Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Democrats flip-flop and denounce donor

Several court decisions make clear that political contributions are protected political speech, so in most cases donors are free to make them. Missing from all the discussions about the kinds and limits of the donations, however, is the responsibility of the people on the other end of the campaign money train.

Along with the right to take gobs of money, don’t recipients have a duty to check out who is giving?

Vetting  everyone who gives $10 obviously isn’t practical, and it might take the great minds of politics to determine what the trigger for a background check should be. But certainly when one accepts a five-figure check, someone on staff should be ordered to find out the bare bones 411. That may have saved the state Democratic Party some headaches, and a case of the flip-flops, last week over some $60,000 it received in recent months from J Z Knight...


To read the rest of this post, see videos of Knight or comment, go inside the blog


Knight and her followers believe she channels the spirit of a long-deceased warrior named Ramtha, and have set up shop in Yelm, a rural community between Olympia and Mount Rainier. There she runs the Ramtha School of Enlightenment, which some people regard as a path toward a better life and others regard as a cult.

Not so enlightened, some of her former adherents say, are her views on Catholics, Jews and homosexuals. Recently they began posting video clips of Knight/Ramtha denigrating each, sometimes in obscenity-laced diatribes. A spokesman for Knight says the heavily edited clips are taking out of context comments she made about the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.

To view the videos (warning, they are graphic) click here or here or here.

The state Republican Party hit this hanging curve ball, sending out links to the videos the former followers were producing, and demanding in the most principled tones it could muster that the Democrats give back the tainted cash. The Democrats could have easily done that, taking the fairly easy out of noting that the donor for their chunk of cash was listed as Judy Knight, president of JZK Inc., and hey, that could’ve been almost anyone, you know. Besides, the videos weren’t available when the check came in, so we're giving it back now that we know.

Instead, they initially refused, trying to fight umbrage with umbrage, saying who are the Republicans to get on some high horse about anti-gay comments when their party and their gubernatorial candidate opposes the same-sex marriage measure on this fall’s ballot. This continued for several days.

“Obviously, we don’t condone the kind of divisive comments you see in the video,” party spokesman Benton Strong told colleague Jonathan Brunt during a stop last Thursday in Spokane. Asked if the party would be returning the money, he replied “not at this time.”

The time came Friday night, after the GOP turned up a new round of videos with anti-gay and anti-Mexican comments.

“Recently, we have been made aware of comments made by a contributor to the Democratic Party that do not reflect the values of our party,” state Chairman Dwight Pelz said. “While we did not solicit any contributions from J.Z. Knight at any point, it is important that we make it clear that we view her comments as offensive and do not condone this kind of vitriol.”

They’re not giving the money back. Getting politicians to return money may be harder than getting them to refuse it. Instead, the party will split the money from Knight between the Anti-Defamation League and the Referendum 74 campaign, he said.

So now the question is, does filtering Knight’s money through the party make it OK for those groups? 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

Follow Jim online: