Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Vance's critic

A reader recently directed me to a web site entitled "The Reagan Wing" in response to this prior post. And lodged in the numerous articles is a follow up article by Libertarian basher Chuck Muth. Readers may recall he has already taken Vance to task for underestimating the LP. A few weeks ago I blogged about it, quoting Muth: "Truth be told, the Libertarian Party isn't so much of a 'problem' as it is a reality and a challenge."

Well, what does Muth argue now? Apparently, nobody understands the math. Vis:

"Let’s say that 99 percent of the LP candidate’s votes came from actual Libertarians and disaffected Democrats. That would mean that 1 percent of the 63,465 votes received by the Libertarian candidate came from Republican voters who weren’t happy, for one reason or another, with the Republican Party or its gubernatorial candidate. That would be 634 votes.

Again, the Republican lost by only 129 votes."

OK then, and we should ignore the 62,831 votes that would have gone to Gregoire?

And there are other examples of hazy thinking in the article, to which I will leave it to you, dear reader, to ferret out.

Frankly, I'm glad Muth considers himself a Republican. I suspect at the end of the day he will do as much for the Libertarians as he claims Vance has done.

UPDATE 1/29/05:

Here is a letter I sent to the webmaster at the website for "The Reagan Wing."

Chuck Muth takes Chris Vance to task for, among other things, the following:

"But first let me put to rest an argument which has been made by some folks who maintain the LP candidate in that race pulled more votes from the Democrat than the Republican. These folks are saying that more Democrats voted for the LP nominee because she was an “out” lesbian than Republicans who voted for the LP nominee because the LP is historically known for its limited-government bona fides. I don’t buy that argument for a minute. Let’s say these folks are correct. Let’s say that 99 percent of the LP candidate’s votes came from actual Libertarians and disaffected Democrats. That would mean that 1 percent of the 63,465 votes received by the Libertarian candidate came from Republican voters who weren’t happy, for one reason or another, with the Republican Party or its gubernatorial candidate. That would b 634 votes. Again, the Republican lost by only 129 votes. "

So, what does Mr. Muth have to say about the 62,831 votes that then would have gone to Gregoire? And how was Rossi to surmount that lead?

Just what is Mr. Muth saying? That Vance should have done all he could to crush the Libertarian Party? Apparently not, because he also condemns Vance for taking action to keep the Libertarians off the ballot.

No. It seems Mr. Muth thinks that the Libertarian Party should voluntarily disband and join the Reagan Wing of the Republican Party. Or at least Vance should pander to the libertarians within the Republican Party instead of those without his party. But Muth also admits there isn't a full overlap in Libertarian and Repubican policy interests, and offers no argument whatsoever how to reconcile the opposing policy positions that many libertarians have with what Muth calls the "greedy, Bible-thumping, gay-bashing, minority-hating redneck Victorians" within the Republican Party.

Muth even admits the Libertarian candidate was not a typical Libertarian candidate. Vis:

"I don’t think the Libertarians did themselves any favors in the credibility department by nominating a “novelty” gubernatorial candidate who was generally far out of step with them philosophically on most core issues."

Setting aside the fact Mr. Muth probably has never met the candidate or heard her speak, what then is Mr. Muth's problem? If Ruth Bennett, the Libertarian candidate, was so "out of step" with the libertarian views of the "Reagan Wing", with what was she "in step?" If Muth is correct that she didn't espouse the principles of libertarians, how she have "poached" Republican votes, and why is Muth so worried about what Vance has done? Is Muth advocating that Vance and Rossi should have embraced a pro-gay strategy in the campaign? Isn't Muth here tacitly admitting that the argument he has expressly rejected may in fact be correct?

Finally, who is Mr. Muth, an avowed Republican, to judge the credentials of a Libertarian candidate in any event? Does he arrogantly propose to know, better than the Libertarian Party, who should be its standard bearer?

