California billionaire Tom Steyer entered Oregon and Washington politics in a big way this week.
Steyer has been described by many as the liberal version of the Koch brothers and his foray into Washington state legislative races has been expected.
In a great piece in May, NW News Network’s Austin Jenkins described Steyer, who ran his own hedge-fund, as a real-life Batman joining forces with Gov. Jay Inslee (who in Jenkins’ anecdote plays police commissioner James Gordon) to save the planet from climate change.
“In the movies, Batman and the police commissioner have a back-channel relationship and are united in their desire to rid Gotham City of crime,” Jenkins writes. “Similarly, Steyer and Inslee, both Democrats, share a passion for combating global climate change and, over the last year, they’ve developed a working relationship that’s not well-known to outsiders.”
That changed this week when Steyer made headlines after he poured $1 million into Washington state legislative races. His political action committee “NextGen Climate” also announced this week it would target Senate races in the Oregon Legislature.
“With pro-climate action governors in both states, NextGen Climate, in conjunction with its partners, will implement a program to identify and mobilize climate action voters to ensure that both Washington and Oregon have a pro-climate majority in their respective state legislatures in 2015,” a press release stated.
Like the Koch brothers, Steyer is quickly attracting detractors.
But in a post titled, “The Koch brothers, Tom Steyer and the limits of bogeyman politics,” the reporter writes, “there simply isn’t much evidence to suggest that any of this will influence voters’ thinking significantly enough to affect any outcomes this fall.”
Dean Simrell isn’t a huge fan of Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.
But when Simrell, who lives in the 17th Legislative District, received Benton’s newsletter in the mail he thought maybe the senator had accomplished something that would help him.
“I was looking through this thing, it’s talking about fighting for our environment and is a brochure basically about what a great person Don Benton is,” Simrell said, when he noticed it said, “in big letters: my veteran driver’s license bill becomes law.”
Simrell, 77, is a veteran and had just renewed his driver’s license in August. He called the DMV to see about getting this new designation.
The measure, Senate Bill 5775, allows veterans to get a special designation on their license so they don’t have to pull out their Department of Defense discharge papers to prove their status.
Sounded like a good idea to Simrell. But what the newsletter doesn’t say is the law doesn’t take effect until 2017.
“He’s leading anyone to read this to believe they can go and it get it done now and well you can’t,” Simrell said.
“If I went in (to the DMV) with getting that in mind, sat in there and waited, sometimes they are busy, you can wait for an hour … Well, that would make you a little upset,” Simrell said.
And hey, maybe Simrell will change his mind about Benton, because the senator agreed.
“Upon further review, Senator Benton agrees that the section is unclear. He will include clarifications in his upcoming print and digital communications. He apologizes for any inconvenience caused by this miscommunication,” Matt Hunter, his legislative assistant, wrote in an email.
No, Simrell said, his opinion still stands.
“He can’t change it, he’s already put it in there,” he said.
But while Benton is being responsive, Simrell has a list of other items he would like to talk to the senator about.
Remember “he wants you to pay a litter tax for (on your) newspaper?” Simrell said.
If you’re eligible to vote but not registered, Washington’s Secretary of State’s office has a message for you: Take three minutes and register online.
There are 210,000 eligible residents in the state who aren’t registered to vote. About one-third are younger than 18 and 60 percent are under the age of 30, according to the secretary of state’s office.
If you fall under the eligible-but-not-registered category, you might see one of these postcards in your mailbox soon:
“We hope that citizens receiving the postcard will realize how easy it is to register online to vote here in Washington,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman. “Registering is that key step that will allow them to speak through their ballot on the important races and measures facing voters this fall.”
Turnout for the primary in Clark County was very low, with only 28 percent of registered voters bothering to cast their ballot.
The general election is Nov. 4. The deadline to register online or by mail is Oct. 6. The final day for people to apply in person at their county elections office is Oct. 27, according to the secretary of state.
Federal grant money is being used to pay the $48,300 to mail the postcard to the 210,000 people.
Think that money could be better spent?
Guess you should vote!
As Republicans and Democrats fight for control of the U.S. Senate this November, they are getting help from so-called “dark money,” according to a Washington State University researcher who keeps an eye on national campaign advertising.
Outside interest groups are pumping money into campaigns, footing the bill for television ads and billboards, and doing so anonymously.
“I suspect the numbers will go up even more during the crucial weeks leading up to Nov. 4,” said WSU political scientist Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which recently released a report (http://mediaproject.wesleyan.edu/2014/09/04/heated-battle-for-u-s-senate-draws-deluge-of-outside-group-ads-most-are-dark-money/) highlighting the use of dark money.
With Democrats battling to hold on to their majority and Republicans hoping to take control, most of the money is being funneled to districts where the race is close.
The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, removed restrictions on how much money corporations could contribute to campaigns. Special interest groups have since formed, which are not required to publish their donors’ names.
A record $68 million has been paid for TV ads this election cycle, according to the report.
The study found Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers, has contributed the most with $16.7 million. Crossroads GPS, with ties to Republican political consultant Karl Rove, is next in line. The most Democratic-backed dark money source is Patriot Majority, which has dipped into it’s bank account to the tune of $6.2 million.
He first burst on the scene, after all, when he funneled nearly $180,000 out of his own bank account into his political action committee NoTolls.com. And while running for county commissioner, his own war chest benefited from his personal millions.
