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.