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A public show of support: Blue ribbons thank healthcare workers

WENATCHEE — Blue ribbons — the color of scrubs — are appearing on trees, bushes, porches, in store windows and on cars and lapels across the community, each sending a “thank you” to health care workers who have been battling on the COVID-19 frontline for the past year.

A group of public information officers and local business organizations are promoting the Blue Ribbon Campaign, encouraging residents, businesses, youth groups and nonprofit organizations to join the effort.

“It’s as easy as tying a blue ribbon around a tree at your home, or putting a blue ribbon card in your home, business or office window,” Chelan County Public Works spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons said in a press release about the effort. “It’s been a long year for our health care community. Let’s say thanks to those who have been there for us since the start of the COVID pandemic with this public showing of support.”

Ribbon campaigns, sending community-wide messages, have a history. Pink ribbons acknowledge the fight against breast cancer. Yellow ribbons, which have long been associated with a remembrance of loved ones, were tied on trees and wreaths in the 1980s in support of the American hostages in Iran and later in honor of soldiers serving in the Persian Gulf War. More recently, in the early 2000s, they were used to honor military members and their families.

Now, in the fight against COVID, it’s blue’s time to shine.

The idea has been swirling since last fall, FitzSimmons said, mentioned in a video by Dr. Malcolm Butler and then by Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shiloh Burgess.

A group of public information officers, who work for various local government agencies, continued the discussion during a December Zoom call.

This past week, they started putting up ribbons in their own communities, at medical facilities, parks and their own agencies.

“We are hoping this sparks something in our community, where citizens and other groups will join in,” she said.

The idea is the ribbons will be displayed through April.

She isn’t sure how many ribbons have appeared so far.

“I do know my daughter and I put up 2.5 rolls of ribbon at Central Washington Hospital this past Sunday,” she said. “I’ve been distributing ribbon to local PIOs, who plan to have ribbon up in their areas in the next week.”

She said blue “flagger” ribbon is available at local hardware stores, which will work for exterior displays, exposed to the weather. It’s also available online. Fabric stores also have ribbon that would work for interior displays.

For those who don’t have ribbon, the county’s website, co.chelan.wa.us, has a link to download a blue ribbon card that can be placed in a window.

The NCW Community Foundation’s Hug in A Mug campaign also is continuing, with community members invited to write thank you notes and donate gift cards from local businesses that will be delivered to healthcare workers. For details on that campaign, go to cfncw.org/HUGS.

Photos: This icing not so sweet

Tim Eyman barred from controlling political committees

OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman, who for two decades has been Washington state’s most prolific conservative activist and political provocateur, committed “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law, a judge ruled Wednesday, as he barred Eyman from controlling the finances of political committees in the future.

The verdict, in a years-long case in Thurston County Superior Court, could bring an end to Eyman’s years of running anti-tax initiatives that have had outsize influence on the finances of state and local governments.

“Mr. Eyman’s violations had a significant and material impact on the public,” Judge James Dixon ruled. “Mr. Eyman has personally benefited economically from these allegations.”

Dixon barred Eyman from “managing, controlling, negotiating, or directing financial transactions” for any kind of political committee.

Dixon issued a fine of more than $2.6 million. Dixon ruled that Eyman himself is a continuing political committee, under the definition in state law, and should have been filing monthly campaign finance reports for years. Eyman was 2,975 days late in filing reports, as of the start of the trial, Dixon said.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who brought the lawsuit against Eyman, had sought $7.8 million in penalties and also to permanently bar Eyman from controlling the finances of political committees. Ferguson said Wednesday that the $2.6 million fine is the largest in state history for an individual’s campaign finance violations.

Dixon read the verdict from the bench Wednesday, speaking slowly and methodically for about 40 minutes. In a sort of preamble, he seemed to try to rebut Eyman’s arguments that the trial was unfair. Eyman, Wednesday morning, said Dixon would “rubberstamp” Ferguson’s arguments.

“This court has remained at all times,” Dixon said, “calm and reflective and has respectfully declined to the sometimes not so subtle invitations to join the contentious nature of the case.”

He acknowledged that “this case involves politics,” but said “it is the obligation of the court to apply the facts to the law.”

“This court means no ill will to Mr. Eyman,” he said.

As Dixon read his verdict, Eyman sat, wearing a red long-sleeve T-shirt featuring a cartoon stork and the caption “Persistence, never give up.” He was largely still, his head frequently slumped.

Eyman was charged with laundering political donations to enrich himself; accepting kickbacks from a signature-gathering firm; secretly shuttling money between initiative campaigns; and concealing the source of other political contributions.

“In the history of Fair Campaign Practices Act enforcement, it would be difficult for the Court to conceive of a case with misconduct that is more egregious or more extensive than the misconduct committed by Defendant Eyman in this matter,” Ferguson wrote in a pre-trial filing.

