It’s the case of the unknown videographer, and it highlights the tension between the campaigns of legislative candidates John Ahern and Shelly O’Quinn.
A low-tech video of O’Quinn speaking to the Friday Morning Republican Breakfast Club was posted on YouTube in early May. O’Quinn said she was unaware she was being recorded.
O’Quinn and Ahern are competing against incumbent Democrat John Driscoll in next month’s primary for a state House seat representing the 6th Legislative District.
“It’s not the content that bothers me,” O’Quinn said in an interview earlier this month. “It’s the fact that it was taken under the table.”
The clip shows O’Quinn standing before the group and giving some of her opinions on the environment and abortion.
But when the video was first posted, it included a picture of O’Quinn’s campaign logo with a President Obama logo superimposed on it, O’Quinn said. She called Ahern and told him that the video violated election rules.
“The whole point of the video was to say I was not Republican enough,” she said. “I have chosen to run a positive campaign in spite of the way they chose to run their campaign.”
Ahern said the video was not from his campaign.
“She threatened me with (Public Disclosure Commission) violations,” Ahern said. “I don’t respond very well to threats.”
Ahern said he agreed, however, to make some inquiries and he asked some people he knew to take down the video if they were responsible. The video was taken off YouTube soon after, but was later reposted without O’Quinn’s or Obama’s logo.
Ahern said he doesn’t know for sure who posted it and he declined to name the people he talked to about it. He said anyone has a free speech right to post candidate comments. He also questioned why O’Quinn remains concerned that the video remains on YouTube.
“She shouldn’t be concerned about it. It’s her own voice,” he said. “She could pick up some votes from that I would think. Then again, she could lose some, too.”
O’Quinn said she doesn’t believe the newer video violates campaign rules, and she did not file a complaint about the original one.
No one has publicly taken credit for the video. Josh Kern, Ahern’s campaign manager, said he didn’t shoot it.
“I’ve been getting blamed for it from day one,” he said. “I didn’t see anyone filming.”
Dick Leland, president of the breakfast club, said the informal group didn’t have rules against filming, but since the O’Quinn video was posted, the club decided that speakers should be informed before filming is done. “We don’t want to intimidate or have anyone somehow feel not at ease,” he said.
Leland, who said he doesn’t know who shot the footage, said the meeting where O’Quinn spoke was in January at Frontiers West Family Restaurant.
Michael Baumgartner, who is running for state Senate against Democrat Chris Marr, is seen in the video and appears to be near the camera. He declined to say who he thought was responsible. He said he thought posting the clip on YouTube showed disharmony among the party when party members should be “supporting each other.”
“I was pretty disappointed to see that video,” Baumgartner said. “There’s been some discussions about who we think shot the video, but I don’t want to make a statement about who shot the video.”
On the tape, Baumgartner’s campaign manager, Michael Cathcart, can be heard asking O’Quinn a question. He said he remembers the meeting but doesn’t remember seeing anyone filming O’Quinn.
“I know people have thrown accusations around, but I didn’t actually see anyone videotaping,” Cathcart said.
In one portion of the video, O’Quinn said she doesn’t care if development setbacks imposed along the Spokane River “are 90 feet or 150 feet.”
The person who edited the video apparently does. Immediately after, text is splashed on the screen that says: “Shelly doesn’t care if set-backs are 90 feet or 150 feet. Do you?”
O’Quinn said the clip takes her position on setbacks out of context while she was trying to make the point that “conservationism is a conservative value.” Asked what her stance is on shoreline regulations, such as rules recently created in Spokane, she said she needs to study them further before taking a formal position.
“I would have to be able to read the updated plan before I’d comment on that,” she said.