Washington State’s Initiative 594 gun control campaign led by Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has curious list of donors, consultants
by Phil Watson | TGM reporter
An array of transactions with various lobbyists, leftist organizers, and elites litter the campaign disclosure reports from the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) Initiative 594 gun control campaign in Washington State, according to Public Disclosure Commission documents obtained by TGM.
The documents reveal that a group called Moxie Media has contributed $2,000 to the WAGR campaign effort.
In December 2011, Moxie Media agreed to a $290,000 settlement in a lawsuit that had been filed by the state Attorney General’s office against the company, its head, Lisa MacLean and her business partner, Henry Underhill for campaign law violations. However, according to the Seattle Times, Moxie Media would not have to pay $140,000 of the settlement “if the firm stays out of trouble through 2015.”
With the settlement, Moxie Media avoided what could have been an embarrassing trial, according to a 2011 report on the settlement that appeared on the Washington State Wire.
Had a trial gone forward, former State Sen. Jean Berkey, an Everett Democrat said at the time it might have revealed “whether there was illegal collusion” between Moxie Media and the campaign to elect her Democrat rival, Nick Harper. That’s a claim disputed by Moxie Media’s Lisa MacLean, who reportedly told the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner that the settlement eliminated a chance for Moxie to prove it had not intentionally violated campaign laws.
Berkey lost in the primary and Harper cruised to victory in the general election, which apparently was the goal of Moxie’s strategy. TGM attempted to contact Sen. Harper for comment, but phone calls to his district and Olympia office were not returned.
After winning the primary Harper went on to defeat a political unknown, Rod Rieger, who may have been a show horse candidate whose campaign was, according to published reports, largely funded “through a pair of shell political action committees Moxie Media had formed,” the Washington Wire reported at the time. Rieger made few, if any, public appearances or statements, and his presence on the primary ballot apparently was to simply get him, rather than Berkey, on the general election’s “top two” ballot.
Earlier this month Harper suddenly resigned from his Senate seat, asserting that he could not divide his time between his family and his Senate duties. It was a stunning move by a freshman senator who, the Seattle Times noted, “quickly rose to become deputy caucus leader.”
Harper’s official campaign was reportedly headed by Christian Sinderman, who in 2007, had reportedly been discussing a merger of his firm Northwest Passage with Lisa MacLean, head of Moxie Media.
Sinderman’s Northwest Passage is now a consultant for the I-594 campaign effort and, according to the PDC documents, has been paid approximately $73,939.69 by WAGR.
Sinderman also was based in the same building as Moxie Media. At the time of the merger report, The Stranger, a popular alternative Seattle newspaper, noted that “Both shops do spin, mailing, and campaign strategy for local and statewide candidates.”
When news of Moxie Media’s massive fine broke nearly two years ago, perhaps the most surprising revelation was, according to the Seattle Times, “There is no law against misleading or even lying to voters to win an election.”
The story quoted MacLean, who reportedly stated, “Political shenanigans have been around since the beginning of time. It’s what political consultants do. They work right up to the edge of the law. It’s an industry built on that.”
Disclosure reports reveal that the WAGR campaign has paid $146,794 so far to consultants.
Contrasting that, backers of an alternative measure, Initiative 591, haven’t paid consulting fees to anyone. Protect Our Gun Rights, an umbrella organization that includes gun rights groups, gun collectors, hunters, and law enforcement professionals, has been conducting a statewide grassroots effort that has raised about half the money WAGR has reportedly spent, yet has apparently gathered as many signatures in support of its simple one-page initiative.
Disclosure documents covering the WAGR campaign show more than $31,000 in expenditures paid to Johnson Arledge Strategies, a firm registered to Rebecca Johnson Arledge. Arledge is also listed as a government affairs director and lobbyist for the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC). According to Washington State Wire, when Rick Bender, then president of the WSLC, learned of the council’s involvement in the 2010 Moxie Media effort against Sen. Berkey, “he hit the roof…and refused to pay (the council’s) share of the printing and mailing costs.”
Arledge’s husband, Cody, contributed $1,000 on two separate occasions to WAGR. Cody Arledge is listed on the board of directors for the progressive organization FUSE, a Washington State group that works to advance left wing issues and causes. The PDC investigation of Moxie Media indicated Arledge offered to transfer funds on behalf of Washington Federation of State Employees covering one-third of the debt incurred by one of Moxie Media’s PAC’s implicated in the same 38th district senate race.
Another large recipient of WAGR consulting fees is the Seattle firm of Newman Partners, which received payments totaling $35,000 for consulting and $62,275 for catering. A search on the state’s business license website revealed Tracy Newman as the sole proprietor. Newman was listed as recently as last month co-hosting fundraisers with Sen. Patty Murray and Trudi Inslee, wife of Gov. Jay Inslee, with Lisa MacLean of Moxie Media.
WAGR’s I-594 campaign manager is Zach Silk, who was also campaign manager for the 2012 initiative campaign Washington United for Marriage. That effort successfully passed a statewide same-sex marriage ballot initiative. Silk hired Moxie Media for more than $1.1 million to work on the 2012 initiative campaign.
The I-594 initiative effort is backed mainly by wealthy Seattle-area elites including venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who has contributed at least $165,000 to the campaign. Hanauer has been panned by critics recently for espousing certain historic and economic theories in Technology Entertainment Design (TED) speeches.
Hanauer, as a main “money man” behind the I-594 campaign, has been likened to billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of the anti-gun Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a large contributor to anti-gun political efforts.
When WAGR held a kickoff fundraising dinner this past spring Mark Glaze of Mayors Against Illegal Guns was present to rally support for the gun control campaign.
Mayor Bloomberg’s exploits of authoritarian public policy run the gamut from soda bans to using New York public resources and funding to sponsor his own personal gun control campaign.
Other I-594 donors include Connie Ballmer at $50,000, Jon Shirley at $50,000, and Bill and Melinda Gates at $25,000 each.
Bloomberg has also pledged to financially support gun control efforts in Washington State.