The Empire always strikes back – State Democratic Party lashes out after widespread lawbreaking exposed

If you dare to speak truth to power, there will always be repercussions.  The powerful always strike back.  We are witnessing this in Washington State as the cascading exposure of widespread violations of the state’s campaign finance laws become widely known.  The Washington State Democratic Party, led by Tina Podlodowski, is doing their best to strike back.  On Friday, Podlodowski issued a press release praising the fact that the Washington State Democratic Party has filed 40 campaign finance complaints (an action she defined as “petty” a few months ago) against Republicans as retaliation for the recent exposure of the Democratic Party’s violations of these same laws.  This is a bit ironic since none of these folk had anything to do with exposing the violators this author identified in the first place, but logic is nowhere to be found in this emotional lashing out.

Tina Podlodowski (left) believed the campaign finance laws were only intended to choke out Tim Eyman (right) and Republicans like Kim Wyman. It never crossed her mind that Democrats had to follow the same laws.

The chaos of this exposure is shining a light in places where party insiders don’t want anyone looking.  This attempt to strike back at this author and random Republican politicians is one part of lashing out.  However, this distraction still won’t hide the truth.  Widespread violations of the state’s campaign finance laws are endemic, extensive, and far more significant than any political insider wanted to admit even a few months ago.

45 years of Enforcing Campaign Finance Laws

The Public Disclosure Commission has a mission, and they take it very seriously

Washington State’s campaign finance laws were originally created by a citizens initiative in 1972.  This was the same initiative that created a variety of sunshine laws we enjoy to this day including the Public Records Act, Public Disclosure Commission, and the Open Public Meetings Act.  The legislature codified these laws over the years and while court cases and legislative changes have produced changes, the underlying structure is basically the same.

Violations of the campaign finance laws have occurred since the time the law appeared on the books, but it was always a sedate and political insider process.  Each side of the political debate (election or initiative) would file complaints against the other side.  Sometimes these complaints had merit and a penalty would be levied, usually by the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), sometimes there was no merit and the complaint would be dismissed.  Tag, you’re it.  Mostly, this was a political insiders game.  Sometimes the violations were significant, sometimes they were minor.  Sometimes they didn’t exist.  Both political parties tended to use the campaign finance law like a game of “gotcha” to create newspaper headlines about their opponents during tough political campaigns. Few non-political folk paid much attention.

One side disengages, and the Attorney General decides to get serious

Bob Ferguson is serious about campaign finance laws and appears eager to litigate against Republicans

I’ve argued before that our state’s campaign finance laws rested, in part, on the assumption that both sides of the political competition would stay in the fight.  The PDC and to a lesser extent, the AG’s office is structured around a complaint-driven process.  Nobody envisioned that one side would stop paying attention.

Yet, the Republicans generally stopped filing complaints decades ago.  There were two cultural factors that caused this.  The first was the general Republican consensus and assumption that the system was “rigged” and not “fair,” so the Republicans (with rare exceptions) started playing defense rather than offense.  The second was the expectation that Republican complaints against Democrats would not be taken seriously, so why bother filing them in the first place?  The Republicans became more focused on compliance and playing defense from complaints filed against them.  The Democrats, on the other hand, continued to file complaints and were far more effective doing so.

Susan Hutchison received the largest campaign finance complaint in state history in 2009, but the Democrats didn’t complain about the campaign finance laws at the time.

For example, when Susan Hutchison ran against Dow Constantine in 2009, during the race for King County Executive, a PDC complaint was filed against Hutchison, generating a variety of news articles like this one in the Seattle Times.  Another example was the 2008 Rossi vs. Governor Gregoire campaign where campaign finance complaints forced Republican Dino Rossi to testify on what was ultimately an insignificant PDC complaint.  There are many other recent examples, big and small, which highlight how the campaign finance enforcement process had become politically one-sided.

These examples, by themselves, do not necessarily mean the PDC and the AG’s office was corrupted or would only file lawsuits against Republicans.  However, even in the cases where Democrats or Democrat-leaning organizations were charged, the origins of the complaints were usually caused by intramural Democrat fights like the Moxie Media case from 2011.  While partisan bias may have been a factor, part of the problem for Republicans appears self-inflicted because they stopped paying attention to their political opponents and they stopped (with very few exceptions) filing complaints against Democrats.

Enter Ferguson, the Campaign Finance Law enforcer

Ferguson has received great support from political allies for his litigation against Republicans.

Under Attorney General Bob Ferguson‘s leadership, the political element of this process and the enforcement of this law began to change.  Ferguson ran for re-election as Washington State’s Attorney General, in part, on a promise to more aggressively enforce Washington State’s campaign finance laws.  Ferguson filed high profile lawsuits against Tim Eyman (the initiative guy), based on a 5 year old complaint from 2012 (See the 9 AG press releases linked below).  Ferguson also filed and won the largest campaign finance case in Washington State history against the Grocery Manufacturers Association and won an $18 million dollar judgement last year.  Ferguson also followed the lead of the Washington State Democratic Party and filed a lawsuit against Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman last year based on a State Democratic Party complaint filed against Wyman (motivated by the very same Tina Podlodowski who now complains about these complaints).  This lawsuit was timed perfectly to impact the 2016 election cycle, although it failed to help Podlodowski win the election.

The Democratic Party was giddy with joy and power as they cheered Ferguson’s prosecution of Kim Wyman last year, based on a PDC complaint they wrote and filed.

 

The Ferguson lawsuit against Kim Wyman was notable to political insiders because it was a high-profile lawsuit with multiple press releases (linked here, here, and here) and extensive public exposure of a case with a violation far less significant than the historic campaign finance cases the office had typically handled.  Political insiders began to call this new activism by the AG’s office, the “Wyman Standard.”

Ferguson, Podlodowski, and the Democratic Party start the avalanche

I never expected to become involved attempting to reform Washington State’s campaign finance laws.  Until late last year, I was only tangentially aware of the structural problems with our state’s campaign finance laws.  I had discussed some reform ideas with political insiders in the past, but common sense reform appeared hopeless.  However, I was concerned about helping Thurston County throw off the yoke of an abusive and hostile Commission, which had been run by the Democratic Party for decades.

Senator Sam Hunt, helped inspire this author into looking closer at the state’s campaign finance laws. He recently paid his fine for violating the state’s campaign finance laws last year.

I was actively involved in the 2016 campaign, and for my efforts, like many people who dare to question authority and get involved, I had my own experience with the Washington State Democratic Party.  A death threat from a local Democrat PCO which resulted in a permanent restraining order began the saga.  A PDC complaint was filed against me and my mini local PACs by the Washington State Democratic Party (dismissed without merit), and a silly lawsuit by the Washington State Democratic Party was filed against me (easily settled).  This, along with Senator Sam Hunt’s accurate statement that I didn’t know anything about our state’s campaign finance laws, inspired me to educate myself on this subject.  With the encouragement and inspirations from my friends in the Democratic Party, I started filing my own complaints modelled on the style the Washington State Democratic Party taught me.

Chaos unfolds, hypocrisy exposed, and motives revealed

At the time this article was written, I have only filed about 266 PDC complaints since late last year.  A majority of these were also filed with the Attorney General’s office.  About 40 of these complaints were used by the AG’s office to file 18 lawsuits, which I have detailed in a previous article.  Then, the AG’s office stopped filing lawsuits against Democrats several months ago, when Ferguson’s protege and lead litigator quit the office and declared it “unfair” to sue Democrats.  He promptly started filing complaints against this author and random Republicans.  Apparently, just like Podlodowski, Mr. Smith felt filing complaints against Republicans would distract from the obvious failures of the Democrats to follow the law.

Walter Smith’s actions are raising ethical questions about whether he misused public resources, but he represents the Democratic Party’s best hope for retaliation

Fair enough.  The empire always strikes back when they are exposed, and Mr. Smith’s public departure from employment at the AG’s office and his explanation for that departure exposed serious concerns about bias and hypocrisy within the AG’s office.  It appears the campaign finance unit was staffed with hyper partisan public employees who didn’t actually believe they should enforce the law (which, in theory, is non-partisan) against Democrats.  Apparently, campaign finance laws were only intended to be enforced against Republicans.  It might also be true that a quota system might exist.  After 18 lawsuits against Democrats, the AG’s office might have decided to back off the Ferguson’s campaign promises.  Regardless of the true motivation, when combined with Podlodowski’s recent press release, clearly the campaign finance enforcement program has changed.

Nobody should assume that politics is a game of beanbag.  It is a full contact sport, even if one side abandons the field.  It now appears that nearly every Democrat County Party political committee, legislative district committee, state Legislator, state Senator, and many others  have violated the state’s campaign finance laws at least equivalent or greater than the “Wyman Standard” established by Tina Podlodowski and AG Ferguson last year.  Republicans have probably committed some violations as well, and those who have done so will be exposed by Mr. Smith as revenge for being forced to sue Democrats.

Tina Podlodowski’s proposed new slogan for the Washington State Democratic Party

However, while the Democratic Party empire is striking back and angry about being exposed, they finally, at long last, have now come around to this author’s suggestions for reform.  The Democratic Party, for the first time in modern history, is now willing to reform the state’s campaign finance laws.  I consider this real progress, and I’m happy to see the Washington State Democrats finally agree with me.

The State Democrats are struggling with internal battles over sexual harassment (and rape accusations) at their meetings, and with a variety of former legislators (see articles here and here).  Some Democrats believe Podlodowski is merely staging these complaints as a way to distract from her failure to create true “safe spaces” at party events and her effort to distract from other internal failures (former Democratic State Chair Dwight Pelz predicted she would fail).  The Bernie rebellion is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party, which the party is attempting to suppress or co-opt.  Podlodowski (a former super-delegate for Hillary Clinton) should consider whether her political empire is going to succeed in putting down every rebellion that pops up.  Events like last Friday’s press release (“look over there at the evil Republicans, don’t look at us”) can only distract the gullible for so long.

