No Paid Signature Gatherers

I had a conversation with a signature gatherer the other day.  Like most paid signature gatherers, he had a number of petitions, none of which I signed. I think the initiative process has gotten out of hand in Washington.  There’s a reason we have a legislature, and it is to make laws through a deliberative process.  They are supposed to get the best, most accurate information available, and weigh competing interests and goals in their decisions.  That process is tedious, time consuming and full of minutia.  The legislature went through that process last year in trying to formulate a budget.  Ultimately, that budget had severe cuts and some targeted tax increases.  Nobody was happy, and that’s a pretty good indicator that they did the best they could do.

Naturally, an initiative went on the ballot and the tax increases were undone, causing yet another fiscal crisis.  In addition, another initiative put a supermajority requirement on any revenue increase.  Of course, the taxes that were repealed were taxes on candy, alcohol, soft drinks, and plastic water bottles.  Each and every one was a completely voluntary tax.  If you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t buy the candy bar.  The initative campagin was bankrolled by the food and beverage industry.  The signature gatherers were paid.

To me, that’s a big part of the problem.  If big business doesn’t like a law, they can just pay a bunch of folks to gather signatures and then run political ads that we all know tell the truth without using distortions and emotional appeals to make their case.

I asked the signature gatherer whether he was paid.  His answer was intriguing.  He said that initiative don’t get to the ballot without paid signature gatherers.  Grass roots initiatives simply don’t get enough support without the money.  I think that’s how it should be.  Take the money out of the equation and limit signature gathering to volunteers.  It leaves the inititative process in place while raising the bar for the public’s ability to undo the work of their elected officials.


About Andrew

I'm a Christian, American, liberal, geeky, thoughtful, Northwest-transplanted Angeleno husband, father, and pundit who writes about anything he can think of.
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2 Responses to No Paid Signature Gatherers

  1. jason says:

    Its a free country, are legislature isnt doing there job. So let the people vote on the initiative process. Let’s the people have some say.

    • Andrew says:

      Oh Jason…
      1)”It’s a free country.” So your point is that by saying monied interests shouldn’t be allowed to buy legislation somehow infringes on personal freedom. My argument is exactly the opposite. The money tips the scales of justice to favor the corporations (which do not even appear in the U.S. Constitution and only exist because states allow them to) over “We the People.”
      2) “are legislature isnt doin there job.” Assuming you mean “our legislature isn’t doing its job,” I would simply ask how you arrive at that conclusion. The legislature is made up of 98 representatives and 49 senators. Each is elected to represent the interests of their district. The legislative process, particularly the budget process, calls for them to hash out thousands of minute details in the best interest of their consituents. This involves a lot of detailed compromise. This is exactly what happened with the budget that I described. The initiatives took all that detail and compromise and put it out for a public vote where monied interests were able to demagogue and distort them, ultimately undoing the work of the legislature without a viable alternative. As a result, there are even deeper cuts to education, which is the state’s highest constitutional priority, public health and safety, and other critical areas.
      3) “Let’s (let?) the people have some say.” I wholeheartedly agree. Let the people have their say. If enough of us want to form a grass roots movement, fine. But it should be hard. It should not be a matter of a business or trade group, or to be fair a labor union, dropping a few million dollars into a PAC, hiring a bunch of signature gatherers, and buying an outcome that they could not achieve legislatively. I didn’t call for the end of the initiative process. I called for an end to paid gatherers. Remember, corporations are not people.

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