He has yet, however, to give to any cold-hard cash to incumbent legislative candidates. His fellow Republicans seeking re-election at the state level include; Reps. Liz Pike, of Camas, Paul Harris, of Vancouver, and Brandon Vick, of Felida.
He did donate to Vick’s Republican opponent in the primary, John Ley, who was defeated.
But he hasn’t totally forgotten his Republican counterparts vying to get to Olympia. Earlier this month, he cut a check to the Washington State Republican Party for $25,000, which presumably benefits local Republicans in their bid for re-election.
And political newcomer Lynda Wilson, who is hoping to oust incumbent Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, has benefited from Madore’s millions. She has received two checks for $950 each.]]>
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, the highest-ranking woman in the House Republican party, is being accused by her former communication director of numerous ethics violations. For the first time this week, the staffer detailed the allegations.
McMorris Rodgers is also one of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s mentors and former employer.
Herrera Beutler’s office did not comment on the investigation, only noting that Herrera Beutler last worked in the office nearly seven years ago and was not there when Todd Winer, her former communications director, was hired.
Winer alleged his former boss used taxpayer money for campaign purposes. The Ethics Committee is reportedly investigating. Until this week, Winer hadn’t commented on the case. But on Monday, he sent a detailed email to a handful of reporters listing his complaints.
CQ Roll Call published the email, you can read it here.
In the email, Winer wrote the Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe that CMR (McMorris Rodgers) violated House rules pertaining to leadership races – mixing taxpayer money and campaign money in her leadership race against a Republican colleague in 2012.”
He also alleges that the Congresswoman has slandered him to “distract” from the investigation.
McMorris Rodgers’ office responded, according to CQ Roll Call, with a statement from her lawyer, stating “We are sorry to see more frivolous allegations and information from the same source. From the beginning the Congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated with the Ethics Committee and will continue to do so should it have more questions.”
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Buetler, R-Camas, has repeatedly been criticized for avoiding the traditional town hall format.
Turns out, she’s not the only one.
Earlier this month, the Huffington Post ran an article with the headline, “The Congressional Town Hall is on Death’s Doorstep.”
Traditionally, the August recess was reserved as a time for members of Congress to touch base with their constituents.
Last month, members of Congress held 588 town halls, compared to 792 in August 2013, according to LegiStorm, which tracks press releases, newsletters, social media and other sources.
Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Oklamaha, held 23 town hall meetings last month, the most of any lawmaker, according to LegiStorm. Oregon’s Rep. Peter Defazio, a Democrat, was close behind, hosting 19 events.
Herrera Beutler responds to the criticism by pointing out she’s taken an alternative tact to town halls, in part, by hosting “community coffees”; people who live nearby are called and invited to participate.
“I’ve hosted a tremendous amount of meetings in the district, and I’m not going to let up on that and I’m going to do it in a way that I think best allows people to share honestly and openly and frankly what their thoughts and needs are,” she has told The Columbian.
Not long after taking office, former Congressman Brian Baird went on an all-expense paid trip to Israel.
The powerful lobbying group known as American Israel Public Affairs Committee picked up the tab.
“They do have you meet with the Palestinian leaders, in a sort of token process,” Baird said of the trip. “But then when you’re done with it they tell you everything the Palestinian leaders said that’s wrong. And, of course, the Palestinians don’t get to have dinner with you at the hotel that night.”
As Jeff Mapes with The Oregonian first pointed out in a post, Baird is featured in a recent issue of The New Yorker, as being highly critical of the group’s sway in Washington, D.C.
Baird details his evolution from someone who received campaign donations from AIPAC to one of their more vocal critics.
Baird told The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck, “When key votes are cast, the question on the House floor, troublingly, is often not ‘What is the right thing to do for the United States of America?’ but ‘How is AIPAC going to score this?’ ” He added, “There’s such a conundrum here, of believing that you’re supporting Israel, when you’re actually backing policies that are antithetical to its highest values and, ultimately, destructive for the country.”
Baird said in 2003 when asking about one of his constituents, Rachel Corrie, who was killed buy a bulldozer in Gaza while protesting the demolition of a Palestinians’ home, he realized members of Congress were seen as being “for sale.”
When asking about Corrie initially, he was told, “There’s a simple explanation—here are the facts.” Or, “We will look into it.”
Later, he told The New Yorker, it emerged, “There is a disdain for the U.S., and a dismissal of any legitimacy of our right to question—because who are we to talk about moral values?” Baird told me. “Whether it’s that we didn’t help early enough in the Holocaust, or look at what we did to our African-Americans, or our Native Americans—whatever! And they see us, members of Congress, as basically for sale. So they want us to shut up and play the game.”
The state’s top court is asking why it shouldn’t hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund the state’s public schools.
The conflict stems from a 2012 state Supreme Court case, McCleary v. State of Washington. The court ruled that the state was not meeting its “paramount duty” of adequately funding education and therefore was in violation of the Constitution. Lawmakers have until 2018 to boost education funding to a level the court deems sufficient.
The state ordered the Legislature to show by April 30th how “through immediate, concrete action, that it is making real and measurable progress, not simply promises” toward providing ample funding for basic education.
Lawmakers submitted a report but it did not include a plan detailing concrete action. The plaintiffs in the court case asked the court to take action; the court has now asked state lawmakers to defend themselves.
TVW will broadcast the hearing live.]]>