The truth is eventually going to get out, no matter how much Tina Podlodowski’s empire tries to bury it or distract the party faithful.  A Friday press release before the Thanksgiving weekend isn’t going to stop the truth from coming out eventually…

A better logo for the Washington State Democratic Party

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Additional Background articles:

The Scorched wasteland of Washington State’s campaign finance laws

AG Attorney complains suing Democrat lawbreakers “unfair”, quits to sue Republicans

Tacoma News Tribune – “Is Olympia lawyer the Democrats’ champion in complaint-filing war?”

The Chaos of Campaign Finance Compliance and the Disarray of the Dems

Inlander – April 13, 2017 – “Dems in Disarray”

Jay Manning fined for Cult PAC violations – State Democratic Party pays the tab

Eyman wins major court motion against Attorney General, Ferguson could be first AG in state history forced to testify under Oath

The Tacoma News Tribune – October 30, 2017 – “Pierce County Democrats to pay $20k for breaking campaign finance law”

The Peninsula Daily News – September 28, 2017 – “Jefferson County commissioner answers complaint about funds transfer to Homes Now”

Seattle Times – August 6, 2017 – “State senator fined for violating campaign disclosure law”

The Olympian – August 4, 2017 – Hunt agrees to fine in campaign finance disclosure case 

SeattleMet – January 14, 2017 – Democrats dislike Democrats – Dwight Pelz attacks Tina Podlodowski and says she is not a good person to run the Washington State Democratic Party

AG Press Releases about lawsuits filed as a result of complaints filed by this author

August 18, 2017 – AGO settles Campaign Finance Complaint against Representative Strom Peterson for a settlement of $11,950.  Peterson pays $7, 595 with the rest deferred.Note- this was sent out as a tweet on August 21, 2017 in lieu of a press release

August 15, 2017 – AGO files Campaign Finance Complaint against Pierce County Democrats

August 2, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign Finance Complaint against Washington & North Idaho District Council of Laborers PAC

July 14, 2017 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against Kittitas County Democrats

June 29, 2017 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against San Juan County Democrats

June 23, 2017 – AG’s Office demands documents be disclosed in campaign finance case

June 19, 2017 – AG files campaign finance complaint against Eastside Democratic Dinner Committee

May 12, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign finance complaint against King County Democratic Central Committee

May 12, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign finance complaint against Spokane County Democratic Central Committee, Two Committee Officers

April 10, 2017 – AGO files Campaign Finance Complaints Against State Lawmakers, Former Candidate

March 14, 2017 – Chopp to pay $6469 over Campaign Finance Allegations

March 14, 2017 – AG files Campaign Finance Complaints against Senator Hunt and Thurston County Democrats

February 13, 2017 – EWU Trustee (Jay Manning), Audubon Washington to pay penalties, costs in separate campaign finance cases

December 19, 2016 – AG Files Campaign Finance Complaint against 19th District House Candidate (Theresa Purcell)

December 19, 2016 – AG files Campaign Finance Complaints against Budget and Policy Center, Thurston County Candidate (Jim Cooper)

2009 – Hutchison PDC complaint filed by King County Democrats

Kim Wyman AG Press Releases and PDC complaint

Original PDC complaint filed against Kim Wyman by Jaxon Ravens and the Washington State Democratic Central Committee

October 4, 2016 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against Secretary of State Kim Wyman

October 4, 2016 – AGO clarification on Wyman campaign finance case

January 20, 2017 – AG: Secretary of State Kim Wyman to pay $10,115 over campaign finance violations

AG Press Releases about Tim Eyman over last year

AG Press Release – “Ferguson files $2.1M Campaign Finance lawsuit against Tim Eyman”

AG Press Release – “AG Ferguson Demands Documents be disclosed in Eyman Investigation”

AG Press Release – “AG asks courts to hold Eyman, Committees, in Contempt”

AG Press Release – “AG Subpoenas enforced by court in Tim Eyman probe”

AG Press Release – “In AG Investigation, Court Finds Tim Eyman violated June 29 Order”

AG Press Release – “Tim Eyman, Committees pay AG $20K in Costs and Fees for months of delay”

AG Press Release – “AG: Judge Orders Signature Gathering Firm to disclose documents in Eyman probe”

AG Press Release – “Court rejects motion to dismiss 2 Defendants in Eyman campaign finance case”

AG Press Release – “Eyman and Committees violated campaign accounting and disclosure laws”

Jefferson County Voters Reject Higher Taxes – Prop1 for “Homeless Housing” gets crushed

Jefferson County voters decisively rejected the Proposed Tax increase called Prop1 to create a Homeless Funding program.  All but one precinct voted against this proposed tax plan. This was not expected by the political establishment in Jefferson County. 

Sign of the Times

Every time anyone writes about Washington State elections the night of the election, due to the nature of the drawn-out process of trickle-in snail-mail ballots, there can be significant shifts in the final results.  A lot of local races effectively too close to call with any certainty, 

Jefferson County, dominated by the City of Port Townsend is a left-leaning county (29% for Trump in 2016), there is rarely a tax this county won’t support.  The Jefferson County Commissioners have also used their central planners to do an excellent job of destroying the ability of people to build affordable homes for themselves.  The County Commission decided it was time to impose another property tax – this one for “homeless” services.  The voters overwhelmingly rejected this scheme (70% opposed as of election night).

Jim Scarantino, one of the local activists who organized opposition to the proposed tax

There was a robust campaign in opposition to this Proposition 1 tax increase and it was led by local activists.  It was called the “Love Your Neighbor, vote No on Prop 1” and it featured people all over the county who would be made homeless or be harmed by this tax.  Their vigorous sign campaign in opposition was probably the most aggressive local anti-tax revolt Jefferson County has seen in decades.  For those who complain about higher taxes and wonder how they can be stopped, there are lessons to be learned here.  Not surprisingly it takes work, action, and effort.  

Lower income areas of the county were particularly angry about the proposed tax increase
The $1.6 Million mistake – patiently waiting for progress and permits – an example of how Jefferson County squanders “homeless dollars”

The “Love your neighbor, vote no on Prop 1” movement was also helped by the historic and repetitive incompetence of the current bureaucrats and homeless profiteers who always seem to flourish in Leftist enclaves like Jefferson County.  Their recent homeless housing scheme called the “Cherry Street Project” included a cool plan to barge a building down from Victoria, BC and post it up on seismically unstable pallets on a slope in town without a permit and then leave it there as a public monument to their own incompetence and financial waste – over $1.6 million squandered (6 times more than originally promised to the voters).  In addition the local commissioner was caught violating campaign finance laws by trying to illegally shift funds from his campaign account to fund the Prop1 campaign (this author filed the original complaint on this commissioner – see here)

The Jefferson County Commissioners don’t believe this

Interestingly enough, some unlikely local candidates for office challenging establishment incumbents appear to have been helped by the local opposition to Prop1 and appear to have managed big upsets.  Bill Putney for Port Townsend Port Commissioner District 2 is leading with 52 % of the vote, and Bruce McComas for East Jefferson Hospital District no. 2 commissioner 1 is also leading with almost 52%.  In both cases, the political establishment strongly and vociferously attacked these challengers.  However, they appear to have overcome the inertia of incumbency and smashed through the wall of the political establishment in Port Townsend.

This type of political result in Jefferson County and the impressive grass roots energy behind it is a strong indicator that the political establishment in Port Townsend is seriously out of synch with their local voters.

Political Success tastes sweet in Jefferson County (source:  Facebook)

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

For more background and related articles of interest:

Public Disclosure Commission – campaign finance complaint against Jefferson County Commissioner David Sullivan

Peninsula Daily News – Sept 27, 2017 – “Jefferson County Commissioner answers complaint about funds transfer to Homes Now”

Peninsula Daily News – August 4, 2017 – “Jefferson County voters to decide on levy to create Housing Opportunity Fund”

PT Leader – August 30, 2017 – “City Council votes to support housing levy”

Tri- Area Times – Sept 26, 2017 “Cherry Street Affordable Housing Project in Port Townsend Draws Complaints”

Vote Against Prop 1

Skykomish Town Council retreats from transparency – overturning original petition of voters

The final legal step to achieve zero financial disclosure for the Skykomish Town Council was achieved at thursday’s Public Disclosure Commission Meeting in Olympia.  The Skykomish Town Council and Mayor’s personal financial disclosures (filed by most elected officials in Washington State) are now secret, once again.  Thus ended a decade long public transparency saga in this small town.

It all began in 2006.  Under Washington State law, all elected officials and certain other government employees are required to file personal financial disclosure documents (called an F-1 form) with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).  There are few exemptions to this statute.  However, state law allows elected officials from jurisdictions with fewer than 1000 voters to be exempted from public disclosure rules.  The City of Skykomish has 126 registered voters (146 in 2006) , so the elected officials were not required to file these F-1 forms.

There is a little known and rarely utilized part of the statute (RCW 42.17A.135(2))which allows citizens to pursue a “Petition for Disclosure” with valid signatures of fifteen percent of the number of registered voters, as of the date of the most recent general election in the city and submit it to the PDC.  The citizens can then require their local elected officials to comply with the same financial disclosure rules as their elected peers in larger municipalities.  This is what happened in the City of Skykomish in 2006.  The local citizens successfully collected the signatures (24 at the time), had them validated, submitted to the PDC and the elected officials began to file personal financial disclosure documents.  According to this document filed with the PDC, the reason for this request at the time was the City’s use of $100 million railroad cleanup fund.

It might seem like the Town of Skykomish hasn’t changed much over the years.

Overturning the will of the people

All good things must come to an end, of course, and the elected officials were annoyed with this transparency requirement (it certainly can be annoying). In the same statute (RCW 42.17A.135(3)), there is a provision which allows the Town Council to opt back out of the transparency disclosure requirements after at least 4 years of compliance (this council had been forced to comply for the last 10 years).

The Bridge to the Town of Skykomish from Highway 2 is one of the most notable features in this town.

The Council could either have the citizens of their fair city turn in signatures to remove this burden from their elected officials, or they could pass an ordinance exempting themselves.  The burden of collecting 20 or more signatures from their voters was a mountain too high to climb, so the council, of course, opted to vote themselves out of this transparency requirement.  The final step was to have this vote recognized by the PDC, which is what happened on Thursday.  The PDC was simply following the law as it is written.

