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.
Quote \”The Seattle Times reports that the \”Voter Education Committee\” is an unregistered fictitious name for the Washington State Council of County and City Employees and that Chris Dugovich, the union\’s president and executive, acknowledged it is not known that any signature gatherers involved in current petition drives have been convicted of crimes. But he said the union wanted voters to be aware of the potential for abuse when people gather signatures for a living.\”
You want an idea of where to look? Well, who would have this kind of money? I suspect when the smoke clears it is likely that tribal casinos and Chris Dugovich are at the wheel.
There is already a link between \”No on I-892 (aka Muckleshoot casino)\” and VEC. Several months ago the Muckleshoot casino gave $10,000 to \”No on I-892\” and ths PAC then sent a $10,000 check to the VEC for \”Maleng radio ads.
I\’m not sure what Senn\’s record is with tribal entities but if
the relationship is not good then this is another reason to look to tribal casino and union money.
The Muckleshoot\’s recently cut a check for 1 million and the Tulaip\’s sent one in for $831,000 to \”No on I-892.\”
People may not like Tim Eyman but at least he is held accountable.
This is not the case with tribal entities. Whether you like Tim or not, the passing of I-892 may be of more benifit to citizens by not only lowering taxes but by leveling the playing feild, not in casinos but in Olympia. Several tribes in Washingotn are awash with cash and have already shown they will use it to get rid of someone they don\’t want around, remember Slade?
Dave… if you read my blog, you\’d see that I already addressed that question. The committee behind the anti-Senn ads is the \”Voters Education Committee\”. The committee created by the County & City Employees Union was the \”Voter Education Committee\”… note, \”voter\” is singular. As I said:
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 Democratic opponent, Mark Sidran.
Further, your speculation ignores the fact that the smear ad campaign is being run by three well-known Republican operatives. There is absolutely no connection between the two VEC committees except a deliberate attempt to misdirect suspicions.
As to Tim Eyman being held responsible… HAH! [Eyman plays limbo with PDC]
My apologies for not reading more closer before writing but I would say both groups are bad news for voters, they just come from different sides of the garbage pile.
Just because one group is funded by state/local unions funds and a tribal casino doesn\’t make it any less deceptive or better. Both
mislead voters to further their specific agenda and the hell with everyone else.
As to Eyman, I think if your charges are true he\’ll get what\’s coming to him, just not as fast as you\’d like.
As far as the voters education committee, nothing will happen. The PDC has stated that it\’s perfectly legal for groups to decieve voters on issues before them as long as you report who paid for the lies.
Only individuals are held accountable and since no one individual is misleading the voters, it\’s acceptable, and that line is striaght from the PDC.
So the PDC will slap their hands for not reporting, but ignore misleading material the money bought.
You have mischaracterized the labor-backed VEC. I actually volunteered for them during the signature gathering season, and I can tell you that all we did was politely stand near professional signature gatherers asking people not to sign I-864 and I-892, and offering to explain the initiatives. This was good news for voters, and many were very appreciative that somebody could explain the initiatives.
I do agree that the PDC is mostly ineffectual in punishing true violations, and that unfortunately, anybody can lie in political advertising with impunity.
You fail to mention the phone calling done at the request of Dugovich which claimed paid signature gatherers had stolen people identities and there were criminals being used as signatuire gatherers even though Dugovich admitted in at least one paper he had no knowledge of this. This means he directed and paid for a campaign to mislead people who received these phone calls.
That is not a mis-characterization of Dugovich and the VEC
which has a finacial relationship with at least one tribal
casino PAC. I think it\’s fair to judge a group by the people at the top whether it\’s the \”Voter Edcuation Committee\” or Voters Education Committee, niether deserves an award for honesty or integrity. Misleading voters is wrong no matter who does it. It isn\’t any cleaner just because a union was involved.
I was wondering, for clarification, where those three GOP names came from? While I don\’t doubt your argument, I\’m confused where those names showed up – when you say these three \”filed the IRS paperwork\”, are you refering to some kind of incorporation of the VEC that placed the ads? If it\’s that simple, too, why wouldn\’t that link have been reported by the times or P-I? Once again, I buy your logic, but I would like more clarification on the proof.
Bruce Boram\’s name was first reported on 9/3 in the Seattle P-I, and the other names were reported the next day in the Seattle Times.
The IRS paperwork refers to registering as a 527 committee with the IRS. The story unfolded over a couple days, so not all the info was in the original P-I story. Indeed, at the time I blogged, I didn\’t have all the information myself, and it turns out that the group\’s GOP connections are even stronger than I portrayed them. For example, Valerie Huntsberry is also an Executive Board member of the WA State Republican Party.
You\’re right that any poll right before the primary would\’ve showed Senn as the stronger candidate against the Rep. nominee, but that would\’ve been based on pure name i.d. The run up to the general will change things greatly, and I\’m sure the Republicans are smiling that Senn cleared the primary.
Ed… this will be a very noisy election season, and McKenna is not going to have an easy time raising his profile statewide. Don\’t underestimate the power of
That aside, I stand by my comments that targeting Senn was a win-win situation for powerful business interests. $1.4 million in attack ads surely weakened her. And had Sidran won, it would have resulted in a general election between two candidates the attack ads sponsors would have been happy with.