If you paid attention to stories about the budget Congress just
passed, a budget that gave us the term “CRomnibus,” (It’s a mash up
of Continuing Resolution and omnibus. Part of the budget is one and
most of it is the latter. Because I think we all can agree if
Congress isn’t inventing new words it’s not doing its job.) you
learned that in addition to giving Wall Street a break, (“About
time!” I say.) it gave national political parties access to huge
swaths of money.
That second part is one U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor,
objected to the most. When the budget passed the house he sent a
news release with the statement:
“Part of the reason Congress is held in such low esteem is
that it does things like this. While I’m all for funding
government, adding a provision at the last minute to a must pass
bill that benefits the wealthiest donors and floods our elections
with even more money undermines our democracy.”
Kilmer didn’t stop there. He offered a bill that would undo that
portion of the CRomnibus. (The more you say it the less debased you
feel.) “Close the Floodgates Act” got no sponsors and the Senate
went home, but Kilmer said this week he will bring the bill back
during the next session, which begins in January.
On Wednesday I asked him if he thought any of the 219 members of
the House who voted for the CRomnibus (You see? You’re becoming
assimilated.) objected to the campaign finance provision. Uh, yeah.
“I have not spoken to anyone on either side of the aisle who
thought this provision made sense,” he said.
That provision would increase caps on annual donations by
individuals to the national political parties from $97,200 to
That so many people would think the provision makes no sense is
because no one is sitting around saying, “You what we need? More
money in politics.” Well, someone might be saying it. On the right
the Koch Brothers and on the left George Soros are the demons of
MSNBC and Fox for saying that with their money, for example.
The rationale, simply, is this: With so much money going to
third-party political organizations that don’t have to limit what
they can receive from donors, parties are having a tough time
collecting money they use to advertise, host conventions and wage
legal battles. Part of what the CRomnibus rider did was create not
only new limits, but new organizations donors can fund to handle
different aspects of a campaign. The parties want this, because
they don’t want to cede a campaign’s message to third-party groups
that they can’t coordinate with or control.
So who orchestrated this? Sounds like it was Nevada Senator and
now former Majority Leader Harry Reid, employing a Seattle lawyer
to make it happen.
So while most people favor reducing the money in politics by,
um, changing the law to reduce money in politics, Reid and Congress
just passed legislation to open up the tap for the parties, in
hopes of strengthening the parties’ influence in the bigger pool of
Kilmer favors the first approach. He co-sponsored the Disclose
Act, which would have required more financial disclosure in
campaign ads. He also co-sponsored a bill proposing a
constitutional amendment specifying that corporations are not
people and allowing Congress to set campaign limits. Another bill
he co-sponsored would allow candidates to accept public funds as
long as they forego big donations.
Before any of that though, Kilmer wants to kill any
encouragement to attract more money to political races. “First, do
no harm,” he said Wednesday. “The American people want us to take
actions to restore their faith in our democracy.”
Increasing the amount of money wealthy people can contribute to
political parties, Kilmer said, is not one of those actions.
Couture, who ran for state Senate against two Democrats and felt
so little support from official party sources that he wrote one
letter setting afire the bridge between him and the state
Republican party and another metaphorically filing for party
divorce, was elected Mason County Republicans chairman on
Republican precinct committee officers voted for Couture over
Jerry Cummings, the previous county party chairman. Cummings loses
despite the fact he was in the chairman seat in the year Dan
Griffey beat Democrat Kathy Haigh to claim a place in the state
House of Representatives. It was Griffey’s third attempt. In less
encouraging news for Republicans, though, only one Republican,
County Prosecutor Michael Dorcy, ran for county office. Dorcy ran
Couture’s ascent to county party leader was unimaginable in
August. On July 31 he wrote a letter to Washington State Republican
Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison and unleashed his anger at the
party’s implicit support of incumbent state Sen. Tim Sheldon, a
Potlatch Democrat. While Sheldon files for office saying he prefers
the Democratic party, he caucuses with Republicans. Couture
bristled at the state GOP party’s failure to support him. He called
Hutchison “the biggest disgrace to this party” he had seen in some
time and blamed her and people like her for the party’s weakness in
Couture nearly qualified for the general election anyway,
finishing 2 percentage points behind Sheldon and 4 points behind
Democrat Irene Bowling.
Five days after the primary Couture unleashed his exit message
in a “To whom it may concern” message on Facebook. Among his
messages were that he had consistently been undermined by other
Republicans in two elections he ran in and another he managed. He
said the two-party system was “destroying America” because there
was little difference between the two main parties. He then painted
a bleak picture.
“It is like we grassroots conservatives and
libertarians are like the battered wife, and the party is the
abusive husband. Every night it comes through the front door to
abuse us. We stay with it because we really believe it can change
someday, but the beating continues. The rational person would tell
us to run away from this abusive relationship, and here we are with
a hard decision to make.
“How much longer are we willing to sacrifice our time, treasure,
and energy to a party that kicks us around?”
He said in the letter that he and others were in the early
stages of forming a “Libertarian Coalition.”
That’s all gone now.
On Wednesday Couture didn’t want to talk a lot about those days.
“Sometimes elections can be rough and things are said.”
“We’re looking to move forward and build on the momentum,”
Couture said. “We’re not looking at the past here. We’re looking at
the future. We have a bright future ahead in the Republican Party
in Mason County.”
State Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, voiced some of the same
sentiment. “What’s in the past is in the past and we’re moving
forward. That was the vote of the elected PCOs. We’re all on the
same page and we’re going to work for a united party.”
Couture said the new county party board has a fair mix of
members from different parts of the county. Among the goals are
defending two House seats the party holds in the 35th Legislative
District and challenging for two county commissioner seats. “One
thing we’ve resolved is we’re intent on electing Republicans,” he
said. The two county commissioner seats up for election in 2016 are
occupied by Sheldon, and Randy Neatherlin, who stated no party
preference even though he ran for state Legislature twice as a
Republican. Whatever benefits Sheldon and Neatherlin offer
Republicans, neither wears the party label now.
All three of the Kitsap Caucus’ state senators will have
leadership roles in the 2015 Legislature. Two of them are repeats,
while Jan Angel takes on a new responsibility.
State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, was elected Senate Majority
Coalition Caucus vice chairwoman and named to the panel that
selects committee leaders.
Angel, first elected to the Senate in 2013, was re-elected in
November and will begin a four-term in January.
The caucus position puts Angel in place to be a liaison between
coalition leadership and committee chairs and to lead caucus
deliberations when the chairwoman, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette,
R-Wenatchee, is not available. Angel also will be part of the
effort to hire and fire coalition staff.
“I’m excited to get to work building on the bipartisan success we
achieved as a caucus last year,” Angel said in a written statement
issued by the coalition. “I have all the right tools to be a leader
in this role with my previous experience leading committees and
developing employees as a small-business owner and I am very
grateful for the confidence of my Senate colleagues.”
The senator was also appointed to the Committee on Committees,
which helps select which coalition senator goes on which
State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, retains his role as Senate
president pro tem, even though Republicans have and outright
Sheldon, along with former state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, began
caucusing with the 23 Republicans in 2013, giving the GOP a de
facto 25-24 majority known as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.
With the election of Angel later that year the coalition’s majority
rose to 26-23.
Tom retired from the Senate, but Republicans won the major
contested races and took actual control of the Senate 25-24.