Frankly, Mr. Muth has not really thought through the dynamics of a multi-party system. He needs to recognize what Republican state senator Pam Roach has already recognized; done properly, one can use minor parties to one's own advantage. The question is how to do it properly.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Berendt and Vance face insurgencies

The Seattle times reports both Paul Berendt and Chris Vance face opposition to their candidacies for state chair. Both have challengers claiming, essentially, they didn't work hard enough for the cause.

Spreading the blame

The search for scapegoats is on. The P-I reports the King County Prosecutor is looking into 4 possible cases of ballot fraud and possibly filing charges.

Never mind that over 400 provisional ballots were improperly cast or that the counties report 2000 more votes than voters who voted. If anybody should be charged they are the people responsible for these, truly major, problems with the vote.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

War spending approaching half of WW I

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration plans to announce Tuesday it will request about $80 billion more for this year's costs of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional aides said Monday.

The request would push the total provided so far for those wars and for U.S. efforts against terrorism elsewhere in the world to more than $280 billion since the first money was provided shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, airliner attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

That would be nearly half the $613 billion the United States spent for World War I or the $623 billion it expended for the Vietnam War, when the costs of those conflicts are translated into 2005 dollars.

White House officials refused to comment on the war spending package, which will be presented as the United States confronts a new string of violence in Iraq as that country's Jan. 30 elections approach.

Aerosols yes? No?

It turns out there's a silver lining to the cloud of smog that drapes large cities around the world, as an international team of atmospheric scientists conclude pollution protects the planet from "global warming."

The revelation, reported by New Scientist, came out of a workshop in Dahlem, Berlin, earlier this month that was attended by the likes of Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and Swedish meteorologist Bert Bolin, the former chairman of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

"It looks like the warming today may be only about a quarter of what we would have got without aerosols," Crutzen told New Scientist. "You could say the cooling has done us a big favor."

More here.

Need more be said?

A new study released by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation suggests rising temperatures will kill more black citizens than whites in the U.S., while claiming African-Americans are less responsible than others for causing so-called "global warming."

The story here.

The law of unintended consequences at work again.

HUMANS may have unwittingly saved themselves from a looming ice age by interfering with t
he Earth's climate, according to a new study. More here.

Anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: "If the research findings are correct, a radical change in the perception of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will be required.

"Instead of driving us to the brink of environmental disaster, human intervention and technology progress will be seen as vital activities that have unintentionally delayed the onset of a catastrophic ice age."

More spying, spying, spying.

Why do we need one more spy agency? CIA used to do this; then NAS. Now the super secret, fully taxpayer funded super spy agency without a name. (We could probably assign it the symbol formerly used by the musician formerly known as Prince.) More here.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

U.S. losing ground in Iraq war

Today's Seattle Times reports: "The United States is steadily losing ground to the Iraqi insurgency, according to every key military yardstick."

And is the D.C. politiboro getting the message? Of course not. The military-industrial complex now has its eyes on Iran and Syria and talking openly about reviving the draft. The 2nd Bush's inaugural address has foreign governments up in arms about a more aggressive and bellicose America.

But no, says the 1st Bush: "That's not what that speech was about. It's about freedom."

Sure. And freedom comes from the end of a gun.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Anybody else think Bush is leading us into fascism?

American arrogance and aggressiveness is fully unveiled. On January 20th the 2nd Bush told the world, "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands." Translation: "Foreign nations beware. You will conform to our standards voluntarily or we will make you conform."

Far be it from me to think I would be quoting a Chinese newspaper, the People's Daily Online, in the wake of Bush's inaugural address, but here it is. "After the firework fades away Washington is still under a dark sky. The sole superpower sends a sense of inauspiciousness to the world when it's president is inaugurated under wartime security standards: America, where are you heading?"

