Washington Republicans tried last week to wring every last drop out of a connection between the state and Rep. Anthony Weiner's bad behavior, however tenuous it was.
Earlier in the month, the state GOP criticized Jay Inslee, a Washington congressman who would like to be governor, for accepting a $1,000 contribution from Weiner in 2000. Inslee should “send back the tainted money”, Republicans said.
Rather than give the money back to Weiner, Inslee's campaign announced it would donate it to Planned Parenthood.
Not good enough, a group known as the Mainstream Republicans said last week. . .
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(Note: The Mainstreamers are what used to be known as moderates. Some of newer, more conservative GOP elements call them RINOs, for Republicans In Name Only. Or worse things. They are, however, supportive or at least tolerant of abortion rights.)
Two Mainstreamers accused Inslee of trying to “clean up his mess” by giving the “tainted money” to Planned Parenthood. He shoulda given it to a food bank or the Red Cross, they said.
“When politicians like Jay Inslee use abortion as a political weapon it threatens women's rights,” said Samantha Cotton, a board member of the group and chair of Republican Women for Choice, said.
This latest brickbat had me scratching my head a bit. In 2000, when he was running for his second term as Washington's 1st Congressional District, Inslee's campaign received $1,000 from the campaign committee of a then little-known congressman from New York, as well as more than a dozen other members of Congress. Inslee raised more than $1.3 million for that campaign, but spent nearly $1.9 million – insert Democratic deficit joke here – in beating former state Sen. Dan McDonald by more than 10 points. Arguably, Weiner’s grand was used up on buttons, bumper stickers or TV commercials sometime in 2000.
Campaigns carry money over from one election cycle to another, so one might argue the spirit of that $1,000 still haunted the Inslee campaign coffers. In theory the only way to exorcise oneself of tainted money would be to return it to the source, which would be Weiner's campaign committee. But Weiner isn't campaigning for anything any time soon, so Inslee could be reasonably criticized for sending money to someone who likes to send strange women pictures of himself in his Fruit of the Looms.
If Mainstreamers are upset about giving Planned Parenthood $1,000 that has some tenuous connection to Weiner, think how livid they must be about Republican efforts in some states to block all government money to that organization. Or other things members of the Republican Party have proposed like personhood laws to make the procedure illegal or jailing doctors who perform them.
And if he sent the tainted money to a food bank or the Red Cross, similar logic would suggest he was jeopardizing efforts to alleviate hunger or to provide comfort to victims of disasters.
Planned Parenthood, not surprisingly, didn’t see agree with the Mainstreamers. Dana Laurent, the political director of Planned Parenthood Votes/Washington, said claiming that an 11-year-old contribution is somehow tainted was “an over-reach.”
“Congressman Inslee has always stood up for women's health and stood with Planned Parenthood,” Laurent said.
The effort to take one more swing at Inslee on the Weiner money had me stumped until another look at the press release revealed another, simpler explanation. The Mainstreamers may have been primed to criticize any action he took, just for a chance to use a headline that could give them a claim to the last double-entendre dig of the rapidly evaporating scandal: “Inslee has Inflamed his Weiner Problem”.
Never let logic get in the way of a good headline. As a reporter, I get it.