate worse than death, you probably need to dry out sometime soon. Seriously. No on I-1100.
Initiative Measure 1105: This measure, an intra-booze-industrial riposte of sorts to I-1100, would also close down all Washington State liquor stores and privatize the hard stuff, with the subtle distinction that it’s not as blatantly biased in favor of big-box retailers and mega-breweries as I-1100. Same difference: Short-sighted self-interest sucks–and so do “citizens’” initiatives that cynically appeal to it. (And, lest we forget: Even David “Drinking Liberally” Goldstein of Horsesass.org fame is on record as opposing these two measures.) No on I-1105.
Initiative Measure 1107: This measure would repeal the state sales tax increases on candy, bottled water, and soda pop that were passed last year by the state legislature as an emergency means of raising badly-needed revenue. Its proponents and supporters have raised over $14 million. Over 99 percent of that funding has come from the American Beverage Association, whose members include the Coca-Cola and Pepsi corporations. It’s been disingenuously promoted as a repeal of “taxes on food,” based on a clever culinary loophole buried in its language. More horseflop: What I-1107 cynically aims to repeal, plain and simple, are taxes on luxury items that are a public health menace and that nobody really needs anyway. No on I-1107.
Referendum Bill 52: If approved, R-52 would require Washington State to issue $505 million in bonds to school districts across the state to fund construction renovations in school buildings. These bonds would be issued through a competitive grants process that would hinge on the sustainability and energy efficiency of the resulting renovations. In other words, “money for green schools.” To pay back the bonds, R-52 would also make permanent the aforementioned sales tax on bottled water, which is set to expire on July 1, 2013. If there are any potential drawbacks to such an obviously progressive endeavor, we’ve searched and found nothing. Plus, it would (at least according to PubliCola.net) potentially create up to 30,000 new jobs in the state. What’s not to like? Yes on R-52.
Federal Elected Offices
U.S. Senator: “Hello, my name is Dino Rossi! I’ve got the hand of the Building Industry Association of Washington up my ass, and I vote you’ll hope for me!”
Yep, Dino’s back–this time running for Patty Murray’s U.S. Senate seat and, unfortunately, apparently making a credible effort, in the polls if not in his laughable answers to questions posed by the Seattle Times editorial board in the recent locally-televised debates sponsored by that paper.
This development, despite our inclinations towards automatic rhetorical snark in response to the very phrase “Dino Rossi” (Prefers BIAW Party!), puts the ETS! kitchen crew in a bit of a quandary. Here’s the thing: Shameless lefties that we may be, mixed emotions abound among us about Patty Murray–enough to have led us to endorse the nationally-obscure fringe-lefty Bob Burr in our primary endorsements issue. Among her other faults as a legislator, Murray voted for the Puritan-pandering Defense Of Marriage Act. Hence, our ambivalence about the prospect of endorsing her.
But then again, among her other redeeming virtues, she has, on behalf of We Her Constituency: voted against the Iraq War; fought for veterans’ benefits in Washington State; avidly supported the public option during last year’s health-insurance-reform debate; and, most recently, voted to further extend unemployment benefits during this past summer’s near-deadlock in Congress on that crucial economic-justice issue. So she’s shown she’s capable of confronting Repugnican intransigence on some, if not all, of the issues that matter most to the ETS! faithful.
And, last but not least, lest we forget, as of this writing, the race between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi (Prefers BIAW Party!) remains–at least according to certain polls–too close to risk a snarky protest vote.
Okay, okay, okay. We give up. Patty Murray.
Congressional District 7; U.S. Representative: Sigh.
Okay, okay, okay. We, the ETS! kitchen crew, at the end of the day, do very sincerely admire Congressman-For-Life Jim McDermott (Prefers Dorian Grey Party). Principle-wise, he’s always been made of the ideological stuff that has long rocked the world of both the ETS! kitchen crew and the ETS! faithful–especially his early and bravely-vocal opposition to the so-called Global War On Terror back in the President Dubya day. But–here’s the thing–it’s been such a long time, indeed, since he’s actually accomplished anything legislatively that would accurately represent the hopes, wishes, dreams, et cetera, of his chosen constituency here in the thick of incurably liberal (and then some) Seattle.
