Thursday, October 2, 2008

How to vilify whistle blowers in three articles or less

It's that time of year again -- the month when individuals and organizations begin reviewing PDC reports to identify alleged campaign violations. (Not that we haven't had our fair share of complaints already).

After last year's media circus, I thought it would be fun to develop a grading system to fact check media articles and candidate statements.

When possible, Latte Republic will apply the following standard in fact-checking the claims of a journalist, political candidate, political advertising or interest group.

It’s called the "Pinocchio Test" and is based on a similar grading system used by the Washington Post.

Here's how it works:
“One Pinocchio”
– statements contain some shading of the facts or selective telling of the truth. Statements contain some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods.

“Two Pinocchios” – statements contain significant omissions and/or exaggerations; some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician or journalist can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.

“Three Pinocchios
” – statement includes significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.

“Four Pinocchios” – Whoppers

The Geppetto checkmark – identifies statements and claims that contain "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" certified by the puppet maker himself.

Why am I covering this issue AGAIN?

Call me old fashioned, but I actually believe that honesty in reporting is an admirable characteristic!

Nor was I ever given the opportunity by Taylor or Bonner to publicly respond to Taylor, Bonner or Pike's accusations last October. (Latte Republic was not born until Dec. 30th of 2007).

Now that we have a grading system, let’s have some fun with one or two of Sam Taylor’s articles/posts regarding Dan Pike's 2007 PDC campaign finance violations. After all, Sam Taylor NEVER hesitates to have fun at my expense!

First, readers should review Sam Taylor’s first article dated, October 20, 2007, when he
questions the motivations of the two individuals who filed campaign related complaints regarding alleged campaign finance violations.

(I believe this article sets the stage for all of Taylor's accusations of "wrong doing" from this point on).

Here’s an excerpt for your review and the link to the full article.

Saturday, Oct. 20, 2007
Complaints filed against candidates
Motivations for grievances are questioned
BELLINGHAM— Two supporters of mayoral candidate Dan McShane have filed complaints with both state and federal officials regarding the campaign contributions of his opponent.

Candidate Dan Pike is calling the complaints, which were filed right around the time ballots were sent to voters, smear tactics by McShane’s camp.
(Four Pinocchios for Pike). Fact:
I have filed an occasional PDC complaint against other candidates/organizations in past years. Taylor knew this -- he spoke with one of my former professors from Western (the one who filed the FEC Complaint) before he called me. Smear tactics? The PDC will not accept a complaint against a candidate unless they are provided with credible evidence that a violation may have occurred.

Frankly, what’s going on here is that the other camp does not care whether or not there is any validity, they want an article to say there’s issues,” Pike said. (Four Pinocchios for Pike). Fact: Thanks to Taylor, Candidate Pike is now "officially" the victim of a horrible plot to defame his character -- and I'm the evil person who is attacking him -- all 120 pounds of me). This is one of Taylor's favorite reoccuring themes. Elisabeth Britt - Pike hater. Complainants are required by law to sign an oath swearing that the complaint is based on the truth - not fabrication. Complainants are required to provide factual documentation of the errors/violations at filing. What did I really want? I wanted the public to know that Pike had violated campaign finance reporting laws. Why do I think this is important? Candidates should be able to demonstrate that they have respect for the laws of this state before they are elected to public office.

Just for the fun of it, let's do another post!
10/31/07 --
02:15:47 pm,
by Sam Taylor ,
433 words
Categories: Best of Locals

*BREAKING* Pike cleared by PDC

The Washington state Public Disclosure Commission has already cleared Bellingham mayoral candidate Dan Pike of a complaint regarding his campaign contributions that was filed by supporters of his opponent. (Four Pinocchios for Taylor) Fact: PDC Investigation was not complete -- in fact, it had not even begun).

The complaint, filed by McShane donor and Washington Conservation Voters member (two Pinocchios for Taylor) Elisabeth Britt, is considered unfounded, (four Pinocchios for Taylor) according to an e-mail sent by Randy Unruh, a PDC political finance specialist to Pike’s campaign treasurer, Ken Bronstein. Unruh told the campaign that he was preparing a “will not investigate memo now.”
Fact: I was not a member of Conservation Voters, as pointed out repeatedly by Ann Russell, past president of Conservation Voters on comment pages in the Herald. 2) The PDC Commission had yet to make a determination regarding the complaint against Pike.

“No further action will be taken,” he said in the e-mail. (Four Pinocchios for Taylor and Unruh) Fact: Further action was taken - the PDC Commission - not Randy Unruh, decides if a formal investigation will be opened or not).

*Update: 3:01 p.m. -
I just spoke with Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman and she’s working on getting me more information on this. She wanted to make it clear that the dismissal of the complaint will not be “official” until the commission meets, reads the financial specialist’s “will not investigate” memo, and sends a note to the Pike campaign and the person who filed the complaint, Elisabeth Britt. (Geppetto’s checkmark for Anderson) I also have asked Anderson to found out if this is regarding every charge (I think around 57?) (60) filed against Pike and not just the issues with the fundraisers.

