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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Peter Starzynski: The Washington Policy Center is a champion of our state’s wealthiest citizens, at the expense of working families and communities of color

By Peter Starzynski Accountable Northwest

If the Spokesman-Review is going to publish biweekly columns from the Washington Policy Center, it’s important for readers in Spokane to understand more about this organization and its true agenda. Along with the anti-union “Freedom” Foundation, the WPC is one of two Washington state affiliates of a nationally connected web of more than 65 right-wing groups – the State Policy Network . For reference, the Idaho Freedom Foundation is the Idaho affiliate of the same network.

State Policy Network groups like the Washington Policy Center use innocuous-sounding names and present themselves as unbiased, but a closer look at the policies they push reveals something very different. These groups are dedicated to advancing a right-wing political agenda that favors the super-rich, at the expense of working families and communities of color.

The Washington Policy Center has joined some of our state’s richest citizens in opposition to the recently passed capital gains tax that would fund child care and early education across the state, including in Spokane. They have ties to a group combating the revenue measure, the ironically-named Opportunity for All Coalition, and are using their legal team to challenge the law in court. They would have you believe the tax is going to be paid by all Washingtonians. It won’t be. Just one-quarter of 1% of Washingtonians will pay the tax. And it’s only on capital gains – profits made from stocks, bonds and other assets above $250,000. No working Washingtonian makes that kind of money, let alone that kind of money from capital gains.

The Washington Policy Center has been a steadfast advocate for gutting public school funding and promoting education privatization, even hiring privatization champion Betsy DeVos as a keynote speaker at an annual fundraising dinner. On labor issues, they have actively worked to discredit policies proven to benefit workers by fighting against the unionization of day care workers, opposing minimum wage laws, and arguing against paid family leave legislation. They have continuously tried to attack the state’s labor unions, even coordinating on the “Freedom” Foundation’s failed campaign to destroy unions in Washington.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Policy Center tried to discredit safety measures employed by the state while manufacturing doubt about the severity of the virus in Washington.

Most recently, the Washington Policy Center has waded into the dubious campaign against anti-racism education. In April, they paid for an ad in The Spokesman-Review that repeated the national right-wing’s talking points on critical race theory, even stating that anti-racist education “otherized” white people. Nowhere in their material did they mention that critical race theory is law school-level curriculum. But more importantly, they are not telling you that anti-racism education in grammar school and high school settings seeks to tell the real history of the United States about things like American slavery, the Jim Crow era and voting rights, among many other race issues that have plagued our nation since before its inception.

Who is bankrolling the Washington Policy Center’s partisan campaign? Their funders are a veritable who’s who of national right-wing foundations, most of which were created by millionaires and billionaires. Many have links to white supremacists, Islamophobes, anti-immigrant leaders and anti-LGBT organizations, including Wisconsin’s Bradley Foundation, Pennsylvania’s Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Koch brothers’ Donors Trust.

The Washington Policy Center wants Spokesman-Review readers to believe they are an “independent think tank,” doing studies in the best interest of Washingtonians. And while we believe all sides of every political coin should have a voice, consumers deserve to know the intended biases of the author – especially in this era of malicious disinformation. To have any credibility on the issues, the Washington Policy Center should come clean about their real agenda and the wealthy funders they are prioritizing. For citizens to make informed policy decisions, they are owed this kind of information.

Peter Starzynski is executive director of Accountable Northwest, an investigative and accountability organization serving as an independent watchdog on the issues that matter most to working families in the Pacific Northwest. We publish research and content on issues that impact everyday people – issues like education, public services, our workplaces and our communities. We are supported by community organizations, labor unions and individuals.

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