Leafing through campaign finance documents available to the public from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), Seattle Times Reporter, Keith Ervin, reported in an August 5th story that an independent, "non-partisan" political action committee (PAC) calling itself "Citizens to Uphold the Constitution," had an interesting link to the Dow Constantine campaign: they share the same treasurer, Jason Bennett. Surprisingly, that was the end of Ervin's interest in the matter.
According to their expenditures report filed to the PDC, Citizens to Uphold the Constitution, paid $11,300.25 to Washington, D.C.-based vendor, "The Clinton Group," to perform robocalls attacking Susan Hutchison. The sponsor of the group who purchased the vendor services is named as Jason Bennett, who, according to the Seattle Times article, is also Dow Constantine's treasurer.
The situation appears to be a violation of RCW 42.17.020 and WAC 390-05-210. The RCW, in section 28, defines independent expenditure, which forbids collaboration between a candidate (the candidate's campaign staff or any agent of that campaign) and a group or person purchasing advertising for that candidate or against the candidate's opponent.
The link between Constantine's treasurer, Jason Bennett, and this Political Action Committee looks sordid enough, but there's even more. Jason Bennett is a veteran political consultant and Olympia insider who has helped win democratic majorities in the state legislature and worked for Senator Maria Cantwell's staff before opening his own political consulting firm, Argo Strategies, in Seattle. He is a sophisticated player whose firm advertises its ability to get progressive democrats elected. Good for him. Being that he is integral to the political scene, there should be no question that he knows the laws. In fact, his website claims, "Argo Strategies is a political consulting firm specializing in treasury and compliance work...let us navigate the campaign waters, you go and win!"
So, just to review: it is illegal for a candidate's campaign to coordinate with independent groups who finance attack ads against opponents or who fund campaign activities in support of said candidate. Jason Bennett, the treasurer for Dow Constantine, owns his own political consulting firm and is listed as the sponsor for the group that purchased attack robocalls against Susan Hutchison (an opponent of Dow Constantine).
Wait, there's MORE! Another consulting firm, located in Seattle, called Moxie Media, Inc. was hired for attack ads against Ross Hunter (Dow Constantine's opponent in the primary) by a group calling itself "Working Families Coalition." This "independent" group, financed by several state and local unions, paid $14,565 to Moxie Media to send out direct mailings attacking Hunter.
Who is Moxie Media? Nobody really knows, except that they have a webpage up that offers only their name and contact information, including, the exact same mailing address (and suite number) as the consulting firm working for Dow Constantine's campaign, Northwest Passage.
Confused? All you need to know is that it is illegal for a candidate to collaborate with a group who spends money to support that candidate or to attack the candidate's opponents. It appears that Dow Constantine's treasurer is working as a staffer and as an operative for the group "Citizens to Uphold the Constitution."
And, it appears that the consulting firm that the Constantine campaign is using for their campaign is sharing an address with the so-called consulting firm that several independent groups have hired to do campaigning for Constantine, in the form of "independent" political action group ads.
Stayed tuned for more on this labyrinth of shady connections.....
More on DOW COSTANTINE...
It was Keith Ervin of the Seattle Times who first made reference to the problem of Dow Constantine's treasurer Jason Bennett wearing one too many hats in his involvement with both a political action committee and the campaign staff that the PAC was supporting. He dropped it at that and the blogosphere took over from there, with Red County breaking the story as a possible campaign violation.
Now we have another issue regarding a possible sexual misconduct case levied against Constantine. The same reporter discovered the information, but now refuses to fully report the findings. Apparently the plaintiff in the case has pleaded to keep it under wraps due to fears of losing her job if the information is made public.....which in my view begs further investigation. How could she lose her job, unless her current job is some kind of a promotion she received in return for not pursuing the case against Constantine? Is there more to the corruption than even we cynical bloogers can imagine?
Here is a letter I received by e-mail--I won't reveal the writer unless he gives me his permission (you know how to contact me), but here is the text. It gives instructions for action:
On Tuesday, October 20, Keith Ervin of the Seattle Times sent the King County Council a Public Records Request for records relating to any complaints alleging inappropriate comments or behavior by King County Councilmember Dow Constantine toward any employee.
22, the County Council's public
records officer transmitted a packet to the Seattle Times regarding a sexual
misconduct investigation against King County Councilmember Dow
Constantine. Additional documents were to be released to the Seattle Times
the week of October 26.
On October 27, the undisclosed plaintiff in the sexual harassment investigation petitioned and was granted an order restraining the release of any documents until after the November election (attached). King County Superior Court Judge Brian Gain granted Order # 09-2-39490-0SEA, which stated the plaintiff feared "immediate loss of employment" if the documents were made public. The restraining order shows that the woman fears for her job and possible retribution.
The Seattle Times has some of the records and will not release or comment on them. Aren't these public records as relevant to the public interest as Susan Hutchison's private legal records that the Seattle Times worked so hard to have made public? How is it fair that the Times so diligently pursued and released records about Hutchison, but now sits on a story about Constantine's alleged actions while an elected county official?
The Times could release what it already has. They could appeal the Temporary Restraining Order. They have done neither.
If you think the Times should release this information, please contact them and let them know. Demand full disclosure. (206) 464-2200. firstname.lastname@example.org. email@example.com.