What the fuck are the petroleum companies behind the No on 1631 campaign even doing?
The carbon fee on Washington's ballot, Initiative 1631, is one of the most hotly contested races for this midterm election season. Big Oil is scared that Washington is going to pass I-1631. Petroleum companies from all over the country have been dumping money into the campaign. They've also been spending that money dubiously.
This weekend, No on 1631 sent out a mailed advertisement to Spanish speakers across Washington state. It contained a list of Latino businesses who were opposed to the carbon fee, who were in favor of No on 1631. Most of those businesses had no idea their names were on that list.
"Most campaigns don’t even bother reaching out to Latino voters," said Peter Bloch Garcia, executive director of the Latino Community Fund. "But because we’ve been organizing for years, front and center, and taking a strong position in support of 1631 they are explicitly targeting us. I have never in my life in Washington seen a targeted mailer like this that has exploited our community."
Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he can't recall a situation like this either.
Allegedly, people with the No on 1631 campaign approached small business owners and asked them to sign something. They did not inform the business owners about the issue or what they were signing.
Tiffany Mendoza, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Front and Center (Communities of Color for Climate Justice), has heard from many businesses from this list who have come forward with anger being placed on this mailer.
"Already we have heard from a dozen businesses saying they were not given information about this initiative, that they never gave consent, or that they personally felt misled," Mendoza said. "We have reached out to some of these businesses and two or three of them were closed."
One of these small businesses is Mi Ranchito, an international grocery store in Rainier Valley. Javier Torres Jimenez, the owner, was approached by someone with the No on 1631 campaign awhile back, he said. He said he didn't even know what campaign the man was with.
"I didn’t know until yesterday," Jimenez said. "[Yes on 1631] told me the name was on the list. I didn’t know. I forgot about it."
Andrea Guiterrez, his daughter who helps run the store, said they were very confused when they found out.
"We didn't know what was going on until yesterday and we are not apart of that," Guiterrez said.
Jimenez and Guiterrez stood at the wall of refrigerated drinks at the back of Mi Ranchito. The two of them eyed the cameras pointed at them warily.
"I feel like they used my name," Jimenez said.
Apparently, members of the No on 1631 campaign had come to talk to Jimenez earlier this morning. Guiterrez said that she and her father did not want to talk about it.
It's not clear whether this violates any laws, but the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has received a complaint. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, though he cannot investigate any election complaints anymore due to a new legislative law, was shocked that a campaign would stoop to these levels.
"I get that politics can be a contact sport but there should be some basic principles through it all that we all adhere to," Ferguson said. "Using the names of these businesses in this way should be beneath any campaign."
He called on the PDC to investigate.
The PDC said they received the complaint last night but have not begun investigating. They received 13 other complaints last night as well, according to Kim Bradford, Communications & Outreach Director.
"Election season does tend to be busy," Bradford said. "We’ve been running higher on complaints in recent years than during the past."
That complaint is in purgatory for now. The more immediate action is drawing attention to the lies behind the behemoth of capital that is trying to stifle carbon policy in Washington state.
Last week, No on 1631 broke the fundraising record for a Washington state initiative at $27 million. As of today, they've raised nearly $31 million. Nick Abraham, Communications Director with Yes on 1631, said his campaign had just filmed a television ad with Ferguson—a pointed response to the No campaign's dubious ad with former Attorney General Rob McKenna—and as soon as the ad was finished the fundraising figure they used was already old news.
According to Mendoza, this money is being used for deceptive tactics to mislead voters.
Here is most of Sen. Rebecca Saldaña’s message. She said it was imperative to get this message out in both English and Spanish pic.twitter.com/tdgZM7mUR4
— nathalie graham (@gramsofgnats) October 30, 2018