Also in the P-I: “Anti-candidate ad backers must be named“.
It’s great to see the PDC acting so quickly. (To something.)
The article also goes into greater, connecting the anti-Senn attack ads to the state GOP. Tsk, tsk.
Perhaps I was premature. (Or maybe I helped nudge them into it?)
But after I admonished editorial boards this morning for their silence on the unprecedented $1.2 million smear campaign launched against AG candidate Deborah Senn, the Seattle P-I has shut me up with a strongly worded editorial: “Cowardly campaigning.”
Yet another strike in favor of keeping Seattle a two-newspaper town.
Where is the outrage?
A handful of well-connected GOP operatives are running $1.2 million worth of attack ads to knock Democratic AG frontrunner Deborah Senn out of the race. This unprecedented “independent expenditure” has changed the whole nature of Washington politics overnight, with nary a word from our solemn editorialists.
Suddenly, any powerful special interest with an axe to grind and money to burn can determine the outcome of a statewide election simply by drowning the candidates in a torrent of paid media. To put this in perspective, more money is being spent on a 10-day TV smear campaign than by all four AG candidates combined.
And thanks to the state GOP’s cynical manipulation of public disclosure laws, voters will have no idea where the money came from until well after the primary election.
Of course, we expect this from Republicans and their wealthy allies, so maybe that’s why the media doesn’t consider this big news — I suspect a similar campaign by Democratic operatives against Rob McKenna or Dino Rossi might attract more criticism. And of course, many editorial boards have endorsed her opponent, so why come to Senn’s defense?
But if this naked attempt to throw an election with unregulated money is allowed to stand unchallenged, it sets a terrible precedent for future elections for other statewide offices.
Perhaps timber and building interests will install an industry friendly Lands Commissioner by blowing a wad of cash on that low-profile office? Or maybe conservatives will pony up the bucks for a pro-voucher, pro-charter schools Superintendent of Public Instruction?
But the best value for smart special interest shoppers might just be packing our courts with partisan judges… races that traditionally can afford little if any paid media. A million dollars, strategically spent, could change the entire makeup of our State Supreme Court.
The editorial boards have apparently chosen to stay quiet, perhaps out of sympathy for the attack ads’ goals. But next time around, when they start screaming because one of their favorite candidates is getting gored, it will be too late.
Later this week I fully expect the Public Disclosure Commission to announce that they are launching an investigation into Tim Eyman and his various PACs, based on a complaint that we filed last week. How thorough an investigation remains to be seen, but I just don’t see how Tim can explain away the facts.
One of the interesting details of our complaint was the request that the investigation include Data Resources, Inc., the firm Eyman uses to produce his bulk mailings. We contend that a $26,000 expenditure from the I-864 campaign paid for a fundraising letter on behalf of Tim’s personal compensation PAC. The only way to truly prove or disprove this allegation is to subpoena the company’s records to learn the details of the June 18 expenditure, so we can learn what was actually mailed out, who it was sent to, and when the copy was received from Eyman.
But once the PDC starts investigating Data Resources, Inc., it may be hard to stop. The company seems to be involved in a number of other unreported or late-reported in-kind expenditures from one committee on behalf of another. And the incestuous ties between Data Resources, Inc., Tim Eyman and the gambling industry raise even more suspicions.
Data Resources, Inc. is owned by Vito Chiechi, one of the state’s most powerful and influential lobbyists. He and his daughters, Dolores and Maria, have made a career representing “sin” industries — such as alcohol and gambling — through their firm, Chiechi Associates.
Indeed, the lobbying arms of the gambling industry are little more than appendages of Chiechi Associates. Delores Chiechi succeeded her father as executive director of the Recreational Gaming Association, the gambling industry’s most vocal representative in Olympia. Maria Chiechi is on the staff of the Entertainment Industry Association (EIC) the organization that has for years been pushing the slot machine bill that became Initiative 892. The EIC’s executive director is Linda Matson, who is also a principal of Chiechi Associates. In fact, in public documents Matson’s email address often appears as “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
As you can see, the two powerful lobbying arms of the gambling industry are run out of Chiechi Associates, whose principals also own and operate Data Resources, Inc., a firm that over the years has consistently been one of the top vendors benefiting from Tim Eyman’s various campaigns… over $215,000 worth of business in the last two years alone!
