NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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.

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6 Comments

  1. 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”.

    # by Eric Oemig :: July 27th, 2014 at 11:12 PM
    • 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.

      # by Andrew :: July 27th, 2014 at 11:34 PM
  2. 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.

    # by Philip Ross :: July 28th, 2014 at 3:14 AM
  3. 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.

    # by Mike Barer :: July 28th, 2014 at 7:29 AM
  4. 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.

    # by Bill Knight :: July 29th, 2014 at 12:42 PM
    • 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.

      # by Andrew :: July 29th, 2014 at 12:44 PM

One Ping

  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 […]