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Washington State’s much hyped anti-gun initiative (I-1639) looks like it could be aborted before it can even make the ballot.  The Initiative Sponsors and their consultants failed to proof-read the initiative language they printed on the back of the signature sheets.  It turns out they didn’t use the accurate language of the very initiative they were sponsoring.  They can’t blame gun owners, the NRA, Trump, Republicans, or even the Washington Secretary of State for this screw up.  Their consultants own this failure.

No limit to the cash available for I-1639

There was no shortage of cash to fund Initiative 1639, which was intended to criminalize some types of firearm storage, remove 2nd Amendment Rights for 18-21 year old adults, create redundant background checks, invent a new gun tax (called a “fee”), create a new registry for owners of semi-automatic firearms, invent new waiting periods, and impose a variety of other new restrictions on firearm ownership in Washington State.  This proposed initiative is the most wide-ranging anti-gun initiative in recent Washington State history, and it is well funded with large donations from billionaires Paul Allen and Nick Hanauer, among other big dollar donors.  The sponsors of the initiative were experienced with initiatives having successfully sponsored, managed, and passed the much less ambitious anti-gun initiative I-594 in 2014.

Sponsors were late and sloppy from the beginning

Paul Allen (left) and Nick Hanauer are billionaires happy to fund anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, but their money can’t always buy competence

The sponsors and consultants involved with I-1639 were late to the game from the beginning.  Rather than filing the initiative language immediately after the legislative session ended on March 8th, which is what the successful signature drives for the Carbon Tax initiative (I-1631) and the No Grocery Tax (I-1694) did, they inexplicably waited almost two months to do anything.  Their initial ballot title wasn’t submitted to the Attorney General until April 23rd (by this time the other initiatives were already gathering signatures).  Then, when the AG finally issued the ballot title on May 9th, this author challenged the title, as is every voter’s legal right, along with a few others (see article here) on the last legal day to do so on May 16th.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson endorsed I-1639 even before his staff could draft the “neutral” ballot title

Before the staff in the Attorney General’s office had been able to write the ballot title for I-1639, Attorney General Bob Ferguson took the unprecedented step of formally endorsing the initiative.  Despite claims of imaginary “firewalls” at the AG’s office (a “firewall” in this case is supposed to separate staff from influence by the political position of the AG), his staff aren’t sequestered in a cave writing copy and their final draft for the ballot title was unfairly biased in favor of the initiative.  Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy agreed with this author and the other parties who challenged the ballot title and made some changes to the proposed ballot title.  Judge Murphy didn’t agree with every argument this author and other challengers made, but she did agree the ballot title was not impartial and made changes.

Additionally, the ballot title challenge itself delayed the signature gathering process by about four weeks.  Normally professional consultants and well-funded campaigns like this build time into their signature gathering schedule to accommodate a possible ballot title challenge. This author had already made a ballot title challenge against the Carbon Tax initiative I-1631 earlier this year (see article), so the likelihood of a ballot title challenge was not ancient history.  Due to the unfortunate collision of the ballot title challenge timeline with the Memorial Day week holiday, the delay was four weeks rather than the usual two.  This predictable ballot title challenge delay complicated the initiative effort more than expected for this well-funded campaign.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy agreed with ballot title challengers and made some changes to I-1639’s original ballot title

It appears that the sponsors were forced to rush the printing of the initiative signature sheets once Thurston County Superior Court Judge Murphy made her final ruling June 7th.  The rush was understandable, but with the billionaire cash behind their effort, there was little doubt the campaign could afford to pay the $7 per signature needed to adequately incentivize the out of state professional signature gatherers to collect these signatures in record time.  Each 20 signature page petitions were worth $140 to the gatherers, and there was little they wouldn’t say or do to convince people to sign.  The true cost of paying PCI, which is the out of state signature gathering company will probably end up closer to $12 per signature, but we won’t know for sure until the next campaign finance report is submitted to the Public Disclosure Commission in a few days.  Regardless, money was no obstacle to this campaign.

Despite this rush, one would tend to believe with many millions of dollars on the line, someone would at least take the time to proof-read the final signature sheets before the printing presses were given the go-ahead.  I’m sure someone signed off on it with the printer, but it seems doubtful that anyone read it.  That appears to be the due-diligence step that was neglected this time around.

“…readable, full, true, and correct copy”


According to the law (RCW 29A.72.100), each initiative signature petition must “…have a readable, full, true, and correct copy of the proposed measure printed on the reverse side of the petition.”  However, the sponsors and high-paid consultants failed to achieve this minimum legal standard.  Instead, they printed in microscopic print (which probably made proofing more difficult since it required a magnifying glass) a version of the proposed initiative which failed to indicate the proposed changes to the statute.

I-1639, and all the parts that were screwed up by the consultants when they printed it. No voter who read this with a magnifying glass would have known what this initiative actually did

For those unfamiliar with the sausage making involved in producing legislation – all proposed laws must indicate via strikethroughs for subtractions from existing law (like this – strikethrough) and underlines for additions to the law (like this – underline).  These strikethroughs and underlines are required for all proposed legislation and it has been required for decades.  In part, this requirement is an effort to conform with Article II, Section 37 of the Washington State Constitution to avoid fraud and misrepresentation in the legislative process.  This is the technique proposed by the Code Reviser’s Office to ensure clarity and accuracy in the legislative process (see here).  This is also what is required by the Secretary of State in their initiative and referenda handbook (see here).  However, the sponsors did not do this, instead opting for a weird parenthesis around changed sections with no indications of what the proposed changes actually were.  For a quick visual of the significance these changes were for this initiative see the nearby photo showing the mistakes the sponsors made in the initiative printed on the back of their petition sheets.  All the signature petition sheets submitted to the Secretary of State by this campaign last week included these mistakes on them.

