Unions plot to drain tax foes' coffers by requesting its literature

Thursday, April 4, 2002


OLYMPIA -- The problem with playing populist is that sometimes the wrong people show up for the party.

That's what Tim Eyman and his three cohorts discovered when they got wind of an unlikely -- and insincere -- call for support for their latest anti-tax ballot measure, Initiative 776.

Recently, a top state labor leader sent out e-mails to 100 union stalwarts, long-standing rivals of Eyman's group, urging them to ask the group for initiative petition "Patriot Packets."

To be sure, Diane McDaniel, political director of the Washington State Labor Council, had no desire for her colleagues to gather signatures for I-776.

The measure would limit license tab fees to $30 per year, repealing certain local-option excise taxes and fees for roads and transit.

The idea was to drain money and resources from Eyman's group, called Permanent Offense.

"It will cost them valuable campaign resources to mail hundreds (and possibly thousands) of packets out to those who request them," McDaniel wrote.

"We can inflict some damage on their bank account and petition supply if we all do our part."

McDaniel did not return phone calls yesterday. But the Labor Council issued a statement saying, "Nothing in that e-mail violates any campaign laws or regulations. Although it is clearly intended to discourage the effort to put I-776 on the ballot, in no way does it prevent people from signing the initiative or collecting signatures for it."

While acknowledging it may not be illegal, Permanent Offense leaders cried foul yesterday to the state Public Disclosure Commission, the state Attorney General's Office and the secretary of state -- and to the media.

The timing of the group's claims of possible fraud raised a few eyebrows. As early as today, the PDC could release its findings from an examination of Eyman's books, in light of his recent admission that he made money from his political activities and lied about it.

Permanent Offense has known about the e-mail since it was sent March 21, according to Jack Fagan, an initiative co-sponsor. But Fagan insisted the delay was only to give the group's lawyers time to review the e-mail.

"Naturally, we'd like them to desist doing what they're doing," he said. "It's fraud, or it borders right on fraud."

State agencies contacted by Permanent Offense didn't immediately see anything illegal. But the PDC and the Attorney General's Office said they'd look into it.


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