Sheldon said all along he would continue to caucus with
Republicans, so the coalition remains intact. His reward is keeping
the leadership position.
“This recognition I have received from my colleagues is a
demonstration of the bipartisan ideals that have governed our
coalition since Day One,” Sheldon said in a statement. “We always
said our chief concerns were jobs, education and the budget, and
not partisan politics.”
State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, resumes her role
as floor leader for the Washington State Senate Democratic Caucus.
This is her second year in that job.
The floor leader is the party’s point person on parliamentary
procedure and in facilitating floor debate on the Senate floor.
“I am honored to have been selected again by my colleagues to serve
as their floor leader,” Rolfes said. “We are facing some
significant challenges in 2015, but I look forward to working
across the aisle to ensure things run smoothly.”
Republicans kept telling me before the election that low turnout
was going to favor them in the 2014 election. I didn’t doubt that,
though I wasn’t as willing to predict four incumbents getting
Once the election happened and I started asking why things
turned out the way they did, all heckfire (We’re a family
newspaper.) broke loose when I wrote a story that included
turnout as a factor. Some Republicans seemed downright
offended. I got a nice letter saying I should have mentioned
discontent with President Barack Obama, and that is probably
correct to some degree. But midterm elections almost always go
against the sitting president. The last time one didn’t was 2002 in
the post 9/11 flag-waving era that favored President George W.
Bush. Before that it was 1998 after Republicans impeached President
Those two elections were freakish, because the last mid-term
election that didn’t go against the president before 1998 was in
1934. The last second-term mid-term election that favored the
president was in 1822, when James Monroe’s Democratic-Republican
Party picked up 34 seats in the House while the Federalists lost
eight. (The census upped the number of seats in Congress by 26.)
Mid-term discontent with the incumbent president is a given, so
much so that I likely just neglected to bring it up.
Another letter writer was not so kind, saying I was trying “to
rationalize the landslide victory of the Republicans as merely a
result of poor turnout.” He also wrote, “Any reasonable person
would assume that changes in voter turn out would affect both
I would agree with the last sentence. It would affect both
parties. And, in fact, my story pointed out other possible factors
besides turnout, one of which I will reference later. But there is
a reason the common perception is that low turnout, the perception
that was repeated to me by Republicans before the election, is bad
for Democrats. True, it’s not the only one. The mid-term elections
are a case in point, because Republican presidents are hurt by them
even in low-turnout years. In 2006 Bush lost 30 seats in the House
and six in the Senate.
On Facebook I announced I would be diving deeper into the
numbers to see if there was evidence to back up the theory that
Democrats were more harmed by low turnout than Republicans. Mick
Sheldon responded, “I am a numbers person also. I think it’s from
liking baseball so much.”
I’m a baseball fan, too. So it gives me great joy to offer you
this quote to prepare you for what I have found.
“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is?
It’s 25 hits. Twenty-five hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay?
There’s six months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means
if you get just one extra flare a week, just one, a gorp … you get
a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes, you get a dying
quail, just one more dying quail a week and you’re in Yankee
Stadium.” — Crash Davis, Kevin Costner’s character in ‘Bull
When I dug into Kitsap County precinct data it showed me there
was some evidence that turnout hurt Democrats, but not enough to be
the sole factor. A word of warning: I am an amateur statistician. I
invited people to tell me a better way to study this and that
invitation is still open. First I’ll give you some stats, but after
that we’ll refer to an expert on this stuff.
The first thing I tried to do was to characterize precincts by
whether they leaned Democrat or Republican in 2012. Where more
voters picked Obama and Jay Inslee for governor over Republican
Mitt Romney for president and Rob McKenna for governor, those were
Democratic precincts. I then compared the turnout numbers in those
precincts from 2012 to 2014.
In red precincts, the ones that voted Republican two years ago,
the turnout in 2014 was 66.85 percent what it was in 2012. In
Democratic precincts the turnout was 65.76 percent.
That’s a difference of 1.09 percentage points, which I’ll agree
doesn’t seem that significant. To arrive at just how much a
difference it makes requires taking those percentage points and
creating a multiplier that will get applied in a couple of ways. I
see weaknesses with both ways. But hey, we’re kind of spitballing
One way is to apply the Democratic multiplier to both Democratic
and Republican numbers in a race in Democratic precincts, then the
Republican number to both party numbers in the GOP precincts. There
is an easier way, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Republican Ed Wolfe won his county commissioner election by
1,265 votes, but in the precincts I counted he won by 974. If you
multiply using the formula I described earlier, he actually beats
Democrat Linda Streissguth in those precincts by 1,316 votes.
The other and equally as imperfect way to do it is to just
multiply Democratic totals by the Democratic multiplier and
Republican numbers by the Republican multiplier. It doesn’t take a
five-tool brainiac to figure out that will benefit Democrats. The
question is by how much.
The answer is Wolfe wins by 892 votes instead of 974. The new
numbers wouldn’t have made enough of a difference in the
legislative or prosecutor races either. Again, turnout is a likely
factor, but it’s not the only one.
Mark Smith, professor of political science at the University of
Washington, said turnout is one of three factors and at least on a
national level it’s clear who was turning out to vote made a
difference. But the quality of candidates is huge. He said
Republicans fielded good candidates nationally and Kitsap County
Republican Party Chairman Chris Tibbs made that case locally.
Secondly, on the national scene the map favored Republicans,
Smith said. Democrats won U.S. Senate seats in 2008 in
traditionally Republican states. Those seats were likely to swing
back to the red six years later. That tide will swing back, he
predicted, in 2016 in states where Republicans won in traditionally
blue states in 2010.
Where turnout is a factor traditionally is when you start
dividing the electorate into different groups. In 2012 voters aged 18-29 made up
somewhere around 19 percent of the electorate, according to exit
poll data presented by the Washington Post. In 2014 they
represented about 12 percent. Those voters favored Democrats over
Republicans in congressional races 55 percent to 45 percent,
according to New York Times data compiled
by Edison Research. Black and Hispanic voters favored Democrats in
large numbers in both elections, but their turnout was markedly
reduced this year as well.
The Republican-Democrat percentages were reversed for voters
aged 45-59, but those voters made up about 42 percent of the
overall votes in 2014, compared to about 38 percent in 2012. Smith
said the fact that older voters are more likely to vote in
mid-terms should not necessarily be seen as a knock on younger
voters. “The longer you’ve been participating in politics the more
you understand the system,” he said. “When you don’t have as much
experience with the political system you’re not as attached.”
Given time those younger voters will eventually buy homes,
become less mobile and more stable. Whether they continue to vote
Democratic is another question.
Finally, if you look at the New York Times data it is clear that
there was a red tide that swept nearly every demographic. Even
though the youngest voters favored Democrats by 10 points this
year, that margin was 22 points in 2012. Assuming that trend played
out locally as well, that would explain to a large degree the
departure of four Democratic incumbents. Next election could be a
whole new ballgame.
In the end of all this data mining and expert commentary we’re
left with the same conclusion. It’s nearly indisputable that
turnout was a factor. But it’s equally as unquestionable that the
nationwide red tide and the quality of local candidates also played
The Washington Secretary of State’s office sent out notice it is
tracking four elections for possible automatic recount. Two of them
are local races, the House contest between Democrat Larry Seaquist
and Republican Michelle Caldier in the 26th District. Seaquist is
the incumbent, but late Tuesday Caldier led by 78 votes.
