PubliCola is evidently at the center of an election day brouhaha: A last minute attack mail piece paid for by a conservative political committee called Citizens for Responsible Spending accuses Democratic state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue) of being a danger to women's rights.
In spooky bold font, the Republican ad blares: "End no-fault divorce. Repeal custody rights. No more community property. Rodney Tom has an agenda. He recently revealed he wants to abolish women's legal protections for child custody, community property, and support."
Their cite for the claim about Tom's agenda? PubliCola.
And on the flip side of the mailer, the piece does quote a PubliCola interview with Sen. Tom:
"'The state should get out of the marriage business,' Tom said leaving women without legal protections."
However, PubliCola never said anything about "leaving women without legal protections." In fact, we've reported on Tom as a strong women's advocate. He sponsored legislation that would make "Emergency Pregnancy Centers"—bait and switch anti-choice facilities—reveal what services they actually provide.
Here's what we wrote:
Earlier this week, Republican state candidate Gregg Bennett told us he supports gay marriage. Bennett is an Eastside investor who’s running against incumbent Democratic state Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina).
Today, we asked Tom where he was on gay marriage. He told us, “the state should get out of the marriage business. A lot of countries in Europe do this. I have no issue with gay marriage. I think straight couples or gay and lesbian couples should all be treated equal and should get civil unions. Marriage should be between individuals and their church.”
Tom was quick to respond to the ad. "It's a disgrace to politics in general ... equating marriage equality to ending no-fault divorce and community property rights," Tom said in a voice mail this morning. "That's just trash at its lowest."
And when I called him back, he continued. He explained that civil marriages, which he supports, come with all the same rights as church marriage. "We have civil marriages now," he said. "My wife and I can go get a license and everybody would get the the exact same rights as we have today."
He called the GOP hit piece "sad" and "homophobic," explaining that the ad "equates giving gays and lesbians these same rights to straight couples not having community property rights. [But] there's no connection."
Tom said the ad reveals that the GOP, which has "tried to come across as moderate this election" is "really extremist when it comes to social issues."
Tom's colleagues also cried foul this morning. Blasting senate Republican minority leader Sen. Mike Hewitt, Democratic senate majority leader Sen. Lisa Brown called the mailer “a last ditch effort on Mike Hewitt’s part with little foundation in reality."
*UPDATE There are apparently two groups called Citizens for Responsible Spending. In our initial report we listed the financial contributors to the wrong group, including the Association of Washington Business. AWB called us to say they are in "no way connected to the ad." They say they have contacted the Public Disclosure Commission to straighten out the matter and find out who the group is.
The PDC filings are a bit misleading: While we got the funders wrong for Citizens for Responsible Spending, the same listing led us to the correct treasurer and spokesman, whom we called this morning and are still waiting to hear back from.
Brown continues: "It implies that if you are in favor of gay rights, then you are against women’s rights, which is false. In addition, it implies that Rodney is against women’s rights and that he’s harassed women, both of which are completely untrue. It’s genuinely repulsive and represents a new low in Washington State politics.”
Chris Gregorich of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee added: “This is the most nonsensical political ad of the entire election cycle and it’s very telling that the Republican leadership would release it a day before election day. If such a blatantly homophobic and embarrassing ad were sent out any earlier, there would be a media firestorm in response. They are so desperate for a majority, they are willing to use hate, intolerance, and misinformation to mislead Washington voters.”
Tom's seatmate in the 48th, state Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) also weighed in on the ad.
The piece I received today about my friend and seatmate Senator Rodney Tom was over the top. In it the Republican Party attacks Rodney for a comment he made in an interview about gay marriage. In it Rodney says he thinks the legislature should 'get out of the marriage business.' I’ve heard Rodney make this comment several times over the past few years—his belief is that the state should be in the business of sanctioning the civil/legal part of marriages and churches should do the religious part. Senator Tom and I don’t agree on everything, but we have stood together in supporting every single piece of gay and lesbian civil rights legislation in the past few years. To twist this into saying that he thinks we should eliminate the legal protections for women in marriage is so far beyond the pale it’s hard to call it anything other than despicable.
Hunter's press release ends by providing the full quote from our article.
We have a call into Sen. Hewitt (R-16, Walla Walla) and into Stan Shore, spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Spending.
Women's groups have also condemned the ad:
A press release from NARAL blares:
In a last-ditch attempt to win the 48th legislative district Senate seat, Senate Republicans sent a mail piece that hit mailboxes yesterday making the outrageous allegation equating Senator Rodney Tom’s support for marriage equality with a supposed lack of support for women’s rights and health.
Nothing could be further from the truth. “Senator Tom is a strong and vocal advocate for the right to choose and for access to reproductive health care,” said Lauren Simonds, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “In fact, at a voter forum last month, Senator Tom reiterated his support for maintaining critical funding for family planning care, even in a time of state budget cuts.”
“This mail piece is deceptive on all fronts,” Simonds added. “It completely misrepresents not only Senator Tom’s steadfast support for women’s health care and women’s rights, but it uses his support for marriage equality to make a baseless allegation.”
“This mail piece is simply irresponsible,” Simonds said.
And Planned Parenthood issued this statement:
Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington endorsed Rodney Tom for State Senator again this year because he has not only been a supporter of women’s access to reproductive health services and information, he’s been a champion.
Rodney Tom was the prime Senate sponsor of the Healthy Youth Act of 2007 which helps ensure that young people in our state get accurate, comprehensive health information including resources about how to prevent unintended pregnancies, stay safe in relationships, and recognize dating violence. Tom has also continually supported funding for family planning services which help women get vital health services like birth control, and breast and cervical cancer screenings.