There’s an 18-year-old college student named Andrew Villeneuve who’s made it his mission to take down Tim Eyman. Villeneuve, chair of Permanent Defense, is an impressive young man. He came in to the Stranger’s ed board this fall to debate Eyman on I-900, Eyman’s audits initiative. Our ed board has had Eyman in to scrap with some of the best debaters in town (Mark Sidran, Dwight Pelz), and I must say, Villeneuve was the first person I’ve seen get under Eyman’s skin.
My favorite exchange during the meeting was when Eyman kept trying to start his closing statement saying, “Given that I don’t have any oppostion…” and Villeneuve would interrupt Eyman and say dramatically: “I’m your oppositon…” Eyman would roll his eyes, take a breath, and start again, “Given that I don’t have any opposition…” and Villeneuve would jump right back in: “I’m your opposition.” This happened four or five times, before we had to jump in and referee a little.
Anyway, Villeneuve just sent out this “memo” (he’s titled it: “Focus! #16”) about Eyman’s uncanny ability to land on op/ed pages. Villeneuve’s memo is more emotional than it is eloquent, but he also attaches a related write up from the Northwest Progressive Institute that’s pretty compelling regarding Eyman’s overrated status.
I’ve posted both.
WHY DOES EYMAN KEEP GETTING SPECIAL ATTENTION FROM THE MEDIA?
Permanent Defense Focus! #16 - Memo to the Media
Released to Washington State Media Outlets
From: Chair Andrew Villeneuve
Thursday, December 29th, 2005
This organization - the membership and leadership of Permanent Defense - is getting pretty tired of the special treatment that Tim Eyman keeps getting from Washington State media outlets. Today, Tim has a column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, entitled "2006 initiative: Save our $30 tabs." Just yesterday, the Everett Herald ran the very same column for Tim, entitled: "Politicians should be held to their word on $30 tabs". Why are media outlets going out of their way to give Eyman special treatment?
The members of this organization would like to know why.
It's been said that the media is not very good at telling people what to think, but is good at telling people what to think about. The power to set the agenda. To decide what is "buzz" and what is not. This organization is fairly confident that the media understands who Tim Eyman is and what he wants.
His goal is to destroy government. And his philosophy (if you can call it that) is well summarized in this quote from national right wing activist Grover Norquist, who famously stated: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years - to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
Eyman's initiatives are all attempts to reduce the size and scope of government in some way. Not just state government, but local government, too. Most of his initiatives have been proposals to drastically cut back taxes, which has an immediate and significant effect on the ability of government to deliver quality public services to its citizens.
Year after year, editorial boards and commentators across Washington have opined against nearly every one of these initiatives, concluding that they will not lead to a healthier Evergreen State.
Despite this, Eyman keeps getting the attention he wants and needs to remain influential. In fact, Tim has probably received more media exposure than any other politician in the state, save for the Governor.
Whenever Eyman wants to "announce" a new initiative effort, the Associated Press usually has an article about it. Whenever Eyman calls a press conference in Olympia, the major TV stations (KOMO, KING, KIRO, KCPQ) usually send their cameras over to the Capitol campus to cover it, and then those stations run the clips during their five o'clock broadcasts. When Eyman submits columns to newspapers, they usually get printed. We know because we keep seeing them.
Reprinted below is a blog post from the Chair that was printed on the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog last May 4th (the Northwest Progressive Institute, or NPI, is Permanent Defense's parent organization). This post still rings true today:
[We are] appalled that Tim Eyman has managed to secure as much free publicity as he has in recent days.
He's played the state's op-ed pages like a fiddle. He has a column this morning in the Seattle Times and yesterday he had one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Not to mention columns in the Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and Wenatchee World, all in recent days.
Eyman doesn't deserve any of this. He's accomplished nothing during the last two to three years, and yet he is treated by editorial page editors like royalty. [Note: After this was written in May, Eyman's I-900 did pass in November, although I-912, which Eyman tried to latch onto, failed. Still, that's a 1 for 5 record for all of his initiatives since the end of 2002, not counting Initiative 912.]
The state's op-ed pages can do better. Tim is less than a mediocre writer - he's a pitiful, lousy writer. His columns are nothing more than recycled talking points from his e-mails coupled with ranting and rambling at the courage of elected officials to do what it takes to tackle our state's toughest problems.
Tim would destroy all of that. If he gets his way, we'll be mired in deficits and stuck in gridlock for decades to come - not to mention our communities will deteriorate.
Unless he is refuted, people will buy his talk because the temptation to think only of one's pocketbook is simply too great. Unless people understand the profound consequences, they will be won over.
Tim has a gift for deception and salesmanship. He'll use that gift to the full extent possible. He's good at getting people to think only in their self-interest and forget about the needs and benefits of living in a community.
The newspaper editors that printed Tim's columns should be ashamed for falling over each other and giving Tim space to write column after column. Three of the papers even ran the same column - one of Tim's rehashed e-mails.
Why reward a paid politician like Tim with column after column when Eyman hasn't even achieved anything? He's 0 for 4 in his last four attempt to pass an initiative. Apparently, his failures haven't affected his media clout very much yet.
The op-ed pages of our newspapers are too valuable to waste on people like Tim. Newspaper editors should get some real local talent for their op-ed pages, or get guest commentary from local officials and state legislators.
While we're on this topic, I thought I'd share this advice from the Seattle Times Company for op-ed writers:
DON'T submit the same piece to different papers at the same time. Editors hate to see a piece on their desk appear in a nearby paper. As a general rule, ride one horse at a time.
Apparently, that isn't true because three different editors for three different newspapers each approved Tim's rehashed email as a column in their respective newspapers. [And it just happened again this month, December 2005.]
And then, after Tim had gotten four other columns in four other newspapers (in quick succession), the Seattle Times was willing to give him a fifth. It's absolutely ridiculous.
If Evergreen State newspapers are willing to so freely give Tim all this op-ed space, they should allow opponents - including us - the same amount of space for a response. Most newspapers are known to pride themselves on allowing both sides of an issue to present their viewpoints and arguments.
If they won't do that, then the current state of Washington's newspapers is op-ed pages is very regrettable.
It is time that regional media outlets stopped giving Tim Eyman so much special attention. There is no good reason why he should be awarded with column after column after column. There is no good reason why the press needs to feel obligated to cover him every single time he wants to announce a new initiative effort.
Why not instead put a greater emphasis on giving more people, especially those active within their neighborhood communities, a chance to express their views? The Evergreen State is home to about six million people. There are surely many Washingtonians (and many issues) that are far more worthy of the attention than Tim Eyman. The media should be diversifying its political coverage instead of catering to him.
About Permanent Defense
Permanent Defense is an nonprofit organization founded to fight Tim Eyman and his anti-tax initiatives, work for real tax reform in Washington State, and promote the value of public services.