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Puyallup Sen. Jim Kastama says he’ll introduce resolution to not seat fellow Democrat Nick Harper due to Moxie Media scandal

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Jan. 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
January 6, 2011 5:12 pm

This clearly is not going to make Sen. Jim Kastama popular with his Democratic leaders. But the Puyallup lawmaker said he will introduce a resolution before newly elected Sen. Nick Harper is sworn in Monday to deny him his seat.

Kastama said he believes improper and illegal actions by a Seattle political consultant changed the results of a primary election that saw Harper defeat incumbent Democrat Jean Berkey.

“I cannot in good conscience vote to seat a senator whose election was altered by an illegal action,” Kastama said. “The documents I have seen, including signed affidavits, show there is no doubt that Moxie Media’s actions were illegal and that they were responsible for changing the outcome of the election.

“These actions shifted a sure primary election victory from Sen. Jean Berkey to a razor-thin victory for Rod Rieger, a candidate whose support and campaign efforts were largely nonexistent.”

Moxie Media and its co-owner Lisa Collins MacLean have been sued in civil court by state Attorney General Rob McKenna for four violations of campaign finance disclosure law. They arose out of her efforts to defeat Berkey on behalf of a coalition of labor and trial lawyers groups.

A state Public Disclosure Commission investigation found that MacLean purposefully delayed disclosure and created multiple layers of political action committees to make sure the source of money for the campaign was not made public until after the election.

Part of the effort to defeat Berkey, deemed not liberal enough by the interest groups, was to run a shadow campaign for conservative candidate Rieger, thus denying Berkey votes from both the left and the right. She ended up finishing third in the top-two primary and Harper went on to win the general election.

“This is not a rebuke of Sen.-elect Harper,” Kastama said. “This is about the integrity of the election.

“The egregious tactics used in this campaign must not be rewarded. Out of respect for this institution and our duty as public servants, I urge my colleges to join me in voting to not seat Sen.-elect Harper.”

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has stated that she thinks Harper should be seated. Here is her blog post on the topic.

“This wouldn’t be fair to Harper – who was given a clear mandate by the voters – and wouldn’t be fair to the voters of the 38th district, who would be denied representation in the Senate for some unspecified period of time,” Brown wrote.

“It’s not the job of legislators to determine the legality of an election. Nor is it the job of legislators to decide what the remedy should be for an election that did violate the law. That’s the job of the courts.”

Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, has introduced a bill to tighten up reporting and make it more difficult to hide contributions behind multiple tiers of political action committees. It is Senate Bill 5021. The bill also targets a campaign by a conservative organization called Americans for Prosperity that also has been accused of not reporting donors in a timely manner.

Here’s the press release issued Thursday afternoon …

Kastama will introduce resolution to not seat Sen.-elect Harper

OLYMPIA – Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, will introduce a resolution Monday calling for the Senate not to seat Sen.-elect Nick Harper to the 38th Legislative District.

“I cannot in good conscience vote to seat a senator whose election was altered by an illegal action,” Kastama said. “The documents I have seen, including signed affidavits, show there is no doubt that Moxie Media’s actions were illegal and that they were responsible for changing the outcome of the election. These actions shifted a sure primary election victory from Sen. Jean Berkey to a razor-thin victory for Rod Rieger, a candidate whose support and campaign efforts were largely nonexistent.”

Kastama referred to efforts to help Rieger, a conservative, past Berkey for the second spot in the September top-two primary after polls suggested indicated Berkey would win the general election as long as she made it through the primary against fellow Democrat Harper. Moxie Media had amassed campaign funds from several progressive groups and mounted attacks on Berkey from both the left and the right, creating multiple political action committees with vague names to hide the identities and ideologies of the groups behind the ads.

“This is not a rebuke of Sen.-elect Harper,” Kastama said. “This is about the integrity of the election.”

Kastama said he would introduce his resolution Monday at the start of the 2011 Legislative Session before the Senate’s new members are sworn in.

“I can’t look the other way when it is clear to me that Moxie Media’s actions affected the election’s outcome,” Kastama said. “I stand with the millions of Washingtonians and Americans who seek fair and transparent elections. The egregious tactics used in this campaign must not be rewarded. Out of respect for this institution and our duty as public servants, I urge my colleges to join me in voting to not seat Sen.-elect Harper.”

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