To be perfectly blunt: Jim, dude, we love ya, but it’s honestly time for you to retire. Who, then, to replace you in Washington State’s ideologically crucial Seventh District? We here at ETS! have a long list, indeed, of potential successors. Tough decision, yes, but, after many long hours of thoughtful haggling, cursing, and/or chair-across-room-throwing in the politically-seething bowels of the apocryphally-luxurious ETS! corporate headquarters in Seattle’s forever-potentially-upscale University District, we finally arrived at a suggested protest vote we could all agree upon: Erstwhile Seattle City Councilmember (and progeny of Seattle’s staunchly-leftist, and deservingly-influential, political dynasty) Peter Steinbrueck. Need we say more?
Congressional District 8; U.S. Representative: Career-politico Repugnican Dave Reichert (Prefers Aqua-Net Party) has, like, totally awesome hair, dude. (Dude!) He’s also politically aligned with the Eastside–circa 1980. The thing is, it’s 2010, and the Eastside has been slowly-but-surely shifting leftward ever since Congresscritter Hairspray was elected to the Eighth District on the basis of his erstwhile exploits as King County Sheriff back in the Green River Killer day. Darcy Burner (she of the heartily-ETS!-approved, photojournalistically-documented, HTML-coded “Stop War” t-shirt) almost–and, in our not-so-humble collective opinion, should have–defeated Reichert in 2008. Now, as yet another November approaches, there’s a brand-new genuinely liberal woman Eastside Democrat angling to send Reichert to the motivational-speaker limbo he so richly deserves.
Long story short, we, the ETS! kitchen crew, admire Suzan DelBene–a lot. We’re also genuinely excited that there’s a new candidate with the potential to politically represent the Eastside of 2010 (as opposed to, say, the Eastside of 1980) in The Other Washington. Eastside lefties, please take our humble advice and enthusiastically fill in that crucial ballot bubble for Suzan DelBene.
Washington State Legislature
Legislative District 11; State Representative, Position 1: Zack Hudgins; State Representative, Position 2: Bob Hasegawa
Legislative District 32; State Senator: Maralyn Chase
Legislative District 36; State Senator: Jeanne Kohl-Welles
Legislative District 37; State Senator: Adam Kline; State Representative, Position 2: Eric Pettigrew
Legislative District 46; State Representative, Position 2: Phyllis Kenney
Washington State Supreme Court: Justice Position 6: Here’s another comment-worthy case where we’ve changed our minds between the August primary election and the November general: In August, we endorsed the conservative incumbent Richard B. Sanders on the basis of his libertarian judicial record–in spite of his noteworthy reactionary tendencies. Since then, enough has come to light concerning the depth of his ideological creepiness (he’s anti-gay-marriage, among other minuses) that we’re now endorsing his opponent, Charlie Wiggins.
King County Council, District No. 8: Joe McDermott
Seattle Municipal Court; Judge Position No. 1: Edsonya Charles; Judge Position No. 6: Michael Salvador Hurtado.
Charter Amendments Nos. 1-3: Yes on all three.
King County Proposition No. 1: This proposition would increase King County sales taxes by 0.2 percent to pay for certain basic criminal justice and law programs that would otherwise likely be cut to make up for a $60 million shortfall in next year’s King County budget. What’s at stake here is public safety, especially for low-income residents in the county’s unincorporated areas: The proposed cuts would reduce the capacity of King County police to thoroughly investigate crimes, and would limit their response to merely taking reports, with no further action. Yes on Prop. 1.
Seattle School District No. 1; Proposition No. 1: We generally have always been suspicious of candidates and ballot measures that claim to be “doing it for the children.” But we’ve always made an exception for the school levies, and this year, it’s the same difference: Yes to further funding for public schools in Seattle. Oh, and, by the way: How’s that Pentagon fund-raising bake sale going? –Jeff Stevens
UPDATE from Geov Parrish
In our rush to get the print edition out ahead of the mailed ballots, it looks like Jeff omitted recommendations on several minor ballot items, and none of us caught it. In no particular order:
Senate Joint Resolution No. 8225: This is, quite simply, an accounting trick. It would “reduce” the state debt (or at least the estimates of it used for political purpose) by allowing state beancounters to not include the amount expected to be offset by federal funds received for that purpose. Thing is, you could do the same thing with any state revenue set to go into the general fund. All you’d have to do is claim the legislature will appropriate it that way. It’s the same sort of accounting trick Enron et al. used to hide their losses in dummy corporations, and major accounting firms have perfected over the past couple of decades. It obscures rather than clarifies in those situations–that’s the whole point–and would do the same in state politics. No.
Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution No. 4220: (No, really. That’s what they call it. “Engrossed.”) Enables judges to refuse bail for accused very violent offenders. Yes.
King County Charter Amendment No. 2: Campaign finance housekeeping. Yes.
Sorry for the mixup! –Geov Parrish