Ferguson, after the verdict, said that “Eyman’s day of reckoning has arrived.”

“Today’s ruling is clear — Eyman’s conduct was illegal and intentional,” he wrote in a prepared statement. The judge’s sanctions, he said, “will not prevent Eyman from conceiving, drafting and promoting initiatives. It will, however, stop his practice of directing financial kickbacks into his personal bank account.”

During a trial that began in November and continued, sporadically, into December and January, Eyman’s lawyer argued that all campaign money was properly reported and that if there were flaws in reporting, they were not Eyman’s responsibility.

“The sole duty to report, under the statute, is that of the treasurer,” Richard Sanders, Eyman’s lawyer and a former state Supreme Court justice said in his closing argument. “Mr. Eyman has no duty to report anything and is legally prohibited from reporting anything. Therefore he cannot be liable if something is misreported by the treasurer.”

Sanders had also argued that barring Eyman from controlling the finances of political committees would be an infringement on his First Amendment rights.

But Dixon disagreed. The ruling, Dixon said, “does not stop Mr. Eyman from doing what Mr. Eyman wants to do.”

“He just has to comply with the law,” Dixon said. “He has to comply with the provisions of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. And he hasn’t.”

After the court hearing, Eyman, called the ruling against him “unprecedented” but said he would continue his political activism, while attempting to follow the restrictions imposed.

“Like you’re a political committee but you can’t participate in the decision-making of a political committee, how does that work?” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a truly bizarre, goofy kind of thing.”

About the multi-million dollar fine, he was resigned, saying it “almost doesn’t matter.”

”Why not make it $26 million, they’ve already taken, the entire process has already taken, everything I’ve got,” he said.

The case has been a long time coming.

Many of the charges mirror a similar case that Eyman apologized for in 2002, after it was revealed he’d lied about paying himself from initiative donor funds. He paid $55,000 in fines and was banned from serving as treasurer of a political committee.

This case stems from a 2012 investigation by the state’s campaign finance watchdog, the Public Disclosure Commission. The case was referred to Ferguson in 2015, and he filed charges in 2017.

In the meantime, Eyman was held in contempt of court for two years for refusing to cooperate with the lawsuit against him, and he paid more than $300,000 in resulting fines.

In 2018, Eyman filed for bankruptcy, claiming that the legal fees and potential fines from the state’s lawsuit against him had crippled his finances.

Last year, Dixon ruled Eyman had concealed nearly $800,000 in payments that should have been reported over the course of at least seven years.

Eyman has spent decades running initiatives to lower taxes and advance conservative policies in Washington. While he has not always been successful at the ballot box and in court, he has had a profound impact on the state’s politics and on the budgets of Washington’s cities and counties.

But along the way, Ferguson alleged, Eyman ran roughshod over state laws that require political campaigns to be open about the sources of their funding.

Among many specific instances, Ferguson pointed to a 2010 email from Eyman to Citizen Solutions, the signature-gathering firm he frequently worked with. The email said Eyman had agreed to pay $2 per signature that the firm collected to get one of his initiatives on the ballot, but that he was “doing his best” to raise money at a rate of $2.50 per signature.

His goal, Eyman wrote, was to “pay Citizen Solutions the agreed upon $2 per sig plus $150,000 so that you have an extra $150,000 to provide to me.”

Ferguson cited an email in which Eyman asked his accountant about tax requirements for financial gifts. He was told that a person could give each member of Eyman’s family up to $13,000 without telling the IRS.

A few months later, Ferguson alleged, after Eyman’s company had paid Citizen Solutions more than $1 million for signature gathering, two officials with Citizen Solutions paid Eyman, his wife and their three minor children $86,000, all in checks below the $13,000 threshold.

Dixon previously found Citizen Solutions violated the law and ordered the firm and its principal, William Agazarm, pay more than $1 million in fines for funneling money to Eyman.

Wednesday afternoon, after the verdict, Eyman emailed a link to his political committee, Permanent Offense.

”Tomorrow, it will be amended and my name will be removed,” he said, “the rest will remain the same.”

Impeachment trial
House prosecutors methodically lay out evidence against Trump in impeachment trial

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With graphic footage of the the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and repeated use of former President Donald Trump’s own words, House impeachment managers laid out their case Wednesday, accusing him of engaging in a “deliberate, planned and premeditated” effort to incite a mob to attack Congress.

The riot was foreseeable and intentional, House prosecutors said. In the words of one of the impeachment managers, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., it came about because “President Donald J. Trump ran out of nonviolent options to maintain power.”

The prosecutors capped their arguments with previously unseen footage from Capitol security cameras and police body cameras, showing how close the mob came to catching members of Congress during the attack. One video showed Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and his security detail evacuating up a hallway in the Capitol complex, then abruptly turning and scrambling the other way after officers realized they were heading toward the mob.

