Seattle P-I: Anti-tax Advocates Are 'Special Interest', Liberal Groups 'Populist'

Democratic state legislators in Washington State are taking aim at changing the state ballot initiative process, all because of numerous successes of perennial anti-tax advocate Tim Eyman, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported today.While P-I reporter Brian Slodysko did an overall good job reporting the controversy, including how critics think the legislature could be overreaching in their "reform" efforts, this portion proved a bit vexing (emphasis mine):

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, has the backing of a coalition of organized labor, business interests and environmental groups, who say special interest groups have co-opted the state's initiative and referendum process from its populist origins. "Up until the late '80s, almost into the start of the '90s, (the initiative process) was a populist grass-roots effort. At this point in time, it became professionalized. We felt obligated to defend the Legislature," Jim Bricker, a spokesman for the coalition, said.

So wait, labor unions, business groups, and environmental groups are NOT special interests? Isn't the definition of a special interest group that it advocates something that is of, well, special interest to a special constituency? What's more, Bricker's statement about the ballot initiative being "professionalized" is laughable given the professional full-time advocates any major interest group hires for political organizing purposes, including pushing state ballot initiatives, yet Slodysko didn't challenge that talking point. And since when have anti-tax ballot measures, which apparently do pretty well even in liberal Washington State, not meet the definition of populism? Indeed, isn't it arguable that measures to curb taxes have a broader-based appeal that measures being pushed by a labor union or an environmental lobby?

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters