Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Republican Party trying to drive down support for Matt Isenhower with attack mailers targeting 45th’s Democratic voters

In an apparent attempt to make the high-profile contest between incumbent Republican Andy Hill and his Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower look less competitive, the Senate Republican caucus (of which Andy Hill is a member) has begun sending out attack mailers to Democratic voters in the 45th District, trying to discredit Matt Isenhower by claiming he is really a Republican – which is not true.

I actually received both of these mailers myself. The first one arrived mid-week and the second hit my mailbox just yesterday. Both mailers feature a smiling picture of Matt next to readily available images of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and contain lines like “Matt Isenhower volunteered in the Bush White House. Now he says he’s a Democrat… Matt Isenhower: NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.”

Here’s the front and back of the first one:

Front of Republican Party attack mailer against Matt IsenhowerBack of Republican Party attack mailer against Matt Isenhower

And here’s the front and back of the second one:

Front of the second Republican Party attack mailer against Matt IsenhowerBack of the second Republican Party attack mailer against Matt Isenhower

The mailers say they are paid for by the “Good Government Leadership Council.” What they don’t say is that the “Good Government Leadership Council” is a shell political action committee (PAC) created by The Leadership Council, and that The Leadership Council is a Republican Party PAC. In other words: These mailers were produced and sent to Democratic voters by the Republican Party.

The Public Disclosure Commission’s website actually lists The Leadership Council in its caucus committees section, and that’s because its operatives answer to the Senate and House Republican caucuses, of which Andy Hill is a member. The top five contributors to The Leadership Council this cycle are as follows:

  • Farmers Employees and Agents PAC: $50,000
  • Washington Restaurant Association PAC: $40,000
  • Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW): $30,000
  • George W. Rowley, Jr.: $25,000
  • Washington State Dental PAC: $25,000

The mailers ought to have listed the above entities on its mailer as the top five contributors To The Leadership Council in accordance with Washington State law. But they don’t. That’s because in addition to trying to conceal the fact that the Republican Party is responsible for producing and sending the mailers, its operatives are also dishonestly attempting to hide the identities of their top donors. That’s the only reason they set up the “Good Government Leadership Council.”

If you check PDC records, you’ll see that 100% of GGLC’s contributions came from The Leadership Council, in the form of three checks (so far, anyway). For those who haven’t heard the term, shell PACs are so named because they function somewhat like a crustacean’s shell. They provide a convenient, innocuous-looking and sounding cover for the real entity underneath that’s trying to influence voters.

The Leadership Council could arguably itself be considered a shell PAC because it does not carry the Republican name (unlike its siblings listed here), but it is definitely a Republican PAC run by the Washington State Republican establishment.

It might seem ridiculous and stupid that the Republican Party is trying to influence Democratic voters by attempting to link Matt Isenhower with Bush and Cheney, but remember that they are desperate to keep control of the Washington State Senate and Andy Hill is their most vulnerable incumbent.

Hill has raised more money than any other legislative candidate this cycle and is sending out his own mailers, but the Republican Party evidently views Matt Isenhower as a formidable challenger, which is why they’re spending time and money targeting Democratic voters with these mailers. The objective  appears to be to drive down Matt Isenhower’s share of the vote in the August Top Two election to make the race seem less competitive going into the autumn.

This is hardly the first time the Republican Party or a Republican candidate has done something like this, and sadly it probably won’t be the last time, either.

In 2007, when founding NPI board member and current NPI vice president Gael Tarleton was running for Seattle Port Commission, her Republican opponent Bob Edwards sent out an attack mailer targeted at progressive voters in King County which tried to associate her with Dick Cheney. Happily, the mailer backfired and Gael went on to win. I debunked that attack piece here in October 2007.

Before I discuss the content of the mailers and respond further, I want to disclose, for those readers who do not already know, that in addition to serving as NPI’s executive director, I am involved in the Democratic Party as the 45th LD Democrats’ State Committeeman and am also a volunteer for Matt Isenhower’s campaign.

While NPI as an organization does not endorse candidates or get involved in electioneering for or against candidates, many of us at NPI do so in our individual capacities as activists. I wanted to make that clear, because we believe in full disclosure here at NPI. We’re committed to it; our code of ethics requires it as part of our publications’ coverage, whether of electoral politics or another subject. The views I am expressing in this post are my own, and not those of NPI.