Another showed Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman stopping Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who was running down a Capitol hallway in the wrong direction toward the rioters. A few moments later, Goodman diverted rioters away from the Senate chamber, an act for which he has been widely hailed as a hero.

Romney told reporters that he learned only during the video presentation that Goodman was the officer who may have saved his life. The two were later seen by reporters talking on the Senate floor.

The rioters “were just feet away from one of the doors of this chamber, where many of you remained at that time,” House Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands told senators as she presented the video.

During the opening minutes of the attack, Vice President Mike Pence, who had been evacuated from the Senate chamber, was in a room less than 100 feet from the attackers, Plaskett said as she played videos of rioters shouting, “Hang Mike Pence.”

The day’s arguments, and the video testimony in particular, served two purposes: reminding senators of how much Trump’s incitement of the mob put them and their staffs in personal danger, and shaping how the wider public sees the dramatic events.

Within the Senate, the video clearly had an impact. Earlier in the afternoon, some senators had read paperwork or doodled on notebooks as House impeachment managers spoke, but during the video presentations, many stared intently at the screens set up in the chamber.

“It was extremely quiet. You could have heard a pin drop,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said.

“The House managers are making a very strong case,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said when the Senate recessed for dinner after seeing the videos. “The evidence that has been presented thus far is pretty damning.”

The evidence may not persuade enough Republican senators to change their minds and convict Trump. But whether he is convicted or not, Murkowski said, the effect on public opinion will be strong.

“After the American people sees the full story laid out here,” she said, “I don’t see how Donald Trump could be reelected to the presidency again.”

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 2 Senate Republican, similarly complimented the prosecutors’ case.

“They’ve done a good job connecting the dots,” he said. “I think they were very effective. I’ll see what kind of arguments that defense puts up. But, yeah, I’m going to listen and draw conclusions when it’s all done.”

Trump’s defense attorney Bruce Castor insisted, however, that the House arguments had not changed the basics of the case.

“We know a mob breached the Capitol and wreaked havoc in the building,” he said. “I’m waiting for them to connect that up to President Trump, and so far that hasn’t happened,” he said.

Many Republican senators said they are sticking with their position that the Senate lacks authority under the Constitution to try Trump because he no longer holds office. The Senate on Tuesday rejected that position 56-44.

Seventeen Republican senators would have to vote against Trump to convict him, assuming all 48 Democrats and the two independents that caucus with them also vote to convict, as seems likely. Currently the number of Republicans open to a vote against Trump appears to be fewer than half that number.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he spoke with Trump on Tuesday night and stressed to him that enough Republican senators would stick with him to guarantee an acquittal.

“I reinforced to the (former) president, the case is over. It’s just a matter of getting the final verdict now,” Graham said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, visibly shaken after watching the videos, expressed anger at the GOP stand.

“I want to say to the Republicans, ‘How do you live with yourself after watching all this if you’re not going to convict the guy?’”

She said she hadn’t been aware how close the mob came to the senators while they were evacuated.

Impeachment managers, who said they had not given up hope of persuading some additional Republicans to vote to convict, pursued two main lines of argument in addition to the emotional impact of the videos.

First, they sought to rebut the main legal defense mounted by Trump’s lawyers: that the president’s speech on the day of the riot, along with his other remarks, cannot be punished because his words are protected by the First Amendment.

The House prosecutors argued to the contrary, saying what Trump said and did specifically incited violence.

The chief impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., in his speech opening the prosecution case, referred to a famous comment by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. that the Constitution did not protect a person who falsely shouted “fire” in a crowded theater.

“This case is much worse,” Raskin said. “It’s more like a case where the town fire chief who’s paid to put out fires sends a mob not to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, but to actually set the theater on fire” and then do nothing to put out the flames.

Second, the prosecutors sought to depict Trump’s remarks as part of an overall plan, starting months before the election, to prepare his supporters for violence in case he lost the vote.

“President Trump cannot say, ‘I didn’t know what I was inciting,’” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said. Trump’s actions were a “deliberate, planned and premeditated” effort.

“Just like a fire doesn’t begin with the flames, Donald Trump for months and months assembled the tinder, the kindling, threw on logs for fuel,” he said. He “was ready if he lost the election to light the match.”

Even on the day of the riot, Trump had the power — and a legal duty — to try to stop the violence by his supporters but failed to act, Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., said. “He alone had that power,” Neguse said. The rioters “believed they were following his orders.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, showed video of leaders of the riot reading Trump’s Twitter statements through bullhorns to egg on the crowd, especially one tweet that criticized Pence. Trump could have tweeted an order to stop the violence, Castro said, instead “he left everyone in this Capitol for dead.”

The impeachment managers also repeatedly depicted Trump as having crossed lines that other elected officials would not — an effort to convince Republicans that they can separate themselves from him.