The answer is simple. Sixty years ago we had thought we had stamped out the forces of fascism. But the worst imaginable sequelae has come to pass. As Pogo Possum told us fifty years ago, "We have met the enemy and they is us."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Supreme Court weighs primary-election case

For those of you still thinking about primaries and how they should be run the P-I has this report of oral arguments on Clingman v Beaver, a case involving the right of political parties to determine who participates in their nominating processes. This case will have a significant impact on the power of states to regulate elections, and needs to be watched.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Senate panel hears of vote woes

Reporting on yesterday's state senate hearings on the November election the Seattle P-I says: "Reed, who said 20 of the state's 39 counties had problems, cautioned lawmakers not to expect perfection in a state with 3 million voters and the inevitability of a small error rate by 'human beings working their hearts out. This is a very, very human process.'"

King County Elections Director Dean Logan chimed in. "It's important not to set up a false expectation. When you're dealing with a process that is so dependent on human interactions ... there is going to be a margin of human and administrative error."

Hmmm. And so it is. Making every vote count is a pipedream.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Wanna know what is going on in Washington State politics?

Vancouver Republican Don Benton is launching Today in Politics, a subscription clipping service of the major news outlets in Washington State. Be prepared to pay at least $295 per year, however. And, if you don't act now, be prepared for that rate to go up.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Bush Unfazed by Criticism of Iraq WMD Hunt

FoxNews claims Bush is unfazed by criticism in connection with the failed WMD hunt in Iraq, which, you will recall, was the basis for the invasion in the first place. "And I believe firmly that I'm doing the right thing for our country by promoting an active foreign policy that makes the world more peaceful and more free," says Bush.

As my wife is fond of saying, no brains, no headaches.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Symposium on Campaign Finance

The Campaign Finance Institute's program, "The Election After Reform" will be carried live by CSPAN-2 tomorrow, 9:30-2:30. The full list of speakers, etc., is on the website at www.CFInst.org.

Campaign financing revisited: 527s vs 501(c)s

In a recent post I linked to a very good article by a North Carolina libertarian about using 527 political organizations to avoid some rather onerous campaign financing laws. A few days later, while cleaning out my briefcase I came across "Bush's Secret Stash" by Nicholas Confessore, published in the Washington Monthly last May, which I had been intending to read for months, and which discusses the Bush campaign's use (they will deny it for reasons that will become apparent) of 501(c) organizations instead of 527s.

For those who wonder about such things, "501" and "527" both refer to provisions of the United States Tax Code (that's right, not the Elections Code) which deal with exemptions to the income tax code for certain types of activities. Section 501 deals mostly with presumptively non-political non-profits such as charities (such as the American Association of Retired People) or trade associations (such as the Building Industry Association of Washington) while section 527 deals explicitly with political organizations (such as MoveOn.org). For both the campaign financing "safe harbor" they offer is generally limited to "issue advocacy" as opposed to "candidate advocacy."

Between the two, the important distinction is in the nature of reporting that the code requires of each organization, and also the entity to which the report is made. 527s must report to both the FEC and the IRS, while 501(c)s must report solely to the IRS, because their "primary purpose" is understood to be apolitical.

Lest you think that the IRS could be a more troublesome overseer than the FEC, Confessore writes: "when it comes to checking up on nonprofits, the IRS makes the notoriously lax FEC look like a band of jackbooted thugs. Given that there are 1.4 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States, and enough personnel to inspect about 2,000 of them per year, the chance of a random audit is about one in 700. In practice, the IRS rarely investigates a nonprofit unless somebody files a complaint. And even then, privacy concerns constrain the IRS from revealing whether or not it has opened an investigation, and indeed whether or not it has come to any judgment."

Obviously, I do not advocate breaking the law. But the Internal Revenue Code does indeed contemplate that 501(c)s can engage in "some" issue advocacy, and there is no bright line. So, it seems to me at least (and without doing the legal research) that "good government" issues, such as for example fair and accurate elections, even though they may involve a particular political party or candidate, may well be the proper subject of a 501(c).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Who wants the crazies to have WMD?

"Four months after Charles A. Duelfer, who led the weapons hunt in 2004, submitted an interim report to Congress that contradicted nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials, a senior intelligence official said the findings will stand as the ISG's final conclusions and will be published this spring.

