The flare-up over video-taped comments that Yelm-based spirit channeler JZ Knight made about Catholics is turning into a cause celebre for Republicans. Republican state Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville called on her Democratic challenger Bruce Lachney Wednesday to return some $3,600 in campaign contributions that Knight and her school made to his campaign in the 2nd Legislative District.
And in moves that appear well-coordinated with the GOP’s announcement of the video, the state Republican Party has sent a pair of misleading mailers to voters that say Lachney is supported by a “cult leader,” label him “extreme” and insinuate in one piece that Knight is Lachney’s “most trusted adviser.’’
In a milder way, Republican congressional candidate Dick Muri said on Facebook he is going to ask Democrat Denny Heck in the 10th district to donate any contributions from Knight to charity and “to condemn the vitriolic statements” in the video. A search of Federal Election Commission data failed to turn up such donations to Heck this morning. UPDATE: But a recent report filed by Heck that isn’t yet in the database shows Knight gave Heck $3,500 in August.
Both moves involving Lachney and Heck are fallout from the carefully timed election-season surprise orchestrated by state Republicans this week that is trying to tie Democrats to comments that Knight made in a seminar that dealt with pedophile priests in the Catholic Church. In each case, the GOP is urging Democrats to give back money late in the campaigns and to denounce what it calls bigoted and offensive remarks.
And in the case of Lachney the sudden outlay of money for mailers suggests Republicans are getting worried about losing Becker’s seat, which the GOP needs if it is to narrow or erase the Democrats’ five-seat majority in the state Senate.
State Republican spokeswoman Meredith Kenny said the party is spending $26,658 on the mailers attacking Lachney and $174 more for a website that labels him “wacky.’’
A spokesman for Knight’s School of Enlightenment said the doctored video took Knight’s comments out of context. The video clearly had been spliced with unrelated footage of Thurston County commissioner Sandra Romero speaking at a candidate forum at the school this year.
One former student at the school familiar with the video told The Olympian the material from which the quotes were taken was copyrighted and meant for advanced students. The ex-student, Dave Champagne, said that Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old warrior spirit that Knight claims to channel, sometimes uses profane and shocking language.
But the bizarre, two-minute video – linked here (caution: it contains profane language) –offers no context. It presents Knight, as Ramtha, in snippets of a tirade that also references homosexuals and Jews. Among the statements:
Lachney is apparently not going to give up the contributions, and his campaign is carrying on with its own mailers that hit Becker for her proposal to let some smaller schools seek state waivers for a shorter, four-day school week as a money-saving measure.
“I haven’t seen the hit piece yet,” Lachney said in an email late Wednesday that noted the mailers went out within 48 hours of when state Republican chairman Kirby Wilbur announced the video’s existence on Monday. “Anyway, it is programmed subterfuge; trying to redirect the education issue with slight-of-hand. We will keep talking about education and the budget.”
In a news release, Becker said she is a Catholic and offended by Knight’s diatribe, which she said was insensitive and imparted bigotry.
“My opponent has embraced J.Z. Knight, both literally and figuratively. Knight contributed $3,600 to his campaign and also contributed $60,000 to the Washington State Democratic Party, which then gave Lachney an additional $5,000. He should return those contributions immediately and distance himself from Knight.”
Giving back funds at this time would be hard for either campaign. Becker, a first-term lawmaker, has raised more than $190,500 – much from corporate interests that often support incumbents – and Lachney has raised more than $168,000 with much of it coming from Democratic Party sources and labor unions. Contributions to Lachney include $1,800 each from Knight and the Ramtha School of Enlightenment.
Lachney said he spoke at the school one time about education, has no other connection to the school and has never taken classes from Knight.
The Democrat did acknowledge that two allegations in the GOP’s hit pieces have a factual basis: one deals with his support for repealing the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases, which he thinks is unconstitutional, and the other is a claim he cut 30 percent of a community college budget. Lachney said the budget was cut 40 percent at the Clover Park Technical School, a result of reduced state funding.
Lachney’s fliers attacking Becker also take license with the truth – trying to indict her through guilt by association. One Lachney-funded mailer says she “sided against our social security benefits.” As evidence, it says accurately that Becker belongs to the ultra-conservative and corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council, and Lachney cites a Washington Post article from 2005 linking the group to privatization proposals.
But Becker did not become a legislator, and thereby a member, until 2009. It is not clear she has ever publicly backed changes in the guarantee of Social Security benefits.
The smearing and beating of candidates will go on presumably until Election Day on Nov. 6.