How to restore financial transparency in Skykomish

This might be viewed as just another sad descent into more secrecy by elected officials and this could be discouraging to proponents of greater government transparency and accountability.  There could even be a good case to be made for some of the transparency requirements in the law.  However, it is always grating to see elected officials overturn the will of the voters without engagement from the voters themselves.  Fortunately, the good citizens of Skykomish still have options, and they can restore this element of transparency once again if they desire.

Another signature gathering effort by the local voters (with the collection of about 20 valid signatures) would lead to the restoration of the requirement of these elected officials to fully disclose their financial affairs once again.  Collecting signatures can be fun, and it is a great opportunity to meet your neighbors and fellow voters.

Perhaps next time these elected officials decide they want to opt out of transparency, they will make the effort to convince the people in their community to agree first.

It might be worth unlocking the door to transparency

Activist Bonus:

In addition to Skykomish, here is a short list of other cities and elected bodies where local citizens can help encourage greater disclosure and transparency.  All you need to do is to collect valid signatures from registered voters equal to 15% of the voters who live in the City or other political subdivision.

LaConner – 936

Kahlotus – 191
Spangle – 288
Prescott – 309
Harrington – 400
Sprague – 423
Mesa – 491
George – 505
Vader – 614
Pateros – 656
Oakville – 663
Bingen – 719
Toledo – 721
Ruston – 791
Mossyrock – 745
Tekoa – 784
Rock Island – 792
Roy – 805
Roslyn – 896
Ilwaco – 905
North Bonneville – 971

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

For related articles of interest:

Read More: 

Local Website run by critics of the Skykomish City Council called the “Skykomish Hotel”

Skykomish Municipal Code

PDC:  Resolution from Town of Skykomish to void 2006 order

 

 

King County Council receives Bureaucrat Pinocchio Award

King County Council meeting - Oct 23, 2017

Yesterday, at the King County Council meeting in Seattle (see video at about 52min), on behalf of the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR), we presented the 2016 Bureaucratic Pinocchio Award to the King County Council.  This award is presented to the government bureaucrat for whom the truth is a low priority and who is willing to prove it with his public statements.

This award is both practical and a helpful reminder – ready to install on a toilet or ego wall.

The awardee was Darrell Rodgers, who is a Manager at the King County Health Services Department.  He earned this award during an interview with King5 News last year when he said “Onsite Septic Systems are the primary cause of pollution in Puget Sound.”  Shortly after he made this statement, the King County wastewater treatment facility dumped at least 25 million gallons of raw sewage into Puget Sound, again (over 100 million gallons of raw sewage are regularly dumped into Puget Sound and surrounding lakes and streams by the government wastewater treatment facilities every year).

At CAPR we believe that politicians sometimes get too much credit and attention for the actions taken by the government bureaucracy.  Since most bureaucrats see the elected officials as temporary residents in the hierarchy of any government, the bureaucrats’ actions and mindset are often more important and more impactful than the politicians who are nominally “in charge.”  Therefore, it is worth recognizing these bureaucrats when they commit an act of incompetence or do something particularly noteworthy.

Last Year’s King County “Turd Tax” hearing in Fall City was standing room only by opponents of the tax.

As written last year, CAPR was involved in opposing King County‘s septic fee which they were attempting to impose on thousands of people in rural King County.  Over 1500 people showed up to oppose King County’s “turd tax” last year at a series of public hearings.  The tax scheme was temporarily abandoned by staff.  However, the staff infection continues to fester and tax schemes never really die, they just get resurrected under a different name.  The King County staff are considering another way to impose pointless and wasteful fees on property owners once again.  These will produce no benefit to the community or the environment, but the cash they extract could help them bloat the bureaucracy a bit more.

Yesterday’s King County Council accepted the award on behalf of their employee Darrell Rodgers

The award was timely and appropriate for the occasion.

Awards like this are approved by the CAPR board and we are always looking for more suggestions and awardees which our members and supporters may want to provide for appropriate recognition.  The nature of bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself.  One of our jobs as engaged citizens should be to expose the bloat of bureaucracy to the sunlight – which truly is the best disinfectant.

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

For related articles of interest:

King County Dumps the Turd Tax After Overwhelming rejection by angry residents

Tempted by Turd Tax, King County Council and staff shocked by Citizen Disgust

Turd Tax Tempts King County and citizens show their strong opposition (CAPR)

Seattle Times – “Silence Reigns as sewage spills in Puget Sound.  Here’s Why”

US News – “Seattle Plant Failure Dumps Millions of Gallons of Sewage”

Kiro7 News – “For 2 months, each flush sent raw sewage into Puget Sound”

HeraldNet – “Raw Sewage diverted to Seattle Creek”

Thurston County discovers new cash cow in crap tax

50 Shades of Green – Puget Sound Partnership

$60,000 to establish a new “brand” for Puget Sound Partnership

Why we must abolish the Puget Sound Partnership Scam

Puget Sound Partnership – Washington’s Failed Environmental Agency

Stifling Human Ingenuity (The Central Planner’s Agenda)

What Happens when the Central Planners Fail?

 

 

Eyman wins major court motion against Attorney General, Ferguson could be first AG in state history forced to testify under Oath

Last Friday morning, in Thurston County Superior Court, a courtroom drama played out which may signal the beginning of some serious legal problems for Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson in the near future. Ferguson brought this legal jeopardy upon himself. It is exceptionally rare that a sitting Attorney General can be legally forced to submit to questioning under oath – the legal hurdle is exceptionally high – but this judge after hearing about Ferguson’s actions in this case has decided that that hurdle has been cleared.  Friday’s ruling will result in Ferguson’s deposition (out-of-court testimony made under oath and recorded by an authorized officer for later use in court).

Ferguson vs. Eyman – in Friday’s hearing, three attorneys appeared. On the Left is Mark Lamb for Tim Eyman, on the Right is Linda Dalton and Todd Sipe for the AG’s office
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Dixon

I was running late to get to Judge Dixon’s courtroom in Thurston County. I expected to see a full courtroom, and I was surprised to find it nearly empty with only two attorneys and a guy with a video camera set-up in the jury box. Other than the camera guy, I was the only unpaid witness to the drama in the room. I also brought my camera.

The significance of this hearing was not why I attended. My intention was to watch Tim Eyman’s attorney, Mark Lamb, in action because I was considering retaining him on other legal cases (I prefer to see how an attorney performs before I hire them).

Tim Eyman is often referred to as the “initiative king” of Washington State

Ferguson vs. Eyman – Background on the drama

Tim Eyman is the well-known “initiative guy” in Washington State, famous for qualifying numerous successful initiatives to the Washington state ballot over the last 20 years. These initiatives mostly involve reducing taxes or improving accountability in government. He doesn’t win every time, but his successes have earned him great enmity and exceptional hatred and vitriol mostly from the Left. He is known for dressing up in a gorilla suit and a Darth Vader costume, and pulling other publicity stunts to promote his initiative efforts. His stunts and successes have infuriated his opponents, earning him an impressive amount of hatred and fury from his detractors.

Eyman sometimes wears a suit and is willing to show his displeasure with tax bills. In this case, he is standing beside former Governor Gregoire.

One of them is Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who narrowly won his “Hunger Games” reelection to the King County Council in 2005 after Eyman helped pass a local initiative (Initiative 18) reducing the size of the King County Council from 13 to 9 members. Ferguson has been channeling the anger of his political allies against Eyman very effectively in his role as Attorney General, a position he first won in 2012.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at the Tom Foley Dinner in Spokane earlier this year.

Last March, Ferguson launched a major headline grabbing lawsuit against Eyman for campaign finance violations dating back to 2012. He held a splashy press conference in Olympia with full attendance by the political press corps (Watch Ferguson’s statements on KIRO TV (he had a lot to say to the media that day).

Not only is Ferguson asking for a $2.1 million judgment against Eyman, he’s also trying to get Eyman permanently barred from participating in politics for the rest of his life. A Seattle PI columnist referred to Ferguson’s attempt to bar Eyman from politics as “the nuclear option.”  — from the

Ferguson and his protege, Walter Smith discuss the lawsuit against Tim Eyman earlier this year.

article:  If the “nuclear option” succeeds, “Eyman will have to find something else to do with his life,” said Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute, an obsessive Eyman critic).

Ferguson’s promotion of the lawsuit that day resulted in numerous articles about the case (see here and here).  During the press Conference, Ferguson spoke about“silencing Tim Eyman” and “removing” Eyman from the political process, promising never to settle the case, Ferguson’s public statements were strangely personal and vindictive.  Consider this, the State of Washington settled with Gary RidgewaySo, the State will settle with the Green River Killer but not Tim Eyman?  This was a strange thing to say, but it was political catnip to Ferguson’s political supporters.

Cartoons about Eyman are easy to find. In this one, he is featured as Satan (the snake in the garden)

During this case, Ferguson relishes every opportunity to schedule a press conference and

Mark Lamb, representing Tim Eyman in Thurston County Superior Court on Friday

issue a press releases (like the 9 linked below) at every legal step in the lawsuit against Eyman (see this video as just one example).  Eyman’s attorney Mark Lamb responded to Ferguson’s lawsuit against Eyman by filing what are called counterclaims against Ferguson , accusing the AG of violating Eyman’s free speech and civil rights and highlighted how Ferguson was personally profiting from his lawsuit against Eyman (when running for reelection, Ferguson featured his prosecution of Eyman prominently as a campaign theme, and he promoted this lawsuit at Democratic Party functions where he often speaks throughout the state)

Assistant Attorney General Todd Sipe argued that Tim Eyman deserved no Constitutional legal defense

Friday’s hearing involved the AG’s office asking the judge to quash (throw-out) all of Eyman’s counterclaims and affirmative constitutional defenses and sanction Lamb for even asking for such relief.  If you watch the 28 minute video of the hearing (link here) you can see that the AG was represented by Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton (who arrived about 8 minutes late and had delayed the start of the hearing – lucky for me, but annoying to everyone else), and Assistant Attorney General Todd Sipe (who made the oral arguments for the State).