"Bush has expressed disappointment that no weapons or weapons programs were found . . .."

More here.

Well, it's so damn "disappointing" that Saddam had no WMD.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Performance Audits are back

Yesterday, initiative guru Tim Eyman filed a new initiative, I-900, calling for performance audits. This is worth a look.

More Casualties - the Kids

The fierce love many fallen soldiers had for their children is evident in both the reasons they joined the service and in letters and e-mails they sent home.

He died doing what
he loved "

... Veronica Collier, widow

Pfc. Stephen Downing, 30, of Burkesville, Ky., gave up his truck-driving job to join the Army to provide a better life for his children, Taylor, 9, and Stephen, 5.

"His kids were everything in the world for him," Downing's ex-wife, LeAnn Emmons, told a local newspaper.

A man with a soft spot for all children, Downing - killed Oct. 28 by a sniper in Ramadi - told his family he would also be fighting for the children of Iraq. "He told his kids that he wanted Iraqi kids to have the same opportunities (American) kids do," Emmons said.


More here.

More Gloom about Social Security Debt

"The approaching firefight over restructuring Social Security might be a good place to begin framing such a grand bargain; a plan centered on generational fairness might combine reasonable benefit reductions, some investment option, more revenue and a commitment to avoid new debt. Seniors and Wall Street already have their champions in the debate. Is there anyone who will speak for the future?"

Ronald Brownstein LA Times. Link here.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Avoid messy deadlocks with instant runoff voting

Joe Szwaja of IRV-WA has this op-ed in the Seattle Times, presenting a good thumbnail sketch of the IRV argument.

Renaming the Social Security Crisis

Here is a great column from lefty Paul Krugman showing why there is no crisis in social security.

According to Paul (an award winning economist) there isn't a crisis in social security looming; it's a general budget crisis.

Ok. Whatever.

Remember the Al Gore/George Bush "lockbox"? Well, someone left it unlocked, and the money was taken by politicians; replaced with IOU's - albeit federal government IOU's. It's just shocking, I say, shocking that they would do that again.

Suppose you earn $1,000 a month and that barely covers your expenses. But, you worry about retirement. Hey, no problem.

Take the $1,000 and put it in a "trust fund." If you do that every month, you will have millions when you retire.

Wait a minute. If I do that, how do I pay my current expenses?

Simple. Borrow the trust fund money and give your trust fund notes - IOUs. You can borrow and spend the $1,000 today, and - unless you declare a general default on your notes - you will draw down the "trust fund" balance by cashing the notes to pay your retirement expenses.

Sharp readers will object that hey, the only way to avoid declaring a default on the notes is to just keep working. Ooops, no retirement.

But, as Krugman points out, that's not a crisis with your retirement account; it's a crisis with your general fund. You solve that by asking your kids to pay off the notes.

Hopefully, our kids will turn over to us even more than we turned over to our parents, rather than declare a default on the notes.

In short, we're spending our retirement "trust fund" right now blowing up homes in Iraq, feeding those displaced by the tsunami, funding homeland security, running the Departments of Agriculture, Education, etc., hoping that our kids will play along with the scheme. But then, Paul is right that this is nothing new.

Social Security has never been any real retirement plan; it's just a transfer payment from those working currently to those who no longer work.

Worse, the surplus you and I paid in for years (the real "retirement plan" part of social security) is being spent right now by politicians on today's programs - a surplus that will vanish and be unavailable at a time when our kids are asked to fully fund our retirement needs.

The "trust fund" lockbox turns out to be just our kids' wallets - a bunch of notes on which we forged our kids' names.

As everyone knows, this kind of scheme works fine until the numbers drawing money out creep up on the numbers making contributions - something that will happen when the "baby boom" retires.

Luckily, however, you can sleep soundly. There is no crisis in social security, which is actuarially sound far into the future. The crisis is merely a looming general fund crisis set to explode sometime around 2013 (more or less) when you and I start demanding our lockbox money.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Boise, Idaho, State University poll shows strong libertarian streak in state

In a poll conducted by univeristy professor Jim Weathersby, 531 respondents to the university's 16th Annual Idaho Public Policy Survey showed strong libertarian leanings despite the fact most register as Republicans. "There's a very Libertarian nature of the Idaho voter, which is consistent with the response to protecting Constitutional rights over terrorism. People's Republican status may be just from that tradition of a very strong Republican party organization. We're a conservative state, but there is this Libertarian, 'Don't tread on me' view in people's lives," Weatherby said.

527's: The Future of Libertarian Politics

Sean Haugh, Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina argues that the so-called "527" organization (See, MoveOn.org as an example) is the best way to get around campaign finance laws, and, for that matter, stodgy party executive committees.

Even here in Washington the LPWS Executive Committee is often criticized for being ineffective. Essentially, Haugh argues 527s can end run both the FEC and the SEC, and there are already two such libertarian organizations at the national level, Freedom Ballot Access and Downsize DC. Check it out.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Letter to legislators

Presented below for readers' consideration is a letter I sent to my legislators about a revote. Note that I have suggested IRV to solve the margin of error problem. Please contact your legislators about these issues.
Dear Legislator:

Many people think of the current dispute over the governor's race as a partisan issue, and many are treating it as one. But it is more than that. It goes to the central meaning of our republican democracy. I am deliberately confusing terms and using lower case here.

In truth, if the shoe were on the other foot, Ms. Gregoire would likely be making the same claims that Mr. Rossi is now making. You simply can not have more votes than voters. You can't count 300 ballots without verifying signatures and then say that a 129 vote margin is reliable. More important, from a sociological standpoint, Ms. Gregoire can not "heal" the state, as much as she may have good faith intentions to do so, when it is the legitimacy of her apparent victory that is in doubt. This is akin to hiring a junkyard dog to watch the henhouse.

To suggest that Gregoire won the election without any illegality or fraud is to miss the point. The central issue, of which the nation got a taste in 2000 from the Florida debacle, and which we have experienced again here in Washington, is the efficacy of the winner-take-all election system when the margin of error exceeds the point spread.

To be clear, I am talking about the statistical margin of error. The lawyers will be arguing the actual alleged errors in court in connection with the Republican complaint. But they are merely arguing over examples of what I am talking about. We have seen that no system is perfect. Under Secretary Reed's supervision we got three different vote totals. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- Secretary Reed's claims that the counts were as
accurate as can be we have a serious problem.

Why should the last count be any more reliable than the first one or the second one? Because we found more ballots? But that misses the point as well. What is to say that a public vote on November 2nd is any more reflective of the public mind than a vote on December 7th, or any other date? We are talking about a few hundred votes here, or perhaps a few thousand. Either way we are talking about a 10th of a percentage point in determining whether we are led by a left-leaning or right-leaning governor.
This is less than a mandate to be sure.

In my estimation, the only way to avoid 4 years of crippled leadership is to have another vote. And the only way to assure that the margin of error does not undermine the principles of democracy is to adopt a preference voting system for the revote.

Your vote as cannon fodder

As Gregoire vows to help Washington heal the GOP files suit to set aside the election but doesn't ask to prevent her swearing-in. Apparently a decision on that will be made early next week. Among the claims made in the suit are (1) 348 provisional ballots that King County admits were improperly put into counting machines rather than being kept separate for verification, (2) discrepancies in lists kept by some counties that show more ballots were cast than people credited as voting in the election (3) illegal votes by felons, dead people or others, and, (4) failure to ensure that military and overseas ballots were handled properly.

Responding to the dead person vote issue King County Elections Director Dean Logan acknowledged that several dead people were credited with voting. But, said Logan, "These isolated situations need to be put into perspective. There is a clear difference between an individual act and organized fraud intended to skew an election. In this case, there is no evidence this was done for purposes of benefiting a particular candidate or political party." So, lessee... your vote is as legitimate as that of a dead person.

