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Group to Protest Times' Coverage of Constantine Treasurer Story

By Erica C. Barnett October 6, 2009


UPDATE: The Public Disclosure Commission called late this afternoon to let us know that they will be investigating Bennett. "We think we need to ask some questions," PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said. She did not say how long their investigation would take.

They have decided to dismiss a related complaint into Democratic consultant Moxie Media, which we wrote about here.

UPDATE: Bennett himself stopped by the protest, where, he says, all of eight people showed up, two of them wearing Nixon masks. Somewhat incongruously, they're chanting, "Where is Woodward, where is Bernstein?"

The "free pizza!" promised on the Facebook announcement has not yet materialized. "If they're going to smear my name, the least they could do is offer me a free piece of pizza," Bennett says.

More seriously, he adds, "it's clear that these are Republicans trying to smear Dow's name as well [as mine]. The [Public Disclosure Commission] has a timeline for whether or not they're going to pursue this, and no right-wing group in Richard Nixon masks is going to speed that process up."

Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the PDC, says the commission is still "doing a review to decide whether to go forward with a formal investigation."

Here's a photo, taken by Bennett:

-5

A group calling itself Citizens for Fair Reporting plans to hold signs outside the Seattle Times today at 2:00 to protest what it considers inadequate reporting by the Times of a story about Jason Bennett, the treasurer for King County Executive candidate Dow Constantine's campaign. Bennett is also the treasurer for FAIRPAC, a group that has taken out ads against Constantine's opponent, Susan Hutchison. Hutchison's campaign says Bennett's dual role violates campaign ethics law, which says that campaigns for candidates can't coordinate with independent-expenditure campaigns.

On its Facebook page, Citizens for Fair Reporting accuses the Times of sitting on "a HUGE scandal of dirty money blatantly corrupting the elections process. The story they are sitting on could especially be a game-changer in an important non-partisan, county-wide race.

"Join us as well rally together to show our support for the paper, and encourage them to come forward with this important information to the voting public at-large!"

Organizers have not yet responded to a request for comment about why they're targeting the Times specifically, instead of Bennett's firm or another media outlet.

As we reported last month, Hutchison's campaign filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission alleging that Bennett's work for the PAC and for Constantine's campaign was evidence of collusion between the two groups, which would be illegal. (Campaigns can't coordinate with outside groups on independent expenditures.) PDC rules do allow campaigns to have overlapping staff with independent expenditure groups as long as the staffer's work is only "ministerial," meaning it isn't substantive campaign work.

When FAIRPAC registered with the PDC, Bennett checked a box on the registration form indicating that his work was not limited to ministerial duties. He later wrote a letter to the PDC clarifying that his work for both campaigns was just "ministerial," and the Constantine campaign said Bennett had never participated in campaign strategy.

Sound Politics, a right-wing blog, has been attempting to whip up its conservative readers about the story, which blogger Mark Griswold compares to the Arthur Andersen scandal and violations of the McCain-Feingold Act.

"Now Bennett might claim that all he does is enter numbers into a spreadsheet but let's get real. Even if that were the case it shows extremely poor judgment to be sharing treasurers with a campaign that Constantine isn't suppose to be connected to at all," Griswold writes.
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