So when the Chiechi’s instructed their clients in the gambling industry to funnel their money to Eyman in support of I-892, how much of this was a shrewd political calculation, and how much of this was payback for Tim’s steady business? Tim earned $50,000 in salary from I-892, and who knows how much more through his various other shenanigans.
And while I don’t have any hard evidence, I suspect there are other shenanigans. I’ve always been suspicious of the high price Tim’s committees pay Data Resources, Inc. for his mailings. He’s either supplementing his own list with a huge rented list (80,000?), or he is dramatically overpaying.
So, I’m curious… does Data Resources, Inc. or Chiechi Associates ever hire Tim as a “consultant”? Apart from dropping I-892 in his lap, what other favors have the Chiechi’s done for one of their best clients?
It’s a tangled web, I admit. Hopefully, the PDC can serve as a balance on the Chiechis.
This week an “anonymous”, “independent” committee stepped into the Democratic primary for attorney-general by launching a million dollar media campaign attacking front-runner Deborah Senn. I put those words in quotes because the committee is anything but independent, and despite elaborate efforts to maintain anonymity, these desperate and dishonest attack ads can clearly be traced back to the Washington State Republican Party.
In the spirit of the now infamous “Swift Boat” ads, the so-called “Voters Education Committee” (VEC) has attempted an end-run around state public disclosure laws by filing with the IRS as a 527 committee. To hide its identity, the VEC uses a rented mail-drop as a street address, and employs a domain name proxy service to hide its web site’s registered owners.
Even the name of the committee is deceptive, a transparent attempt to misdirect suspicion towards the similarly named “Voter Education Committee”, an organization founded under the auspices of Democratic political consultant Christian Sinderman, who now serves as an advisor to Senn’s primary opponent, Mark Sidran.
With an astounding total media buy of $1,170,000 during the final two weeks of the campaign, the VEC will outspend the four Democratic and GOP candidates combined. Not until long after the primary votes are counted will voters finally learn exactly who paid for this unprecedented smear campaign.
What we do know are the names of some of the GOP operatives behind the VEC: attorney John White, director Bruce Boram, and Valerie Huntsberry who filed the IRS paperwork.
John White is an attorney for the Washington State Republican Party, representing them numerous times before the Public Disclosure Commission. He is an expert on the intricacies of state and federal disclosure laws, and has cynically used his expertise to conceal the identity of the VEC’s financial backers.
Bruce Boram is Executive Director of United for Washington, a state-wide PAC representing business interests, whose board includes a Who’s Who of GOP insiders and conservative money-men (KCGOP Chair Patricia Herbold, BIAW Director Patrick Conner, uber-developer and self-serving initiative financier Kemper Freeman, etc.) Mr. Boram is a longtime GOP political consultant, currently serving as manager and spokesman for Dave Reichert’s campaign for the vacant 8th District congressional seat.
Valerie Huntsberry is Associate Director of United for Washington, and currently serves as Secretary of the King County Republican Party.
The VEC’s Republican bona fides are indisputable. But until we learn the identity of those funding this unprecedented attempt of one party to so lavishly influence the primary election of another, their strategy will be harder to discern.
Perhaps this is merely political payback from an insurance industry still bitter over Senn’s indefatigable defense of consumers during her term as insurance commissioner? Or perhaps the GOP views Senn’s primary victory as inevitable, and has started softening her up for the general election?
Or just maybe… the GOP would simply prefer to face Sidran?