There is no excuse for this level of amateur screw up.  These consultants and sponsors have a nearly unlimited well of cash and support from at least two billionaires in Washington State – Paul Allen and Nick Hanauer, not to mention plenty of other friendly 1%ers eager to fund attacks on the little people’s Constitutional rights and freedoms (for their own good, of course).   Even last Friday’s press release by the Secretary of State indicates serious concerns with this mistake.

Legal Challenges and Ugly Explanations

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman

The Second Amendment Foundation had contacted the sponsors last month expressing concerns about the microscopic print on the back of the petition sheets and the fact the sponsors were misleading voters by making it impossible for voters being asked to sign the petition to actually read it (as the law allows voters to do, and the Secretary of State encourages people to read this as well).   Many times, paid signature gatherers were caught on film telling voters the initiative had nothing to do with gun control or told voters to go to a website where the original language could be found.  Sponsors of the initiative did not link to the actual language of the initiative on their website.  It could only be found linked on the Secretary of State’s site (linked here), or linked in articles like this one written by this author.

It was no surprise that the Second Amendment Foundation also filed a legal challenge with the State Supreme Court, and while a deputy court commissioner has temporarily rejected that effort, it seems clear more legal challenges are on the way.

The Washington Secretary of State has clearly defined options for rejecting initiative petitions (RCW 29A.72.170),  but printing false and inaccurate initiative language on the back of the petition sheets is not one of those options.  This is weird, but it means that a legal challenge to the petition must be made and this is in process right now.  As former Secretary of State Sam Reed was quoted in the Tacoma News Tribune a few days ago, this has never happened before.  Nobody has ever made this type of dumb, amateur mistake before, but there is a first time for everything.

The sponsors and the consultants now need to craft a defense for their screw up (preferably deflecting the blame on someone else – the NRA, Trump, or maybe just Republicans or gun owners in general), which so far is best articulated in an editorial found in the Everett Herald (linked here). In simple terms, their defense can be broken down into two basic arguments.  First, they must argue that nobody ever reads the fine print anyway, and it was so microscopic who could have read it?  The second argument is basically that it was close enough for government work – they screwed up, but hey, everyone knows what they meant.  I mean, really, the law is just a general guideline, not something to be read and interpreted literally, right? Some combination of these arguments will be used to defend what is clearly a colossal and avoidable screw up.  Does anyone doubt that if this was a Tim Eyman initiative, the papers would be screaming for his head?

Christian Sinderman or one of his employees failed to proof read the final petition sheet (photo source: NWP consulting)

According to forms filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (linked here), the responsibility for this political campaign rests with Christian Sinderman, a well-known Seattle consultant who manages many political campaigns for the political Left in Washington State.  Sinderman, or someone delegated from his office was probably responsible for failing to proof read these petition sheets.  It is also possible that Pacifica Law Group was involved.  Pacifica was the law firm representing the initiative sponsors during the ballot title challenge last month, and often these campaigns have their attorneys review final language.  The other officers and board members of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (the organization behind the initiative) are listed here, and here.  However, based on the forms filed with the PDC, only Zach Silk, President of the Board of Directors and CEO Renee Hopkins were listed as officers on the political committee itself.  Responsibility for this fiasco lies somewhere with this cast of characters.

Wasting donor cash, but will next time be different?

Regardless of the inevitable legal drama on this issue, there is no excuse for this amateur screw up.  Sloppiness, arrogance and the laziness that exists when billionaire cash is expected to bulldoze and bury all obstacles appears to be the root cause of this fiasco.  This experience should raise serious red flags for the Left-leaning donor class in Washington State.   If $4 million (or more) can’t buy you a proof-reader for a few minutes, then bigger problems probably exist here and elsewhere.  Perhaps Paul Allen and Nick Hanauer might look a little closer next time they toss out their cash to attack our Constitutional freedoms, and perhaps they might want to hire people a bit more professional than this crew the next time.

Additional Background articles and documents:

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

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. When were they actually allowed to collect the gun initiative signatures? Several months ago I encountered a very aggressive signature gatherer and they claimed the grocery tax was going to stop taxing our food when it’s just challenging the beverage tax. They were trying to get me to sign all three and when I wouldn’t the person said fine if I didn’t care about my children suffocating, starving, or being executed that whatever happened to them was my own fault. At which point I told them to go piss up a rope. There were definitely 3 clipboards for 3 different initiatives, I’m pretty sure this was in late April or early May. I know I made a Facebook post about it so I’ll go find it later to get the exact date.

    • They didn’t start collecting signatures for I-1639 until after June 7th, when the ballot title challenge was completed in Thurston County Superior Court, however, there have been many reports about aggressive and dishonest efforts by signature gatherers to “bait and switch” the clipboards…

  2. I have read the back of initiatives (with a magnifying lamp + ibuprofen).
    There is no excuse for making cut-sheets for big pharma, FDA mandated “consumer info” look better.

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