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After 45 years in public life, Sam Reed bids farewell ?>

After 45 years in public life, Sam Reed bids farewell

Sam speaks to 2013 Senate

(Photo courtesy of  Legislative Support Services Photography)

Secretary of State Sam Reed bade a fond farewell to the people of Washington Tuesday after 45 years in public life, including 35 years as a state and county elected official.

Addressing a joint session of the Legislature, Reed brought along a special reminder of his family’s long connection to Washington politics and government — his grandfather Sam Sumner’s battered leather briefcase.  Exactly 100 years earlier, Sumner, a state GOP chairman and longtime party leader, was sworn in as a state House member, beginning a legacy of public service that would extend to Reed’s career and love of politics and government decades later.

“Politics is, and should be, a noble calling,” Reed said in his well-received remarks.  He added:

“It has been an amazing ride for Margie and me. Nearly a lifetime ago, it seems, we came to Olympia from the apple orchards and the Palouse of Eastern Washington to teach and to serve in government. We stayed to raise our family here and to heed the call the service. On our hardest days, we never regretted that decision.

“My heart is full as this Wenatchee boy reflects on the opportunity to be of service and to work … to make Washington a better, more responsive and just government worthy of her people. Whenever we saw a problem to fix or an opportunity to grasp, we went to work. In our better moments, we worked collaboratively, across the aisle, with common purpose and with civility.”

Among the highlights Reed mentioned were:

  1. Saving the State Library.
  2. Creating the nation’s first ground-up Digital Archives.
  3. Restoring confidence in the elections process after the closest governor’s race in America, fighting for the Top 2 Primary and other reforms and improvements in the elections process.
  4. Ramping up service to job-creating companies.
  5. Honoring our history and promoting a new State Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus to house the Archives and State Library and make public records, books and history accessible to the public.

In closing, Reed said:

“Although I am leaving public life, I am not leaving public service. I expect to be deeply engaged as a volunteer, working and mentoring as a private citizen on my signature issues of civility, bipartisanship and moderation.”

The joint session also heard Gov. Chris Gregoire’s optimistic and sweeping State of the State Address recapping her eight years in office and her thoughts about the future.  The gathering also heard farewell remarks from Attorney General Rob McKenna, who succeeded Gregoire at the helm of the 1,100-member AG staff and who lost to Democrat Jay Inslee for Governor in November.  And outgoing Brian Sonntag, the veteran State Auditor, also gave well-received and emotional farewell comments.  The proceedings were broadcast live and archived by TVW.

Sam-and-his-empty-office

Giving wisely….. ?>

Giving wisely…..

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna are teaming up to urge Washingtonians to make wise choices with their holiday gifts to charity and avoid greedy fundraising groups.

Reed and McKenna joined forces at the Senior Services Lillian Rice Center in downtown Seattle, releasing the 2012 Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report and announcing that the report will be updated weekly “in real time” to keep donors well-informed. The two statewide officials also shared tips for everyone – young and old – on how to give wisely.

Overall this year, charities that used commercial fundraisers received an average of 46 percent of contributions, a drop from the 56 percent mark in the 2011 report and much lower than the 77 percent reported in 2010. Once again, the percentage that individual fundraisers retained was wide-ranging: Some fundraisers kept less than 10 percent and sent the remaining funds to charity, while other fundraisers’ fees and expenses were more than the amount raised.

The report, compiled by the Secretary of State’s Charities Program, spotlights recent financial information for commercial fundraisers who solicit or collect donations on behalf of their charity clients. The causes vary widely and include police, firefighter and veteran organizations, medical research, animals, civil liberties, and the environment, to name a few.

Seniors 65 and older – a group that makes up about 13 percent of Washington’s population – are especially targeted by solicitors, and thus should be very careful and research where their donations are going, the two state officials cautioned.

Said Reed:

“I’ve been so impressed with the generosity of Washington residents over the years,” Reed said. “So many people here give money to help those who are struggling in our state or elsewhere. We know that individuals will want to donate money this holiday season and beyond to help others, but we also know that they can get burned by not doing their homework before giving to a charity.

“That’s why we want to make sure donors are well-informed about where their money is going. We want contributors – regardless of age – to know which commercial fundraising groups have a bad track record when it comes to passing on donated money to the intended charities.”

McKenna, whose office deals with consumer protection, said:

“People should always contact charitable organizations in your community and ask how they spend donations to ensure you are truly helping those you wish to help.  Never be afraid to ask how much of your donation will go to the charitable purpose. It’s your money.”

The report, which has been released annually since 1995, has been revamped so it now is updated on a weekly basis. Consumers will be able to run their own reports in real time and get current (more…)

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases ?>

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to Washington’s policy of releasing initiative and referendum petitions, specifically the Referendum 71 signatures submitted to force a public vote on the “everything but marriage” law three years ago.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was pleased with the decision and that it honors the state voters’ commitment to the Public Records Act and transparency in government.  Reed said he hopes the challengers will let the decision stand, now that the U.S. District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in the state’s favor. Reed’s comment:

“We believe Washington residents expect open and accountable government, and it was the voters themselves who gave us our strong Public Records Act 40 years ago this year,” Reed said. “I am happy that disclosure of petitions has been without incident, and that the initiative and referendum process is alive and well, with no apparently ‘chilling’ of the process we hold dear.  I am glad that we are having civil debate this year over same-sex marriage and other difficult issues. We can disagree agreeably.”

