Billionaires from the Left - Michael Bloomberg, Nick Hanauer, Paul Allen, Steve Ballmer
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Former New York Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun organization provided financial and intellectual support for I-1639

Four billionaires are involved in funding and supporting Washington State’s latest Anti-Gun initiative I-1639.  Read more about the problems with this initiative here.  Despite the unlimited reservoir of funds to get this initiative on the ballot, it may not end up on November’s ballot due to the incompetence of the high-priced consultants who failed to proof-read their own initiative.  In the colorful history of Washington State initiative fights, this may be the most significant and costly screw up ever.  Ultimately, the unpredictable courts in Washington State will decide the fate of whether voters will vote on this flawed initiative.  Political insiders are still shocked such an avoidable mistake was made in the first place.

On Friday, Washington’s Secretary of State formally certified that sufficient signatures were received from this campaign, and immediately two different lawsuits were filed challenging the validity of the initiative’s petition itself.  One lawsuit was filed by the Second Amendment Foundation located in Bellevue Washington, using local attorney Joel Ard (see lawsuit linked here and opening brief linked here).  The second one was filed by the National Rifle Association using Seattle law firm Corr Cronin (see lawsuit linked here).

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon

Both lawsuits are on a rapid calendar in Thurston County Superior Court.  The hearing is currently scheduled for August 17th at 9am  (and then ultimately to the Washington State Supreme Court) because the Secretary of State needs to know by August 31st if the November ballot will include I-1639 or not.  Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon has been assigned this case, and we will know the result of this legal drama by the end of the month.

There are differences between the two legal challenges, and I strongly encourage interested readers to read the cases linked in this article, but essentially, they both make the same basic constitutional legal claims and ask for the same relief from the court.  They both point out that the sponsors of the initiative failed to follow the law, and that the court should not allow an illegal initiative on the ballot in November.

Buckets of cash, botching a simple job

The consultants had plenty of other people’s money to burn to get I-1639 on the ballot

When the Washington State legislature refused to pass multiple anti-gun bills during the legislative session earlier this year, everyone knew that the anti-gun crowd would file an initiative to the people and see if they could convince the voters of Washington State to reduce their 2nd Amendment rights through the initiative process.  Multiple billionaires stepped up to help fund this effort to deny the citizen peasantry of Washington State the same protection each of the billionaires enjoy with their own 24-hour armed security teams.  It is easy for them to support initiatives that will have no direct impact on their lives, and which will only take rights away from the little people like the rest of us.  The billionaires tossed in their millions, detailed as follows:

  • Paul Allen – $1.226 million
  • Nick & Leslie Hanauer – $1.226 million
  • Steve & Connie Balmer – $1.0 million
  • Michael Bloomberg (through Everytown for Gun Safety org) – $59k

According to reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission, of the $4.1 million dollars raised to date on this campaign, 85% came from billionaires who have their own 24-hour armed security.

Christian Sinderman (photo source: NWP consulting)

It seems hypocritical, but it is legal.  However, you might think this bottomless well of funding would at least be enough to pay for a basic level of competency in the organizing and management of this campaign.  Allen, Hanauer, and Ballmer all made their fortunes in the private sector like Microsoft, and it seems doubtful they would casually toss away this much cash on a bunch of amateur consultant who don’t know their business.  In fact, they hired some of the best professionals the Democratic Party has to offer including Christian Sinderman’s group Northwest Passage Consulting.

Success seems certain, the details and law are ignored

Washington State AG Bob Ferguson publicly endorsed I-1639 even before his staff finished writing the “neutral” ballot title.

There was no doubt this group would spend enough money to get the signatures.  Money was no obstacle to their goals, and if you have the budget, paid signature gatherers will get the job done.  The sponsors also convinced Bob Ferguson, the Washington State Attorney General, to take the unprecedented step of formally endorsing the initiative before his staff had even written the official legal description for the ballot title.  Although he claimed this wouldn’t influence his staff as they did their job, many were skeptical of this dubious claim.

Thurston County Judge Carol Murphy agreed that the AG’s ballot title language was not neutral and needed changes

After the AG staff predictably wrote a very biased description of the initiative, this author and others challenged the AG’s ballot title in court, and even Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy was convinced that the ballot title was biased and flawed.  She accepted some of the challenging arguments and made some changes to the initiative title, which caused the billionaire’s army of consultants to discard their pre-printed initiative signature sheets and reprint new sheets with the new wording on the front.