“All of us in this room have run for election, and it’s no fun to lose,” Castro said. But, he said, elected officials know that when they lose, they have to accept the will of the voters, which Trump refused to do.

“What our commander in chief did was wildly different from what anyone here in this room did to raise election concerns,” Swalwell said.

In laying out their case, the impeachment managers’ immediate target is the senators sitting in front of them, evenly divided by party.

But Democrats know that, beyond the Senate, the arguments and, in particular, the video evidence, can reach a broader public. Democratic campaign committees have invested heavily in an effort to convince voters that Trump and the Republicans who support him have sided with extremists. Further evidence of Trump’s complicity in the riot will reinforce that connection in voters’ minds, Democratic strategists believe.

That approach may already be succeeding, at least to some extent. Polling by Gallup released Wednesday showed that public support for the Republican Party had dropped since November, largely because a slice of people who used to identify as Republicans now have a negative view of the party.

Democrats said Wednesday that the impeachment managers were realistic about the political barriers they faced but still optimistic.

“We believe in the power and the strength of the overwhelming evidence in this case,” said a Democratic aide who briefed reporters before the day’s session. “And we believe that that evidence still has the power to persuade reluctant Republicans who were just now waking up from the grip of the former president.”

Barbed wire surrounds the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol on the second day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial on Wednesday.

Relief is on the way for state's strapped COVID-19 vaccine rollout

SEATTLE — As Washington closes in on 1 million COVID-19 shots administered, the state is finally able to plan vaccinations more than one week in advance, health officials said Wednesday.

For the first time, the federal government is forecasting vaccine allocations three weeks ahead of time, eliminating what has been a vexing, weekly scramble to match supply and demand, said Michele Roberts, acting assistant health secretary.

“This will help us develop a multi-week strategy to help with consistency and predictability, which will help both the providers on the ground and all of the public who are looking for places to be vaccinated,” she said in a news briefing.

The federal government has also told states to expect increased vaccine shipments “in the coming weeks and months,” Roberts added. A third vaccine — Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot regimen — could be available as early as next month if the FDA grants emergency use authorization later this month, as expected.

There’s also work underway to streamline the often-clunky systems used to determine eligibility for the vaccine and schedule appointments, said state Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah. The goal is to make the process clearer and easier and avoid situations like one that played out recently in Wenatchee.

A state-run mass vaccination clinic at the Town Toyota Center sent out notices that it had vaccine available. The response was great, but unfortunately the online-scheduling system allowed younger people who don’t yet qualify for the shots to enroll and essentially jump the line.

Local health officials said they would turn away unqualified people — but the snafu underscored the type of muddled communications and technical problems people are experiencing across the state as they search for an open slot.

The health department is working with Microsoft and other private sector partners to better integrate the state’s Phase Finder tool, which helps people determine whether they qualify for the shots, with some of the systems being used to set up appointments, Shah said.

“We’re not there yet, but we certainly are working to get there,” he said.

In the meantime, with vaccine still in very short supply, appointments remain hard to come by. This week, providers requested almost 450,000 doses, but received only about 200,000 from the federal government.

The state is averaging about 27,000 doses a day — roughly the same as last week, and still far below its target of 45,000 shots a day.

The Phase 1B category — which includes everyone 65 and older and people 50 and older who live in multigenerational households — totals almost 1.7 million people, which translates into 3.4 million doses that must be administered before moving on to the next phases.

Local vaccine supplies are getting at least a small boost from a Biden administration initiative to deliver vaccine directly to pharmacies. Three chains in Washington — Costco, Safeway/Albertson and Health Mart Independent Pharmacies — are collectively scheduled to receive 22,500 injections this week. That allocation does not come out of the state’s federal vaccine supply, Roberts said.

With preliminary data suggesting Hispanic and Black communities are not receiving equal access to vaccines despite bearing a disproportionate level of infection and disease, strategies to improve equity are a high priority for the state, Shah said.

Approaches include setting aside 20% of vaccine appointments at the state’s four mass-vaccination clinics for people who prefer to make appointments by phone, rather than online, said Paj Nandi, DOH director of community relations & equity.

Other efforts include prioritizing vaccine supply for providers in underserved communities and working with local groups and leaders to address concerns over the safety of vaccines and long-standing mistrust of government and health systems. For example, the state recently contracted with The Black Lens, an independent community publication in Spokane, to produce a radio show featuring Black leaders addressing vaccine hesitancy.

“There’s no one single strategy that is going to turn the course on inequities,” Nandi said.

To clear up confusion over second doses, DOH also reached out to providers late last week, clarifying that administering boosters takes priority over first shots, Roberts added. “That might mean using first-dose supplies to vaccinate people who need second doses,” she said. “We are committed to ensuring there is a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine for everyone who has received their first dose.”