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Election materials prompt WSU cease-and-desist to Cathy McMorris Rodgers campaign; Lisa Brown’s campaign also asked to quit using university’s imagery in ads

The phrase “Go Cougs!” probably shouldn’t be controversial for the two women vying to represent Eastern Washington in Congress, but it prompted some campaign heartburn this week.

Washington State University sent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ campaign a request to cease using the two-word rallying cry from future election communications. The Daily Evergreen, WSU’s student paper, first reported the slogan’s appearance on flyers distributed at home football games by volunteers for the incumbent congresswoman’s campaign.

“We made sure not to use the logo,” said Jared Powell, a spokesman for the congresswoman. “Apparently ‘Go Cougs’ is trademarked.”

Future flyers won’t include the slogan, which is part of the university’s stable of registered trademarks, Powell said. The flyer included a Cougars football schedule on one side, and the congresswoman’s campaign logo along with the two-word cheer on the other. Also included among WSU’s trademarked words are Cougs, Cougars and Wazzu, according to the school’s athletic department.

Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communications for the university, said he mailed an official request to the McMorris Rodgers campaign Friday. He called the issue “much ado about nothing” but said the university had to protect its position of neutrality in the hotly contested political race. Both candidates are courting student voters not only in Pullman, but throughout the district.

“It’s important to us that people don’t think we’re taking sides,” Weiler said.

The school has also requested Lisa Brown, the former chancellor of WSU Spokane, scrub imagery of the university out of two of her video ads. That included one that aired this summer that included a farmer leaving a pickup truck wearing a WSU hat.

“We have always respected WSU’s guidelines on the use of its logo, as well as requirements of state law,” said Tanya Riordan, campaign manager for the Brown campaign, in an email sent Friday.

The 4-1 Cougars take on Oregon State in Corvalis this weekend, before returning home Oct. 20 to take on Oregon. The outcome of the McMorris Rodgers and Brown contest will be determined Nov. 6.

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