Spin Control

Marmots emerge as the surprise issue in the Baumgartner-Marr battle

Claim: "Chris Marr (D) has wasted too much time in Olympia. (He) voted to designate the Olympic Marmot the official endemic mammal of the State of Washington, voted to create Christmas tree inspectors, voted to require truth in music advertising (and) voted to designate the Lady Washington as the official ship of the State of Washington."

Source: Mailer from "People for Jobs," a group that gets all its money from Enterprise Washington's Jobs political action committee, which gets its money mostly from business interests. Contributors include Comcast, Farmers' Insurance and Puget Sound Energy. By diverting money like this, the true source of the money can be concealed on the mailers.

Truthfulness: The first sentence is for voters to decide. The second sentence is 100 percent true and could also be said about almost all Washington legislators from both parties.

Analysis: People for Jobs mailed at least three mailers targeting Marr so far this campaign season. All of them make some questionable connections to Marr, including one that talks about how someone stole $431,376 from a victims' compensation fund - as if Marr had anything to do with it. He didn't.

Imagine the ad that could have been produced if Marr had voted against naming the Olympic marmot the state endemic animal. Here's a possibility: "Chris Marr hates school children. Marr viciously stomped on the dream of fourth- and fifth-graders at Wedgwood Elementary School when he voted against their proposal to honor the Olympic Marmot, which is found only on the Olympic Peninsula." (Note to campaign operatives: It would be unfair to pullout the first sentence, use an ellipsis and post it on a mailer so it says: " 'Chris Marr hates school children ....' -- Spokesman-Review 10-29-2010.' ")

The "marmot issue" really didn't seem like a prominent campaign topic until this gem arrived in mailboxes. So let's quickly review Senate Bill 5071 from 2009. Kelly Clark's fourth-grade class had lobbied the Legislature for years on several proposals as part of her civics lessons. The marmot bill was the first to gain traction and pass. Final votes were 43 to 4 in the Senate and 84 to 13 in the House.

The other bills mentioned by People for Jobs also were popular, judging by votes. The Christmas tree bill, sponsored, in part, by Republican state Sen. Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, was approved by 45 to 1 in the Senate and 96 to 0 in the House. Marr was one of six sponsors of the music bill referenced by the ad. It passed 97-0 in the House and 47-0 in the House. The vote to give the "official ship" designation to a craft actually in Washington (the old official state ship no longer docks in the state) was 94 to 0 in the House and 44 to 1 in the Senate.

More Marr and Baumgartner ad fact checks are here and here.

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Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt is an assistant city editor.

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