Senn clearly has a huge advantage in statewide name recognition over all the other candidates, and by eliminating her, the GOP puts their candidate on a more equal footing. I don’t have access to any polls, but I’m guessing their internal numbers show McKenna or Vaska vs Sidran to be a helluva lot closer than either vs Senn.
And even if they are underestimating Sidran as a candidate — and I believe they are — the VEC’s backers still come out ahead. Sidran, with his strong support of Seattle’s controversial “civility laws,” the unpopular “car impound law” and the unconstitutional “poster ban”, is by far the more conservative of the two Democrats, and thus much more acceptable to business interests. So knocking out Senn is a win-win situation.
Look, I like Mark Sidran. He’s smart, he’s competent, he’s funny… he’s exactly the kind of moderate Republican I could see myself voting for in a general election. But in a Democratic primary an equally qualified Deborah Senn deserves the edge for her unchallenged advocacy of consumer rights, and her clear stance as, well… a Democrat.
Over one million dollars of “independent” expenditures in a primary tells you how important this race really is, and if I had any doubt about who to vote for, it’s been totally erased by the GOP-backed VEC’s disgraceful smear campaign. Deborah Senn is obviously feared by powerful business interests, and for that alone she deserves the job.
The VEC fat-cats clearly have more than enough money to defend their interests… I’m voting for an attorney-general who will defend mine.
Yeah, well, Tim Eyman’s chalked up another legal victory of sorts: “Judge puts two versions of Initiative 18 on ballot“. Though for the life of me, I can’t understand how a Snohomish County resident has the standing to go to a Snohomish County court and sue the King County Council.
I’ve written a lot about how thirst for money drives Tim’s political agenda, but his response to the ruling highlights another major motivation behind his political activities… personal vengeance.
“I’m just absolutely euphoric over this ruling,” he said. “Not only do you get a win but you get to rub the Cadillac council’s nose in it.”
Yeah Tim… public policy should be driven by your sick need to rub politician’s noses in it. Like all bullies, this says a lot more about your anxiety over your own personal inadequacies than it says about your opponents.
Give Tim his little legal victories. Because when I-892 goes down to defeat in November, it will be two years and counting since he’s had an all important electoral victory at the polls.
Thanks to HorsesAss.org reader Jon for pointing me towards CNNMoney’s “City-by-city Tax Burdens.” Based on a recently issued annual survey conducted by the District of Columbia, the article ranks the largest city in each state by average state and local tax burden (average taxes as a percentage of average income.)
Scroll down the list — way down — and you’ll find Seattle bringing up the rear in 41st place, with an average 6.5% tax burden.
Tim Eyman is fond of saying that “Seattle’s never met a tax they didn’t like,” but apparently we haven’t met too many taxes. As Jon suggests, this is one tax statistic you won’t hear Timmy talking about.
Of course these numbers are just averages, and tax burden on Seattle’s poorest households are as much as three times higher. But it’s a useful measuring stick to see where we compare to others.
Unlike most of my well-researched, carefully thought out commentaries on important issues of the day, this colorfully worded rant actually sparked a number of comments, pro and con. So in the interest of promoting the public debate, I thought I’d point out a contrary opinion from KOMO curmudgeon Ken Shram: “The Bigger Butts are Airline Executives“.
Ken suggests the airlines deserve the blame for giving us only 17 inches of space in a coach seat, saying he’s fed up with airlines “shoehorning passengers into smaller and smaller seats.”
I had actually considered this angle, but dismissed it based on simple geometry. Most of the jetliners in service today are configured with three coach seats on either side of an aisle. While airlines can adjust available leg space by adding or subtracting a row or two, the only way to increase seat space is to subtract an entire column.
Thus it seems unlikely that the airlines have been shrinking seat width, as there is nothing to gain but a wider aisle; the number of seats per row has certainly not changed.
Perhaps what we need is a new “Plus Class” where a “three and two” configuration could provide coach class service in a wider seat, for a 20% premium. But my guess is that consumers’ preference for low-cost airlines is far greater than their desire for comfortable seating.