Democratic incumbent Kathy Haigh led Republican Dan Griffey in a
35th District House race by 223 votes.
To generate an automatic recount the margin must be less than
2,000 votes and less than a half-percentage point. The
Seaquist-Caldier race fits well within than range. Caldier leads
Seaquist with a 0.26 percentage point margin. The contest in the
35th does not, with Haigh holding a 0.68 percentage point edge.
The other races the state is watching is Initiative 1351 and a
state House race in the 28th District. They are also keeping tabs
on a race in the 17th and 44th District.
In county races the prosecutor contest is worth watching as
well. Democrat Russ Hauge leads Republican Tina Robinson by 0.4
A manual recount could be ordered if the margin is any less than
a 0.25 percentage point.
What to watch, then, will be how the late votes swing the
contests. In the early years of all-mail-in voting late ballots
favored Republicans decidedly. Those results have come close to
evening out in the most recent years, however, and Kitsap Democrats
expressed confidence Tuesday night that late votes will go their
way. We’ll know a lot more around 5 p.m. when the county and state
release the first day’s results of late-ballot counting.
This afternoon I got to participate in an election-day tradition
here in Kitsap County, a lunch organized by Gordon Walgren and
Adele Ferguson. The Kitsap Sun has been excluded in the past
because Ferguson wanted to write about it and wasn’t ever keen on
getting beaten. She is not writing about the lunch for anyone now
and when she was she was sending her columns by fax, so we would
have had an edge after she stopped writing for the Sun.
There were 25 people in attendance, by my count, 11 I would
identify as Democrats, including state Sen.Tim Sheldon. My guess
was nine could be identified as Repbublican and there five I
wouldn’t know how to ID. It was a pretty even mix.
Before they received their lunches they were asked to predict
what would happen on election night. They were also asked to answer
some other, perhaps more interesting, questions. Here are the
questions and their answers.
What/who do you think will win in the following races.
They also predicted the U.S. Senate and House races, with
numbers too varied to report. Generally they predicted a Republican
takeover in the U.S. Senate.
You might find the following questions the most interesting.
Biggest local upset: Michelle Caldier (4),
Irene Bowling (4), Tina Robinson (1), Tim Sheldon (1), Linda
Streissguth (1), Ed Wolfe (1) Dan Griffey (1) Biggest national upset: Mitch McConnell loses (2),
Michelle Nunn wins (1), Democrats hold the U.S. Senate (1), Mary
Landrieu (1), New Hampshire (1) Local candidate with the most effective signs:
Wolfe (3), Cook (3), Sheldon (3), Andrews (2), Emerson (1), Olsen
(1), Kilmer (1) Bowling (1), Caldier (1), Appleton (1), Peterson
(1) Local candidate with the least effective signs:
Streissguth (10), Olsen (5), Henden (2), Hauge (1) Local candidate with the sleaziest campaign:
Caldier (6), Seaquist (5), Henden (1), Bowling (3), Wolfe (1),
Olsen (1) Local candidate with the weirdest campaign: Chaney
(5), Olsen (4), Caldier (2), Emerson (1), Henden (1) Local candidate with the best campaign: Wolfe (4),
Streissguth (3), Kilmer (2), Angel (1), Robinson (1), Sandstrom
(1), Peterson (1), Hauge (1), Sheldon (1) Local candidate with the worst campaign: Chaney
(5), Olsen (5), Hauge (1), Wolfe (1), Streissguth (1)
Who will be the 2016 Democratic Presidential
Nominee?: Clinton (20)
Who will be the 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee?: Jeb Bush
(5),Romney (4), Chris Christie (2), Ted Cruz (2), Jon Huntsman (1),
Rand Paul (1)
In 2016 who would you like to see run for what local
office?: Rob Gelder-commissioner (1), Steve Gardner-county
commissioner (1), Tony Stewart-coroner (1), Tony Otto-county
commissioner (1), Dave Peterson-Bremerton Mayor (1), Chris
Tibbs-County commissioner (1), Pat Ryan, County commissioner
(1) In 2016 who would you like to see run for what state
office?: Walt Washington-state rep. (1), Chris
Ryland-state legislator (1), Tim Sheldon-Lt. Gov. (1), Derek
Kilmer-national senator after the ladies are retired (1), James
Olsen-state rep (1), Rob McKenna-governor (1), Doña Keating-23rd
House (1), Jay Inslee-governor (1), Howard Schulz-governor (1),
Andy Hill-governor (1).
Au contraire! I obviously don’t give the American political
machinery enough credit for ingenuity and creativity. We may do a
larger story for Tuesday, but I wanted to get this much out there
Voters in the 35th Legislative District are getting mailers
praising state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, for his work in making
it easier for “undocumented immigrants,” expanding federal health
care reform and protecting reproductive freedom. Sheldon is running
against another Democrat, Irene Bowling of Bremerton.
The ads’ claims about Sheldon are true, technically, because
Sheldon said in a debate he is pro-choice, though he favors
legislation that would require parents be notified if their minor
daughters plan to have an abortion. He also voted for the
Washington version of the Dream Act, what the Majority Coalition
Caucus called the “Real Hope Act.” It allowed children of parents
who came here illegally to receive in-state tuition in Washington
colleges. And he voted for a budget that expanded Medicaid
coverage, though he earlier voted against a bill implementing the
Affordable Care Act.
The ads are paid for by American Values First, a Washington,
DC-based organization described mostly on its own site as an outfit
fighting voter suppression. It shares an address with the
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
If you haven’t been paying attention, there are not many
Democratic loyalists backing Sheldon. So why would this
organization? If you believe the Senate Republican Campaign
Committee, the ads are not trying to get Bowling backers to support
Sheldon. They’re aimed at getting the 35th District’s conservative
voters to sit out the election. You don’t get any nuance in the
ads. What you do get is the flyover country’s Axis of Evil:
Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and “a pathway to citizenship.”
“This is a dishonest and deceptive attempt to suppress Senator
Sheldon’s support with Republican voters,” said Sen. Bruce
Dammeier, Chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, in a
statement. “What’s even worse is the complete disregard for
Washington State law by this dark money, unregistered political
I’ve called the Public Disclosure Commission to get clarity on
the rules. The Republican group accuses American Values of several
state infractions, but the organization claims to be in the right,
legally. What’s more, it claims to be sincere in its support of
“American Values First is not a political committee, but rather
a social welfare organization with a proven record of advocacy.
American Values First agrees with Sen. Sheldon’s past votes seeking
justice for immigrants, expansion of Obamacare, and women’s
reproductive freedom. American Values First followed all applicable
laws and filed all reports with the Public Disclosure Commission
that are required of organizations of this type that sponsor such
communications,” said Bill Burke in an emailed statement.
The organization linked to PDC reports showing it has spent just
over $20,000 for direct mail ads in Washington.
The Inslee family had sad news today, news I have no doubt
weighs heavily on the governor.
On Feb. 7, 2008 I saw then Congressman Jay Inslee campaign
forcefully and effectively for presidential candidate Hillary
Clinton. The next night, after a day of traveling from a Barack
Obama campaign event at Key Arena to a John McCain rally at a
downtown Seattle hotel, I boarded the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry. I
was tired and it was Friday. The next day I would work the party
caucuses, but this was downtime.
