Republicans in several closely-fought Washington electoral races stooped to a new low this year: sending out mailings with labor organization logos to trick voters into writing in the names of candidates who aren’t running … in order to drain support from union-backed candidates who are running.
Since mid-October, the mailers have gone out to as many as 100,000 voters in Thurston County and at least four state legislative districts, including Southwest Washington’s District 19, which stretches from Longview to the coast.
The deceptive mailings come with the label “Progressive Voters Guide” — alongside the logos of groups including Washington State Labor Council (AFL-CIO), AFSCME Council 28, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21, and the non-profit advocacy group Fuse Washington, which has put out its own Progressive Voters Guide since 2008. The “Progressive Voters Guide” label in the deceptive mailers is identical to the label Fuse Washington uses.
All the mailings follow the same fraudulent template: They say the Democratic candidate whose name is on the November ballot is a “fake progressive,” and they urge voters to write in the name of a “real progressive” — in each case the name of an actual candidate who ran for office with union backing in a previous election.
“Don’t be fooled by fake Progressives like Erin Frasier,” says the 19th District mailing, which displays the logo of AFSCME Council 28. “Let’s write in a real progressive: Teresa Purcell.” Purcell, who ran for the same office in 2016 with AFSCME’s endorsement, isn’t running this year, doesn’t want any write-in votes, and is completely in support of fellow Democrat Frasier, who is challenging Republican incumbent Jim Walsh.
In fine print, the mailings say they’re paid for by a group called “Conscience of The Progressives.” Campaign finance disclosures show that group was set up by Glen Morgan, a former staffer at the anti-union Freedom Foundation who is now executive director of the Citizens Alliance For Property Rights. And Conscience of the Progressives is funded by a political action committee whose main donor is Peter Zieve, an aerospace CEO who gave $1 million to support Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
On Oct. 22, Fuse, Washington State Labor Council, and the other organizations whose logos were used filed a legal complaint with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission — the state agency that enforces laws governing candidates, campaigns and lobbyists. The complaint charges that Morgan violated Washington law by making a false claim by implying that the unions endorsed these write-in candidates.
“These ads … are a blatant attempt to mislead voters who might otherwise vote for the Democratic candidate in each race into casting ‘throwaway’ votes to the benefit of the GOP,” wrote attorney Dmitri Iglitzin in the complaint.
Not only that, but these were “willful” violations of the law, made “with actual malice,” the complaint charges. Morgan should be very familiar with election laws, because in the last few years he has been a one-man campaign law enforcer, filing scores of complaints against Democratic candidates and organizations if they were late in submitting campaign finance disclosures or committed other technical violations.
“This is dirty politics at its worst and we are absolutely livid about it,” said WSLC President Jeff Johnson on his organization’s web site. “These Republican political operatives must think their candidates can’t win unless they cheat and trick voters. It’s shameless and disgraceful.”
[MORE: See more of the deceptive mailers here.]