Britt had complained that Pike did not report contributions or payments for three political fundraisers that she was concerned were funded by developers. She was also concerned that Pike’s campaign finance reports had been amended so many times that they would be confusing to the public and people wouldn’t be able to figure out what money was coming from where. (One Pinocchio for Taylor). Fact: over simplification -- there is more substance to the complaint than Taylor is disclosing.

The rest of the article can be read here:

Let's move on to the next article – Please note that an official letter had just been issued by the PDC stating a formal investigation had been opened against the Pike Campaign to examine alleged campaign finance violations.

Mr. Taylor and KGMI were sent copies of the official PDC letter -- and Sam Taylor is still claiming that the investigation is over (as was Brett Bonner on KGMI). Here is an excerpt from the letter dated and received from the PDC on November 1, 2007. Meanwhile, how many ballots have been cast?

From Phil Stutzman, Director of Compliance, PDC, dated November 1, 2007.

Dear Ms. Britt

“This is to acknowledge receipt of your complaint received October 22, 2007 and supplemented on October 25, 2007, alleging violations of RCW 42.17.040, 080. and .090. by the 2007 Dan Pike campaign. The complaint alleges that Mr. Pike failed to file timely and accurate reports of contributions and expenditures. It also alleges that he registered as a candidate one month late, and that he failed to include sponsor identification on a post card distributed at a Democratic Party function on December 8, 2006.

The PDC will investigate these allegations. After our investigation is complete, we will notify you of the results. All laws and rules cited in this letter can be found on our website under ….

Now, check out Sam Taylor’s article/post dated November 2nd, 2007.

Nov, 2, 2007
Pike told investigation into funds is over (Four Pinocchios for Taylor and Pike) Fact: the investigation is just beginning.
Public Disclosure Commission mix-up prolongs process

BELLINGHAM — Two workers at the Public Disclosure Commission have said no further investigation will be conducted regarding a campaign finance complaint against Bellingham mayoral candidate Dan Pike. (
Four Pinocchios for Taylor). Fact: Neither staff member quoted has the legal authority to dismiss a complaint under statute; and, an official letter opening a formal investigation had been sent to the complainant and the candidate.

But shortly after the information about Pike’s campaign being cleared became public, PDC staff changed their minds Thursday.

Randy Unruh, a PDC political finance specialist, had already cleared Pike of the complaint and sent an e-mail to Pike’s campaign treasurer, Ken Bronstein, saying so. Pike forwarded the e-mail to media. (Four Pinocchios for Taylor) Fact: Randy
Unruh does not have the legal authority under RCW to dismiss a complaint on his own. Only the PDC Commission can do that. Unruh is a PDC staff member, not a commissioner.

But because that e-mail was sent to Pike, the investigation will continue and a letter to Elisabeth Britt, a Dan McShane supporter who filed the complaint, will not be sent as originally planned, said Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman. (Four Pinocchios for Anderson and Taylor) Fact: The PDC opened a formal investigation to investigate alleged violations in the complaint -- not because of Unruh's leaked e-mail).

She said the change was not because of reaction from McShane supporters who contacted her office to find out if news reports were true about Pike being cleared.

“It’s in response to a candidate informed of some internal communication that should have never been released outside of this office,” she said. (Three Pinocchios for Anderson) Fact: I agree, the Unruh e-mail should never have been released outside the PDC office --but, despite the fact that it was released, the PDC Commission determined that a formal investigation was warranted, because the complainant (me) had identified multiple alleged campaign finance violations in the Pike campaign filings). There is no provision in statute for the PDC opening an investigation because a candidate leaked an internal communication to garner public sympathy and win an election.

Britt had complained that Pike did not report contributions or payments for three political fundraisers that she was concerned were funded by developers. She was also concerned that Pike’s campaign finance reports had been amended so many times that people wouldn’t be able to figure out what money was coming from where. (One Pinocchio for Taylor). Fact: there is much more to my c
omplaint than what Taylor outlines here.

Pike said that the events had not been reported because at the time his campaign had not received bills for the events to pay for them. He acknowledged that his reports were a mess previously but said his treasurer had worked hard trying to make sure that the PDC had all of the correct information.

Anderson had said Wednesday that the case was basically closed on the investigation, information she received from the PDC’s director of enforcement.
(Three Pinocchios for Anderson and Taylor). Fact: the complaint was still being investigated -- the agency had not made a decision regarding the complaint
and no letters had been sent out to the candidate or the complainant.

