Saturday, July 24, 2021

Pollution Fee and $30 Car Tabs Using Same Signature Gatherers

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Correction: The original post referred to a “carbon tax” in I-1631. The initiative actually refers to a “pollution fee”, a methodology different from the carbon tax in Initiative 732.

I recently ran into a couple stack petitioners seeking signatures for four initiative petitions, starting with Tim Eyman’s latest $30 car tab effort, and ending with a petition to “stop corporate polluters”. The cognitive dissonance between the two petitions was a sure sign they were paid gatherers. While one was argumentative and making up answers (but honestly admitted he travels all over the country), the other seemed forthright and gave me straight answers to my questions.

It turns out that the firm employing the paid gatherers is Your Choice Petitions, an outfit known for regularly including Eyman petitions in their efficient multiple-petition efforts. The petitioner confirmed the number of the bottom petition as Initiative 1631, the latest state carbon tax pollution fee initiative.

Your Choice was nowhere to be found on the campaign’s PDC filings. However, a $150,000 debt, for “signature gathering”, to AAP Holdings, Inc., was.

Per I-1631 spokesperson Nick Abraham, AAP Holdings was indeed contracted to collect a certain number of paid signatures (an overwhelming portion of the paid signature costs), and the campaign discourages, but has no control over, whether petitioners can carry other petitions which the member organizations in the campaign tend to be ideologically aligned against. However, since the paid petitioners are hired by the contractor, the campaign does not have an easy way to communicate directly with the petitioners to express such wishes. He also stated that this is a common practice by serious initiatives, and that “There are only so many petitioning firms” in the state.

AAP Holdings has also received at least $658,000 from the no-grocery-tax initiative campaign (which is part of the stack the paid gatherers asked me to sign). No campaign with serious money behind it turned up for the Eyman initiative.

Per Abraham, the campaign has 1300 volunteers, who have collected the majority of the signatures turned in so far. He expressed confidence the campaign can reach the signature requirement, but that both the volunteer and paid effort are needed.

On the question of whether going through paid gathering firms helps indirectly finance other initiatives, Abraham argued that campaigns do not achieve economies of scale by doing this, but campaigns are generally not set up to hire petitioners directly, and that the petitioning firms also do no achieve economies of scale, since gatherers are paid by the signature.

Abraham pointed out furthermore that the initiative (See full text) lists public transit as one of the delineated recipients of funding from the carbon tax pollution fee. [Section 4(1)(d)(2)]

I-1631 is an initiative to the People of the State of Washington, with a July 6 deadline for the campaign to deliver the petitions to the Secretary of State.

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