Unfortunately, while everyone was scrambling to print up new initiative signature sheets, both the consultants and their law firm – Pacifica Law Group – failed to proof read the initiative’s official language required to be printed on the back of the signature sheets (RCW 29A.72.100).  Instead of printing the actual official initiative language (linked here), they printed text that did not include the changes, additions, or deletions from existing law.  As an example of just how screwed up this language became, see the image nearby.  This is Initiative 101 stuff, and these consultants and their law firm really botched it.

No way to proof read this initiative without a magnifying glass

Part of what made the proof reading difficult for them was the decision by these same consultants to print in micro-font which could be read by few without a magnifying glass, and the consultants were too busy cashing their checks from the billionaires to care.  However, had they taken a few minutes with a magnifying glass, the errors would have been obvious.  They did not.  They were even warned a few weeks later that the maze of micro print was probably also a violation of RCW 29A.72.100 by the Second Amendment Foundation.  They ignored the problem.   Just prior to the submission of signatures, a challenge was also filed in the Washington State Supreme Court on this issue, but a deputy substitute court commissioner dismissed the challenge before the Justices could ever see it.   It was determined that a legal challenge could not be successfully argued until after the Secretary of State had certified the initiative.  As a result, two lawsuits were filed last Friday as soon as legal standing to do so was created by the certification itself.

The Secretary of State’s office issued a press release expressing its concern with the obvious failure by the sponsors of this initiative to follow the law (see here).

Bad choices, blame game, and desperation

Despite access to unlimited cash, the consultants still screwed this thing up.  How hard is it to cut and paste initiative language?  How hard is it to at least look at the printer’s proof – even if it requires a magnifying glass – to verify?  Someone signed off on this thing, and they are responsible for the legal mess they have created.  There is nobody else to blame for this level of screw up.

A good reference for next time

It isn’t the billionaire’s fault that the consultants didn’t follow the law.  They thought they were hiring competent people.  It isn’t the Second Amendment Foundation or the NRA’s fault that the consultants botched the process (in fact the Second Amendment Foundation even helpfully warned them something was wrong).  It isn’t the Secretary of State’s fault that this is a mess because her office is also concerned about their lawbreaking.  The only real blame here rests on the back of the consultants and/or their law firm who appear to have fumbled their jobs.

The legal challenges state that no initiative campaign has ever violated this law before (mainly because it is so easy to comply with).  That makes this a case of first impression, which means the Supreme Court will ultimately have only five days to verify the final decision after Judge Dixon decides this case in Thurston County Superior Court.  A lot of political pressure by the anti-gun crew will be exerted on him to ignore the law.

Sometimes it can be hard to know how the courts will rule on anything, regardless of the constitution or the law

Washington State’s courts are unpredictable when it comes to making constitutional decisions.  This appears to be a clear violation of the law, but because the Washington State Supreme Court is infamous for inventing new laws, writing their own laws, and acting like they are the legislature, nobody can truly know the outcome.  Having the law and the Constitution on your side is no guarantee of success in this court.  This court is not above influence by Left-leaning billionaires and allies who supported these judges in their past elections.

However, even at the Washington State Supreme Court, they still must read the law and at least pretend it means something.  They also must consider that if they give a free pass to violating the law this time to this group, it could set precedent for scary people like Tim Eyman to have free reign with the law in the future to cut taxes.  The Washington Supreme Court has historically been hostile to Eyman’s anti-tax initiative efforts, so they must consider consequences.  It isn’t like the voters can’t vote on this initiative someday – even billionaires occasionally are required to follow the law and they can toss their millions at a different batch of more competent consultants next year.

For now, the billionaires and handful of other donors can’t be happy with the incompetence their millions have bought.  I would love to attend the closed-door meetings discussing this screw up with the donors and their failed consultants.

Sometimes even billionaires can’t always buy competency.

Additional Background articles and documents:

The Olympian – July 16,2018 – “I-1639 Initiative flaw – can anyone fix it?”