Now, as I’ve said already, the Republican Party is going to a lot of trouble to discredit Matt Isenhower with Democratic voters. They are doing so because they view Matt’s candidacy as a serious threat to their continued control of the Senate, which they got in a post-election power coup that they engineered with Democratic defectors Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon. (Tom is retiring; Sheldon is seeking reelection).

I learned a long time ago that when you get singled out for attack, it’s because the other side views you as a threat. Otherwise, why would they bother?

Here, in plain text, are the false and incredibly disingenuous things that that the Republican Party is saying about Matt Isenhower. From the first mailer:

Matt Isenhower volunteered for George W. Bush in the White House and gave their [our] candidate money.

If Matt Isenhower is a Democrat, then Rush Limbaugh is a liberal. Matt volunteered in the George W. Bush White House and his wife worked for Dick Cheney for years.

But now that Matt wants a seat in the State Senate, he claims he’s a Democrat. If he’s a Democrat, then there really are weapons of mass destruction hidden somewhere in Iraq.

If Matt Isenhower is a Democrat, then Dick Cheney is a pacifist. Matt moved into our area a short time ago determined to run for political office. He looked around and decided it was better to claim to be Democrat. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, willing to say anything to get elected. Just like his mentors: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney [our candidates for President and Vice President in 2000 and 2004].

Matt Isenhower will say anything to get elected. We deserve better.

Matt Isenhower: NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

The second mailer uses slightly different wording but says the same things:

Matt Isenhower volunteered for George W. Bush in the White House. Now he says he’s a Democrat.

If Matt Isenhower is a Democrat, then Bellevue Square is a homeless shelter. Matt volunteered in the George W. Bush White House and his wife worked for Dick Cheney for years. But now that Matt wants a seat in the State Senate, he claims he’s a Democrat.

If Matt Isenhower is a Democrat, then Jay Inslee is in the Tea Party. Matt moved into our area a short time ago determined to run for political office. He looked around and decided it was better to claim to be Democrat. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, willing to say anything to get elected. Just like his mentors: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney [our candidates for President and Vice President in 2000 and 2004].

Matt Isenhower will say anything to get elected. We deserve better.

Matt Isenhower: NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

In the progressive blogosphere, we call this sort of thing concern trolling.

I do have to say, I’m amused to see an arm of the Republican Party describing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as people “willing to say anything to get elected”. I guess Bush and Cheney are expendable now that they’re out of office. If you ask me, that phrase also describes quite a few other Republican candidates… including Andy Hill, the intended beneficiary of these attack mailers.

Matt Isenhower, on the other hand, is a man of integrity and honesty.

What Republicans don’t want voters to know is that Matt grew up in the 45th and is one of the strongest candidates for office the Democratic Party has ever fielded on the Eastside. He is a Navy veteran, an experienced business leader, a devoted father, and an alum of Redmond High School (also my alma mater).

It is true that Matt comes from a Republican family and has Republican roots. His wife did work in the Bush administration, and he did once donate to a Republican candidate for statewide office (Dino Rossi, in 2004) on his wife’s behalf.

But Matt is his own person. He is the one running for Senate. And for the record, his wife April enthusiastically supports his candidacy as a Democrat.

The attack mailers seem to imply that Matt worked in the Bush White House as a political operative. In reality, after graduating from the Naval Academy, Matt was asked to help put together a briefing memo for Bush on Washington State issues, and out of a sense of duty to his country, he agreed to do so.

We in the 45th District Democrats knew all this from the very beginning, because Matt has never tried to hide anything from us – or from the public. He has been candid and upfront with us before and throughout the campaign. Matt is a team player and supports other Democratic candidates and causes. He shares a campaign office with State Representative Cyrus Habib, running for Senate in the 48th LD.

As longtime political observers are well aware, it used to be that progressives could be found in both major political parties. Had I been alive in the 1970s, I believe I could have found a home in either the Washington State Democratic Party or Dan Evans’ Washington State Republican Party as a progressive activist.

Nowadays, there’s just only one major political party that shares my values and principles…. and that’s the Democratic Party.