I hadn’t noticed that behind me on the boat sat Trudi Inslee,
but I soon realized it as soon as I heard her husband’s distinctive
voice. He was on the phone talking to someone about the last couple
of days and he hadn’t noticed that he was talking within earshot of
a reporter. His tone was animated. He was having fun, as if he were
talking to a buddy. He had actually moved a few seats away on a
fairly empty boat. I listened for hints of the rumors lots of
people had shared, that maybe Clinton had a cabinet position for
him if she won. No such luck, so I struck up a conversation with
The congressman quit the conversation before reaching Bainbridge
and he rejoined his wife. I joked with him about listening for
rumors. He laughed along with the joke and told me he’d been
talking to his dad. He seemed legitimately at peace. Since then
I’ve only seen him or spoken to him in his official duties or
campaigning, and his guard has never been down the way it was that
Over the next couple of years I talked to his staff about doing
a story on the relationship between Inslee and his dad. But the
economy had crashed and members of Congress were fighting town hall
crowds over Obamacare. The 2010 election was rough and after that
we took our time. Then Inslee quit to focus on a run for governor.
We still considered the idea, even wondering if we could make it
part of our election coverage in 2012. In the end it proved
difficult. We gave up.
My interest in talking to Inslee and his dad was probably
sparked by a development in my life. For more than five of the last
seven years of his life my father lived with us in a house in the
Illahee area. It wasn’t always an easy reality for our young
family, because my dad, a former cop who also spent years coaching
his three boys in the holy practice that is baseball, needed care
from us. But even as the work grew harder I grew closer to my
father, often pestering him to tell me stories about his childhood.
We all knew the time could be fleeting and we did our best to enjoy
it. My dad eventually became weak enough that we knew we could no
longer provide him adequate care at home and he went to live in a
local nursing home. We visited him often, but it will never seem
like it was enough.
On election night, Nov. 7, 2012, the night Inslee would learn
whether he had been elected governor, my father went into intensive
care battling a lung infection that knocked him down. I watched the
night’s election returns from Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton
as my dad struggled to breathe. Four days later the infection would
knock him out. He died on Veteran’s Day.
There isn’t a lot I have in common with Jay Inslee. He’s taller,
better looking, is a basketball guy, was born and raised here and
has always had a better-paying job. I’m not saying I’d trade lives
with him. I’m just pointing out the obvious before I acknowledge
there is one thing that we share. I could tell from his
conversation he had on the boat that night that he loved and
respected his dad, just as much as I did mine. And today he misses
his dad the way I miss mine.
I don’t think I’m shedding any objectivity in sending my
condolences to the governor and his family.
State Sen. Jan Angel,
R-Port Orchard, is getting heat from her opponent regarding Angel’s
involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council. This is
something we addressed in the
2013 election, but since this treads into matters of substance,
it’s worth revisiting.
ALEC is a nationwide organization that goes to great efforts to
get conservative policies enacted in state legislatures. Angel is a
conservative and has been affiliated with the organization for some
time. She has never really denied that, but when she wrote the
Facebook post you see pictured on the left here, she never let on
that Rick Perry, Texas governor and one-time candidate for
president who recalled two of the three agencies he planned to
eliminate, was speaking at an ALEC conference when she snapped his
picture and gushed, “what a champion!”
At its core the question that seems worth asking is whether
Angel or Arbogast better represent the values of the 26th District,
and Angel’s affiliation with ALEC could be evidence to support
whatever conclusion you make. Instead much of the debate centers on
whether legislators should be sponsoring what are called “model
bills.” A model bill is one written in one place and used either
verbatim or as a template in several states.
Some of ALEC’s model legislation would ban states from
prohibiting insurance companies from using credit scores to deny or
charge more for coverage, is tough on minimum wage standards, goes
after Obamacare and would limit how much a state could require
electric utilities to provide a certain percentage of its energy
from clean energy sources.
This issue arises from the following exchange that took place in
the Oct. 7 Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues forum
between Angel and Democrat Judy Arbogast.
Question: Can ALEC really write laws that
best serve a state as diverse as Washington, and if yes,
Arbogast: Absolutely not. ALEC provides
ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest
problem. It’s also backed by big corporations, not the people who
are trying to actually solve the problems. People who know me know
that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I
certainly know that it’s not good for the people. That’s why any
bills that I propose will come from the people themselves, They
will not be premade as some of the bills have been presented by my
Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC
bill that I’m aware of, (And at this point you can hear people
laughing at the statement) the only ALEC bill, seriously, the only
ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your
governor, Gov. Inslee, And I want to talk, I’m so glad this
question came up, because ALEC stands for the American Legislative
Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free
market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I
make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question
those values. As far as model legislation, we sit on task force,
which I am proud to sit on Economic Development, Commerce and
Insurance. That task force works on issues nationally. The last
task force meeting I attended we worked on national catastrophes
like the slide that we just had, how did that affect everybody ’s
insurance premiums. Now if a model bill is written it is up to the
legislature whether they take it back to their state. And if the
state House and Senate pass it and the governor signs it, maybe
it’s a good bill.
We’ll dissect those arguments later, but following the debate
and after my story was written, Samara Ressler, campaign manager
for Arbogast, sent me an email titled “Forum Clarification.” She
then provided a list of three bills Angel co-sponsored Ressler said
come from ALEC model bills. They are Senate Bills 6300 and 6307
during the 2014 session and House Bill 1804 in 2011.
SB 6300 would have required more unions to increase financial
reporting requirements and does seem to have much the same language
as ALEC’s model legislation, “Union Financial Responsibility Act.”
SB 6307 prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting minimum wage
requirements higher than the state’s. It is much the same as ALEC’s
“Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act.”
The House Bill 1804 in 2011 would have prevented the state from
spending any money to implement Obamacare. At the time the
justification was the health care reform measure was still making
its way through constitutional challenges. Supporters said they
didn’t want to burden the state with efforts for a program that
could become moot. I don’t see ALEC’s direct fingerprint on this
bill, but it’s old enough that it might have just disappeared from
the organization’s website. And ALEC wrote a lot of legislation aimed at weakening health care
reform, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility
this started with ALEC.
This gets to the core issue. Whether the bill was an ALEC model
or not, it would have limited the impact of federal health care
reform efforts. What is the more important factor to you?
When we addressed this similar question in 2013, we pointed out
that lots of organizations write model bills. ALEC might do it the
most, but several organizations do it. Legislators don’t write many
of the bills they propose. They are written by lobbyists, lawyers
and others who have an interest. And I’m willing to bet that when
legislators do write their own bills, they get lots of help.
This is not to say that finding out whether a bill is a model
bill is unimportant. An organization like ALEC has a specific
mission and won’t typically write legislation that doesn’t forward
So let’s break down the forum comments.
Arbogast: ALEC provides ready-made
legislation for every state and that’s the biggest
“Model” legislation is a “problem” in the sense that it could be
trying to solve a problem no one was aware anyone had. Beyond that,
though, you have to give the Legislature enough credit that it will
tackle issues it deems important. If a model bill, tweaked to
reflect what’s needed in legislative language in Washington,
addresses an issue enough legislators think is worthy of attention,
the bill can make it to the governor’s desk.
Arbogast: People who know me know that I’ve
been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly
know that it’s not good for the people.
This is the values statement that would seem to be the more
Arbogast: That’s why any bills that I
propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be
premade as some of the bills have been presented by my
opponent. Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC
bill that I’m aware of.