The Union Bulletin – July 31, 2018 – “The signature gathering for gun initiative seems to have been flawed”

August 2, 2018 – Opening Brief by Second Amendment Foundation against I-1639 – Thurston Superior Court Case #18-2-03747-34

July 27, 2018 – SAF – First Amended Application for Citation and Injunctive Relief against I-1639 – Thurston Superior Court Case #18-2-03747-34

July 27, 2018 – NRA Writ of Mandamus & Injunctive Relief suit – Thurston Superior Court Case #18-2-03747-34

Washington Secretary of State – July 6, 2018 – press release

AG’s ballot title for I-1639 issued May 9, 2018

Final Text of proposed Initiative 1639

Judge Murphy – final order to change ballot title for I-1639 – June 7, 2018

The Billionaire’s anti-gun initiative (I-1639) and why I’m challenging the AG’s ballot title

Q13-Fox – “Secretary of State: ‘Significant’ constitutional concerns raised over petition format for gun measure I-1639” – Todd Herman – “Gun control initiative puts Sec. of State Wyman in awkward position”

Safe communities safe schools PAC C1PC (filed with PDC)

Tacoma News Tribune – “Second Amendment group asks court to block gun initiative from the ballot”

Everett Herald – “Editorial:  Reject procedural challenge of gun-control measure”

Union Bulletin – “Initiative petitions must strictly follow the law”

My – Todd Herman – “I-1639 gun initiative reaches required signatures; opponents launch lawsuit”

AG Ferguson – donations from Pacifica Law Group – 2012 & 2016 campaigns – simple list not including spouses or relatives

Glen Morgan’s Filed Ballot Title Petition – I-1639- 18-2-02564-34 – May 16-2018

Ballot Title Challenge to I-1639 – Consolidated Case Schedule Order (under Case #18-2-02506-34)

Agreed Motion To Consolidate ballot title challenges to I-1639

Glen Morgan – Opening Brief – Ballot Title Petition – I-1639 18-2-02564-34 – May 21, 2018

AG response to petitioners ballot title challenge – I-1639 – May 24, 2018

I-1639 -Sponsors’ Response Brief to ballot title language challenge – May 24, 2018

Joe Wilson challenge to ballot title  – I-1639 – May 16, 2018

Opening Brief of Joe Wilson, Pro Se – I-1639 Ballot Title challenge – May 21, 2018

Sponsors – Petition to Appeal Ballot Title – I-1639 – May 16-2018

NRA’s Opening Brief – Ballot Title Challenge I-1639 – May 21-2018

Liberty Park Press – May 17, 2018 – “Ballot Title Challenges Filed v. WA Gun Control Initiative”

The Conservative Firing Line – May 17, 2018 – “WA initiative battle heats as gun control measure challenged”

Ammoland – May 26, 2018 – “West Coast Plutocrats target Washington State gun owners again”

Seattle Times – May 21, 2018 – “Paul Allen, Nick Hanauer give $1M each to Washington state initiative pushing new firearms regulations” – May 22, 2018 – “Nick Hanauer hates big money but just donated $1 million to anti-gun initiative”

GunMag – May 22, 2018 – “Anti-Gun Billionaires Pour Money Into WA Gun Control Initiative”

NRA-ILA – May 17, 2018 – “Washington: NRA Files Legal Challenge Against Misleading Ballot Title for Gun Control Initiative”

Washington State Wire – April 25, 2018 – “AG Ferguson announces support of gun-related initiative”

NW News Network – April 23, 2018 – “In Unusual Move, Washington Attorney General Endorses Gun-Related Ballot Measure”

Washington State Secretary of State – website tracking proposed initiatives 2018

Why I’m challenging the AG’s misleading ballot title for I-1631 – the Carbon Tax

Secretary of State’s 2017 initiative and referenda handbook (page 6 was exhibit D)


  1. How is it legal for these outsiders to interfere with the self-governance of the sovereign state of Washington? How is it legal for those surrounded by armed guards to initiate laws ruling over those who, with the passage of ant-self defense laws, have no ability to hire their own personal defense?

    • It is legal. People can fund campaigns and initiatives if they want. It may be hypocritical, and the initiative might be terrible, but that doesn’t mean it is illegal to fund it.

  2. “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” — Robert Anson Heinlein, Time Enough For Love/ Notebooks of Lazarus Long

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