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

Marr, Baumgartner ramp up the rhetoric

It may soon be the million-dollar race. And with so much money, voters’ mailboxes and television sets are filled with a lot of information – and misinformation – about the state Senate candidates who hope to represent Spokane’s 6th Legislative District.

Incumbent Democrat Chris Marr and Republican Michael Baumgartner have had many spirited debates. More than 20 mailers have been sent by or on behalf of them.

Here’s a look at some of the claims of the campaigns. On Wednesday, The Spokesman-Review will look at more.

Claim: “Marr was an employee – not owner – of a car dealership, until he left in 2006. He was given some shares in 1990 to become a partial owner.”

Source: Mailer from Baumgartner campaign.

Truthfulness: Among the most blatantly false claims of the campaign.

Analysis: It’s clear that Marr was much more than “an employee” at the car dealership now known as Foothills Automall. Records from the state secretary of state’s office show he was the secretary of the corporation from 1993 through 1995 and was vice president starting in 1996. He sold his portion of the company in 2006 after serving as president. A form Marr filed with the Public Disclosure Commission in 1997 while serving as a transportation commissioner shows that Marr owned 40 percent of the company.

Claim: “Here is what Mike Baumgartner pledged to do: Privatize social security, slash support for schools, end Medicare and veterans benefits.”

Source: Mailer from Marr campaign.

Truthfulness: Kind of true but irrelevant as it relates to Social Security; false as it applies to veterans’ benefits.

Analysis: Marr alleges that these are Baumgartner’s positions based on the 2010 Spokane County Republican Party platform. Baumgartner indeed did “promise” to support the platform and signed his name to it.

But Baumgartner has said many times that he did not intend his signature to mean that he supported each of the nearly 120 platform statements. In an interview on April 15 while attending a tea party rally, for instance, he said he did not believe that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations, even though the platform calls for withdrawal.

Marr says that the language in the pledge implies much more than general agreement with party principles. He often notes that some prominent local Republicans, including Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and state Rep. Kevin Parker, declined to sign the pledge. Baumgartner says Marr’s focus on the GOP platform is an attempt to divert attention from job creation and the economy.

There is no arguing that the platform calls for privatizing Social Security – though it’s not a decision that could be made in Olympia. The platform calls for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, so that arguably might be considered, at least in the nasty language of a campaign, a pillar that would “slash support for schools” – even if a state senator has no say in the elimination of a federal department.

Citing the 10th Amendment, the platform speaks out against “nationalized health care.” On its face that seems aimed at the recently enacted federal health care law. But Marr notes that Medicare and veterans’ benefits also are forms of nationalized health care.

Baumgartner says he’s never advocated for an end to Medicare or veterans’ benefits, and there’s no proof that he ever did. Further, it’s absurd to think anyone signing onto the GOP platform meant their position to be interpreted as a desire to end medical benefits for vets.

Claim: “ ‘Inappropriate.’ That’s how the legislative ethics board described Marr’s behavior. That was after he’d received a fine from the Public Disclosure Commission. Just this month, he was forced to remove a TV commercial after violating state law, again.”

Source: Mailer from Baumgartner campaign.

Truthfulness: Misleading, true and generally true.

Analysis: In 2007, the Legislative Ethics Board investigated a letter signed by Marr and two other Democratic senators. A summary of the board’s final ruling said the content of the letter “was appropriate in part and inappropriate in part.” The letter, which used state letterhead, was sent to Behavioral Health Resources, a mental health service provider that was in the midst of bargaining a contract with employees. The board said legislators were allowed to use state stationery to advocate on behalf of one side of a collective bargaining issue but that part of the letter went beyond what was allowed. The case was dismissed but set in place new clearer rules about a legislator’s ability to use state resources to advocate on behalf of a party involved in a labor dispute.

Marr’s fine from the PDC was minimal, but he did indeed pay one in 2001 after failing to file his annual personal financial statement on time while he was serving as a transportation commissioner. He paid a $50 fee and submitted the form.

The PDC sent Marr’s campaign a letter in September warning him that an ad failed to identify him as a Democrat. The ad was changed and continued to run. Marr says his campaign caught the error and changed it before they were informed by the PDC.

Claim: Baumgartner “moved to Spokane in January and has NEVER voted in a school election.”

Source: Mailer from Marr campaign.

Truthfulness: True, at least as it relates to Baumgartner’s record in Spokane.

Analysis: Spokane County elections records confirm that Baumgartner first voted in Spokane County this year. Those two votes, in April and August, did not include school votes. Previously, he voted once in Whitman County, in 2008 after registering to vote there in 2007, according to Whitman County voting records.