So it should be no surprise that Secretary of State Sam Reed proposes election reform. The most controversial proposal would be to ban political parties or other groups from collecting affidavits from absentee and provisional voters whose ballots are rejected because of signature problems. Reed called the practice "offensive" and said it tends to "erode public confidence." Never mind that several counties have demonstrated rampant incompetence in handling those same ballots. So, lessee... otherwise valid ballots with signature problems should be rejected and incompetence should trump partisanship.

Meanwhile, raising an issue raised by the LPWS when it sued to place Ruth Bennett and J. Mills on the general election ballot, a non-partisan activist group Citizens For Voting Integrity-Washington has claimed that untested voting systems were used in King, Pierce, Snohomish and 4 other counties. Briefly, state law requires voting software to be tested according by independent testing agencies and this was not done. Carolyn Diepenbrock, Snohomish County elections manager, defended the system, claiming her county would have been forced "to hand count all ballots," which would have caused considerable delay. But that obviously isn't true because 32 other counties stuck with the old system. So lessee... administrative convenience is more important than voter confidence in the result.

Even left-leaning P-I columnist Robert Jamieson recognizes the palpable illegitimacy of Gregoire's victory when he suggests, even tongue in cheek, that we should split...up the state, authorizing Rossi to govern the eastern part of the state and Gregoire to govern the west. "Or we could dump both of the sorry lot and give the nod to Ruth Bennett, the Libertarian candidate, who finished third. She's been the one unsoiled act in this infuriatingly messy spectacle." says Jamieson.

Washington resident Michael Kinsley recently lamented the Death of the Secret Ballot in the LA Times. The problems of recent elections "force us to realize that democracy is not an exact science. You count the votes, whether by machine or by hand, and you get a different number every time. ... Most important, the inherent winner-take-all nature of elections is an unavoidable but serious defect. If a vote is so close that every recount changes the result (as in this year's race for governor in Washington state), it's fantasy to claim that either possible result is superior to the other as an expression of the people's will.

So, perhaps this election should be the poster child for IRV advocates. While we obviously need to iron out the multiple technical difficulties that this election presents, the best and most reliable of systems does not solve for the problem identified by Kinsley, that at the end of the day a winner take all system does not always protect democratic values.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Democrats to Force Congressional Debate on Ohio Results

In the wake of an allegedly flawed Ohio recount Congressional Democrats have initiated the process of forcing a floor debate in what is ordinarily a pro-forma activity, accepting the electoral college vote totals for President. Several members of the House of Representatives had already called for the challenge. Now a Senator has joined the effort.

"I have concluded that objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate way to bring these issues to light by allowing you to have a two-hour debate to let the American people know the facts surrounding Ohio's election,'' California Senator Barbara Boxer wrote in a letter to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a leader of the Democratic effort.

Bennett joins chorus calling for new election.

Speaking at a press conference convened by the Repubican Party Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ruth Bennett called for a new gubernatorial election, with all three candidates on the ballot, noting "51 percent of the people in this state" voted against Gregoire or Rossi.

What is partisanship about, except to win?

Democratic hatchetman Robert Jamieson tries to argue for Republican restraint in the governor's race. "The noble goal -- a truly high ground -- would be for both parties to accept this election result,..." he says. Well, by gosh! What a noble thing to say! I can't help but wonder what he would be saying if the hand recount had left Rossi on top, and the Democrats were crowing about the provisional ballot problem.

Jamieson does make the argument that a revote may be just as close and subject to the same or similar reliability problems. And besides, the counties can't afford it, he argues. Gee, isn't that convenient! And so Jamieson would rather settle for a Democratic governor whose legitimacy of office is clearly crippled rather than giving her a chance to establish a clear majority. But there is the rub. What if she can't? Jamieson fears it. And so it is, Jamieson's moral high ground is a sham.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Third Party "People's Legislature" held in Wisconsin

Third Parties in Wisconsin held a day-long event dubbed the "People's Legislature" to discuss the political process and how to find common ground to strengthen their cause against Republicans and Democrats. Apparently the event was well attended. Some Wisconsin legislators dropped in as well.

