Sleeping With the Enemy
Prominent Democratic Consultant Crosses Party Lines
Cathy Allen is one of the state's most prominent Democratic political consultants and an outspoken advocate for women in politics. A former vice-chair of the National Women's Political Caucus—a progressive group that advocates for female political candidates—Allen is well known as a progressive consultant and women's advocate.
Allen has traveled the world teaching women how to run for office; she served on Hillary Clinton's Washington State steering committee; and she regularly delivers the "Democratic Party response" to election results on KING 5. This year, she's doing work for Governor Christine Gregoire through Washington Conservation Voters (WCV), a statewide environmental group.
Many of Allen's clients and admirers will be shocked to learn that she's also working for two of the least progressive Republicans in state politics: lands commissioner Doug Sutherland—whose defeat Allen client WCV has named as its top priority—and attorney general Rob McKenna. McKenna is known to be an opponent of abortion rights (and an aspirant for higher office). In 2005, Sutherland had to apologize to a young female employee for sexual remarks he made about her; the woman quit the job shortly afterward.
Allen did her work for Sutherland and McKenna through a PAC controlled by the Washington Association of Realtors that donates primarily to Republicans. In mid-October, the PAC cut two checks to Allen for her work on the two Republicans' behalf—a payday of $57,560.
I came across the Realtors' Allen expenditure while researching a $15,000 independent expenditure by the PAC on behalf of Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat running for state house from the 36th legislative district. Carlyle will also benefit from an as-yet-unreported independent expenditure by the Washington Enterprise PAC, a probusiness group whose website identifies unions and "environmental organizations" as "the competition." (For more on that story, see thestranger.com/slog).
But as hypocrisy goes, Allen's work for Sutherland and McKenna is much more troubling than those PACs' expenditures for Carlyle. Although at least one Allen client is resigned—Kurt Fritts, head of WCV, says, "sometimes your friends are on the other side, and it isn't fun when that happens"—it's extremely unusual for a Democratic consultant to cross party lines. It's even more unusual for an outspoken pro-woman consultant to work for two people one political insider refers to as "an ass-grabber and a pro-life freak," respectively.
"It's 2008," adds this insider, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the issue. "If you can't make a living working for your own party this year, you shouldn't be in this business."
Disclosure reports confirm that breaking party ranks is virtually unheard of. Of several prominent local Democratic consulting firms—Blair Butterworth & Associates, Moxie Media, Northwest Passage, Fifty Plus One, Argo Strategies, the Funding Connection, and Allen's Connections Group—only one, Allen's, is working for the opposing party this year, interviews and reports filed at the Public Disclosure Commission show.
When contacted, most consultants' reactions were of the "holy shit" variety, but few wanted to talk on the record. "I don't want to comment on Cathy's business," said Linda Mitchell, principal of the Funding Connection and another longtime backer of female candidates. Blair Butterworth said only, "We all choose who we sleep with, right?"
Another Democratic political insider said he was "shocked" by Allen's defection.
"You just don't work with the Republican opposition," said this second insider, who also wished to remain anonymous. "If this doesn't take her off the Democratic response on KING 5, I don't know what does."
Allen did not return a call or an e-mail for comment.