If Arbogast wins I suspect some on the right will watch the
bills she sponsors to see if there’s anything else out there that’s
similar to trace a bill at its roots. It might be a model bill from
an organization on the left.
Angel’s claim that she never offered an ALEC bill rests on whether
you think “offered” means she was the prime sponsor. We showed that
she co-sponsored bills using ALEC bills as models, but she has not
Angel: The only ALEC bill that’s come to
the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov.
We did address that claim last year and there is some dispute.
The governor’s office said its bill dealing with one aspect of
climate change did not come from an ALEC model, but a spokesman for
the Washington Policy Center said that it did. Angel is off in
saying the “only ALEC bill” unless what she meant by “come through
to the Legislature” was “passed the Legislature.” Otherwise, her
co-sponsorship of two ALEC-based bills seems to negate her
Angel: ALEC stands for the American
Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission
statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to
stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone
that would question those values.
When Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Bershire Hathaway Energy,
Intel, Bank of America, etc. decided to stop participating with
ALEC I doubt any of them were troubled with the concept of free
markets or individual liberties. Google’s Eric Schmidt was
especially harsh answering a question from a
caller to the Diane Rehm show:
Kristen: I’m curious to know if Google is
still supporting ALEC, which is that fund lobbyist in D.C. that are
funding climate change deniers. Schmidt: We funded them as part of a political
game for something unrelated. I think the consensus within the
company was that that was sort of a mistake. And so we’re trying to
not do that in the future. Rehm: And how did you get involved with them
in the first place? And were you then disappointed in what you
saw? Schmidt: Well, the company has a very strong
view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What
a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question
anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the
people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our
grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we
should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally
I’m guessing Angel would differ with Schmidt on that.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was scheduled to be in town on Sunday
for a campaign fundraiser for 35th Legislative District Senate
candidate Irene Bowling, a Democrat.
We asked permission to go, but were informed the event at the
Rice Fergus Miller building in Bremerton was closed to the press,
not unusual for a fundraiser. We were disappointed, though, because
we had an invitation. It was sent to us via Twitter from the 35th
Legislative District Democrats. We should have been suspicious,
though, because Twitter is unreliable. Remember, it was on Twitter
that we first read that Dewey defeated Truman.
Suggested contributions for the fundraiser ranged from $50 for
the “guest” level to $500 to be considered a “host.” While “guest”
sounds right for me, $50 does not.
Inslee’s presence demonstrates his interest in seeing the state
Senate taken back by Democrats, and Bowling’s race is against Tim
Sheldon, a Democrat. Let me explain. He is a Democrat, but caucuses
as a Republican, a reality that demands two weeks’ time for
Washington State Civics teachers. In English class it makes for a
complicated sentence diagram with lots of subservient clauses and
Inslee wants Democrats in the Senate because he has big
ambitions to tackle carbon emissions and would like the 2015
Legislature to cooperate. If Republicans are in charge of one of
the chambers he fears his proposal will be as popular as a Richard
Sherman biography at Crabtree and Evelyn. (They sell books,
To get a Democratic majority Inslee is being aided by California
billionaire Tom Steyer, who this week dropped $1 million into a
committee, NextGen Climate Action Committee-Washington Sponsored by
Tom Steyer. Steyer’s organization followed that with a news release
saying it will target 25 percent of the voters in Washington. He’s
doing the same in Oregon.
So far the committee hasn’t spent any real money, but this is
what the news release said about Washington:
NextGen Climate will focus on races where there is an
opportunity to discuss climate issues with voters, including, but
not limited to supporting Tami Green in the 28th Senate District
and Matt Isenhower in the 45th Senate District.
Whether any Steyer money finds its way to the 35th depends on
party polling, which will reveal whether voters in the district are
bucking the common assumption that voters who picked Republican
Travis Couture in the primary will mostly side with Sheldon in the
general election, since Couture was eliminated from the race.
Sheldon thinks he’ll pick up most of Couture’s voters because he is
more conservative. Bowling believes she will get most of the
Couture voters, in some part because she is not Tim Sheldon.
An earlier $250,000 contribution to an independent committee set
up to campaign for Bowling made some think there were signs Bowling
could beat Sheldon. That changed when $225,000 was returned,
leaving some to wonder what the polling says now.
As of Friday Bowling had raised about $150,000 and still had
about $55,000 of that unspent. Sheldon has raised more, about
$290,000, and has about $100,000 left to spend. A word or two from
the governor might close the gap at least a little.
James Olsen, candidate for Legislature in the 23rd Legislative
District, challenged me to fact check one of his videos. Actually,
he suggested two of them, but I’ve already addressed one and don’t
believe it merits more attention. Mr. Olsen disagrees with me.
That’s all I have to say about that.
The Olsen video I will address is his attempt to take down Initiative 594, which extends
the rules for existing background check requirements for federally
licensed gun dealers to gun shows and transactions between private
individuals. It also has some restrictions about temporary
If you don’t like the message on Olsen’s video, available on
YouTube, you have to enjoy the Golden Earring song “Twilight Zone”
that provides the soundtrack. Band members might not agree with
Olsen, but I’m sure they appreciate the attention. We could start a
pool to find out whether and when a Content ID claim will mute the
Tom Steyer, a California investor who made billions and is now
spending much of it on political races, dropped $1 million into the
committee he established in Washington to fund races here. His
committee, the Nextgen Climate Action Committee-Washington
Sponsored by Tom Steyer, now has the second most political
contributions this year. Only the Washington Education Association
Political Action Committee has more money at this point.
Steyer’s Washington committee (“NextGen” means “next
generation.”) has yet to spend any money, but the DC arm of Nextgen
has, giving $50,000 each to the Kennedy Fund and the Harry Truman
Fund. The Kennedy Fund is for state Senate Democratic efforts and
the Harry Truman Fund is for House Democrats.
If any of Steyer’s money were to make it any of our local races
the most likely target would be the race between two Democrats,
state Sen. Tim Sheldon and Irene Bowling. In an earlier post we referenced
a New York Times piece that made the case that Steyer money would
likely go to Senate races. Republican Jan Angel’s near 14-point
margin in the 26th over Democrat Judy Arbogast in the primary might
seem insurmountable for those passing money around. The 35th
District race between Sheldon and Bowling would seem to favor
Sheldon, but it’s less clear than what happened in the 26th. Steyer
wants to see the Senate go Democrat (Bowling Democrat, not Sheldon
Democrat) so that Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate agenda would have an
easier time getting through the Legislature.
During the 2013 election between Angel and Democrat Nathan
Schlicher, Angel made the case Democrats have made about the Koch
brothers, that he was trying to buy the election. She also
questioned his environmental cred, referring to stories that he
stood to benefit financially if the Keystone Pipeline project were
killed, because he was an investor in another pipeline. That same
claim is happening in Iowa, thanks to an American Crossroads ad.
Politifact called that claim mostly false. Let’s be clear,
it’s mostly false this year, because Steyer’s firm just recently
got rid of its fossil fuel money sources.Last year the argument had
some legs, even though Steyer had already directed his company to
divest from the Kinder Morgan pipeline and other fossil fuel
Finally, this also gets to the anonymity question we posed a
couple weeks back. Some think political contributions should
all be anonymous, because it
would mean those spending money could not hold their contributions
over a politician’s head. The counter to that argument is because
we require transparency in some situations we can make easier links
between money and favors.