I haven’t spent any time talking about it, but for Seattle voters, the September 14 primary also includes a very important ballot measure, the Families and Education Levy. In a guest column today in The Seattle Times, the United Way’s David Okimoto makes a strong case for renewing the Levy: “Invest in the children and Seattle’s future“.
One of the Levy’s primary goals is providing adequate pre-school and daycare programs, so that our city’s children are prepared to learn by the time they start school. This is exactly the sort of wise and farsighted measure that Tim Eyman ridicules when he says “Seattle’s never met a tax they didn’t like.”
While I have faith that the state will eventually pass the kind of structural tax reform that Ron Sims is proposing — thus making adequate state funding of K-12 education possible — Seattle voters don’t need to wait for the rest of the state to act. Passing the Famlies and Education Levy is something we can do now to improve education for all our children.
Please turn out on September 14, and vote YES.
Of the various Washington state party insiders and elected officials doing upside-down margaritas at the Republican National Convention, by far the best known is Tim Eyman.
Yes, Tim likes to sell himself as a maverick man-of-the-people, selflessly fighting the political establishment, but the truth be told, he is the political establishment. No other Washington politician is more widely quoted, better known, or higher paid. And the state GOP has rewarded Tim’s efforts on behalf of the party by sending him to the big bash in NYC.
Make no mistake, this is not an easy ticket to snag. Only the innermost party insiders are appointed delegates. And Tim is amongst innermost of the innermost party insiders.
Tim’s always jawboning about the need to keep politicians accountable, and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why we filed a PDC complaint against Tim and his committees, and that’s why I’m confident the PDC will announce next week that they’ll be launching an investigation.
So enjoy the party, Tim. You’ve got a hangover waiting on your return.
On a more serious note, I’d like to point you towards an excellent editorial in The New York Times: “Abolish the Electoral College”
The Electoral College is a silly, historical vestige that has long outlived its purpose. I remain convinced that had Bush won the popular vote by half a million, yet lost the election, the Electoral College would have been quickly abolished.
I’m going to take a break from my customary Tim bashing, political commentary and tempered media criticism to weigh in on a news item that touches upon one of my pet peeves: “Woman sues airline for humiliation over her weight“.
There have been quite a few similar stories over the past couple years about super-sized passengers angered and humiliated by airline employees who suggest — or require — that they buy a second seat. I don’t want to come across as insensitive to the needs of the avoirdupois-challenged, but speaking as someone of modest girth who flies cross-country three or four times a year, I applaud the airlines for finally acting on behalf of us boney-assed fellow travelers.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been seated next to a person whose buttocks were bigger than their seat cushion. They have for the most part been pleasant people, but while I don’t mind passing the time sharing conversation, I deeply resent being forced to share my allotted space. The laws of physics being what they are, I have at times involuntarily surrendered as much as a quarter of my seat to the stowaway in my neighbor’s thighs.
Since I usually travel with my young, window-gazing daughter, I am invariably seated in the middle. Fortunately I can usually flee encroachment by lifting the armrest between us, and sharing the combined space with my daughter’s cute little tuchis.
However last fall, while traveling alone, I happened to witness a brief confrontation between a ticket agent and a particularly wide-bodied, late arriving passenger. It was a full flight, and the agent meekly urged the passenger to switch to a later flight where she could be “better accommodated.” She tersely refused.
As luck would have it, she was given a middle seat… next to me.
Now I’m not exaggerating: her ingress and egress was only possible by lifting both armrests, which during flight were clamped backed down on slabs of gluteus overflowus like animals caught in a trap. For five and a half hours I was forced to share my seat with one her hypoxic appendages, which I imagined turning blue and lifeless by the time we arrived at the gate.
Her discomfort was clearly greater than mine, but my empathy was tempered by how unapologetic she was by her intrusion. I was seated on the aisle, and on boarding she asked if I would switch seats with her, “for obvious reasons.” For equally obvious reasons, I declined.