On a much smaller scale here in Washington the Libertarian Party is hosting a Third Party Summit on February 5, 2005 at the Bellevue Public Library to discuss similar issues. Perhaps one issue would be to organize a similar event here.

Despite new rules designed to reduce the influence of big money in politics, the cover charge to play in Washington, D.C., only increased in 2004.

In the wake of the BCRA, which you will recall was intended to limit campaign spending, Lisa Lerer of The American Lawyer researched campaign spending by lobbying law firms in and around Washington D.C. The upshot: spending by the primary lobbying groups shot up by more than 8 million, roughly a 35% increase.

Bennett to appear at Republican news conference to discuss her observations in the King County Elections Department

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ruth Bennett has been asked by the Republican Party to appear at their press conference today to discuss problems she encountered while observing tabulation and canvassing in King County. She has said that security at the facility was marginal at best, and that there were no written standards, until she asked for them, for determining the validity of a particular ballot (i.e., was it properly signed and filled out, etc.).

The saga grows more interesting.

The Seattle Times has uncovered security flaws in connection with so-called provisional votes. The Times reports, "An unknown number of provisional voters, some of whom may not even have been registered to vote, improperly put their ballots directly into vote-counting machines at polling places, King County's elections superintendent said yesterday. Once those ballots went into the machines, there was no way to separate them from legitimate ballots."

In recent legislation Congress has required states to allow voters who show up in the wrong precinct to vote anyway on a "provisional ballot" which is to be held separately and reconciled later with voter registration lists. Officials may never know exactly how many provisional ballots were improperly fed into voting machines, but a current review of polling-place records may give some indication of how widespread the problem was.

The Republicans claim there could be as many as 8,500 improperly cast votes. County officials deny the number is that high, but admit there is a significant discrepancy. Obviously, if the number exceeds 129, there is a serious question of the legitimacy of Gregoire's victory.

These "mystery voters" have given fresh hope to Rossi supporters. The Seattle PI reports Republican Chairman Chris Vance saying: "You simply can't have more votes counted than you have voters. The counties have to come up with a plausible explanation for this and if they don't this election is invalid on its face."

Citing these and other election related problems on a website advocating for a revote, former Governor Dan Evans said: "These and the perception of other problems have created a real crisis of confidence about this election."

Meanwhile, a crowd of protesters near Fort Lewis called for a revote to protect troops’ rights.

Even Secretary of State Reed admits the issue is significant. Speaking of the provisional ballot problem, he told the PI, "This is an issue that could potentially be used to contest the election. You'd have to make the point to the judge that it actually made a difference."

Christine Gregoire, who is no longer crowing that Washington has an election system ... with the highest of quality is planning on moving into the Governor's Mansion next Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Rethinking the Unconstitutionality of Contribution and Expenditure Limits in Ballot Measure Campaigns

Loyola Law School Professor Rick Hasen, who is a nationally respected election law expert has composed this draft in favor of extending campaign finance laws to ballot measures.

Until know, the courts have generally distinguished candidate campaigns from initiative campaigns and left the corporations and the unions to spend as much as they wanted for or against initiatives. Here in Washington, for example, the Indian tribes spent several million dollars to defeat Tim Eyman's I-892 (scratch ticket machines).

But the question is, who is helped by campaign finance regulation and who is hurt? Clearly those with the resources to negotiate and respond to the multiple requirements of accounting and reporting will not be hurt in the same way that campaigns with limited resources. There is also the question whether the First Amendment can tolerate limits on both candidate campaigns and issue campaigns. I think the only reason candidate campaigns can be constitutionally regulated is because there is still an unregulated outlet for issue based campaigns.

Hasen himself confesses his ambivalance in this arena, and suggests, at minimum, that the U.S. Supreme Court needs to adopt guidelines for "a more precise and transparent evidentiary inquiry into the connection between the goals of campaign finance laws and the means of achieving them will assist fair-minded judges in the inevitable constitutional balancing."

