The lawsuits will continue, but the Voters Education Committee has agreed to reveal its anonymous backers by 5PM Sunday. [Group running Senn attack ads agrees to register]
Yeah… we’ll see.
Hades, September 8 — Richard Butler, the late leader of Aryan Nations, was greeted in Hell by angry mobs protesting his white-supremacist teachings. Butler’s long awaited march through Hades was delayed several times when Satan refused to issue a permit, but proceeded late Wednesday after the racist reverend defiantly died, at age 86.
Furious protesters hurled fire, brimstone and obscenities at the newly damned Butler, who appeared less concerned with his heated reception than with the swastika-tipped pitchfork lodged firmly up his ass.
Chanting slogans like “Evil is Colorblind” and “Hades isn’t Hayden”, the inflamed throng raucously jeered the man whose white-hate preaching led to a string of racist murders and assaults. However some in the crowd were more philosophical about their new neighbor.
One protester smiled bemusedly as the condemned hate-monger burst into flames without being consumed, predicting that in addition to eternal torment, Butler was in for a shock: “Once his skin is flayed from his boney white ass, he’ll learn that his soul is as black as the rest of ours.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
The political poop is starting to hit the fan in the wake of the unprecedented $1.2 million GOP smear campaign aimed at defeating Deborah Senn in the Democratic attorney-general primary.
The Public Disclosure Commission met in a special session yesterday after the attack-ads’ sponsor, the Voters Education Committee (VEC) refused to obey state disclosure laws and reveal the source of its funding. At the PDC’s request, the attorney general is asking a court to force the group to disclose its contributors before the Tuesday election.
In response to the PDC ruling and subsequent suit, KING-5 Seattle and KREM-2 Spokane (both owned by the Belos Corp.) have pulled the ads from their TV broadcasts. Unfortunately, none of the other TV stations have been as responsible with the public airwaves.
And today we learn that the VEC’s director, Bruce Boram, has been fired from his role as the political architect of Dave Reichert’s campaign for the vacant 8th district congressional seat. (Sure, Boram says he quit, but political consultants don’t leave paying jobs unless they have to.)
So here’s the question: what the hell is the VEC trying to hide?
When this whole affair started I just assumed it was some wealthy Republican backers playing games with the system, but once they got caught they would obey the state disclosure laws like everybody else. (Well… everybody but Tim Eyman.) I thought the likely culprit was the insurance industry.
But the more the VEC resists revealing its financiers, the more I’m beginning to suspect that there’s something more devious going on here.
The circumstances surrounding the anti-Senn ads have started taking on a life of their own, and unlike the infamous “Swift Boat” ads, the free media is working towards Senn’s favor. Clearly, some very wealthy and powerful special interests want to knock Senn out of the race… proving Senn’s campaign slogan: “Deborah Senn, the people’s Attorney General.”
Responding to a ruling today by the Public Disclosure Commission, KING-5 TV has voluntarily pulled attack ads aimed at Democratic attorney-general candidate Deborah Senn. The ads sponsors have refused to disclose the identity of contributors, as required by law. [PDC calls ads against AG candidate illegal]
Now let’s see if the the other TV stations are as responsible with the public airwaves as KING-5.
It is time for Republican attorney-general candidate Rob McKenna to tell his party to stop its dirty tricks.
A group of well-connected GOP operatives have launched an unprecedented smear campaign against Democratic favorite Deborah Senn in the final days before the primary. While their $1.2 million budget dwarfs that of the candidates, they have refused to meet a Public Disclosure Commission deadline to reveal their financial backers.
McKenna’s campaign vociferously denies any involvement, but nobody has more to gain from knocking the frontrunner out of the race. A two-time insurance commissioner, Senn is the only AG candidate with statewide name recognition, a huge advantage in what is normally a low-profile race.
If McKenna truly has nothing to hide, then his should be the loudest voice demanding full accountability, because absent evidence to the contrary, the faint money trail is starting to point in his direction.
The state Republican Party has its fingerprints all over the Voters Education Committee (VEC), the organization sponsoring the ads, with a party lawyer, a party officer, and a Republican consultant all at the helm. In fact, the VEC is clearly a creation of the pro-business, GOP-backed United for Washington (UfW).
The VEC was incorporated by UfW chairman William Conner, who has donated $44,000 to Republican campaigns in 2004. Its “Director” is UfW Executive Director Bruce Boram, a longtime Republican consultant. And its IRS forms were filed by UfW Associate Director, Valerie Huntsberry, who also serves as Secretary of the King County Republican Party, and an Executive Board member of the WA State GOP.
While it’s no surprise that Republican operatives and moneymen would do what they can to elect a Republican candidate, the UfW is clearly backing McKenna in more than just spirit. Of the twenty-one directors listed on the UfW website, at least eighteen have contributed money to McKenna, either directly or through their respective company or organization.
Rob McKenna may have had nothing to do with the VEC attack ads, but his backers certainly have.
If McKenna wants to prove he has the character to serve as our state’s top attorney, he needs to demand that his UfW sponsors pull the ads and fully comply with the state’s public disclosure laws.
Anybody catch the gubernatorial debate last night on KING-5?
As intended, Dino Rossi came across as not particularly scary or unreasonable. But he was equally lacking in specifics, preferring to talk about what he wanted instead of how he was going to get there.
Ron Sims on the other hand was his usual mix of passionate wonkishness. There wasn’t a single question tossed his way that he didn’t answer directly. I’ve always liked that about Ron. And for the most part, I also liked the specifics of his answers.
But of the three candidates, Christine Gregoire made by far the biggest impression last night… by her absence.
What the hell was her campaign thinking?
As the putative frontrunner I can see why she might refuse to debate Sims or Rossi one-on-one… why give her opponent any extra exposure? But by ceding the stage to Sims and Rossi, she merely came across as arrogant and aloof. This was a lose-lose situation, and both her opponents gained in her absence.
I assume that she assumes the primary will be a cakewalk, but my guess is that Sims is going to make this race a lot closer than Gregoire thinks. If she does manage to pull out a close victory, I hope the near-death experience scares her into taking her remaining opponent seriously.
Ideology aside, Rossi is clearly the least qualified, least prepared, and least impressive of the three candidates. But voters have repeatedly proven their willingness to elect unqualified, unprepared, unimpressive leaders.
Washington voters are not going to elect a governor based on name recognition alone. If Gregoire wants to win by comparison, she’s going to have to show up.
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 “email@example.com”.
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.