So each time she struggled in or out, she made a point of turning towards me and grumbling about how they made the seats “too narrow.” I desperately wanted to retort, “No, you made your ass too wide”, but held my tongue for fear she would lift the armrest in retaliation, unleashing a flood of cyanotic adipose in my direction.
It must be humiliating to be publicly told that your haunch is too large to fit in a single seat, but what is the alternative? Few gates could accommodate a separate sound-proofed “fat room”, and I’m not sure that would draw less attention. Or perhaps the airlines should strictly adopt the cartoon-character measuring posts long used at amusement parks? (“Your ass must be smaller than Barney’s to ride.”)
There are now several lawsuits accusing airlines of discrimination, but this is more about geometry than bigotry. If the seat of your pants is wider than the seat on the airplane, you simply do not fit. It may be embarrassing to be asked to purchase a second ticket; it may even be a substantial financial burden. But it is unfair to your seat-mate to cram yourself in regardless. I pay for my seat, and I have no obligation to share it, regardless of whether my scrawny ass actually fills its dimensions. Besides, when it comes to airplane comfort, whatever spatial advantage I might gain from my boney bottom is surely offset by its lack of adequate padding.
Perhaps my comments are unduly cruel, but I prefer to think of my position on this issue as rather nuanced. I myself have several friends and family members with whom I could not sit comfortably on a long flight (although admittedly with some, it has nothing to do with their size.) So I hope this is not perceived as an attack on fat people.
What it is an attack on is the failure of some people to recognize that one’s unfettered personal freedom ends at the point where it infringes on the personal freedom of others.
So in an odd sort of way, I guess today’s blog might be about politics after all… about that delicate balance between individual liberty and obligation to society that is at the core of much of our political debate. Or more bluntly, about the everyday competition over scarce resources. Or maybe it’s just about tort reform.
Oh what the hell… it’s about how incredibly uncomfortable it is to have a really fat person sit next to me on an airplane. Can’t a guy just vent sometimes?
I want to make one thing perfectly clear about the PDC complaint we filed:
Tim Eyman is lying to contributors when he says he is not compensated from initiative campaign funds.
This is indisputable. Our exhaustive (and exhausting) investigation of his public disclosure reports found $12,219.45 of reported in-kind contributions from Voters Want More Choices (VWMC) to Help Us Help Taxpayers (HUHT). These in-kind contributions to Tim’s personal compensation PAC have the same result as directly writing Tim a check, thus knocking down the financial wall between the two committees.
Our complaint alleges that there are tens of thousands of dollars of additional unreported in-kind contributions, including over $26,000 for printing and mailing expenses in June of 2004. Indeed, it appears that HUHT’s entire operations have been subsidized by I-864 campaign funds.
The exact numbers will only be learned after a thorough PDC investigation, but the evidence suggests it could be upwards of $50,000. Tim may believe you can run a government on vapors, but fundraising campaigns cost money. A two-color mailing so large that it included me, does not come free — and by failing to report it, Tim is obviously hiding something.
Tim’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar once again. And I’ve got to believe that, at some point, his contributors will send him to bed without any dessert.
In an email to supporters and the media, Timmy responded in typical Eymanesque fashion:
Here we go again with our opponents’ latest slime attack. I’ve reviewed their complaint and it’s filled with lies. We’ve bent-over-backwards to comply with the PDC’s reporting requirements and we’ll work with them to answer any questions they have.
Yeah. Well, if Timmy’s not careful he might find himself “bent-over” in the opposite direction in the shower of a federal prison… because our complaint is filled with facts, and quite compelling ones at that:
A) In early July we received a fundraising letter from Help Us Help Taxpayers (HUHT).
B) HUHT did not report a corresponding expenditure for printing and postage.
C) Voters Want More Choices (VWMC) did report a $26,305.72 expenditure for printing and postage on June 18, to Data Resources, Inc., the vendor that does all their bulk mailings.
