As we reported in Fizz this morning, Republican Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver) sent an email dressing down Republican state reps for voting the "wrong" way (yes) on a bill requiring signature gatherers and signature gathering companies to register with the state, declaring himself "deeply disturbed" by his compatriots' vote in favor of "one of the most oppressive Big Government anti-initiative bills they've ever tried."
(The Republicans and the ACLU oppose the bill because, they say, it threatens free speech; the supermarket lobby supports it because they say signature gatherers shouldn't be allowed to set up camp on their property and bother customers).
In response to the letter (which went out to all 14 Republican house members who voted "yea" on the bill), Rep. Joel Kretz (R-7, Wauconda), the deputy leader of the house Republicans, blasted a tongue-in-cheek email back at Benton, saying there was "no way" Benton, with his "high ethical standard," could have possibly written the initial offending email (his account "may have [been] hacked"?) given all the times Benton himself had "so often crossed his own caucus and voted for Democratic bills for what some uncharitable observers might say were self-serving reasons."
Needless to say, Rep. Kretz's hilarious email quickly went viral.
"You don't mess with my people," Kretz tells PubliCola, when asked why he felt the need to send the tartly worded response. "When you throw a hand grenade, you have to know that those go both ways."
Kretz declined to name a specific example of a bill Benton had supported for "self-serving" reasons. But he said he didn't have to do a lot of work to come up with a list of bills on which Benton sided with Democrats or unions (another group Benton called out in his email, saying Republicans had to stick together against "the unions and special interests). "There's plenty of people up here with lists on" Benton's voting record, he says.
Kretz said that although he voted for the bill in committee—"I don't think somebody should be able to basically set up a business at your front door"—he was swayed by arguments that it went too far, and ultimately voted against it on the house floor. Ironically, that means he had to get a copy of Benton's letter from colleagues who voted for the bill.
Kretz says Benton sent him a brief note of apology this morning. "It said, 'We're all on the same team,'" Kretz says, chuckling.
Rep. Kretz's email reads:
Senator Benton, I wanted to alert you that someone may have hacked your online account and sent the below-attached message from your e-mail address! I think this because there is no way that you, a fine gentleman who:
· voted to enact collective bargaining for state employees in 2002;
· voted to authorize collective bargaining for WSU employees in 2008;
· voted multiple times with the union positions on industrial insurance and apprentice programs in 2008 and 2009
· voted to enact the Democratic budget in 2006;
· supported union mandates for electricians in 2012;
· voted to enact job-killing climate change and emissions laws in 2004, 2005 and 2007;
· voted for mandates requiring businesses to provide family leave in 2007; and
· as chair of the Senate's Facilities & Operations Committee has continued to hold closed-door meetings from which the press and public are excluded,
could possibly be chastising other elected officials for voting the "wrong" way on a bill. We all know the high ethical standard to which you hold yourself, so there is no way I can believe that you—who has so often crossed his own caucus and voted for Democratic bills for what some uncharitable observers might say were self-serving reasons—would be so shameless as to try and take to task fellow elected officials whom you judge "guilty" of the same party-crossing conduct for which you are so rightly famous.
Obviously, this cannot be the real Don Benton, whom we know to be a principled civic leader who, like the elected officials castigated in the e-mail, votes his conscience and seeks to do what is best for his constituents and the people of our great state. This is why, of course, no one in the House of Representatives Republican Caucus ever took to e-mail to attack you, publicly or privately, for your votes, because such behavior is beneath the dignity of honorable people (and, quite frankly, it would makes us all look ridiculous).
Moreover, this same e-mail supposedly from you also includes a fundraising appeal, which is a violation of our ethics and campaign laws and the "freeze" on fundraising which applies to all of us during the legislative Session. There is no way that the paragon of ethics that is the real Senator Benton would ever have inadvertently sent such a solicitation using his state e-mail, of course.
And, of course, it goes without saying that all of us strongly support the initiative process and the people's right to be involved with that process and active in their government.
Please take steps to secure your account to ensure that no further silly attacks on colleagues purporting to be from you are made in the future.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. With that, please join me in tackling the problems of our state in the remainder of the legislative session, and let there be no more sniping at one another or grandstanding for outside groups. We have better things to do with the offices with which our citizens have entrusted us.
Deputy Republican Leader
As we noted in today's Fizz, the unions did not go to the mat for this bill. It was pushed by the supermarket lobby, which clearly has allies in the house GOP caucus.