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Campaign to reimpose race preferences in education is stiffing its contractors

‘They keep promising money, but nothing’s happening’

Washington State is a very different place in 2019 than it was in 1998 when voters eliminated race preferences in education.

Yet the campaign to reimpose those preferences, in a much more favorable political climate, has a surprising problem: It can’t afford to pay its contractors.

The Seattle Times reports that the One Washington Equality Campaign, which is seeking voter approval of Initiative 1000, is $1.3 million in debt to signature-gathering firms.

The campaign couldn’t afford politically progressive firms to do signature-gathering, one of the organizers told the Times in January when it turned in close to 400,000 signatures, far above the threshold to get on the ballot. Those firms wanted $150,000 up front and a “ridiculous” $6 to $12 per signature, said Jesse Wineberry, a former state lawmaker working on I-1000.

That’s why it went with a much cheaper firm associated with one of the most hated figures among the left in Washington, anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman, who is responsible for the anti-preference law. Citizen Solutions, which didn’t work with Eyman on that initiative, only asked for $3 per signature and no money up front.

Considering the initiative is supported by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, also a 2020 presidential candidate, and several former Washington governors, however, the campaign has been inexplicably terrible at fundraising.

It’s brought in “five-figure donations” from a handful of American Indian tribes “but has raised only $16,000 total since it submitted signatures in early January,” according to the Times.

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The $145,000 it has raised is nowhere near the money it owes to signature gatherers. Citizen Solutions is still putting on a brave face but its subcontractors are worried they’ll never get paid:

“They literally haven’t paid a penny,” said Carolyn Ostic, a coordinator who hired crews last fall … “They keep promising money, but nothing’s happening.”

Ostic, who is based in California and works on initiative campaigns around the country, says she is owed nearly $90,000 for her work last fall. …

Dan Harwig, a California-based signature coordinator, says he’s owed about $90,000.

“Normally, when we petition we work with contractors, we turn in signatures, we’re supposed to get paid when we turn them in,” Harwig said. “This one, they kept telling us, ‘the money is coming, the money is coming,’ and then they just never paid us.”

Citizen Solutions didn’t tell him it didn’t receive a deposit from the campaign, which is unusual in this line of work, the 20-year veteran of signature gathering said. Now Harwig is doing construction work so he can pay his rent.

Another coordinator, Kyle Locascio, is owed close to $23,000. “This particular situation is highly unusual. This has never happened in my experience,” he told the Times.

Wineberry insists the campaign will raise the rest of the money to pay the firms and subcontractors at an Easter weekend fundraising march, “where participants recruit sponsors to pay per mile-marched.”

I-1000 would also junk the ban on race, gender and other preferences in public employment and public contracting. The state would be able to use preferences to remedy “discrimination against, or underrepresentation of, disadvantaged groups.”

Read the article.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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