1994

The Judicial nemesis.
The Wise Use drift towards extremism accelerates.


Washington Supreme Court Rules on Snohomish Referendum

On January 27, 1994, the Washington State Supreme Court handed down a ruling on the case involving the Wise Use referendum campaign, Snohomish County v Archie Anderson. The court ruled in favor of the county's position that the county referendum could not override state law. The court found that the Growth Management Act delegated the authority for creating county-wide planning policy to the legislative authority which must "convene meetings and establish process. These responsibilities cannot be performed by the exercise of a 'yes/no' vote." In their decision, the court writes,

"There is thus no reason to believe, as the Snohomish County citizens assert, that 'the legislature would have been specific had it intended to eliminate or bypass referendum rights. ...Permitting the referendum would jeopardize an entire state plan and thus would extend beyond a matter of local concern."

The decision by the Supreme Court did little to abate the bad temper displayed by the members of the Snohomish County Property Rights Alliance. SNOCO PRA had made "they're taking our rights away from us" their battle cry. The Supreme Court ruling only served to inflame the situation further. In the next twelve months, SNOCO PRA members would be actively flirting with extremist militias and brandishing mock weapons at their meetings. Some revenge for the loss in court would be taken at the polls in November, when they succeeded in electing a new County Prosecutor, but SNOCO PRA's drift into extremism only accelerated.

Secession Stealth Exposed

In January, 1994, the Washington Public Disclosure Commission Assistant Director, David Clark, sent letters to the seven secession organizations asking them to register and report their finances as grass roots lobbying organizations. The letter informed the groups of the need to make public the finances of any organization that was engaged in activities addressed to the public or the legislature that was intended to influence legislation. The spending guidelines set a limit of $200.00 in one month or $500.00 in three months, which if exceeded invoked the reporting and disclosure requirements. This letter kicked off a process of challenging the disclosure requirements which has still to be resolved.

None of the organizations replied or voluntarily complied. The Cedar County Committee requested a declaratory order from the PDC which would clarify if the secession groups met the definition of grass roots lobbying organizations. In the February 3, 1994 Bellingham Herald story, Roland Holterman was quoted as saying that he didn't believe that the group was engaged in political organizing. "I think it's a smokescreen," Holterman said. "I think they are putting pressure on to stop the movement." According to the Herald:

Independence County backers have set up their finances so the Disclosure Commission and the public can review them, Holterman said. Opening the books to scrutiny will disprove rumors that the groups are funded by developers and logging companies, he said. "I welcome it," Holterman said. "Let's get it out and let people see it's just common people."

Challenging the request for public disclosure of their political finances, the Cedar County Committee filed a petition for a declaratory order with the Public Disclosure Commission. This is a request that the commission make a formal ruling on the applicability of the disclosure law to a particular situation. In this instance, the petition by the Cedar County Committee asserted that they were not engaged in grass roots lobbying. In support of this contention, the Cedar County Committee submitted a copy of one of their handouts that had been re-written to remove any reference to Ted Cowan acting as their registered lobbyist. An earlier version was found which had the deleted passages intact.

In response to the issue of whether the Cedar County Committee is engaged in a grass roots lobbying campaign, Assistant Attorney General Roslyn Marcus wrote in Declaratory Order 12:

"The short answer is yes, Cedar County Committee is a sponsor of a grass roots lobbying campaign pursuant to RCW 42.17.200 and is therefore subject to the reporting and registration requirements of Chapter 41.17 RCW."

A long and complex process dragged on from mid-February until late May 1994 before the declaratory order was passed by the commission. For aficionados of legal hijinx, it may have been amusing to watch the commission staff refuse to release documents to the attorney for Cedar County on the grounds that a non-existent investigation was taking place; the threat of a lawsuit to force the Public Disclosure Commission to disclose public records; the convoluted legal arguments lifting themselves up by their own bootstraps and biting their own noses; and the various maneuvers, delays, and evasions that took place. For anyone who had concerns about the corruption of the political process, it was a frustrating exercise in watching a regulatory and oversight agency refuse to uphold the law.

In the end, the only real result was the denial that "The public's right to know of the financing of political campaigns and lobbying and the financial affairs of elected officials and candidates far outweighs any right that these matters remain secret and private." This quotation from the public disclosure law is at the bottom of all stationary from the Public Disclosure Commission.

The PDC files on Cedar County show that after three months of stalling, lies and evasions by both sides, the resulting Declaratory Order #12 was issued in May 1994. It was immediately challenged by a lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court by the Cedar County Committee. The PDC staff elected not to pursue disclosure enforcement until this suit is settled.

Finally, in April 1995, the case was heard and the judge ruled in favor of the Public Disclosure Commission. A June 1995 deadline was set for filing the disclosure documents. Pioneer and Cedar Committees submitted some disclosure statements which omit finances which were revealed during the previous year. The Pioneer County disclosure forms fail to report the $300 contribution to the Keystone Forum which initiated the PDC investigation.

Cushman Opens the Door for the Militias

On March 23, 1994, Chuck Cushman made a return visit to Whatcom County at the Rome Grange. This was his last stop on a tour of the North Cascades that had started in the Okanogon region two months earlier. Cushman's issue this time was opposition to the proposed Cascades International Park. The Cascades Park is a proposal to reorganize the administration of the public's lands in the North Cascades of Washington and a small part of British Columbia. CLUE hosted the event and Skip Richards served as master of ceremonies. The lead speaker was Ben Hinkle, who was promoting a white supremacist plan to abolish the Federal Government known as "The Ultimatum Resolution." Hinkle also distributed Militia of Montana propaganda which he had altered so that it bore the name of his Citizens for Liberty group.150


Note: see Appendix VII for more information onWise Use and political extremism.