It’s probably not a huge surprise to you for me to admit that I
lean toward more transparency. I see the point of those who want
complete anonymity. And I might even one day be persuaded that it’s
better. But I think knowing your contribution will be revealed to
everyone has the potential of making you more cautious about who
you spend money on. And it sets you up as a target. Think what you
will of Tom Steyer. On Sept. 18 his committee changed its name to
add “sponsored by Tom Steyer.” That’s how it was spelled out last
year as well, so I had been curious earlier why his name wasn’t on
it originally this year. In most cases we have to go several layers
to find out where money is coming from. In state politics a name is
usually eventually discoverable. They make you work for it, but you
can get to it.
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. introduced legislation to
revoke the NFL’s tax exempt status. I’ll just let you read the
press release, but one of her comments, “a dictionary-defined
racial slur,” struck me. So I checked it out. Turns out, she’s
right, as you can see in the picture.
In the not-too-distant future your bank might begin offering you
an opportunity to win a few bucks, or a few thousand. You will be
getting those chances just by saving money, something nearly anyone
who has ever even heard of money will tell you that you should be
U.S. Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.,
introduced the ‘Save to Win’ legislation nearly a year ago. On
Monday it passed the House by voice vote. A companion bill awaits
consideration in the Senate.
The basic idea is this: The more you deposit into savings the
higher chance you get of winning a nice monthly prize and a
significant annual prize. In Washington the monthly prize might be
$50. The annual prize was $5,000 in 2013. And if you don’t win, you
still keep the money you put into your savings account.
Arla Shephard detailed what’s happening in the state
for the Kitsap Sun in April. One of the selling points of the
program is it’s a lottery you can’t lose. You’re not going to
collect $149 million, but let’s get real. Unless you are beyond
astronomically lucky, you’re not going to get that by plunking down
$2 for a Powerball ticket either. I’m not trying to dissuade you
from playing the regular lottery, but it’s no secret that the most
likely outcome from playing most lottery games is you pay $2 to
hope for something miraculous. In some cases, it’s worth it.
Federally chartered financial institutions cannot offer a
savings lottery now. In four states, including Washington, locally
chartered credit unions can. Connection Credit Union of Silverdale
and Peninsula Credit Union of Shelton participate. The other
participants are Express, Fibre Federal, North Coast and
The idea has lots of support and the voice vote in the House
suggests there isn’t a lot of opposition from politicians. But some
will ask why isn’t saving its own reward. Why do we have to use a
modified gambling mechanism to get people to save?
There is one study that shows having a
system like a prize-linked savings account not only increases
savings, some of the money low-income people invest in savings
accounts comes from funds they used to use to buy lottery tickets.
So in some cases people stop playing the lottery they almost can’t
win in exchange for the one they almost can’t lose.
“Almost” in the second use is not an accident. One of the
reasons some people speculate people don’t save more is because the
interest rates are so bad that a dollar invested today is often
worth less next year. But if you need $2,000 and the only option
you have available to you is charging it on a credit card, that
dollar becomes worth more. If you have it in savings and can use it
in emergencies, you won’t lose 18 percent interest by plunking down
Others worry that as interest rates on borrowing start to go up
again financial institutions will resist increasing rates on
savings, opting to market their “prizes,” instead. That might be
true. We won’t know until that day we’ve been saying for more than
a decade is inevitable actually arrives. Either way, if the prizes
increase savings, then that means less spending on credit. It could
also prevent some people from having to move into their cars.
State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and his Republican
challenger, Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard, engaged in two robust
debates last week on the issues. One of the debates was in
Bremerton on Tuesday. The other was in Gig Harbor on Thursday. They
have at least three more forums scheduled before the election.
Before that they sat in the same room for an Aug. 29 meeting
with the Kitsap Sun editorial board. In all those meetings they
focused on issues one of them will try to tackle as a legislator in
Olympia in 2015.
An incident after the editorial board meeting launched a side
show that has picked up steam. Caldier said Seaquist is trying to
intimidate her. Seaquist said Caldier’s allegations are false and
that he is consulting with an attorney. Both say they want the
escalation to stop.
For the Kitsap Sun meeting both candidates had driven their
cars, with Caldier parking directly in front of Seaquist. After the
meeting they separated to their cars and Seaquist took at least a
couple of photos. Caldier said he did it as she was getting into
her car. He said that is not true, that she was in the car when he
snapped the shots.
Seaquist said he was checking messages on his phone when he saw
the the trunk open on Caldier’s car and the hard top slide into the
trunk. He said he hadn’t seen a hard-top convertible in some time
and wanted to snap a quick photo to discuss the car with someone he
knows. The model of the car was prominent on the car’s tail section
and he said he knew he would never remember it. So he took a
Caldier confronted him about the photo and both agree he
acknowledged snapping a picture. Her recollection of the
conversation afterward was a little fuzzy this week, but he said
she complained that she had been photographed at her house. He said
he told her it wasn’t anyone doing it on his behalf.
On Sept. 2, four days later, Caldier posted a Facebook entry
reading: “I came out of a candidate interview and saw Rep. Larry
Seaquest, my opponent, taking pictures of me as I got into my car.
Wow…. I felt like I was being stalked!” Some of her Facebook
friends described that as “creepy” or “gross,” and some suggested
it was an act of desperation.
On Sept. 5, three days after the Facebook post and a week after
Seaquist took the photo, she filed a report with the Bremerton
Police Department. The report includes a couple of statements
Caldier said do not reflect what she told police. The report said
Caldier told police Seaquist had taken other photos of Caldier in
the past and that he just laughed at her when she asked him why he
was snapping more pictures. On Friday she said she told police
other people had snapped pictures, that Aug. 29 was the first time
Seaquist himself had done it. Also, she said Seaquist did talk to
her about the photos when she confronted him.
Both candidates question the other’s motives in the incident.
Caldier said she doesn’t believe his story that he was impressed
with the car because she believes he has seen it before. She said
it’s another chapter in a long history of the opposition trying to
intimidate her. Seaquist said he hadn’t seen her car before and
that he did nothing wrong, that his sole interest was the car and
that Caldier is falsifying what happened to turn it into a campaign
Candidates can expect to have their photos taken in odd places,
to be followed. One of the comments on Caldier’s Facebook post came
from state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, who wrote: “They pulled
that on me all last run. I was followed frequently and many other
weird things. What a journey.”
Keith Schipper, Angel’s communications director in the 2013
campaign, said he was tasked by the state Republican party to track
Angel’s opponent, Nathan Schlicher, for part of that campaign. A
tracker’s job is primarily to go to all the opponent’s events
possible and to film, seeing if a candidate can be caught saying
one thing to one group and something else to another. Or, if the
tracking yields real gold, the candidate has a “Macaca” moment, a
reference to the 2006 Virginia Senate race when Republican
incumbent Sen. George Allen referred to a Democratic operative as
“Macaca,” which he said was gibberish, but Democrats said was an
intentional racial slur. Allen lost the election.
Schipper, who also tracked Jay Inslee in 2012 when he ran for
governor and is working on Republican legislative campaigns again
this year, said officials from the candidate and the party are
mostly polite to the opposition tracker. It’s the people hosting
the events who can get hostile. So parties’ and candidates’
campaigns in larger races typically know better than to hassle the
The 2013 26th District Senate race was unique, though, in how
high profile it was for a legislative race. That each side employed
trackers was because it was so high stakes. It was the most
expensive legislative race in state history. It was the only
Republican-Democrat race in the state and affected the balance of
power in Olympia. Both candidates said they were followed.
