The state Democratic Party reversed course Friday evening, saying it will get rid of about $70,000 in campaign contributions received from Yelm-based spirit-channeler JZ Knight, whose profanity-filled comments on videos hit out at Catholics, gays, Jews and now Mexicans. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee is giving away another $900 for the same reason in the latest segment of the rapidly unfolding story.
State Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz put out a statement Friday evening saying:
“Recently, we have been made aware of comments made by a contributor to the Democratic Party that do not reflect the values of our party. While we did not solicit any contributions from J.Z. Knight at any point, it is important that we make it clear that we view her comments as offensive and do not condone this kind of vitriol.“Today, I am announcing that the Washington State Democrats will be donating $35,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, and contributing $35,000 to the Referendum 74 campaign. We as Democrats strongly value equality and inclusiveness, values shared by the ADL and supporters of marriage equality.”
State Republican Party chairman Kirby Wilbur had been hounding on Democrats all week to return the contributions to Knight, who this year began donating to political campaigns for the first time. An earlier story is here.
The decision to give up the money came after another round of profanity-filled videotapes were made public by the Freedom Foundation, a hard-right think tank based in Olympia. The new videos, which a lawyer for Knight says may be violations of copyright law, show her making comments about Catholics, gays, and Mexicans.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, who is gay and a leading champion of the state’s gay-marriage law (Referendum 74), is also co-chair of the Senate Democrats’ committee.
“Earlier this week the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee (SDCC) was made aware of a disturbing video that contained offensive comments made by J Z Knight. We immediately condemned Ms. Knight’s anti-Catholic, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments, calling them ‘outrageous and completely inappropriate.’ Now two new videos have been released, containing further vile and racist comments from Ms. Knight.“We had already announced that we will refuse all contributions from her in the future. In addition, we will now also be making a $900 contribution – the same amount that Ms. Knight contributed to the SDCC – to Washington United for Marriage, which is running the campaign to approve R-74 (which would uphold Washington State’s historic marriage equality law). In doing so, we want to make it absolutely clear that we do not support Ms. Knight’s views, nor do we believe they have any place in civilized discourse.“Moreover, we also continue to condemn the self-serving efforts by the state Republican Party to distract voters from the huge contributions they receive from their deep-pocked corporate special interest backers, and from their own extreme and homophobic platform, which includes denying gay and lesbian Washingtonians the opportunity to marry and build a stable life for their families. I wish I could take the fact that the Republican Party is publicly denouncing Ms. Knight’s homophobic comments as a positive sign that the party is becoming more enlightened on these issues, but unfortunately we have yet to see concrete evidence of that.”
The state Republican Party did not immediately offer comment on the Democrats’ reversal of direction.
But the GOP has used the incidents to pressure candidates – including Thurston County commissioner Sandra Romero of Lacey and Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Lachney of Eatonville, both of whom have declined to give back contributions they received from Knight.
My story about GOP-funded mailers linking Lachney to Knight is here, and reporter Chelsea Krotzer’s piece on Romero declining to give back money, including comments from her Republican challenger Andrew Barkis, is here.
Knight’s organization, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, said Friday it is looking into legal actions around the latest disclosure of videos. Its spokesman referred questions to Seattle attorney Jeffrey Grant, who confirmed there are concerns about copyright infringement but also what he called “scurrilous” commentary that the videos have provoked.
“There has been a long standing campaign from people that attack JZ Knight and what they do at the school. What we’ve seen the last few days seems to be a whole new level of attack,’’ Grant said Friday.
Dave Champagne, a former student at the school, said the first video that spliced footage of Knight and Romero was the work of his sister, Virginia Coverdale, which others also confirm. Champagne has described her as a former student at Knight’s school who had a falling out and now is lashing out.