“We looked into some of the allegations. They were really minimal reporting errors,” Anderson said Wednesday. “We asked them to fix them and they did.”
(Two Pinocchios) Fact: Randy Unruh had informed Pike that he ne
eded to fix a long list of errors very early in the campaign. In fact, he warned Pike that "you are in a high profile campaign" if you do not fix these errors, someone will come along and file a complaint." Meanwhile, a number of other errors were not corrected). The PDC eventually levied the maximum fine against Pike ($500) for a first complaint, with $250 suspended if he does not violate RCW 42.17 again during the next four years.

Anderson had said no other action would be taken regarding the complaint and the letter would be sent to Britt. (Two Pinocchios) Fact: yada, yada, yada - inaccurate statement -- the commission had yet to render a decision on the complaint.

Told about the changes in the investigation, Pike said he was more concerned about the fate of the PDC employee, whom he felt was doing his job. He said it was unfortunate that the PDC didn’t make clear that there were issues still to be resolved rather than acting like the investigation was over Wednesday. (One Pinocchio for Pike) Fact: How nice! The complaintant, Elisabeth Britt, can go to hell in a hand basket - pike could have cared less what happens to me, as demonstrated by his personal attacks against me in the media. I think the attitude that Pike expressed goes something like this, "so what if she told the truth and I smeared her?" I got what I wanted --
(thousands and thousands of votes).

What I would hope for the PDC is for them to say that we’re sorry that there was a mistake, because we now have to go to this extra degree, which is perfectly fine,” Pike said. (Four Pinocchios for Pike). Fact: yes indeed, Pike got thousands of votes based on inaccurate, if not down right misleading media reporting because he leaked an internal PDC e-mail to the media, representing that a decision had been made, before a decision had actually been made by the Agency.

Britt did not return a phone seeking call comment but said she was working on a written response. After everything Taylor has written, Why on earth would I respond to Taylor after the way he covered this story?

For those readers who are not familiar with the formal results of the PDC investigations and hearings.

Results of Public Disclosure Investigation and Hearings:

Public Disclosure Commission Findings: On May 23, 2008, the PDC found that the Terrill Bornemann campaign, PDC Case No: 08-086, violated RCW 42.17.060 on numerous occasions by failing to timely deposit monetary contributions received by the campaign within five business days of receipt as required by statute. The Bornemann campaign failed to timely deposit $10,111 in monetary contributions received during the election cycle within five business days of receipt, which represented 57.6 % of the total monetary contributions received by the campaign.

Mr. Bornemann was fined $250, with $125 suspended on the condition that no additional violations of RCW 42.17 take place over the next four years.

On the same day, for PDC Case No: 08-113, the Presiding officer found that Dan Pike violated 1) RCW 42.17.040 on one occasion by failing to timely file a Candidate Registration statement (PDC form C-1); 2) RCW 42.17.080 and .090 on multiple occasions by failing to timely file Monetary Contribution Reports (PDC Form C-3) and Summary Contribution and Expenditure Reports (PDC Form C-4): and 3) RCW 42.17.130 on multiple occasions by using his office computer at the Skagit Council of Governments to send campaign related e-mails that assisted his campaign for Bellingham Mayor.

The Presiding officer dismissed the allegations against Mr. Pike regarding the failure to 1) timely deposit campaign contributions: 2) list the purpose or description for campaign expenditures: 3) attribute a loan received in March of 2007 for the primary election; and, 4) list the occupation and employer for contributors.

Mr. Pike was fined the maximum penalty for a first offense, $500, with $250 suspended as long as no additional violations of RCW 42.17 take place during the next four years.

Now, wasn't that fun?

* For the record, I do respect Sam Taylor's loyalty and devotion to his friend Dan Pike. Friendship is a precious gift and we are fortunate when we have people who genuinely care about us.

But I do not believe that it is appropriate to distort the news in order to help someone win a campaign. Both Taylor and Bonner indulged in behavior that in my opinion, is ethically unsound.

Washington State, via our public disclosure laws, provides citizens with the legal right to file alleged public disclosure complaints BEFORE AN ELECTION TAKES PLACE.

WA sunshine laws do not limit a citizen's ability to file a campaign finance complaint based on party affiliation, political ideology or because they are supporting a particular candidate's opponent. In fact, the law provides citizens with a process to assist them with filing a complaint.

Complaintants are required by law to provide documented facts to support their complaints at the time of filing.

The Hatch Act complaint is next. It promises to be a dilly!

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary - Cite This Source - Share This
VilifyVil"i*fy\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Vilified; p. pr. & vb. n. Vilifying.] [L. vilis vile + -fly; cf. L. vilificare to esteem of little value.]
1. To make vile; to debase; to degrade; to disgrace. [R.]
When themselves they vilified. To serve ungoverned appetite. --Milton.
2. To degrade or debase by report; to defame; to traduce; to calumniate. --I. Taylor.
Many passions dispose us to depress and vilify the merit of one rising in the esteem of mankind. --Addison.
3. To treat as vile; to despise. [Obs.]
I do vilify your censure. --Beau. & Fl.

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