That race was a legislative exception. The Seaquist-Caldier
race, while close, is unlikely to draw so much attention that the
state party would employ operatives. And even if the state party
did, taking pictures at a candidate’s house is unlikely.
Nonetheless, Caldier said that when she was living in a home she
rented before she bought her current home she saw people taking
pictures of her at her house. She said some were also taking
pictures of her sister. And one day a neighbor caught people going
through her mail. Since Caldier recently returned to Kitsap County
after years living in Kenmore, it’s possible someone supporting
Seaquist was trying to investigate whether she deserved a residency
You might remember the private investigation that went into
former County Commissioner Josh Brown’s residency during his first
run. When Lary Coppola ran for mayor he found matches stuck in his
door, presumably a tactic to see whether he lived where he claimed
If the Caldier mail incident was campaign related, Schipper and
Fred Finn, who represented the 35th Legislative District as a
Democrat for four years, said it was unlikely it was ordered by the
party or Seaquist’s campaign. Schipper likened it to supporters who
go out and vandalize campaign signs, adding it would more likely be
a supporter going rogue. Finn agreed. “Sometimes supporters have
more energy and enthusiasm than common sense,” Finn said. “I can’t
imagine it’s anything organized.”
Whatever motive Seaquist had in taking the picture, it is
unusual for a candidate to be taking a photo of another candidate.
“You don’t ever see candidates doing that to each other,” Schipper
said. “You don’t see their staff members doing it.”
Caldier again looked at the incident in context of the whole
campaign. “I’ll take a lot, but this one was kind of the last
straw. This is moving forward to November and it feels like the
behavior is escalating,” she said. “I want the behavior to stop. I
would never take pictures of him without asking his permission. For
him to be sitting in his car taking photos of me without asking my
permission is wrong.”
Seaquist makes no apologies and said he has no interest in
meeting with Caldier to resolve the issue. “Everything here has
been created and invented by Dr. Caldier. Nothing here was started
by me,” he said. “This is not a misunderstanding on my part. This
is entirely a creation of hers. I have done nothing
Particularly galling to Seaquist was another single assertion in
the police report. Caldier, when told Seaquist had not committed
any crime, said his action concerned her because “she has been told
that Seaquist had been violent in the past with people.”
On Friday Caldier said that comment referred to what she heard
from Marlyn Jensen, a Gig Harbor Republican who ran against
Seaquist in 2008. Jensen, also contacted Friday, said her
relationship with Seaquist was fine during the 2008 campaign, but
repeated a charge she made in newspapers in 2009, that when she
went to Olympia to lobby on a couple of issues he yelled at her in
his office. She was lobbying on a property rights issue and neither
he nor his legislative assistant were there when she went by, so
she and others left bags of dirt from their properties with a
handwritten note urging Seaquist to vote for property owners.
A few days later Jensen returned to Olympia to lobby on another
issue and said she went back to his office and was told by his
receptionist to go in. She said Seaquist berated her for leaving
the dirt. On Friday she repeated what she said five years ago, that
she feared for her safety.
In 2009 Seaquist denied he did anything to make her fear for her
safety. He said he can be firm, but invited anyone to call any
legislator or member of a Navy crew he was ever affiliated with and
that they will confirm that he is “famous for being calm and cool
Caldier said she filed the police report to end the escalation
of intimidation. Seaquist doesn’t believe that, because the final
statement in the report is, “Caldier does not want Seaquist
contacted.” He said he thinks that’s evidence she plans to use the
police report to escalate her own personal campaign against
Seaquist said he is “prepared to launch a lawsuit. The very
essence of my character is being challenged.”
At their core you have two candidates who have fundamentally
different ideas about how state government should operate. That
might be the focus of the remaining campaign.
In 2013, during the most expensive legislative race in history
the campaign became particularly nasty. Angel accused Schlicher of
taking the low road with his ad that said she would cut mammograms.
Schlicher took exception to campaigns targeting him for voting for
budgets he said she voted for, too.
Schlicher’s backers put out ads saying Angel supported tax
breaks first for A. deceased millionaires and B. big oil companies
over education for kids. Angel’s supporters advertised that
Schlicher was against early reading intervention for children
because a contributor didn’t like it and that he opposed a 2/3
majority for tax increases.
All of those arguments mischaracterized the opponents’
positions, but anyone willing to make a concerted study at least
could look at those claims and make a calculation as to where the
candidate stood on issues that would face the Legislature. A
resident of the 26th might not have appreciated the inundation of
advertising that blanketed the district, but do you think that same
resident might not prefer that to what we’re seeing in the 26th
Legislative District Position 2 race this year?
Amidst all the talk of campaign contribution transparency, as
many call for the upending of rules and rulings that allow people
to donate to political causes without fear of exposure, there is a
renewed call for more anonymity.
In the Washington Post last week Bertram Levine and Michael
Johnston made that case.
“The problem is not just how much money we allow into the
system, or even how few individuals provide it. An equally serious,
and somewhat ironic, issue is that transparency makes the
appearances problem worse. If incumbents could not know the
sources of contributions to their war chests, they could not
“thank” their benefactors with policy “favors,” nor could they
extract contributions through intimidation. Donors wanting
to support challengers — who are routinely out-spent by solid
margins under the current system — would not need to worry about
reprisals from incumbents.”
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he
accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate
to federal candidates and party committees.
So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining
business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the
limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to
congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas,
Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said.
Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and
Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he
“You have to realize, when you start contributing to
all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about
your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than
$177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”
Two years ago This American Life, a show you
can hear on Saturdays on KUOW, did one of the best treatments on
politics and money that I have ever heard. Andrea Seabrook asked
Barney Frank if money influenced politics:
Barney Frank: People say, “Oh, it doesn’t
have any effect on me.” Look, if that were the case, we would be
the only human beings in the history of the world who, on a regular
basis, took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and
made sure that it had no effect on our behavior. That is not human
Andrea Seabrook: On the other hand, he
says, there are things that influence a politician besides
Barney Frank: If the voters have a
position, the votes will kick money’s rear end any time. I’ve never
met a politician– I’ve been in the legislative bodies for 40 years
now– who, choosing between a significant opinion in his or her
district and a number of campaign contributors, doesn’t go with the
And I have had people tell me– and we talk honestly to each
other, we don’t lie to each other very often. You don’t survive if
you do. As chairman of a committee, I’d be lobbying for votes.
I have had members say to me, Mr. Chairman, I love you.
Barney, you’re right. But I can’t do that politically because I’ll
get killed in my district. No one has ever said to me, I’m sorry,
but I got a big contributor I can’t offend.
During last year’s legislative race between Nathan Schlicher and
Jan Angel we attempted to get to the truth or truthiness of the
campaign ads sent by the candidates and their supporters. We also
looked at claims made in debates and letters to the editor.
I hesitated for a few years to even embark on the task, because
I feared fact-checking work would be an extremely challenging
effort netting fuzzy results. I might have been right, but I
believe the effort is worthwhile anyway. If nothing else, we
provide context for the claims, and context is abundantly absent in
One way 2013 was easier was that there was only one
legislative race. And I had coworkers who lived in the 26th
Legislative District who religiously delivered the ads that arrived
in their mailboxes. One of those coworkers moved away and so far
this year I’ve had one campaign ad put onto my desk. This year
there promises to be plenty of advertising again in the 26th and
maybe even more so in the 35th. The county races could include some
ads, as will the congressional race.