Matt Isenhower came to the same realization while at the United States Naval Academy, which he was nominated for by Washington’s senior United States Senator, Patty Murray. (Senator Murray, by the way, is enthusiastically supporting Matt’s campaign, and singled out Matt for praise during her speech at the 2014 Washington State Democratic Convention in Spokane).

Matt decided to become a Democrat because his values mattered more to him than his party identification, like other progressives abandoned by the Republican Party.

I so appreciate that, because it means Matt and I can work together to advance our shared values, instead of working at cross purposes. So do organizations like the Washington Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the Washington State Labor Council, and Democracy For America, all of which have endorsed Matt’s campaign for Washington State Senate.

In February, after thoroughly vetting Matt, the 45th District Democrats’ Endorsements Committee unanimously recommend him for endorsement. He was subsequently unanimously endorsed in February and then unanimously nominated in June. The Democratic Party has unequivocally determined that Matt Isenhower is in fact a Democrat, and chosen him to be its candidate for state Senate in the 45th.

That ought to be good enough for the Republican Party, which is completely and totally unqualified to advise Democratic voters on how to vote.

Sadly, it’s not, because the Republican Party cares more about winning and maintaining power than governing well or campaigning honestly.

I myself am a lifelong Democrat, but like Matt, my loyalty is to my values, not to any figure in the Democratic Party, or to the party as an undefined entity. I am a Democrat because the Democratic Party embraces my values. I stand with Matt and will be working to ensure that he becomes my next state senator.

In closing, I’d like to deliver a special message to Republican Leader Mark Schoesler and State Republican Chair Susan Hutchison, who I hold responsible for this disingenuous and dishonest attack mail campaign.

Speaking as a longtime Democratic activist and a member of the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, I want you both to know that we in the Democratic Party are quite capable of doing our own vetting and nominating of candidates on behalf of our voters without any assistance whatsoever from you or your operatives. Matt Isenhower is ours and we are proud that he is our candidate for State Senate. You, on the other hand, have Andy Hill – and you’re stuck with him.

6 Comments

  1. Eric Oemig
    Posted July 27th, 2014 at 11:12 PM | Permalink

    This is a nicely researched post, but I think you missed the irony. The republicans are smearing Matt Isenhower by claiming he is a… (gasp) republican.

    How about that? The republicans think don’t like Matt Isenhower b/c he is “too republican”.

  2. Andrew
    Posted July 27th, 2014 at 11:34 PM | Permalink

    No irony missed, Eric. As I wrote:

    I do have to say, I’m amused to see an arm of the Republican Party describing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as people “willing to say anything to get elected”. I guess Bush and Cheney are expendable now that they’re out of office. If you ask me, that phrase also describes quite a few other Republican candidates… including Andy Hill, the intended beneficiary of these attack mailers.

  3. Philip Ross
    Posted July 28th, 2014 at 3:14 AM | Permalink

    Shame, Republicans. This is how you campaign? I was undecided prior to hearing about this, but now I see how desperate Andy Hill and his supporters are to win. I’ll be voting for Matt.

  4. Posted July 28th, 2014 at 7:29 AM | Permalink

    That is a different technique from the Lee Atwater attack of calling Democrats socialist, no matter how close to the mainstream they are.
    Of course, his name is similar to a past Republican president, whom I think would be a Democrat if he was around today.

  5. Bill Knight
    Posted July 29th, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

    I’m certainly not an insider of any sort but having looked at the credentials of the two 45th district (where I reside) senatorial candidates I find both qualified. But ANY candidate who would allow the cheap shots fired against his rival as Hill did in the case of Isenhower–will never get my support. Just as bad is Hill’s failure to immediately disavow any connection to this admitted slam by the party organization against Isenhower.

  6. Andrew
    Posted July 29th, 2014 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    Bill, Andy Hill can’t disavow this because it’s his own caucus that’s doing it. The Leadership Council is an entity controlled by the Republicans in Olympia, of which Andy is a member, as I stated twice in the post. It can be inferred that Hill and his campaign knew about this mailing and didn’t object to it.

One Trackback

  1. […] caucus has sent glossy mailers to voters in the hotly contested 45th Legislative District race, bitterly accusing Democratic challenger Matt Isenhower of being a closet Republican! And they don’t just slam Isenhower for being a Republican, they slam their own party in the […]