In the course of litigating the blanket primary case, it became clear to me that, as Hasen suggests, "The Court’s demand for evidence in campaign finance cases is shifting and imprecise. In fact, evidentiary analysis appears often to be a proxy for a determination on the merits made more on faith than evidence."

Stated alternatively, if the Supreme Court wants an election law regulation to survive it doesn't require the state to produce any evidence of need for the regulation. Speculation and conjecture is sufficient. If the court wants the regulation to fail it does require the state to show evidence that the regulation is truly necessary.

And guess what? If the Democratic or Republican Parties make a claim, the court requires the state to make the showing. However, if a minor party makes a claim, speculation and conjecture is sufficient. Some of us are more equal than others, it seems.

Monday, January 03, 2005

"Truth be told, the Libertarian Party isn't so much of a 'problem' as it is a reality and a challenge."

Forget the Statue of Liberty. The Libertarian logo should be the Bull!

Chuck Muth of Citizen Outreach, plus a former executive director of the Nevada Republican Party and a former chairman of the Nevada Republican Liberty Caucus (Hmmm. Wonder if he knows Aaron Russo?), says the LPWS is "a reality and a challenge," which Republican Party Chairman Vance has botched so badly that he should be replaced. In the course of his ranting he quotes an old saying: "Don't fool with the bull or you'll get the horns." This is the kind of status the LPWS has been looking for, in the short term anyway, a party that makes a difference.

Not that I entirely agree with Muth's analysis, particularly his rejection of the argument that the LP has been running to the left for the past few years and probably helped Rossi more than hurt him. And so there is no mistake, I put that argument to Muth in an email and his response was a single line. "I know all about the argument...and reject it completely."

Well, alrighty then! I'm sure a man who spends his time in an office in the other Washington has a better view of things here in Washington State than we do.

But we often wind up taking the good with the bad, and I really like the idea of the bull.

UPDATE 1/5/05: I talked to Aaron. They do know each other, well. Muth actively opposed Russo's bid for governor of Nevada a few years ago. According to Russo, Muth would like nothing better than the demise of the Libertarian Party.

McLaren Resigns

In an early morning email sent today to LPWS activists and supporters, state Libertarian Party chairman Larey McLaren announced his resignation from the position. McLaren cited family and personal reasons for his resignation. This blogger thanks Mr. McLaren for his hard work and support for the party, and wishes him and his family the best in the future.

Kansas County Attorney Switches to Libertarian Party

Citing disgust with the Ds & Rs formerly Republican Anderson County, Kansas, Prosecuting Attorney Frederick Campbell has switched to the Libertarian Party. Hmmm. Wonder what is going on in Kansas.

UPDATE 1/5/05: In an interesting interview with the national LP News Campbell explains he was frustrated with the current direction of the Republican Party. No surprise there.

To be or not to be...a Reed Republican

The Seattle Times reports Reed faces GOP wrath over recount decisions. Defending a flawed election system (particularly in King County) was no mean task. Reed supporters claim that he was merely following the law. But in fact there was no law written for the circumstances that presented themselves. He as well as the courts essentially had to make it up as they went along. No wonder the GOP is angry he wasn't a team player.

But frankly, I think that anger will find no outlet. Reed is well placed to hold his position as Secretary of State for so long as the "top two" primary system continues in Washington. Moderates do well in a "top two" system and Reed is a moderate. Until a successful court challenge can be mounted the system is likely to be with us for several years.

So, it seems to me that Reed's overall objective has been to promote his brand of moderate politics over the partisanships of both the Ds and Rs. It may be that the Ds benefitted this time, but that benefit will be short lived. Reed has been playing to the galleries, and judging by the success of I-872, winning the battle between consensus and ideology, competition and principles. And that can mean nothing but trouble for all third parties.

The state of blogging

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has this report on the state of blogging. Blogging, it seems, has increased 58% over the past year, much of it politically based. (Hmmm...) Readership has increased even more. There are some additional demographic profiles in the report.