Attorneys Linda Dalton and Todd Sipe represented the Washington State Attorney General’s office on Friday and were understandably not happy with the outcome

Significance of Judge Dixon’s ruling

Freedom isn’t easy to maintain, and everyone should be concerned when the government makes a priority to suppress it, even for Mr. Eyman

Watching the video, you won’t hear dramatic music or witty verbal interaction.  However, I was struck by several actions taken by the court.  The first is that Judge Dixon denied the AG’s effort to quash and sanction (fine and penalize) Mr. Lamb – Eyman’s counterclaims and affirmative defenses against Ferguson were affirmed.  The second is that the judge said he had come to court planning to rule one way but based on Mr. Lamb’s oral argument that “his client deserves to be heard,” he was persuaded to rule the way he did.

Judging from the body language of the AG attorneys after the case, this was not the result

The Washington State Attorney General has the ability to crush anyone he wants to target…

they expected. They appeared to not only be surprised, but also were not relishing the discussion with Ferguson about how soon his legal ethics in this case will be scrutinized and he’ll have to answer questions about his actions under oath.  This is a big deal.

Eyman’s attorney Lamb made an impactful statement which should also be noted. Mr. Lamb identified the very real effort by the AG’s office to invalidate all constitutional defenses of Mr. Eyman, which should concern everyone. In theory, even though this fact gets lost in the repetitive drama of high-profile posturing press conference litigation from this Attorney General, he is supposed to be defending the constitutional rights of its citizens, not striving to destroy the constitutional protections for those on his political enemy list.

Eyman might dress up in an orange jumpsuit to make a political point, but he probably has no desire to make this his future uniform.

As indicated at the end of this hearing, there is great concern by the attorneys for the AG’s office that they may not be able to prevent Ferguson from being compelled, under oath to submit to questioning by Eyman’s attorney. Based on the interchange in the courtroom, it appears that this will include Ferguson’s attempt to personally profit and make money from his prosecution of Tim Eyman. This is ugly stuff, and it looks likely to get messier the more layers are removed to get to the truth of this case. Ferguson may be the first Attorney General in Washington State history to put himself in this position. I am unable to find any other examples that compare.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has been emphasizing in his many repetitive, hyped lawsuits against President Trump that nobody is above the law. He is absolutely right, and Ferguson may become another example of this truth very soon himself.

Not surprisingly, the Attorney General’s office didn’t issue a press release after Friday’s hearing…

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Background articles:

Video of Friday’s hearing (28 minutes)

Tim Eyman’s $30 Car Tab website (Voter’s Want More Choices)

History article about King County Initiative 18 (reduce size of council)

Seattle PI – Eyman is hit with $2.1 million campaign finance lawsuit

Kiro 7 – March 31, 2017 – Video of AG Ferguson talking about Eyman lawsuit

Seattle Met – Aug 19, 2011 – “Andrew Villeneuve Takes on Tim Eyman”

The Olympian Editorial- Oct 20, 2015 – “Send Eyman’s Ideas out with the Trash”

AG Press Releases about Tim Eyman over last year

AG Press Release – “Ferguson files $2.1M Campaign Finance lawsuit against Tim Eyman”

AG Press Release – “AG Ferguson Demands Documents be disclosed in Eyman Investigation”

AG Press Release – “AG asks courts to hold Eyman, Committees, in Contempt”

AG Press Release – “AG Subpoenas enforced by court in Tim Eyman probe”

AG Press Release – “In AG Investigation, Court Finds Tim Eyman violated June 29 Order”

AG Press Release – “Tim Eyman, Committees pay AG $20K in Costs and Fees for months of delay”

AG Press Release – “AG: Judge Orders Signature Gathering Firm to disclose documents in Eyman probe”

AG Press Release – “Court rejects motion to dismiss 2 Defendants in Eyman campaign finance case”

AG Press Release – “Eyman and Committees violated campaign accounting and disclosure laws”

 

Can police mislead a judge to sign a search warrant in Thurston County?

I have written several articles recently about Thurston County’s incompetence and inexcusable behavior in how they seized goats from the Lattin’s Cider Mill Farm a few

Thurston County Judge Carol Murphy may have been misled in order to convince her to sign an “emergency” warrant to seize goats

months ago based on a very questionable “animal cruelty” complaint.  While the 18 goats seized by the Thurston County Sheriff’s office have still not been returned to the farm and remain at a secret “black site” somewhere in the county, the legal battle itself remains in Thurston County District Court.  I was very critical in my first article about the “emergency” phone warrant issued and approved by Thurston County Judge Murphy.  I still am critical of this “emergency” warrant, however, it now appears that Judge Murphy was misled by Sheriff Deputy Nastansky in order to issue this warrant in the first place.  This specific element of this sorry story merits a more detailed discussion because it has serious ramifications on this case, and the rest of the people who live in Thurston County.

Background on the Great Goat Seizure Fiasco  

These are some of the 18 goats who were seized from the Lattin’s’ Cider Mill Farm in June. They still have not been returned.

It does appear that the Great Goat Seizure conducted by the Thurston County Sheriff’s office and promoted by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office has become an embarrassing and epic fiasco which only gets worse as more information is uncovered and exposed.  A basic background so far:

  • The Lattin’s Cider Mill Farm is a well known and very popular year round “agritourism” business in Thurston County, Washington State visited by thousands of children, tourists, and local residents for the past 40 years.  It has been featured in countless videos, tourist guides, newspaper articles, and visitor videos for generations.  The small herd of goats on the farm are almost always featured in these videos and stories.  
  • The Lattins employee approximately 25 people to help manage the farm and cider press business year round, including to help manage the goats, turkeys, chickens, and other livestock on this very public farm.
  • With so many people visiting this farm, over the years, there have been the occasional complaint of one type or another filed against the farm.  With thousands of  people visiting these goats, an occasional person might file a complaint (if you own a public farm, you know this will happen).  
  • Until the recent Great Goat Seizure, all complaints filed against the Lattin farm have been identified as “Unfounded” by the Thurston County Sheriff.  
  • Some recently fired employees and a disgruntled former employee appear to have been organizing a campaign of complaints against the Lattins.  One of their complaints was the recent one being investigated by Thurston County Deputy Nastansky in her capacity as the person in charge of animal cruelty complaints.  This recent complaint, combined with a visit from the officer (but no vet review by the county)  was the primary foundation of the “emergency” telephone search warrant issued by Thurston County.
  • Thurston County originally seized 17 goats (they later revised this to 18 when they
    Not all the goats were seized. Bucklings were taken from their Moms and vice versa – these are some goats left on the farm

    realized they didn’t count correctly) and shipped the goats to be warehoused in secret locations throughout Thurston County by a local non-profit named Hoofed Animal Rescue of Thurston County (HAROTC), managed by a volunteer board of directors and employee of the animal services department.  HAROTC can only get reimbursed for their cost of storage and food if the Lattins are convicted, and if the Lattins have the money to pay these costs.

  • The dispute has been in Thurston County District Court, which seems strange because Thurston County Superior Court is where most major legal battles like this occur, but District Court is where misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty tend to be adjudicated (along with traffic tickets, restraining orders, etc).  A legal battle is occurring in District Court as the Lattin family is demanding their goats be returned to the farm and denying all charges of animal cruelty filed against them.  The Thurston County Prosecutor’s office, once they realized they couldn’t leverage the Lattin’s to plead guilty, have decided to go scorched earth on them by increasing the counts of animal cruelty from one to 18 per Lattin family member.  The Lattin family have demanded a jury trial and refuse to waive their right to a speedy trial. 
  • This Friday, there is a hearing on a motion, filed in District Court by the Lattin’s attorney, Justin Kover, to challenge the original search warrant.  

    Lattin hearing in Thurston County District Court -September 8, 2017 – Deputy Prosecutor tells judge the county will increase the charges to 18 counts of goat cruelty if the Lattin’s go to jury trial

Why does this search warrant matter?

This fiasco has been troubled from the beginning by the fact that normal checks and balances built into the law enforcement and legal system appears to have failed this time.   This troubles me because if it can happen to the Lattin family, it can happen to my neighbor, and it can happen to anyone with farm animals next.  The rule of law should matter.  If the rule of law becomes arbitrary and capricious, then our community descends into a very dark and scary place.   (For more background on the 4th Amendment and the history of search warrants see the reference articles linked at the end of this article)

Normally, “emergency” search warrants are obtained when there is a serious emergency.  For example, if a car has been pulled over and there is good reason to believe a dead body is in the trunk.  They are not supposed to be issued willy nilly every time a police officer wants one.  A few years ago I stopped a questionable vehicle on my property, and the young men in the vehicle appeared to be casing properties to steal stuff (not uncommon in rural Thurston County, unfortunately).  When the Thurston County Deputy arrived at the scene, he didn’t feel he had enough probable cause to search the vehicle, so they went on their way to steal from the next property owner.  I was frustrated by that experience, but the officer was exercising a level of discretion and following the law.

Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim doesn’t seem too concerned about prosecuting criminals anymore, but the Great Goat Fiasco is his priority now.

A legal search warrant requires not just the law enforcement officer to believe there is probable cause to search and seize evidence, but they must convince a judge of this fact.  A judge, in order to make an impartial and legal decision to sign off on this search warrant, acts as a check and balance to the police officer to make sure constitutional law is observed, due process is followed, and to prevent an effort to obtain a search warrant if it appears improper.  

However, in order for a judge to do his or her job well, they need accurate information.  Which is why it is very important for the law officer requesting the warrant to be honest and accurate with the request. This Friday, there is going to be legal arguments presented to the court (based on this motion) by the Latins attorney that Judge Murphy was not given accurate information in order to convince her to approve the “emergency” search warrant. 

The argument against the validity of the search warrant.  

According to this motion (and the supporting documents provide evidence to support these claims), in preparation for the hearing on Friday, it appears that the deputy misrepresented the facts in this case to Judge Murphy in order to get an “emergency” search warrant issued to seize the animals.  They are as follows:

  • The Deputy indicated to Judge Murphy that 5 animal cruelty complaints had been filed against the Lattin’s farm previously.  This is true.  What she conveniently left out was the fact that all of them were determined to be “unfounded.”  This means there was nothing to see.  How would Judge Murphy have reacted to this information and would it have influenced her to maybe ask for more information?