This is the Centennial of the voters approving the initiative, referendum and recall process in Washington.

R-71 passed in 2009 with a 53 percent approval vote, upholding a new law the Legislature had passed for gay (more…)

`Statewides’ gather for Gregoire’s State of the State ?>

`Statewides’ gather for Gregoire’s State of the State

It’s a rare occasion when most, if not all, of Washington’s statewide elected officials are in the same room. The Governor’s State of the State speech Tuesday morning offered such an opportunity.

Moments before they entered the House Chambers to attend Governor Gregoire’s annual address to the Legislature, all of the “Statewides” except the guv and Lt. Gov. Owen (who was presiding over the joint legislative session) gathered in the State Reception Room for a photo.

From left to right: Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Treasurer Jim McIntire, Secretary of State Sam Reed, Auditor Brian Sonntag, Attorney General Rob McKenna and Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.

The governor used her televised address to urge lawmakers to act quickly on closing a $1.5 billion budget gap and strongly requested that they send voters a half-cent sales tax hike that would bring in about $500 million a year for the next three years.  That would allow the Legislature to head off big cuts in education, higher education and other programs, she said.

Gregoire also unveiled a $3.6 billion transportation package that would include a $1.50 barrel tax on oil.  And the governor urged approval of her education reform proposals.

The Legislature opened its election-year 60-day session on Monday.

Reed, McKenna team up to urge wise giving ?>

Reed, McKenna team up to urge wise giving

Besides giving presents to family and friends during the holiday season, many show their generosity by giving money to charities.

Unfortunately, there are some Grinch-like groups that aim to take advantage of donors. So how do you avoid being a victim? Give wisely by doing your homework before you open your wallet or checkbook.

That was the message imparted by Secretary Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna as they teamed up to unveil this year’s Commercial Fundraiser Activity Report at the Greenwood Senior Center in Seattle.  Go here to view the full report and here to see the overview.

Commercial fundraisers are businesses that get paid to solicit donations. (That pile of solicitation letters in the photo was received by an elderly lady in Seattle over the past year.) The report shows how much money fundraising organizations pass on to intended charities and how much they keep as overhead.

The 2011 report shows that charities that used commercial fundraisers in Washington received 56 percent of the total donations raised by those fundraisers. It’s far below the 77 percent mark in 2010, but it’s a little higher than the average return rate over the years.

There are currently 9,684 charities registered in Washington State. Of those, 685 report using commercial fundraising services.

Info on the report for the past three years can be found here. The report is compiled annually by our Charities Program.

Reed and McKenna provided plenty of tips on how to give wisely and avoid getting scammed by greedy fundraisers: (more…)

Federal appeals court hears challenge of Top 2 Primary ?>

Federal appeals court hears challenge of Top 2 Primary

Washington’s political parties are back in federal appeals court, continuing their six-year  challenge of the state’s popular voter-approved Top 2 Primary.

The Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties of Washington asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday to throw out the system, which allows voters to choose their favorite for each office, without respect to party, with the two favorites advancing to the November General Election ballot.  Neither party is guaranteed a November runoff slot, and the Top 2 is not a nominating election, but rather a winnowing contest.

Jeff Even, deputy state solicitor general, representing Secretary of State Sam Reed and the voters, said the oral argument went well, and that he is optimistic that the state will be able to keep the Top 2 system in place.  California voters recently adopted the system. The three-judge panel gave no indication when they will rule, but Even said he would expect the state to know by next spring that it can run the big 2012 election system with the Top 2 in place.

The system was approved in a landslide public vote in 2004 after the parties had successfully challenged the state’s longstanding “blanket” primary, which allowed crossover voting, but produced a GOP nominee and a Democratic nominee, with minor parties handled in a separate process.

The system easily survived a constitutional challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed down a 7-2 ruling back in March of 2008.  The state has used the system ever since, with polls showing heavy public support.  But the parties continue to argue that the Top 2 system causes voter confusion and thereby violates the parties’ freedom of association.

In January, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour (pronounced Coo’-now-er) dismissed challenges brought by the parties over the way Washington operates the primary.  Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna called it a major victory for the voters of Washington and expressed hope that the case was resolved at long last.  But the parties decided to appeal.

The court did, however, side with the parties on one issue, saying it is unconstitutional for the state to conduct precinct committee officer elections for the parties when the races are on a ballot available to all voters across the political spectrum.  The ruling apparently means the state is out of the PCO election business unless the Legislature devises some fallback system.

The judge said the state Elections Division has carefully adopted the recommendations of the high court, making it clear that candidates “prefer” a particular party of their designation, but that the party may or may not endorse the candidate.  Coughenour dismissed the parties’ contention that voters are confused by the party references.

