Voters Won't Be Able To Declare Eyman A 'Horse's Ass'

Voters Won't Be Able To Declare Eyman A 'Horse's Ass'
OLYMPIA - Is initiative king Tim Eyman a "horse's ass"?

Washington voters apparently won't get to vote on it.

A Thurston County judge on Friday blocked a tongue-in-cheek initiative that would allow voters to criticize - or support - the state's foremost sponsor of citizen initiatives.

Eyman critic David Goldstein said he'll appeal, and will try to retaliate by having one of Eyman's new initiatives barred from the ballot.

Eyman said he finds it "richly ironic" that Goldstein wants to weed out frivolous initiatives and then complains when a judge does so.

"Welcome to the party, buddy," Eyman said from his Mukilteo home. "The court is hostile when it comes to the initiative process. This is a rough and tumble business we're in."

Goldstein, a Seattle small business owner who writes computer software for songwriters, has drawn some national media attention for his puckish attack on Washington's leading anti-tax rebel.

He insists his initiative has a serious goal of prompting a broad discussion of how Eyman and others may be abusing the initiative process.

I-831, though, simply allows voters to declare whether Eyman is "a horse's ass." Copies of the initiative would be sent to Eyman, his wife and mother if it passed.

Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor agreed with the state attorney general that Goldstein's measure isn't the proper subject matter for an initiative.

"I believe this proposed initiative is outside the power given the people," the judge said in a ruling from the bench after listening to straight-faced oral arguments.

"This proposed initiative is not legislative in nature."

Tabor also said the proposal amounts to an illegal "bill of attainder" that punishes an individual without a trial. The measure is "clearly an attempt to degrade or punish" by public humiliation or shame, he said.

Tabor said Goldstein can continue collecting signatures while he appeals the ruling, but can't turn in the petitions and it can't appear on the November ballot unless the appeal succeeds.

Goldstein said the ruling and the state's position amount to censorship. The Legislature passes resolutions all the time, and initiatives are a proper vehicle for voters to express their viewpoints as well, he said.

He joked that state lawyers are suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome," identifying with Eyman because he has forced them to spend untold hours in court defending his many unconstitutional initiatives.

Goldstein said he'll try to get the courts to throw out an Eyman initiative that would overturn the light rail program approved by voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. That's clearly not a proper subject for a statewide initiative, he said.

James Pharris, the senior assistant attorney general who argued the "horse's ass" case, said the judge upheld the sanctity of the initiative process. Goldstein was trying to hijack the state election apparatus to send a personal message to an individual at public expense, he said.

Pharris told the court the initiative is "a verbal whoopee cushion," a prank or expression of opinion and not the stuff of legislation or initiatives.

Citizens have broad latitude about initiative subjects, but there are limits, he said.

"I could not take my laundry list or a Shakespeare sonnet and put it forth as an initiative," he said.

Goldstein said he has drafted an alternative that declares every Feb. 4 to be "Tim Eyman is a Horse's Ass Day." That should satisfy the state's objections because it directly corresponds to bills that created state holidays, he said. But he said he probably won't file it, relying instead on an appeal.

Feb. 4, 2002, is the day newspapers published Eyman's confession to The Associated Press that he shifted about $200,000 from campaign contributions into a salary fund for himself. Eyman held a tearful news conference later that day at the Mukilteo Post Office to tell all on the camera - and to show the mail box where the campaign checks rolled in.

Eyman called himself a horse's ass, and many other things. It's legal for a campaign consultant to take a salary, if properly reported. Eyman had insisted he wasn't profiting from his initiatives, which have included a rollback of affirmative action, $30 car license tabs, property tax limits and more.

He paid a $50,000 fine last year and agreed to a lifetime ban on being a campaign treasurer.

Eyman says he will draw a salary if one or both of his new initiatives make the ballot this year.