Citizen initiative attack saga continues

AG v Port et al

The citizen initiative attack saga continues.

Just 13 days before Christmas, On December 12, 2016, Judge Culpepper granted the Port, the Chamber and the EDB their wish, a dismissal in the court case filed by the Attorney General’s Office in the lawsuit charging them with for violating election campaign laws.

On January 25, 2017 the Washington State Attorney General‘s Office filed an appeal of Judge Culpepper’s decision in Case No 16-2-10303-6 (State of WA v Port et al.). This case involves the Port’s use of public funds to block two water protection citizen initiatives in 2016 that Save Tacoma Water sponsored. Here is a link to the filings on the Pierce County Superior Court’s web site: https://is.gd/4PS1Gw

Kudos to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson for standing up for the people’s right to petition their government without government financed campaigns.

At the start of the hearing in December, Arthur West, the person who filed the Citizen Action Letter in July, 2016, spoke with the judge about intervening in the case because he wanted to be sure the state argued the fact that the Port had conducted a full fledged campaign against STW including talking points and meetings with the News Tribune Editorial Board. A public records request found the email exchanges between the Port and the City. Judge Culpepper denied the request.

On December 19, 2016, Arthur West filed another Citizen Action Letter regarding his motion to intervene. The 45 day clock is ticking and will soon run out, so an update is due soon.

During the court hearing in December, the two sides argued over whether a public agency like the Port, can use public funds (money spent on the lawsuit against STW that tossed off the ballot our water protection initiatives) and public facilities. The State argued the Port, Chamber and EDB needed to disclose their activities with the Public Disclosure Commission.

The political power brokers’ lead attorney, representing the Chamber, argued that filing a lawsuit was part of the Port’s normal activities and was not campaigning and therefore no need to disclose with the PDC. The attorneys for the EDB and Chamber sang the same song.

The tune stuck with the judge and after just 20 minutes in his chamber, he re-entered the courtroom and presented the political power brokers their early Christmas gift, a dismissal.

The judge listened to arguments about when a political campaign starts. The PDC law is very clear. STW had to file reports within two weeks of any campaign activity, which included our petitioning activity that began in January of 2016. The PDC clearly wants the public to know what is going on with citizen initiative campaigns and who or what organizations are funding the sponsors and the opponents of issues headed to the ballot. Fair enough. Citizens do that all the time. But now, with this ruling, a single judge (who is about to retire) has now given the green light to all public agencies to use taxpayer funds to sue citizen groups and not tell anyone! Wow, just when we thought things could not get worse, they did.  At the very end of the court hearing the taxpayers came under yet another attack.

After the judge gave his gift dismissal ruling, Carolyn Lake, attorney for the POT (Port of Tacoma) popped up like a Jack-in-the Box asking the judge to pay for the legal fees and costs involved with the AG’s lawsuit against them and the other defendants.

Judge Culpepper is all primed for his next go round with his friends tomorrow morning. The POT and their rich powerful friends want the taxpayers to pay their legal fees again. Does anyone besides me, think their legal bills will be padded?

Please attend the court hearing if you can. It is important that other people witness this amazing, unprecedented attack on the initiative process. If the judge gives the POT, EDB and the Chamber their legal fees, that means our tax dollars will be used yet again to pay attorneys’ fees.

One thing is for sure, the only winners in the case are the attorneys cashing their checks for legal fees that are undermining the citizens right to vote. They should all be ashamed of themselves not racing to the bank to cash their checks.

Kate Martin wrote this report for the News Tribune http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article120992953.html

Make a comment on this story, or the one she will most likely be writing for the TNT regarding Friday’s hearing. The online report should show up Friday afternoon sometime and in the Saturday print edition.

Let the people vote!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Background~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In August, the AGO filed the lawsuit in response to a Citizen Action letter filed by Olympia resident and long time activist Arthur West. The State Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) filed a case in Pierce County Superior Court alleging campaign finance violations by Port of Tacoma officials, the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County (“the EDB”), and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”).

The complaint alleges that Port officials violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using public funds and facilities to litigate against two ballot propositions promoted by Save Tacoma Water. The AGO alleges that the POT, EDB and the Chamber violated RCW 42.17A.255 by failing to disclose independent expenditures they made opposing the propositions in the same lawsuit.

For those who cannot make the court hearing, we will send out an email later to report what happened.

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More information about this case go to our FaceBook page to download documents:  https://is.gd/8h0zqY … A copy of the Washington State Attorney General’s complaint against the Port of Tacoma can be found here: https://is.gd/8h0zqY … The Port’s Motion to Dismiss is here: https://is.gd/uXbwpO

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