This post is mostly directed at my friends in the media, because I want to set the record straight before editorialists and columnists start chiming in. Yesterday, David Irons Jr. responded to his family’s devastating allegations by charging that this was a dirty trick orchestrated by the Sims campaign, a meme Dori Monson joyously pounded for two hours yesterday… and I want to categorically deny this in the strongest terms possible. If this was a dirty trick, it was my dirty trick… and nobody, nobody tells me what to write. (Which I suppose explains why nobody pays me either.) And so, here is the genesis of this story, in excruciating detail.
As should be clear from reading my post, the impetus for the piece was Joni Balter’s column, which left the writer in me searching for the narrative behind her concise phrase “different family matter.” Balter’s description struck me as a sort of inside joke — a wink and a nod that those in the know would instantly get — but I had never paid much attention to county politics before I stumbled into blogging last year, and so like most of her readers, I had no context. I knew next to nothing about Irons’ past races — I didn’t even know who Brian Derdowski was when I was introduced to him last year.
It was Steve Zemke — the longtime activist, “Whoops” slayer, and fellow Eyman opponent with whom I frequently whine about politics — who first suggested that I should talk to Brian for some background on Irons. It was Steve who dug out Brian’s phone number from the depths of his well stocked rolodex.
As Brian explained on Dori’s show yesterday, I went to him with some broad questions, not really sure where the story was going, and he was more than happy to give me a history of the 1999 campaign, culminating in the Irons/Master Builders smear the night before the absentee ballots dropped. In pursuing this story, I heard some scuttlebutt from council staffers and others about Irons reputation for having an abusive temper, and when I asked Brian for details about the family split, he insisted that this was a story that I would have to get directly from the family… and that he was pretty sure they would be eager to share it with me.
Brian gave me Di Irons’ number, who in turn put me in touch with her parents. Not only did they share the details of their sad and painful story, they expressed disappointment that Balter had not shared it with the public after they had told it to her.
That is the genesis of my post. Nobody pushed it to me. Nobody fed me any easy information. I did some of that journalistic stuff that I really don’t like to do (it’s too much damn work), and that’s how I got the story. To imply otherwise is not only wrong, it diminishes the effort I put into a detailed, 3300-word piece.
Yesterday, Dori made a big deal about Sims campaign spokesman Christian Sinderman telling the Seattle Times on October 14 that “we’re almost in full mudslinging mode.” Oh gimme a break, Dori. Most of you in the media know Christian, and he may be a lot of things, but he’s not stupid. Do you really think his intention was to proudly proclaim that the Sims campaign was about to sling mud? When I read that quote, I just assumed he was talking about the Irons’ campaign. Didn’t you?
When Dori asked if I had been in contact with Christian, I almost replied “no”, which would have been easier and less confusing… but after a momentary stammer I remembered that I had in fact emailed with Christian recently, and had probably mentioned I was working on the story. After Dori’s show I checked my email log, and on Oct 10th, I received a brief email from Christian (my first since May) titled “how are you?” It was a brief catch-up note; he asked me about the Mike Brown story and another unrelated matter… and he also mentioned that he heard I had talked to Di. I replied to all aspects of the email, but on the subject at hand I wrote:
My conversations with the Irons family continue. Yes… an amazingly screwed up family… and I can’t believe the MSM has no interest. David Irons is a pathological liar with a violent temper, but apparently, real journalists like Joni Balter don’t feel this addresses his character sufficiently that voters should be made aware.
To this I got no reply.
How did Christian know I had talked to Di? A lot of people knew I had talked to Di. I was asking around, looking for others to corroborate Irons reputation as a raging bullshitter… you know, interviewing people and stuff… what all you reporters do. And I’m sure I blabbed at the last two Drinking Liberally gatherings, so a bunch of other bloggers and politicos knew what was coming too.
Those of you who know me, also know that I am… well… a bit chatty. I like to talk. It can be tough to get me off the phone. I work from home, where my dog is a crappy conversationalist (“squirrels” this, “dog park” that) and my cat is constantly telling me to kill people. (Bad kitty!) It can get lonely. So I talk.
Anyway, on October 12 I sent another email to Christian, giving him a heads up that a source of mine at Brigadoon.com had also been talking to a reporter from a major media outlet (you know who you are) and that a story should be forthcoming on Irons’ business dealings. Christian replied that the campaign was about to run ads on Brigadoon.
Then on October 18, I sent Christian an email telling him I was preparing to post “Part One of my Irons piece” and asking for his help in confirming the name of some Eastside developer Janet C. had mentioned. (Yes… I had no idea who Skip Rowley was.) But at the same time, I also emailed and phoned the Irons campaign with a list of allegations, asking for comment… so they got the same heads up.
That was the extent of our conversation.
I lay this all out in excruciatingly boring detail, because I want my friends in the press to understand, that if any of you give even a hint of credence at all to Irons’ entirely unsupported assertion that this story originated with Sims campaign, you will be calling me a liar. This part of the story is not one of those he said/she said things… I have presented a detailed report of this story from start to finish, and I trust Steve, Brian, Di, and Janet C. will back me up… whereas David Jr. has pulled his allegation right out of his ass. If any of you lay even a hint of blame on Ron Sims, you better headline the piece “Goldy is a Liar”, because that is essentially what you will be writing.
I may be a lot of things. Maybe I’m a muckraker and a blowhard and an aggressive partisan. But I am not a liar. I’ve worked very hard to overcome the overly solemn institutional reaction to my horse’s ass initiative, and the irreverent domain name that is its legacy. Throughout the election contest I was consistently right on the facts, and both my legal and statistical analyses were proven at trial to be dead on target. And rather than dwelling on past glories (like some bloggers) I have worked hard to up my relevance by breaking important story’s like the Mike Brown fiasco, and now the Irons family feud. For those reporters and editorialists who haven’t met me, go talk to your colleagues who have. I’ve earned my credibility.
And finally, who better to vouch for my character than my own mother, who left the following comment in the contentious thread on the post in question:
Goldy has been so busy researching and writing this blog that he hasn’t had time to talk to his own mother (me) so I decided to read it to see what my son was up to. As a Mom it makes me very nervous for him, to know that in his quest to uncover the truth, Goldy is making enemies as well as converts. I know that my son is not being paid or mentored by any one or any group. (I wish he were for he could use the money) It is his inherent morality, sense of fairness, and determination that in this democracy people should really know who and what they are voting for that drives him. Love, Mom
I can’t really blame Irons for trying to spin this into a story about a Sim’s dirty trick… it’s really the only political option he has to deal with this very damaging story. But this spin just isn’t true. This is his parents story, which I broke through my own initiative and volition. I’m a blogger. That’s what we do.
It is very hard for any executive to win a third term, and Ron Sims is no exception. After nine years in office, Sims has made so many decisions that he’s bound to have pissed off all of us at one time or another. And sometimes, voters just get tired of the incumbent. Hell… even Mario Cuomo, one of the greatest statesmen of the past few decades, was eventually turned out of office by a vastly inferior opponent.
David Irons’ strategy was clear. He left himself undefined, so that voters, tired of Sims, could project onto Irons what they wanted to see. Republican… businessman… “strong” like iron… maybe that’s good enough for a lot of voters itching for a change.
But the risk in leaving yourself undefined, is that somebody might do it for you.
David Jr.’s own mother and father say that he is an ill-tempered liar, who lacks the experience, qualifications and intellect to run this county. So here’s a tip to my friends in the media: if you question the parents’ description of their son, I suggest you talk to some current and former council staffers, and try to persuade them to go on the record.
And we haven’t even started to talk about Brigadoon.com yet.