  • The Deputy appears to have misrepresented the information provided by the vet clinic implying that the goats had not received any care or medicine since 2012.  The vet clinic had indicated that it was possible that other records were kept somewhere else (which was proven to be true when these records were found to be at the Lattin’s Farm itself).  Rather than providing the complete picture to Judge Murphy, this critical piece of information was purposefully omitted.
  • Judges are not supposed to be manipulated this easily
  • Finally, it appears that Deputy Nastansky exaggerated her expertise with goats.  This is particularly significant because the deputy also refused to have a vet inspect the goats before the seizure, which the law clearly states the county should do.  The verbal claims of expertise, which changed when the deputy wrote her report where these claims were then scaled back closer to the truth could also have influenced the judge.  If the judge knew the true experience level of the deputy, would she have taken a different approach?

    This isn’t the way to get a search warrant either

Why does this even matter?  It matters because if this deputy is willing to omit the facts in order to convince a judge to issue an “emergency” search warrant, then what else would the deputy be willing to fudge or change to get a conviction?  This is more serious than most people might realize.

Consider this scenario:  Neighbor A moves to Thurston County from San Francisco to get away from the big city. They buy cheap land, but they don’t like how Neighbor B’s horses smell, their goats make noises, and their farm stinks.  A nasty neighbor dispute ensues.  Neighbor A files complaints – a lot of them.  The sheriff’s department always gets the dirty and thankless job of visiting Neighbor B and determining there is no merit in the complaints.  Sure, maybe things aren’t perfect at Neighbor B’s place, but the complaints don’t merit a SWAT team visit.  However eventually there are so many complaints filed against neighbor B that one day an officer who visits Neighbor B gets frustrated and decides he doesn’t like neighbor B anyway so he misleads the judge – tells the judge that a bunch of complaints have been filed against neighbor B over time (but omits the fact they were found to have no merit), gets a search warrant, and now Neighbor A’s campaign of harassment bears some real fruit.  

Mistakes like a botched warrant or a stupid prosecution are hard to erase.

Once the ball begins to roll, it is embarrassing for any law enforcement agency to issue a search warrant and then to admit there is nothing to be found.  Nobody wants to admit they are wrong, and this leads to a real legal and chaotic mess.  Neighbor A feels pretty righteous about it, of course.  Others see the strategy works, and the story begins to repeat itself throughout the county.  Few rational people want to live in a world like this.  Legal checks and balances were established to prevent this from happening.  Those checks and balances appear to have failed in the Lattins case.     

In Thurston County, a history of deference to government

It is well known that the judges in Thurston County tend to show great deference to anything the government tells them.  Partly, this is a result of the demographic fact that roughly 52% of the county population either collects a paycheck from the government or their significant other does.  This is what happens when your county is the home of state government, most state agency employees, and a variety of Federal agencies and local governments as well.  This creates a built-in bias to accept anything a government agency reports by default.  When in doubt, rule with the government.  This has been Thurston County culture.

However, this culture may be changing.  Familiarity does breed contempt, and if you want to hear about shocking scandals in government, spend some time speaking to employees who work there.  If they don’t think they will lose their job, they will start talking, and the truth tends to be worse than the veneer of sedate government would indicate.  This should surprise nobody.  Government is made up of people, and human nature never changes.  The founders knew this, and we should remind ourselves of this fact as well.  This is why we have checks and balances, due process, and sometimes even transparency in government.  

Regardless of the results of this next Friday hearing for the Lattins, it won’t help improve

Three new independant commissioners in Thurston County. (L-R) John Hutchings, Bud Blake, Gary Edwards

the reputation of local government.  Last year, the people of Thurston County rejected more of the same in the 2016 elections, but there is clearly much work to do to fix the problems and structural defects in Thurston County government created in the past.  

I never expected to write an article which was critical of the Sheriff’s office, but the truth must be told, even if only to help prevent this type of thing from happening again.  I have friends who work in the Thurston County Sheriff’s office.  I have been on ride alongs here and with other law enforcement agencies.  I know the job is tough, demanding, dangerous, and often thankless.  Everyone should recognize how important public safety is for a healthy community, and a stable society requires a certain level of trust in our institutions. 

There is a higher standard of behavior expected from those we pay to protect us and run our government.  They need not be perfect, but they should be competent and they must be honest.  When the people realize that government is neither competent nor honest, it isn’t a good thing for any of us, and it must be exposed and fixed.

Just return the damn goats already!

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Background articles, links and source documents:

Thurston County District Court – Sept 22, 2017- Emergency Declaration Order and Motion to Return Livestock immediately to prevent more sodomy of the goats

Vet Report Sept 12, 2017 indicating the goats were getting worse under “care” of Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office 

Lattin’s Motion to Suppress Search Warrant

Thurston County’s Great Goat Fiasco – Prosecutor’s office embarrases itself

The Great Goad Raid – Thurston County experiences emergency goat seizure

Video – Sept 8, 2017 – court hearing on the Lattin’s attempt to get goats back.

The Olympian – “Lattin’s Attorney Raises concerns about current treatment of goats seized”

The Olympian – “Attorney: Lattin’s charged with 2nd Degree animal cruelty in goat case”

The Olympian – “Lattins appear in court on animal cruelty charges”

The Olympian – “Lattin’s Farm under investigation for animal cruelty as 17 goats seized”

Typical Youtube video of Lattins’ Farm posted 2010

Another typical Youtube video of Lattin’s Farm – plenty of goats on the video

You can find tons of videos like this from people’s visit to the farm

Lattin’s Cider Mill and Farm – website

Hoofed Animal Rescue of Thurston County – website.

Washington State Livestock Coalition – website

Thurston County Sheriff’s Office – website

Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office – website

Source links for Search Warrants, 4th Amendment, Search and Seizure, etc:

http://law.justia.com/constitution/us/amendment-04/01-search-and-seizure.html

http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment4/annotation01.html

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/public_education/misunderstood_common-law_history.pdf

Thurston County’s Great Goat Fiasco – Prosecutor’s office embarrasses itself

When Thurston County seized 18 goats from the Lattin’s Cider Mill Farm back in June, the story was ridiculous enough at the time.  It was called the Great Goat Raid by some of the locals.  It had the air of a circus, a comedy, and a tragedy all rolled into one show. The emergency phone search warrants, multiple search warrants, botched due process, failure to correctly count the number of goats they seized, and the obvious misuse of police and prosecutor resources to harass the most well known farm and agritourism business in Thurston County have all contributed to the spectacle.  The embarrassment of heavily armed deputies making the laughable claim that they were “threatened” by the 85-year old Carolyn Lattin half their size has only added to the discrediting of the whole silly circus.

Jon Tunheim’s office is demonstrating anything BUT excellence in how they are treating the Lattin family and the Great Goat Seizure Fiasco

Unfortunately, the actions by the Thurston County Sheriff’s office and the Prosecutor’s office have only brought disgrace on both departments, and it is a pointless and terrible shame.  This could have been avoided with some maturity and leadership by either department from the beginning.

(Please note, the author has updated this article with source documents, a video of the most recent court hearing, and more related articles and links since it was first published)

Goat renditions to secret “black” sites where the goats suffer

The goats were seized because complaints of goat cruelty had been filed by disgruntled fired former farm workers and some people who appear to have an ax to grind with this well-known very public farm business.  This was the theory.  Hundreds of people see these goats every day.  They are often featured on videos and in photos taken by the tens of thousands of “agri-tourists” who visit the farm every year.  These types of disputes and envy squabbles are part of the human condition, and normally we expect law enforcement to use common sense to moderate the personal disputes.  However, the Thurston County Sheriff’s office decided to go full emergency alert, and without a vet to review the situation, and without counting how many goats they seized, they grabbed the goats and delivered them to a local organization called Hoofed Animal Rescue of Thurston County (HAROTC) which is a local non-profit run by an employee of animal services.

Nobody knows where these goats are right now, but they appear to be treated much more poorly where they are now than at their home at the Lattin’s Cider Mill Farm

HAROTC renditioned the goats to a secret black site in Thurston County.  Nobody is allowed to know where the goats have been sequestered, and who is watching them.  Since some of these animal seizures over the years have been legitimate and obvious cases of neglected or abused hoofed animals, very few people seem to pay attention to what happens to the seized animals.  However, in this case, the Lattin family has been steadfastly trying to get their goats back and attempting to verify the goats are okay.

Moving the goats to secret black sites around Thurston County makes the process even weirder

Recently, the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office was forced to allow licensed veterinarians to inspect and visit the goats (after they had been moved to another “neutral” location).  During this examination of the goats, it was determined that the health of the goat herd had declined significantly under the “care” of HAROTC at the secret black site.  Among other problems, the Lattins’ young bucklings were penned with an adult billy which had been sodomizing and abusing the young bucklings seized from the Lattins’ farm.  Usually, young bucklings and castrated male goats (called wethers) are kept separated from the adult male billy goats, because of this type of abuse.  Uncastrated billy goats are usually used to breed female goats, and by their nature they will attempt to mount almost anything in the pen.  It also appears that despite the driest summer in recent memory, hoof rot on this herd only got worse.  (see recent vet report here)

The Courtroom Circus, the Lattin family just want their goats back

The Lattin family has been in Thurston County District Court attempting to get their goats back for months now.  Standing is the Thurston County Prosecutor demanding to double down on charges if it is going to a jury trial.

Despite the Lattin’s relentless efforts to rescue their goats from wherever they have been housed, the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office has refused to return them.  HAROTC has hired an attorney to represent their interests now (which is odd since they are technically providing a service to the county), and I’ve attended a variety of hearings in Thurston District Court as the Lattin’s family continues the legal process to get their goats back.  There have been many hearings, motions, and a variety of legal efforts to get their goats back from Thurston County, but the Prosecutor’s office has refused to return them.

