Washington state’s system of voter initiatives was enacted as a means for citizens to keep the state legislature in check. It represents a proud reminder of what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they spoke of checks-and-balances. That is not the case this year. More than $30 million has been spent so far on this year’s initiatives. This money is not coming from average voters. Rather, it is coming from special interests, corporations and unions intent on putting their stamp on Washington politics. Today, it is important for voters to not only know what impact initiatives will have, but to know where the funding for these initiatives comes from.
An examination of each initiative reveals the corporate interests behind them. I-1100 would privatize liquor sales. Costco spent $1.2 million to put I-1100 on the ballot. Costco would have much to gain if businesses could suddenly sell alcohol in Washington state.
I-1107 would repeal taxes on soda, candy and bottled water. Thus far, the American Beverage Association has spent $14.3 million to promote this initiative. According to The Spokesman-Review, that is 99 percent more money than has been raised against I-1107. In fact, I-1107 is on pace to break the record for amount of spending on a single state initiative.
Oil companies such as BP and Shell have thrown their weight behind I-1053, a Tim Eyman concoction that would require a two-thirds majority vote from the state legislature to raise taxes. They have done so because the legislature almost passed a $1.50 barrel tax on petroleum products. Americans are justifiably angry at legislators these days in all levels of government. But citizens voting to further disable the legislative body they already complain is too slow to pass meaningful legislation is an irony that not even a great fiction writer could dream of.
California is a great example of what happens when a two-thirds “super majority” is required to pass budget legislation. California’s economy is sinking faster than a house sitting below a Los Angeles County mudslide.
The initiative system is a useful tool to ensure direct democracy for citizens, but it has become a useful tool for special interests to implant their own agendas. If this is what campaign funding is going to look like in the future, Washington voters need to be aware of funding origins. A democracy functions best when its citizens are well informed and knowledgeable of what they are voting for.
Think about that before you decide to vote to ease state restrictions on where you can buy beer.