Mitch Friedman, director of the Greater Ecosystem Alliance and one of the driving forces behind the park plan, was at the Sedro Woolley and Rome Grange meetings. According to Friedman, "Cushman gave his standard rap, spending his time on anecdotes about the government screwing people, interspersed with anecdotes about Chuck and his friends having 'great fun' interfering with the process. He does not trouble himself or his audience with facts, and indicated no actual knowledge of the international park campaign. At each of these events he gave the same exact speech I heard him give two years ago over growth management." On the videotape of the Rome Grange meeting, Cushman makes a mistake and says "grazing" and then stops and corrects himself and says "timber." The impression of a canned speech is very strong.

Cushman's event in Whatcom County was the last of a tour through Okanogan, Cashmere, Wenatchee, Darrington, Sedro Wooley and Bellingham. The issue of the North Cascades Park was brought to Cushman's attention by a Wise Use group in Okanagon, as he told this writer in a June, 1994 interview. Documents from the Okanogan Concerned Citizens Coalition (which uses the acronym OC3) indicate that this is probably the group that initiated the opposition to the park proposal.

Cushman's purpose was to get people to attend a protest demonstration at a conference on the park proposal at the University of Washington, titled "Nature Has No Borders." Cushman suffered a minor heart attack and failed to show up for the protest. Several busloads of protesters from Eastern Washington did attend, as well as people from Whatcom and other West-side counties. Whatcom County Councilwoman Marlene Dawson attended the protest and was quoted as saying, "We want to stop this [proposal] before it gets any farther."151

Growth Hearings Board Rejects Whatcom Critical Areas Ordinance

On June 30, 1994, the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board ruled that the referendum version of the Whatcom Critical Areas Ordinance failed to meet the requirements of the Growth Management act. The Board described the "process leading up to the referendum" as being "flawed and totally out of compliance" and remanded the matter back to the County Council with a November 17, 1994 deadline.156

Whatcom Environmental Council executive director Jay Tabor was jubilant. The Bellingham Herald quoted Taber as saying, "The referendum version was simply a meat-ax job by a handful of developers behind closed doors.'" Later in the same article, CLUE leader Skip Richards called the Hearings Board's action "irrelevant." Richards also admitted that "the purpose of the referendum was to create a whole new political climate -- and we've done that."157

Initiative 164: Taking from the Taxpayer

The next major act of Wise Use was to launch a statewide initiative campaign for a takings law. Initiative 164 is essentially the same "regulatory reform" law that State Sen. Ann Anderson proposed to the legislature during the 1993 session. Sponsored by Dan Wood, one of the state's two most visible Wise Use lobbyists (the other is Ted Cowan), the initiative is an attempt to make the state taxpayers pay for nuisance abatement. If any regulation on property causes an economic loss, either by devaluation (as of land use being restricted by zoning) or by expense (as in the cost of pollution control equipment), the law would make such a loss or cost a "taking" under the meaning of the Fifth amendment and subject to compensation by the government. The only alternative to compensation is to not enforce the law. As written, the scope of the law extends to private property, but the meaning is vague enough to guarantee another train wreck in the courts as the legality and constitutionality is sorted out. As a state law, it will not affect federal regulation, but many of the proponents do not seem to realize this.

The main supporters of the initiative are from the Hoquiam area, where Mr. Wood operates The Umbrella Group, a Wise Use group that has ties to Alliance for America, and the Whatcom Coalition for Land Use Education. Skip Richards, leader of CLUE, was the largest single donor to the initiative campaign during the summer of 1994.

The initiative drive failed to gather enough signatures for the July filing date for the fall elections. After the November elections, the initiative was restarted as an initiative to the legislature. With a massive infusion of $200,000 from Wise Use industries and use of paid signature gatherers, the initiative finally got the required number of signatures. After the petitions had been submitted to the Secretary of State for validation, a significant number were found to be forgeries. "We've never seen anything this blatant," said Secretary of State Ralph Munro. A criminal investigation has been ongoing for seven months without any findings being made public.167,168,169,170,171

Washington State Supreme Court Overturns the Whatcom Critical Areas Ordinance

On December 8, 1994, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled on the Whatcom Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) referendum 92-3. As in the Snohomish County referendum on a Growth Management Act land use ordinance, the court found that the referendum is "subordinate to express statutory requirements affecting matters of more than local concern." This overturned Whatcom County Judge Michael Moynihan's ruling that upheld the referendum petition. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the CAO was subject to amendment by referendum under the home rule charter. Writing en banc, the Supreme Court ruled that, "This court has stated [in the Snohomish case] that when there is a conflict between the language of a state statue and the language of a home rule charter, the language of the state statute [in this case the GMA] prevails. The Whatcom County Home Rule Charter may grant the people the right of referendum over ordinances enacted by the County. However, allowing exercise of that right over ordinances enacted pursuant to the Growth Management Act would run counter to and frustrate the declared purposes of the Act to prevent uncoordinated and unplanned growth and to encourage conservation and wise use of land." [emphasis added.]

The unintentional irony of the Supreme Court writing that the GMA and "wise use" were in harmony was lost on the Wise Use majority of the Whatcom County Council and CLUE leaders. A Bellingham Herald headline on the day after the ruling read, "County land-use fight not over. Challenges to state law remain unsettled."

The referendum version of the CAO was immediately readopted by the Whatcom County Council without observing the procedural requirements of the GMA.


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