Thurston County Commissioner and former Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards is planning to testify on behalf of the Lattins family

This case is no longer about animal cruelty.  Whatever the initial excuse used by an overzealous and ideologically blinded Thurston County sheriff’s deputy, there has been a cascade of incompetence on Thurston County’s part, and the collapse of credibility for the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office can’t be overstated. Recently elected Thurston County Commissioner and former Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards has signed up to testify on behalf of the Lattin’s farm and family.  Many people are coming forward with similar stories of abuse by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office.  Some people are beginning to wonder why the Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim doesn’t put the same energy into putting away real criminals in the county.

Thurston County gets personal in an effort to destroy the Lattin’s Farm business

As Thurston County Prosecutor Jon Tunheim’s office loses credibility, he has decided to ignore the criminals and go scorched earth on the Lattin family farm

As the legal case against the Lattin’s farm gets shakier by the day, rather than recognizing their mistake and overreaction, the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office has decided to double down on dumb and go scorched earth on the Lattins’ farm business of 40 years as punishment.  The heavily armed deputies from the sheriff’s office will try to convince a jury that an 85 year old 100lb. Carolyn Lattin “threatened” them and made them fear for their safety.  Once the Prosecutor’s office realized they couldn’t intimidate the Lattin family or avoid a jury trial which the county will likely lose, the Prosecutor’s office decided to charge the Lattin’s family not just with one initial count of animal cruelty, but now with 18 counts of cruelty each (even though the county’s own vet reports don’t support these claims).  

The Lattin’s business and farm store have been targeted and the business has been harmed by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office

The Prosecutor’s office has repeatedly manipulated The Olympian to write negative stories about the Lattins’ farm (although even The Olympian might be wising up to this tactic now).  The Prosecutor’s office’s media campaign efforts with apparent assistance from a few HAROTC members is attempting to destroy the Lattin’s business by convincing local businesses to stop taking their cider products and to boycott their local, decades’ old business.

When I spoke to Carolyn Lattin, she indicated that six long time local business customers had informed her they would no longer purchase her family’s locally produced cider.  Multiple people have been convinced by Prosecutor Jon Tunheim’s media efforts to boycott the Lattin’s Cider Farm (according to Facebook posts around the county).

Thurston County’s Prosecutor’s office is creating terrible precedent

In the end, this type of legal circus and abuse of the legal system is far more significant than the damage done to the Lattin family, their business, or the credibility of HAROTC and the Prosecutor’s office.  The average citizen won’t ever know the full story, nor will they be able to follow every step of the legal dance or media blitz.  However, there will be general precedents and unintended consequences from this type of fiasco, and this is the fallout which should concern everyone:

  • If you attempt to let older animals live out their lives on your farm, you are putting yourself at extreme financial, legal, and reputation risk.  Older animals are more sickly and tend to be harder to keep at peak health in their last years.  Most people will get the message it is better to butcher the animal quickly because you never know when a disgruntled jealous neighbor or an ignorant person from the city decides to call in a complaint.  The prosecutor’s office has sent this message loud and clear – when in doubt kill it quickly.  This is very unfortunate for those of us
    People who want to harass rural folk will be on the lookout for old goats

    who would prefer to let older animals live out their natural lives as long as they can remain happy and live a good life. These animals have become our pets, but won’t be worth it if the owners will get crucified for letting them live.

  • Conversely, the message has been sent to all the disgruntled and ignorant people who know little about farm life, rural living, or animal husbandry that filing phony animal cruelty complaints with Thurston County will work as a harassment strategy against people you don’t like.  It has now been demonstrated that nobody in the Thurston County Sheriff’s office or the Prosecutor’s office has the expertise, knowledge or discretion to sort out the cranks from the truth. This is sad and only encourages more abuse of the system.
  • The Thurston County Prosecutor’s office and the Sheriff’s department are
    Thurston Prosecutor Tunheim has lost credibility and encouraged people to dig deeper into the decisions made by his office.

    losing substantial credibility in the county.  This pains me because I have regularly testified at the commission for at least seven years now on many occasions that these departments needed more resources and support.  It is now clear that they are misusing the resources to put away sex offenders and instead they use taxpayer resources for personal vendettas that defy logic and common sense.  This is not good for the community or public safety.  We must be able to trust our local law enforcement agencies, and destroying this trust over this circus is just self-destructive.  This is a terrible side effect of this fiasco.  The Prosecutor’s office deserves particular blame since they are theoretically an additional check on a rogue police officer (which do exist sometimes).  The checks and balances have collapsed, and they could have stopped the foolish emergency search warrant, the botched goat raid, the failure to adequately protect the goats in care of the “state”, and the vindictive attacks against community members who resist.  This is ugly behavior and could have been avoided with maturity, compassion, and better processes.

  • The mostly volunteer animal rescue efforts have suffered a serious collapse in credibility as well.  I know many people who provide this service for the good of our community and have selflessly helped save horses, goats, and other large animals.  Many of them do good work for the right reasons.  Unfortunately, this avoidable fiasco has only made it less likely that honest and good people will step forward to help fill this necessary role.  Who would want to spend the energy, time, and money to help when you will be forced to participate in campaigns of personal destruction and questionable judgement like this?
  • Finally, the scorched earth campaign against a long time farm business like the Lattin’s Cider Mill is surely going to discourage and destroy the desire of anyone else to try a business open to the public like this.  Former Commissioner Sandra Romero squandered hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in an effort to promote “agritourism” in Thurston County.  It was money largely wasted which was typical of Romero’s political career.  However, the theory of promoting rural “agritourism” businesses will never achieve reality when those same businesses (rarely profitable and very risky) are easily destroyed at the whim of local government.  It is a tremendous risk to allow the public on your farm.  Why would anyone do this when you are nearly certain to lose everything by trying to build a vibrant community asset like the Lattins’ Cider Mill Farm?  Running a business like this isn’t like taking a desk job.  It takes hard physical work, often late hours, and the risks are very high.  Unfortunately, Thurston County’s actions in addition to being inexcusable are probably going to create a chilling effect throughout rural Thurston County for years to come.

I interviewed Carolyn Lattin, she told me “I have never abused an animal in my life.  I can’t believe what is happening to us.  I can’t believe how in one day they can take everything away that we spent so many years to build.”  

I can’t believe it either.  

This guy would be better off if he could just go back home to the Lattin’s farm, rather than being kept in a secret black site somewhere in Thurston County.

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OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Background articles, links and source documents:

Thurston County District Court – Sept 22, 2017- Emergency Declaration Order and Motion to Return Livestock immediately to prevent more sodomy of the goats

Vet Report Sept 12, 2017 indicating the goats were getting worse under “care” of Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office 

The Great Goad Raid – Thurston County experiences emergency goat seizure

Video – Sept 8, 2017 – court hearing on the Lattin’s attempt to get goats back.

The Olympian – “Lattin’s Attorney Raises concerns about current treatment of goats seized”

The Olympian – “Attorney: Lattin’s charged with 2nd Degree animal cruelty in goat case”

The Olympian – “Lattins appear in court on animal cruelty charges”

The Olympian – “Lattin’s Farm under investigation for animal cruelty as 17 goats seized”

Typical Youtube video of Lattins’ Farm posted 2010

Another typical Youtube video of Lattin’s Farm – plenty of goats on the video

You can find tons of videos like this from people’s visit to the farm

Lattin’s Cider Mill and Farm – website

Hoofed Animal Rescue of Thurston County – website.

Washington State Livestock Coalition – website

Thurston County Sheriff’s Office – website

Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office – website

 

The Scorched Wasteland of Washington’s Campaign Finance Laws

When Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson decided to emphasize aggressive enforcement of the state’s campaign finance laws, his intention was to focus on outsiders like initiative activist Tim Eyman, deep pockets like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the occasional political targets of opportunity like Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman.  He never expected his vigorous promotion of the state’s Byzantine campaign finance laws would encourage some people (like this author) to expose a broader spectrum of campaign finance violators, which included some of Ferguson’s Democratic allies.  This was never part of the plan.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson watches his protege, Walter Smith talk about suing Tim Eyman a few months ago.

In the AG’s office, it just wasn’t fair to sue Democrats

Walter Smith is just looking to do what he is told

One of Ferguson’s protege hires for the campaign finance unit Ferguson created was former AG prosecutor Walter Smith, who was a longtime hyper partisan who “resigned” from the AG’s office a few weeks ago because he felt it was “unfair” for the office to be suing so many Democratic politicians and committees.  Mr. Smith promptly formed a law firm a few blocks from the AG’s office and immediately started filing campaign finance complaints (and lawsuits), against Republicans as retaliation for this “unfairness.”

Mr. Smith, as a recent employee of the AG’s office may have used his access to proprietary information obtained while paid by the state’s taxpayers to now personally enrich himself.  His new, two person “firm” (his partner is a former AG employee as well) is the attorney in these lawsuits, so he can profit from the attorney fees. Serious questions have been raised about the likelihood of collusion by other employees at the AG’s office in Smith’s recent activities (a serious ethical breach for all involved, and a major violation of the state’s public employees ethics laws if proven true).  

Did Mr. Smith pursue Democrats with the same diligence that he used to prosecute Kim Wyman last year? He certainly was not as enthusiastic

Additional questions are being raised as to whether Smith actually pursued the campaign finance cases against Democrats (which he said were “unfair”) with the same diligence he used in attacking Tim Eyman, Kim Wyman, and an unemployed cobbler and retired judge from Grant County (now being charged $454,000 for a $3900 illegal mailer produced a few years ago in a local Grant County Prosecutor race).  It now appears possible that Smith was colluding with and now cooperating with organizations and candidates who he supposedly was “investigating” while being paid by the taxpayer.  

Whether Smith or Ferguson admit collusion or not, it is obvious that senior Democrats are bragging about their control and involvement in using AG employees to do their bidding right now.  Some have even bragged about it on Facebook.

Bailey Stober, King County Democratic Chair responding to a Republican. Walter Smith was supposedly investigating Stober.

 

Does the campaign finance law treat everyone equally?

