Opponents of Initiative 1631, the carbon fee, say they’re proud to have the support of over 100 Latino small businesses. The No campaign sent out a bilingual mailer in recent weeks, listing those companies and laying out their main arguments against the proposal.
But carbon fee supporters say they’re hearing from several on the list that were surprised to be included in the ads.
Javier Torres is the owner of Tienda Mi Ranchito, a Mexican market in Seattle’s Rainier Valley. On Monday, he found out his store was on a list of businesses opposing the carbon fee Initiative 1631 – a measure he actually supports.
“Enrique came and he told me, your name is on the list…I said, what list? I didn’t…” Torres said, trailing off.
He says he does remember signing something about the grocery tax initiative. But he didn’t even know about the carbon fee until this week. And no one said anything about using his name on a campaign ad.
“They should have explained more to me, what was it,” he said.
His daughter, Andrea Gutierrez, works with him at their family-run market. She and her father hosted a press conference in their store to help get the word out.
“I do think it’s wrong,” she said. “We were not told… we were not informed of anything and there was no explanation.”
They were joined by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has endorsed the initiative in TV ads, and community organizers who helped craft the initiative, ensuring there are provisions in the proposed law to benefit communities of color and lower-income groups.
The Yes on I-1631 campaign says they've heard from at least a dozen other companies like Mi Ranchito with similar stories. They’ve filed a complaint with the state's Public Disclosure Commission, alleging campaign violations on the use of endorsements.
Ferguson urged the PDC to move quickly to investigate.
“I’m not sure how low a campaign can go, but this is pretty low,” he said.
Meanwhile, the No campaign says each and every business or individual listed in its materials has provided a signed statement opposing the initiative, with clear language that also gives authorization to list them as part of their coalition.
“We are appalled the Yes campaign has chosen to harass and vilify businesses and individuals who have spoken out against I-1631,” said coalition spokeswoman Dana Bieber in a statement.
The PDC has 90 days to assess the complaint and decide whether it warrants investigation. If the agency finds wrongdoing under Washington law, it can levy fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Washington's I-1631 is now the costliest ballot measure in state history, with spending from the no side now topping $31 million, financed primarily by big oil companies. The yes campaign has more than $15 million, backed by major environmental groups and philanthropists.