Government officials from Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia gathered at the Skamania III environmental conference last fall to present their future plans to private environmental groups, including Washington Conservation Voters, Climate Solutions, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
The conference was a cozy affair where the officials and representatives of the outside groups could talk shop, including a lot of politics. The agenda said of the Monday night dinner:
“Dinner will be an opportunity to discuss the status of activities within the jurisdictions, particularly the electoral situation in the Pacific Northwest, and to brief funders and advocates on the outcome of the Day 1 discussions.”
But the conference included more than just government officials, environmental and political groups talking about politics. Those government officials, including Washington’s delegation, were asking the outside groups to spend money in ways that would politically benefit the officials’ elected bosses.
Every section in the conference’s “workplans” that officials went over with the outside groups included a part that explicitly state how the outside groups could make themselves politically useful. Perhaps none was more blatantly political than the carbon pricing section, which said:
“Additional funding could advance carbon pricing by:
Funding a coordinated professional advocacy campaign in Washington and Oregon that includes market research, coalition building, and a more extensive legislative and referendum strategy that can be pursued with current support. The campaign could draw on recent successful initiatives (e.g., same sex marriage in Washington).”
The whole conference was a political planning session between government employees and groups who spend on politics, and officials from your state government were right in the thick of it. The “additional funding” section was a request by those officials for political spending on “market research” (polling) and a “referendum strategy.”
But why would they want a referendum strategy for a “campaign [that] could draw on recent successful initiatives”? It turns out they’re already thinking about a Democratic-turnout-driving initiative in 2016 for Jay Inslee’s re-election, and they want their plans in place early. Under the Washington schedule in the carbon pricing sections of the conference workplans, they note a possible referendum on the ballot that year.
After Democrats drove their base to the polls in 2012 with marijuana and gay marriage initiatives, they want to try the same strategy again with an environmental referendum, and they want the private political groups who attended the Skamania conference to fund it.
This is how your Inslee administration public officials spend their time – soliciting political funding while you pay their salaries.