He said the system “does not create the possibility of widespread confusion among the reasonable, well-informed electorate.”

Even and Grange attorney Tom Ahearn asked the appeals judges to agree with the district judge that Washington has carefully implemented the Top 2 system using the roadmap suggested by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Voters are not confused by the system and the high court already has said the parties do not have a right to demand that their favored candidates be identified, Even said.

The judges gave no indication that the Top 2 system itself is in any jeopardy, Even said.

“This is about as good as we could have hoped,” said Katie Blinn, co-state elections director. (more…)

U.S. high court declines to block R-71 petitions ?>

U.S. high court declines to block R-71 petitions

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected efforts by foes of gay-marriage to block Washington state from releasing Referendum 71 petitions while an appeal is underway in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court gave no reasoning for denying the motion by Protect Marriage Washington to issue an injunction.  The order indicates that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is responsible for motions arising from the 9th Circuit, referred the request to the full court, which did not support the motion. The order indicates that Justice Alito was the lone vote in favor of blocking release of the petitions during the appeals process, and that Justice Kagan did not take part in the court’s deliberation.

“This means that we can once again release these public records,” said Katie Blinn, the state elections co-director.

U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle and the 9th Circuit had previously declined to block release of the petitions while the appeal is underway. The state already had released more than 30 sets of petitions, under terms of the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act.  The law makes no exemption for initiative and referendum petitions.

Protect Marriage Washington, part of a national alliance opposed to same-sex marriage, (more…)

Judge: Ruling on Doe v. Reed R-71 disclosure case in 2 weeks ?>

Judge: Ruling on Doe v. Reed R-71 disclosure case in 2 weeks

U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle says he will rule within two weeks on a request from gay-marriage foes that he permanently seal Referendum 71 petitions from public access.  Settle didn’t indicate how he will rule, but did say at one point from the bench Monday that the record submitted by challengers is “devoid” of direct evidence of harassment that could result if the petitions are released.

Katie Blinn, state co-director of elections, said following a hearing in Tacoma that she’s optimistic  Settle will rule in the Secretary of State’s favor and permit release of the 138,000 names of people who signed petitions more than two years ago to force a public vote on the state’s new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case called Doe v. Reed, ruled 8-1 last year that, as a general matter, releasing petitions doesn’t violate signers’ constitutional rights. But the court left open the possibility of an “as-applied” challenge to release of particular measures such as R-71.

As expected, Protect Marriage Washington, a group of anti-gay marriage activists who got the measure on the statewide ballot in 2009, headed back to Settle’s court to try to make the case for a permanent injunction against release under the Public Records Act.  Settle is the judge who originally blocked release of the petition sheets in the fall of 2009, citing constitutional grounds. He was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

The judge decided to read briefs from both sides and to hear from attorneys on Monday, but did not  conduct a full trial. James Bopp argued for the challengers, and Deputy Solicitor General (more…)

High court rejects challenge of campaign reporting law ?>

High court rejects challenge of campaign reporting law

Secretary of State Sam Reed welcomes the U.S. Supreme Court’s action today that upholds  Washington’s voter-approved campaign disclosure law.

Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office defended the Public Disclosure Commission, the agency that administers campaign finance disclosure laws, in a challenge brought by Human Life of Washington, a “pro-life,” anti-abortion group.  The organization challenged the state’s requirement for disclosure of donors of over $25 for or against ballot propositions – in their case, opposing Governor Gardner’s successful initiative on assisted suicide/”death with dignity” in 2008. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had also sided with the state’s position.

Secretary of State Sam Reed hailed today’s development:

“We in Washington have long valued transparency in our elections process, and we welcome the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary upholding our sensible requirements that allow us to know who is participating in our campaigns.  This does not violate the First Amendment rights of individuals or groups, but rather provides us all with useful information as we make important ballot-box decisions.

“The voters of Washington approved open public records and full campaign finance disclosure almost 40 years ago, as Initiative 276, and `sunshine’ in government and in our elections is part of our culture in this state.”

WA voters win court approval of Top 2 Primary ?>

WA voters win court approval of Top 2 Primary

Washington’s voter-approved Top 2 Primary system is constitutional, says U.S. District Judge John Coughenour.  The jurist, in an order that dismissed challenges brought by the political parties, ended a decade of litigation over the primary system.

Coughenour (pronounced Coo’-now-er) called it “this long-running saga over the form of political elections in Washington.”  Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna called it a major victory for the voters of Washington.

The court did, however, side with the parties on one issue, saying it is unconstitutional for the state to conduct precinct committee officer elections for the parties when the races are on a ballot available to all voters across the political spectrum.  The ruling apparently means the state is out of the PCO election business unless the Legislature devises some fallback system.

The judge’s surprise 24-page ruling came just a week before a full-blown trial was scheduled to begin in his Seattle courtroom.  The ruling also buttresses a system that has since been adopted by California voters.  The U.S. Supreme Court previously held 7-2 that the Top 2 system is, on its face, constitutional and does not violate parties’ First Amendment rights.

After the parties succeeded in having the state’s popular “blanket” primary thrown out, voters (more…)