For the past couple of weeks, one of the people who's been turning up in one hearing after another has been a Woodinville man named Mike Dunmire. Dunmire, a wealthy, retired investor, has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into intiatives run by promoter Tim Eyman over the past several years.
A letter Dunmire sent out today provides an interesting citizens-eye view of the sausage-making that is legislation and committee hearings. He attended -- and sometimes testified -- at hearings on bills that would modify procedures and fees for citizens or groups who want to end-run the Legislature by putting an initiative or referendum directly on the ballot for voters to decide. (Among the proposals: banning signature gatherers from being paid by the signature, requiring them to wear ID and register with the government, boosting the initiative filing fee from $5 to $100, and repealing the initiative process entirely.)
Among the things Dunmire observed, he said, were:
*Legislators ignorant about the contents of bills that they themselves are co-sponsoring;
* Repeated, purposeful misrepresentation of the facts by the Secretary of State, misleading legislators, the press, and the public;
* Committee hearings where microphones are cut off when citizens are speaking;
* Legislators snickering and rolling their eyes during citizen testimony;
* Far-reaching bills with an "analysis" that is a single paragraph;
* Without discussion or debate, votes on bills with only two legislators present (we asked staffers "How can you vote without a quorum?" - they refused to answer);
* Long lists of citizens signing up to testify against these bills but chairs limiting testimony to three minutes each for just two people; and
* Legislators sponsoring bills that the judiciary has already ruled unconstitutional.
Dunmire was offended. So offended, he said, that he changed his mind about something.
Despite his previous contributions to Eyman's efforts, he says, he planned to stop this year and steer his cash instead to other business and charitable commitments.
But he was so peeved at how he and others were treated, he said, that he's going to donate a quarter million dollars to Eyman's tax-limiting initiative this year.