So I’m asking for your help. If you receive an ad in the mail
I’d love to see it. We then might engage in a fact-checking
expedition, delivering our findings to you here on the Kitsap
Caucus blog or in the daily paper.
There are a few ways you can deliver what you find.
1. Bring or mail the ad to Steven Gardner, Kitsap Sun, 545 Fifth
St., Bremerton, WA 98337.
2. Email a scan of the ad, my preferred method, to
3. Email the text of the claim you wish to see vetted. Some ads
include a citation (a bill, news story, etc.). Make sure to include
4. Call and leave a message with the ad’s content. I’m at
For months Republicans have been warning about the “Ramtha
money” referenced in our story about the late money into the 35th
Legislative District primary. The New York Times focused on our
state this week and this is what I took from it: The racist rants
(taken out of context or not) of an ancient enlightened one that
helped a Yelm woman make a sizeable enough living to fund Democrats
can make for campaign indignation, but that money isn’t anywhere
near the GOP’s biggest problem this year.
The biggest problem for Republicans is this little piece from
the Times story about the goals shared between Washington Gov.
Jay Inslee and rich guy Thomas Steyer:
Mr. Inslee, who is campaigning for his agenda across
the state this summer with oyster farmers in tow, is trying to
position himself as America’s leading governor in the climate
change fight. But Mr. Inslee does not have the support of the
majority of the Washington State Senate, particularly those
conservative lawmakers from the rural inland, so Mr. Steyer’s
advocacy group, NextGen Climate, is working with the Washington
League of Conservation Voters to handpick Democratic, pro-climate
policy candidates across the state.
Steyer plans to spend about $100 million across the country to
elect politicians who see it his way on climate issues and to oust
those who don’t. A fair share of that will come here to Washington,
and the Times speculates the candidates he chooses, working through
the Washington League of Conservation Voters, will see hundreds of
thousands of dollars going either to support them or against their
While chatting with Tim Sheldon Tuesday night I asked if he
thought, assuming Tuesday night’s results stay as they are, any of
that money would wind up in his race. He thought not. “Steyer won’t
dump money into the race. I would be astounded if he did. What you
see so far is 65 percent of the district is voting conservative,”
he said, a reference to his vote totals plus those of Travis
Couture. “I don’t care how much money he has, he can’t turn that
This gets to another reason I posted the picture. You see Inslee
walking the beach with Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms. Dewey,
according to Public Disclosure Commission reports, gave Inslee $500
this year toward Jay Inslee for Washington, which we can assume is
his 2016 re-election campaign fund. Dewey gave $1,250 for Inslee’s
2012 campaign and Bill Taylor from the same company gave
But both have also donated to Sheldon over the years. Dewey gave
the senator $500 in for his re-election campaign in 2010 and
another $500 in 2013. Taylor gave $250 in 2010 and $500 in
Most donations coming from the Taylor company, primarily Taylor
and Dewey, go to Democrats, and technically Sheldon is one of
those. But you know the story; Sheldon caucuses with the
Republicans, giving them the majority and lessening Inslee’s
chances of getting his climate agenda passed. So Inslee has an
agenda designed to benefit Taylor Shellfish, but someone who votes
against Inslee’s agenda is their friend, too.
Washington Conservation Voters has already endorsed Bowling in
the 35th. Sheldon received a “0” score from the organization after
voting for nine bills the organization considered bad for the
environment and against three bills the group said were good for
it. Sheldon’s lifetime score is 30. By comparison Christine Rolfes,
a 23rd District Democrat, received an 83 for the session. Democrat
Nathan Schlicher in the 26th received a 56 for his votes and
Republican Jan Angel got a 25.
So will Steyer go after Sheldon?
That might depend on the polling. Someone is going to do some
once the primary dust is settled. If Sheldon is not right in fact,
in philosophy he is. Steyer will want to put money to races that
are winnable, so he and his allies will decide whether to back
Democrat Irene Bowling in the 35th and Judy Arbogast in the 26th.
Steyer spent a lot of money against Jan Angel in 2013 and lost, but
the Times story shows where he won, too, and those were not
Bowling saw the same numbers Sheldon saw and had a different
take about votes for Couture and was not so agreeable to the idea
that those votes would now go to Sheldon. “I think that Travis
represents people that are fed up with government as it stands and
they want change,” she said. Her hope is she can influence Couture
voters to vote her way in the general election.
An alert party operative who shall remain nameless told me
recently, “The fights between parties are nothing compared to the
fights within them.” Here we give you two examples, one from each
The first fight is one those in Kitsap are more likely to know
about, the one between supporters of Russ Hauge and those of Bob
Scales. Hauge is the incumbent Kitsap County prosecutor and is a
Democrat. Scales served two terms as a Bainbridge Island city
councilman and works as an attorney for the City of Seattle.
Tim Sheldon, whose name comes up later, doesn’t like it when
Democrats say he isn’t one of them. There is no party registration
in Washington, he’ll tell you. Even if there were, it isn’t like
there is a test you have to pass for either party. But Democrats do
have at least a little bit of justification for saying that about
Sheldon, especially now that he caucuses with Republicans. “They
caucus with me,” he responds. Fine. Same difference. On issues that
divide Democrats and Republicans in the state Senate, Sheldon sides
more with Republicans than he does with Democrats. It doesn’t make
him a Republican, but give the Democrats credit here for arguing
with some evidence.
I’m not sure where they’re getting their evidence when it comes
to Bob Scales. Debbi Lester says Scales is combative, short-sighted and
mean-spirited, based on her experience as fellow member of the
Bainbridge Island City Council. That might all be true, but neither
party is immune from that kind of behavior. I covered the council
for a year or so while Scales was on it his first time and couldn’t
tell you based on that where his politics are. There is the bigger
question of where that even matters when it comes to serving as
prosecutor, but where Lester and others cast doubt on Scales’ cred
as a Democrat come from the fact that the Kitsap Patriots Tea Party
gave Scales a high ranking as a candidate.
Quick, what does the Kitsap Patriots Tea Party stand for in a
prosecutor? Yeah, I don’t know either. Still, I found it curious,
so I contacted the organization to see if I could get a copy of the
questions they asked and Scales’ answers. I got no reply. So we
asked Scales if he would provide them. He did. I’ll post those
below, after the other bit about in-party fighting.
That comes from the race Sheldon is in. Sheldon received a
$13,800 in-kind contribution for some polling from the Senate
Republican Campaign Committee. (On
Monday night I learned there was a last-minute contribution made to
Sheldon by the same group. It’s for $5,126.59 and was given on
Thursday.) Remember, he’s a Democrat. There is another
Democrat in the race, Irene Bowling, who is not shy about
questioning his Dem cred. He has received no other official
Republican Party money.
Travis Couture, the Republican in the race, received $2,000 from
the Mason County Republican Central Committee, but that’s about it
from official sources. Official communications from the state have
gone out within the district from the state party backing other
35th District Republicans, but not Couture.
Eventually, apparently that was July 31, Couture had had enough.
So he sent a letter to Washington State Republican Party Chairwoman
Susan Hutchison complaining. The text of that letter follows. After
that is the response from the state party and then the one from
Kitsap County Republican Party Chairman Chris Tibbs. After that you
can we go back to the Democrats, with Bob Scales taking on the “Tea
Party” issue. Continue reading →