D) We did not receive a mailing in June or July from VWMC, even though we had received the previous three mailings in 2004, all within one to three weeks of the reported expenditure date.
That alone is reason enough to investigate whether the July HUHT mailing was paid for by the June VWMC expenditure. And our suspicions are backed up by HUHT’s and VWMC’s prior history.
In July, August, September and October of 2003, VWMC misreported postage and mailing expenditures (again to Data Resources, Inc.), only to restate them as in-kind contributions to HUHT in amended returns filed in December. In fact, not only has HUHT never reported any fundraising costs, it has managed to operate for an entire year — raising over $160,000 — all on less than $50 in total expenditures!
An unbelievable return on investment.
In fact, it appears that HUHT’s operations are entirely subsidized by VWMC. VWMC has already reported over $12,000 of in-kind contributions, and we suspect that the true number is much, much higher. Hell… HUHT doesn’t even report its own bank fees!
And here’s the interesting thing… it’s not illegal for one PAC to contribute to another, as long as the two committees promptly and accurately report it. So why risk running afoul of PDC reporting requirements for what would otherwise be a legal transaction?
To maintain the appearance that he was not being compensated from I-864 money.
Think about it. Any in-kind contribution to HUHT offsets an expense that would otherwise reduce the funds available to pay “Tim, Mike, and Jack.” So in effect, any in-kind contribution from VWMC is money in their personal bank accounts. That’s just plain math.
Yet Tim has clearly tried to establish the perception of a wall between VWMC and HUHT, promising contributors that funds will not be mixed. Indeed, most of his fundraising emails during the I-864 campaign included the following pledge:
Voluntary donations to the 25% Property Tax Initiative will be used to qualify this important tax reduction initiative for the ballot. A different political action committee, ‘Help Us Help Taxpayers,’ raises money for a compensation fund for Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan for their effective political work on behalf of taxpayers. These two campaign committees are kept separate and donations and expenditures for each fund are publicly reported every month.
And that’s where our allegation of conspiracy to commit fraud comes in, because whatever the actual dollar amount that was effectively transferred from VWMC to HUHT, there is no denying that it occurred. And thus Tim’s repeated claim that he was not being compensated from campaign funds is a lie.
And a blatant lie at that. Tim solicited contributions for VWMC right up until the signature deadline, promising that contributions would be used to qualify I-864 for the ballot. But he had clearly given up on the initiative as early as June 2, when he pulled petitions from the signature gathering firms.
Eyman was soliciting funds he had no intention of spending on I-864.
You want confirmation? Well, all the PDC has to do is subpoena Data Resources, Inc. and find out when they received the copy for HUHT’s early July mailing. These things take lead time, and I bet you dollars to doughnuts the copy was written well before the last fundraising email. So if Eyman was still fighting to qualify I-864 for the ballot, explain this:
Everyone knows that if it were on the ballot, it would pass… So if it’s so popular, why didn’t it qualify? We didn’t raise enough money in the short period of time available.
That’s I-864 he’s talking about, in that early July HUHT letter, that was expensed on June 18.
Eyman knew that I-864 wouldn’t qualify for the ballot. Eyman stopped paying signature gatherers for I-864. Eyman spent $26,000 of I-864 money to send a fundraising letter for HUHT. And yet Eyman continued to solicit contributions with the explicit pledge that all funds would be used to qualify I-864 for the ballot.
That is fraud.
Tim is understandably pissed at us for filing our PDC complaint. He should just be thankful we didn’t file a RICO suit.
I’ll blog in more detail on this later today, but we just filed a PDC complaint against Tim Eyman and his various PACs, and this one’s a doozy.
Amongst the many allegations is that during the final weeks of the I-864 signature drive, at a time he was agressively soliciting contributions for the initiative, he secretly used over $26,000 of campaign funds to finance a fundraising letter for his personal compensation PAC! And there’s more… lots more.
Read the complaint for yourself and see what a lying, thieving, blowhard Tim really is.