As I have written about before, the state’s campaign finance laws appear to have had a disparate impact on Republicans over the last 20 years when compared to Democrats.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the law was enforced unequally during this time.  Part of the reason for this disparate impact was the fact that the campaign finance laws are mostly enforced as a complaint driven process.  Over the last 20 years, the Democrats have simply been more prolific and capable complainants (against Republicans and against fellow Democrats) than the Republicans.  With a few notable exceptions, the Republicans mostly didn’t participate in the complaint side of the campaign finance laws, which ultimately created the problem many Democratic political committees and candidates are experiencing right now.

Bob Ferguson posed for a photo with Andrew Biviano, chair of the Spokane County Democrats a few weeks before he sued them for egregious campaign finance violations

Since most Democrat politicians and committees could violate the state’s campaign finance laws with impunity, thanks to the Republican unwillingness to pay attention or inability to file complaints, it became inevitable that many Democratic affiliated committees and candidates would drift further and further away from campaign finance law compliance.  Sometimes this became brazen, egregious wholesale violation of the statute like the Spokane County Democrats, and sometimes it is because nobody paid much attention to the law in the past.  In other cases, the law is convoluted and unclear so that violations are inevitable no matter how much a campaign attempts to comply.

How did so many Democratic politicians and committees suddenly get in so much trouble?

Jim Cooper and Kelsey Hulse – they were the Democrat choices for Thurston County

The current campaign finance ruckus began last year during the 2016 campaign season.  I created two small local political action committees (PACs) in Thurston County and engaged in the local political process.  This involvement led to a variety of unfortunate, but typical overreactions by the Democratic Party.  Responses included a death threat against me by a local Democratic PCO (not exactly a genius – leaving the voicemail from his home phone).  A lawsuit was filed against me by the Washington State Democratic Party (it was petty and settled quickly).  A Public Disclosure Commission (PDC)  Complaint was filed against me by the Washington State Democratic Party (ultimately dismissed by the PDC a few months ago).  Multiple other legal attacks targeted me from local Democratic politicians, activists, and donors.  Fair enough.  Nobody said participating in the political process was a “safe space,” and the Thurston County Democratic Party performed exceptionally poorly in 2016.  They were lashing out and I am a convenient target for their hatred.  

Attorney General Bob Ferguson was very enthusiastic about campaign finance law until he started suing Democrats

I also became inspired by Ferguson’s increased enthusiasm for the state’s campaign finance laws (the Wyman case was making the news at the time).  Additionally, I had filed a PDC complaint against Olympia Democratic Senator Sam Hunt (among other local Democrats who were attacking me at the time) and he told the PDC I was ignorant of campaign finance laws.  Hunt was right.  Senator Sam Hunt inspired me to become less ignorant, and thus began a seemingly Quixotic campaign to expose the problems with our state’s campaign finance laws.  Since I was being sued, threatened, and attacked by the Democratic Party, it made perfect sense to begin looking at how well they complied with the law.  Their compliance was poor.  Very poor.

Many Democratic politicians and committees go to court

Because of the complaints I have filed, the following politicians and committees were sued by the Washington State Attorney General’s office for campaign finance violations over the past 10 months or so:

  1. Theresa Purcell (D) – failed candidate for legislature in 19th Legislative District
  2. Jim Cooper (D) – failed candied for Thurston County Commission
  3. Kelsey Hulse (D) – failed candidate for Thurston County Commission
  4. Thurston County Democratic Central Committee
  5. Senator Sam Hunt (D) – Olympia, 22nd Leg. District
  6. Jay Manning (former Director, Dept. of Ecology)
  7. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (D) – Seattle, 43rd Leg. District
  8. Representative Jeff Morris (D) – San Juans/Skagit, 40th Leg District
  9. Representative Strom Peterson (D) – Edmonds, 21st Leg District
  10. Spokane County Democratic Central Committee
  11. King County Democratic Central Committee
  12. San Juan County Democratic Central Committee
  13. Kittitas County Democratic Central Committee
  14. Pierce County Democratic Central Committee
  15. Sharlaine LaClair (D) – failed candidate for legislature (42nd District)
  16. Eastside Democratic Dinner Committee
  17. Washington North Idaho District Council Laborers PAC
  18. Bailey Stober, King County Democrats Chair (petition for documents)
JZ Knight claims to Channel Ramtha – a 35,000 year old warrior spirit who likes twinkies and donates big cash to Democrats

In addition to these groups, lawsuits were also filed on behalf of the State of Washington against the People for Thurston PAC run by Jay Manning (former Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology) and sponsored by cult leader JZ Knight as well as the Island County Democratic Central Committee and the 11th Legislative District Democrats.  More lawsuits will continue to be filed over the next few weeks.  

These cases are what AG employee Walter Smith deemed as being “unfair,” so he quit. Possibly, he sabotaged the cases he was “working” on and then he began filing copy-cat complaints against Republican legislators, committees, this author, and others.  Mr. Smith even has his own blog site where he appears fixated on this author. 

The case for reform of the State’s campaign finance laws

I have argued from the beginning of this process last year that our state’s campaign finance laws need serious reform.  Despite good intentions, they have been drafted and modified over the years to ensure that few can completely comply.  This challenge with compliance is particularly true for political newcomers.  Laws are written to help incumbents. Strong resistance to reform is crafted in the law because incumbents have no incentive to make the job easier for future challengers.  

My efforts to expose the problems with the statute and build a statistically significant dataset of information which can be used for realistic reform continues to grow.  When this is combined with the self-serving retaliation complaints filed by Ferguson’s former employee, Mr. Smith, the problems with the statute are impossible to ignore.  By the time the next legislative session begins in January, there will be very few politicians of either political party in Olympia who have not been sued, fined, or found guilty of the state’s campaign finance laws.  Few political committees will escape unscathed either.

What every political party and all politicians want to say

The result should be obvious.  Either we must believe that everyone in politics is a lawbreaker, or there is something wrong with the law.  I have argued that reform of the law is needed, and made this case to two different PDC Directors and at public comment at the Public Disclosure Commission for almost a year now.   However, any fixes or reform must come from the legislature as the PDC can only change some of the minor rule problems.

The fight over the rules is a fight over the money and who is in control.

Of course, the challenge with reform will be that “reform” means different things to different people.  Logical nonpartisan reform would lead to changes in the statute that would make compliance easier and would prioritize the disclosure of who funds campaigns over the minutia of minor technical violations currently made by everyone (often without willfulness or malice).  However, many political insiders simply want to prevent politicians or committees of “their” party from being held to the same standard they want to apply to “the other guys.”  This attitude won’t lead to effective reform.

Fortunately this Don Quixote campaign finance project is occurring during an off-year election cycle.  This timing is optimal to expose the truth about the law with plenty of time for the legislature to find a bipartisan/nonpartisan fix before the full campaign season begins in 2018.  Failure to craft meaningful reform will lead to another year of escalating complaints, lawsuits, and further crater the declining credibility of the AG’s office in this matter.  If the legislature can’t reform the campaign finance laws during the next session, next year’s campaign finance complaint season is sure to become a discouraging wasteland of political litigation.  

I’m sure somebody will “win,” but the pyrrhic victory amidst the ruins will be ugly…

______________________________________________

OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Background articles:

AG Attorney complains suing Democrat lawbreakers “unfair”, quits to sue Republicans

Tacoma News Tribune – “Is Olympia lawyer the Democrats’ champion in complaint-filing war?”

The Chaos of Campaign Finance Compliance and the Disarray of the Dems

Inlander – April 13, 2017 – “Dems in Disarray”

August 18, 2017 – AGO settles Campaign Finance Complaint against Representative Strom Peterson for a settlement of $11,950.  Peterson pays $7, 595 with the rest deferred.Note- this was sent out as a tweet on August 21, 2017 in lieu of a press release

August 15, 2017 – AGO files Campaign Finance Complaint against Pierce County Democrats

August 2, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign Finance Complaint against Washington & North Idaho District Council of Laborers PAC

July 14, 2017 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against Kittitas County Democrats

June 29, 2017 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against San Juan County Democrats

June 23, 2017 – AG’s Office demands documents be disclosed in campaign finance case

June 19, 2017 – AG files campaign finance complaint against Eastside Democratic Dinner Committee

May 12, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign finance complaint against King County Democratic Central Committee

May 12, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign finance complaint against Spokane County Democratic Central Committee, Two Committee Officers

April 10, 2017 – AGO files Campaign Finance Complaints Against State Lawmakers, Former Candidate

March 14, 2017 – Chopp to pay $6469 over Campaign Finance Allegations

March 14, 2017 – AG files Campaign Finance Complaints against Senator Hunt and Thurston County Democrats

February 13, 2017 – EWU Trustee (Jay Manning), Audubon Washington to pay penalties, costs in separate campaign finance cases

December 19, 2016 – AG Files Campaign Finance Complaint against 19th District House Candidate (Theresa Purcell)

December 19, 2016 – AG files Campaign Finance Complaints against Budget and Policy Center, Thurston County Candidate (Jim Cooper)

Sound Transit – largest violator of Campaign laws in State history? Helping Tim Eyman?

 

Tim Eyman is often referred to as the “initiative king” of Washington State

Tim Eyman, the well-known Washington State anti-tax initiative crusader, recently sent one of his regular emails promoting his current effort to pass another $30 car tab initiative.  Due to this author’s recent focus on campaign finance reform in Washington State, one part of his email demanded a bit more attention.  It appears that Washington State’s own light rail boondoggle – Sound Transit is supporting Tim Eyman in ways nobody would predict.  

Sound Transit Helps Tim Eyman with Big Dollar Support

Sound Transit appears to have provided massive support to Eyman’s $30 car tab effort (Source Tim Eyman public email blast)

Eyman posts what appears to be a draft campaign finance Public Disclosure form (called a “C4”) for “Voters Want More Choices,“which shows an “in-kind” contribution from Sound Transit to Eyman’s $30 Initiative Campaign.   Several issues are worth noting.  First, the significant size of the “in-kind” contribution – $500,000,000.  This number was based on the recently disclosed budget overruns(just one of many) by Sound Transit – arguably one of the worst managed government entities in Washington State history.  

