In echoes of Democrats’ outcry in federal races across the country, Republican candidates for the Legislature are complaining about secretive spending on hit pieces.
The Republicans are seizing on an investigation of the mailers attacking state Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, that were sent out by a political consultant working for unions and liberal interest groups. Attorney General Rob McKenna today sued consultant Lisa MacLean over alleged violations of campaign laws in the Berkey case.
MacLean’s consulting firm, Moxie Media, is also responsible for mailers targeting Republican candidates in legislative races in the South Sound’s 28th, 2nd, 30th and 47th districts.
Candidates in those races blasted Moxie for creating a spiderweb of more than 40 PACs that make the money harder to trace.
Ads by independent political action committees are required to identify the PAC’s top five contributors. Moxie gets around those rules by setting up two PACs in each race. The PAC that receives the money then gives it to the other PAC, which can pay for a mailer without reporting any contributors except that of its twin.
Moxie’s not the only one shuffling money around. And it’s legal, as long as the real donors are disclosed to the Public Disclosure Commission so diligent voters can go to the PDC website to follow the money. That didn’t happen in the Berkey case.
Kevin Carns, director of the House Republican Organizational Committee, said he’s sure more violations will be found in some of that accounting.
“They’re spending dirty money against Jean Berkey,” Carns said. “If they’re willing to do that against one of their own, I’m pretty sure they’re willing to break the law against a Republican.”
He acknowledged he can’t prove any wrongdoing, even as he floated possible violations that might be found if the company’s books were scoured. Carns said if his group was the one that set up 40 PACs, “I guarantee we’d screw something up.”
In recent weeks, at least three Moxie mailers have gone out to 28th District voters against House candidate Paul Wagemann, credited to groups with names like Protect PAC, Moderate PAC, Stride PAC and Move PAC. At least three have hit Senate candidate Joe Fain in the 47th District and at least another four have hit House candidate Mark Hargrove in the same district. All are Republicans.
Another Republican House candidate, Milton Mayor Katrina Asay, is still waiting to see the mailers Moxie has reported spending on in her race.
“It’s not so much the lies that are out here, because you get that in every campaign,” Asay said. “It’s the fact that people don’t get a chance to see who’s saying them.”
MacLean didn’t return a phone call today.
Here’s what groups using Moxie Media PACs have spent to date backing South Sound Democrats:
- Supporting Rep. Tami Green and opposing Wagemann: $67,060. Donors: DIME-PAC (Washington State Labor Council), Washington Federation of State Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, Service Employees International Union and its locals, Teamsters Local 117, progressive group Fuse Washington.
- Supporting House candidate Carol Gregory and opposing Asay: $42,173. Donors: DIME, WFSE, UFCW, SEIU, Washington State Council of Firefighters.
- Supporting Rep. Geoff Simpson and opposing Hargrove: $42,885. Donors: DIME, WFSE, UFCW.
- Supporting Sen. Claudia Kauffman and opposing Fain: $42,347. Donors: Roosevelt Fund (Senate Democrats), NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, Planned Parenthood Votes Washington.
Another PAC has spent $118,387 during the primary and general elections, most of it to support Rep. Tom Campbell and oppose his challenger and fellow Republican J.T. Wilcox. Donors: WFSE, DIME, the firefighters council, Forward PAC.