Danny Westneat revisits the topic of hijacked elections in today's Seattle Times, recounting how big business and out of state money have turned the people's initiative process into a corporate takeover of the public vote, with little transparency about who, exactly, is funding the effort. But there's an even more difficult money trail to follow in local politics, as the News Tribune also reveals today in trying to figure who is backing which attack ad produced by Seattle's Moxie Media. The donor trail is so murky that Moxie officials claim they weren't sure who was sponsoring one opposition ad drive and ended up having to pay for it themselves.
As the Herald of Everett reported:
Moxie Media produced the mailers for the newly formed Cut Taxes political action committee. The top contributor for them is listed as Conservative PAC. As of this morning, neither political action committee had reported any contributions or expenditures for the 2010 primary. Moxie Media also served as consultant for a coalition of labor unions and social progressives that financed a $300,000 campaign opposing Berkey and supporting a Democratic challenger, Nick Harper. Most of those dollars went through another political committee, Stand Up For Citizens. That committee as well as Cut Taxes PAC and Conservative PAC all share the same treasurer.
"By all appearances, those PACs are simply a shell game that Moxie Media is using to hide their efforts to unseat me" on behalf of that coalition, Berkey writes in the complaint.
In the case of at least some of the ads, Moxie indicates that nobody paid for them. Moxie couldn't get the opposition groups to agree to support the ads, so it is footing the $9,000 bill itself, says Moxie founder Lisa MacLean.
"I had to eat it," MacLean said. So none of her clients is paying her back? "No, no, no, no, no, no, no," said MacLean, sounding a little tired of what she calls "conspiracy theories."
Berkey contends the deal violates an election law that makes it illegal to hide the money behind political ads. Her attorney, former state Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge, says Berkey will sue to overturn the election results if state officials don't act first.