Arrow-right Camera

Color Scheme

Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Shawn Vestal: Dirty-tricks mailer is the season’s deepest plunge into the muck

It’s as dependable as the falling of the leaves: As the ballots start to arrive, someone with a busted moral compass cannonballs into the sewage tank.

Glen Morgan just became the season’s stinkiest cannonballer.

Morgan, a conservative gadfly from Olympia who paints himself as a transparency activist, has produced a series of incredibly dishonest mailers intended to trick Democrats into writing in other candidates – an effort to drain away liberal votes to benefit Republican candidates.

In doing so, he lied outright about the endorsements of Fuse Washington and several other progressive groups. In our neck of the woods, the flyers targeted Jessa Lewis, the Democrat running for state Senate against Jeff Holy in the 6th District, but Morgan’s political action committee – preposterously named the Conscience of the Progressives – produced similar mailers in several other races, too.

The mailers are pure cannonball, as are Morgan’s lame attempts to justify them as simply “giving voters more options.”

How dumb does Morgan think voters are?

Very dumb, apparently.

A phalanx of liberal groups has filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission, noting the flyers falsely suggest that progressive groups have endorsed writing in other candidates and do not support the Democrats in the races.

Which is a lie. And it’s one which Morgan had to put in a lot of effort to create.

The complaint seeks penalties above the PDC maximum, arguing the ads were produced with “actual malice.”

The problem with trying to police Election Eve attacks, of course, is that by the time any resolution is reached – any punishment or fine imposed – the election is over and the lie has done its work. Which is why people do it.

Take the Lewis-Holy race. The flyers in that contest carry the logos of Fuse Washington, the Progressive Voters Guide, the United Food and Commercial Workers union and the Washington State Labor Council.

They quote a 2016 Fuse endorsement of Joe Pakootas, the former congressional candidate and current state Democratic Party vice chairman, with the clear intention of misleading voters into thinking it’s a current endorsement.

“Don’t be fooled by fake progressive Jessa Lewis (‘D’-Spokane),” the flyer says. “Let’s write in a real progressive: Joe Pakootas.”

Fuse, though, endorses Lewis. It is not calling for a write-in.

“This is a stunningly misleading attack,” Fuse spokesman Collin Jergens said.

The group’s executive director, Aaron Ostrom, called it a “new low for Washington.”

And Pakootas, who is not seeking write-in votes, also supports Lewis.

“This is BS,” he said. “I’m 100 percent behind Jessa Lewis.”

Holy himself, the intended beneficiary of the smear, decries it.

“This is wrong,” he said. “I didn’t ask for this. I’m not happy with it. It just distracts people from what I’m trying to do.”

Morgan carried out a similar sliming in three other races, as well.

“These ads contain misleading, defamatory and otherwise unlawful information, and have been broadly disseminated to over 100,000 voters across the State of Washington,” according to the PDC complaint, filed by attorneys for the Fuse Washington and other progressive organizations.

Morgan took a dark path in terms of disclosure, playing the all-too-common game of three-card monte with PAC money. He and Peter Zieve, a Mukilteo, Washington, businessman and major Trump supporter, provided $20,000 to a PAC called Send A Message.

Send A Message PAC then moved that money to another PAC, called Conscience of the Progressives, which paid for the flyers.

Morgan didn’t return a message this week seeking comment, but said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review last week that he named the group Conscience of the Progressives not to imply it came from a progressive group, but because he himself – through his relentless filing of complaints against liberal groups – was the conscience of progressives.

Morgan said the ads were just an attempt to give voters more choices and that he believed it was fair to quote an endorsement from a previous election to suggest an endorsement in the current election.

It is, start to finish, the season’s biggest cannonball, and we should hope nothing comes along in the next two weeks to replace it. Whomever 6th District voters elect to the Senate, they should show Morgan they’re not as dumb as he thinks they are.

More from this author