State Republican chairman Kirby Wilbur says his Democratic counterpart, Dwight Pelz, has not gone far enough in divesting itself of JZ Knight’s donations now that the Yelm-based spiritualist has come under fire for anti-gay, Semitic, Catholic and Mexican comments.
Republicans said new campaign finance filings show that the Democrats received money from Knight into their hard-money account, which can be used to directly help candidates. But when the party decided to distance itself from Knight by giving her money away, the party took $35,000 from its soft-money account – which is not subject to contribution limits and can only be used for party-building activities – and gave it to the pro-gay marriage campaign.
In an email to reporters Wilbur said, in part:
“I stood ready to praise Chairman Pelz for making the right decision in donating the money, but it looks like he was really just trying to pull one over on us,” said WSRP Chairman Kirby Wilbur.
“Dwight knows as well as I do that giving up the $35,000 from the soft dollar account is nothing more than a ceremonial gesture. That account is filled with big donations from unions, corporate entities, and PAC’s and can easily be replenished by any of those groups. The tainted money he took from Knight is still being used to directly help his candidates and his party, and it’s wrong.
“The Washington Democrats tried to make the media and the voters think that they were doing the right thing – it’s completely disingenuous. I know as well as anybody how valuable every dollar is to a campaign, but no political party should need funds so badly that it becomes okay to take money from a person such as Knight. Dwight is dancing with the devil, and in turn, so are his candidates.”
Benton Strong, spokesman for the state Democrats, did not dispute that the donation to R-74 was made from soft-money accounts. But he said the party is following through on its promise to donate $70,000 received from Knight to other causes.
“We’ve strongly condemned her remarks and are contributing $35,000 to R-74 and $35,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, as we’ve pledged to do,” Strong wrote in an email.
Strong then equated the money from Knight with donations that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna has received from oil interests. And he took a shot at the GOP’s opposition to R-74 and gay marriage.
“Has McKenna returned the Tesoro money yet? Has Kirby or McKenna stopped planning to discriminate against gays and lesbians on their ballot yet?” Strong asked.
But Meredith Kenny, spokeswoman for the state Republicans, said that is a “pathetic and absurd” comparison. She wrote:
“Tesoro is a traditional, legitimate energy company that contributed roughly $50 million in taxes to Washington state in 2011, and employs roughly 600 people in the state with good, family-wage jobs. JZ Knight/Ramtha is a cult leader who spews venom and hate.
“The Democrats are comparing apples and acid. They like to claim that they are the party of tolerance and acceptance, but it appears that only applies when they aren’t profiting heavily from it.”
But the Democrats have been critical of McKenna and a big fundraiser for him in Texas in June that included Tesoro, payday lenders and other interest groups. Tesoro manages a refinery in Washington state where seven workers were killed in an explosion in April 2010. The company was fined $2.39 million and state investigators found the accident was preventable.