Tim Eyman’s Car Tab initiative is very similar to initiatives he has run in the past, and assuming it makes it to the ballot, it seems likely to pass.

Eyman points out this egregious (but very predictable) incompetence by Sound Transit is the perfect promotion for his $30 Car Tab initiative.  Sound Transit proves, once again, why they should never be trusted with a dime of taxpayer dollars, and in doing so they provide more publicity and public support for Eyman’s initiative than Eyman could have afforded to purchase or achieve on his own.

In 2016, total expenditures on all election activity in Washington State was $144 million (source PDC)

Put this number in perspective – the Total amount of money spent on elections in 2016, according to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) was $144,961,627.93.  This is a lot of money, but Sound Transit wasted more than three times this much money in just one of their many predictable cost “overruns.”  However, there is a bigger problem for Sound Transit than just their inevitable squandering of taxpayer dollars.

Sound Transit breaks the law (I know, what else is new? but this could be serious)

It is illegal, under Washington State Law for a public agency to provide campaign support for initiatives (RCW 42.17A.555).  As such, this “in-kind” contribution is not only the largest contribution in the history of the State of Washington, it also constitutes the largest violation of the campaign finance law in the history of the state.  

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is always looking for new high profile campaign finance cases…

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has repeatedly touted his success with his recent campaign finance litigation against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which resulted in a $18 million fine. (see various AG press releases here, here, and here).  However, the inevitable campaign finance lawsuit against Sound Transit would result in a fine dwarfing the Grocery Manufacturers Association case and making that penalty look like chump change.  The inevitable nine or ten digit fine against Sound Transit would actually be large enough to have a real impact on Washington State’s budget (of course it is all our tax dollars, but this fine would transfer funds from the bottomless pit of Sound Transit to the bottomless pit of Washington State’s General Fund).

The final due date for Eyman’s C4 paperwork is next week.   Sound Transit continues to demonstrate why it is such a harmful and destructive organization, and yet they pretend to be amazed and shocked that their corruption and incompetence is exactly what Tim Eyman needs to succeed. Eyman will now have a much easier job collecting these $30 car tab signatures thanks to Sound Transit’s lavish support for the $30 car tab initiative campaign.

Tim Eyman (Orange shirt) collects signatures at fairs all around the state, and his popularity seems to grow the more he is attacked by his many detractors

______________________________________________

OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Background articles:

Tim Eyman’s $30 Car Tab website (Voter’s Want More Choices)

How is ST3 like an STD?

Seattle Times – July 11, 2017 – “Tim Eyman initiative would toss Sound Transit car-tab tax, set state cap of $30”

King5 – July 12, 2017 – “Tim Eyman launches $30 car-tab initiative”

Seattle Curbed – July 13, 2017 – “Tim Eyman’s latest $30 car tab attempt could cost Sound Transit $7 to 8 billion”

Seattle Weekly – July 12, 2017 – “With Initiative Push, Eyman Takes on Car Tab Fees – and Sound Transit”

Seattle Times – August 24, 2017 – “Sound Transit’s Lynnwood extension running $500M over budget”

The Stranger – August 24, 2017 – “Light Rail to Lynnwood is behind schedule and over budget”

Q13 – Fox – August 25, 2017 – “Sound Transit:  Lynnwood light rail is $500 million over budget”

Public Disclosure Commission – Total money spent on all state elections – 2016

AG attorney complains suing Democrat lawbreakers “unfair,” quits to sue Republicans

Recent Washington State Attorney General employee Walter Smith believed it was “unfair” that he was forced to sue so many Democratic politicians and Democratic Political Committees for violating the state’s campaign finance laws.  He worked at the AG’s office believing he would be spending all his time suing Republicans like Secretary of State Kim Wyman and longtime initiative activist Tim Eyman.  To Smith, it wasn’t fair that Democratic politicians and political committees were expected to follow the same law as the Republicans.  So, he quit in a bit of a fit.  He is now suing Republicans for the Washington State Democratic Party instead.  

State AG Bob Ferguson (right) coordinated with Walter Smith to take point on litigations in the Campaign Finance Division. Smith was happy to pursue Tim Eyman, but felt it was “unfair” to sue Democrats

Maybe Mr. Smith wasn’t paying attention to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson who campaigned for his re-election in 2016 in part on getting tough on campaign finance law violations.  It could be that Mr. Smith didn’t believe Ferguson was honest.  Or perhaps, he cynically believed that the law should only be applied to one party.  After all, it is common belief by many in Washington State that everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.  

It just isn’t fair to sue Democrats

Walter Smith felt it was unfair to sue Democrats for breaking the law.

When interviewed by the Tacoma News Tribune, Mr. Smith explained his actions as “fairness.”  Some have even speculated that he coordinated his departure with Bob Ferguson.  Others have speculated that Mr. Smith’s abrupt departure was coordinated with the State Democratic Party or with Democrat Party donors like cult leader JZ Knight. Regardless, Mr. Smith’s admission of hyper partisanship while working at the state’s Attorney General office raises serious public policy questions and a variety of ethical concerns about the work he did while there.  

Walter Smith’s actions are raising ethical questions about whether he misused public resources.

Did Mr. Smith fully prosecute the cases he was assigned against Democrats with the same vigor and aggressiveness that he displayed while prosecuting Republican Kim Wyman or Tim Eyman?  Mr. Smith pursued an unemployed cobbler and a retired judge in Grant County who are being charged by the AG for $454,000 for the grievous crime of spending $3,900 on an anonymous flyer against a local prosecutor candidate four years ago.  Did he show the same level of righteous rigor when pursuing the Spokane County Democrats for egregious violations including deceptively hiding funds used to pay their Executive Director, or failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions and expenditures? Based on his own comments, the obvious answer is “No.”

Additionally, a question raised by Mr. Smith’s behavior is the likelihood that he misused state resources to personally benefit himself while collecting a public paycheck.  The open collusion of his hyper-partisan actions with the State Democratic Party (and possibly party donors like cult leader JZ Knight) logically leads to a very necessary forensic audit and ethics investigation into how long he was both working for the State Democratic Party and collecting a paycheck from the State of Washington.  A records request has been filed with the Attorney General’s office, but most observers believe this information will be suppressed or buried.

 

Mr. Smith wanted to expose Democratic Party whistleblowers  

I only met Mr. Smith on one occasion.  A few months ago, in an effort to facilitate one of the AG’s campaign finance investigations, I met one of his co-workers in the lobby to provide additional evidence of hidden money and provide various bank account numbers.  Mr. Smith tagged along for the quiet lobby meeting.  However, unlike his co-worker, he didn’t care about the facts – he wanted to know which Democrats inside the party were giving me insider information.  He wanted to know how many I was working with.  Were they party committee members?  This was his priority.  I refused to divulge any identities to him and he was visibly irritated and annoyed.  It was a strange conversation at the time, and I couldn’t understand why the identities of Democrat whistleblowers was so important.  The facts I was providing would assist in their investigation and the AG could subpoena the bank statements and other documents to verify that my facts were correct.  How I obtained the information was not germane to the investigation at this stage.

It is obvious now that Walter Smith only wanted whistleblower identities so that he could blow their covers to the Democratic Party and the whistleblowers could be silenced.  This should trouble many people, not just Republicans or whistleblowers.  It is also odd and more than a little weird that he changed his purported career path simply in revenge against this author’s efforts to expose the problems with Washington State’s campaign finance laws.

How many more Walter Smiths work in Washington State government agencies?

If the people can’t trust the public employees who work at the Attorney General’s office to fairly administer the law and treat everyone equally, then we have a serious problem in our state.  To quote one of my Democrat friends who discussed this issue with me:

“ It’s disturbing, because it implies that the AG’s lawyers resent being required to do their jobs.  How many other public bureaucrats resist doing what they’re supposed to do because they see it as a threat to their own narrow authority?  and how can we be confident they’re doing the job we’re paying them for?”

Those are good questions, and we are unlikely to hear any answers.

It could be that Walter Smith just wants to prove every Republican conspiracy theory true.  Perhaps the Republicans are correct and hyper partisanship infuses the AG’s office and elsewhere in State Government. Many people already believe the rules are not applied equally to all, and now Mr. Smith provides another example of why people feel this is true.

In the meantime, it seems likely that Mr. Smith’s actions will help provide this author with further evidence on why our state’s campaign finance laws need reform.

______________________________________________

OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.”  IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.  IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT.  IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.”  UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED

Background articles:

Tacoma News Tribune – “Is Olympia lawyer the Democrats’ champion in complaint-filing war?”

Inlander – April 13, 2017 – “Dems in Disarray”

August 18, 2017 – AGO settles Campaign Finance Complaint against Representative Strom Peterson for a settlement of $11,950.  Peterson pays $7, 595 with the rest deferred.Note- this was sent out as a tweet on August 21, 2017 in lieu of a press release

August 15, 2017 – AGO files Campaign Finance Complaint against Pierce County Democrats

August 2, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign Finance Complaint against Washington & North Idaho District Council of Laborers PAC

July 14, 2017 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against Kittitas County Democrats

June 29, 2017 – AGO files campaign finance complaint against San Juan County Democrats

June 23, 2017 – AG’s Office demands documents be disclosed in campaign finance case

June 19, 2017 – AG files campaign finance complaint against Eastside Democratic Dinner Committee

May 12, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign finance complaint against King County Democratic Central Committee

May 12, 2017 – AGO Files Campaign finance complaint against Spokane County Democratic Central Committee, Two Committee Officers

April 10, 2017 – AGO files Campaign Finance Complaints Against State Lawmakers, Former Candidate

March 14, 2017 – Chopp to pay $6469 over Campaign Finance Allegations

March 14, 2017 – AG files Campaign Finance Complaints against Senator Hunt and Thurston County Democrats

February 13, 2017 – EWU Trustee (Jay Manning), Audubon Washington to pay penalties, costs in separate campaign finance cases

December 19, 2016 – AG Files Campaign Finance Complaint against 19th District House Candidate (Theresa Purcell)

December 19, 2016 – AG files Campaign Finance Complaints against Budget and Policy Center, Thurston County Candidate (Jim Cooper)

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