P.T. Barnum once famously said, “there’s no such thing as bad press, as long as they spell your name right,” a dubious maxim Jane Hague seems intent on putting to the test. For the umpteenth time this campaign season the King County Councilmember has found her ethical and legal travails chronicled in both daily newspapers, and you’ve gotta believe the bad headlines are taking a toll.
The Seattle Times reports this morning that Hague has agreed to pay $9,500 in fines to resolve multiple public disclosure violations first uncovered by her opponent, Richard Pope. Hague and her spokesman, Bret Bader, continue to belittle the violations as “a small technical matter” and “a nuisance complaint,” but if so, that begs the question why she would agree to paying more than twice the $4,200 maximum fine the PDC can levy? Could it be that Hague feared stiffer penalties should the case be referred to the state attorney general for further action?
Looking at the scope of the violations, I’m guessing yes. In settling the complaint, Hague acknowledged that she:
• Filed three itemized reports of contributions 20 to 49 days late and six financial summaries 20 to 407 days late;
• Twice deposited contributions late;
• Failed to identify donors’ occupations and employers 37 percent of the time; and
• Received eight contributions over the limit of $700 per election.
On her surplus-funds account, Hague acknowledged filing late reports, failing to identify vendors who received payments, making prohibited expenditures for campaign lunches, and improperly reimbursing herself for contributions she made to other campaigns.
Hague was 275 days late in reporting a $7,547 contribution she made to her 2005 campaign to cover checks after the bank account was depleted by campaign aide Jennifer Hildebrand.
Bader, who’s Madison Communications has already billed the 2007 Hague campaign over $50,000, once again proves that Hague is not only incapable of keeping track of her money, she can’t spend it wisely either. At least not when it comes to damage control:
“These problem filings originated as a result of Jennifer Brzusek Hildebrand’s embezzlement of nearly $150,000 from the Hague campaign,” Hague spokesman Brett Bader said, “and they were forced onto the PDC’s agenda by Jane’s political opponent.
Hey Brett, thanks for a) Reinforcing the perception that Hague can’t manage money; and b) Continuing Hague’s pattern of blaming everybody but herself! Over the past few years Bader has been the primary consultant on such high-profile losing campaigns as Luke Esser, Bret Olson, Jeff Sax and Yes on I-912. If Hague gets beat by Pope and his couple thousand dollars worth of yard signs (and at this point a Pope victory is more than possible,) Bader’s public comments should be enshrined as a textbook illustration of how not to do crisis management.
The issue here is not just that Hague committed numerous public disclosure violations or can’t seem to manage her own campaign finances or lied about her college education or cursed out police officers after pulling her over for driving drunk… the issue is all these things taken together in context, and Hague’s insistence on shifting blame to others while refusing to come straight about her own actions. The issue here is trust.
And until Hague attempts to rebuild that trust by taking full responsibility for her DUI, her fictional diploma, her campaign finance turmoils and other actions, I’m guessing her headlines are going to continue to get worse.