In the voters' pamphlet, conservative Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Maia Espinoza calls herself a "German Marshall Scholar."
You've likely heard of Rhodes Scholars, who are selected to participate in the prestigious international scholarship program at Oxford. If you haven't heard of the program, you've heard of its alumni: Bill Clinton, Cory Booker, Rachel Maddow, and many others have participated.
You may have also heard of the Marshall Scholarship, another fancy and very English international program with famous alumni such as SCOTUS Justices Stephen Breyer and Neil Gorsuch, columnist Thomas Friedman, and Spokanian astronaut Anne McClain. The program calls its former fellows "Marshall Scholars."
But you've likely never heard of German Marshall Scholars. That's because no one calls themselves "German Marshall Scholars." The title sounds like a thing, and it is close to being a thing, but it's not actually a thing.
Last year Espinoza participated as a member of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network (TILN). The German government established this institution, which essentially operates as a national security think tank, in the 1970s as a gift of thanks to the United States for implementing the Marshall Plan. The TILN is a leadership development program within the organization focused on "advancing inclusive policies and increasing social cohesion."
The program draws credible political up-and-comers from across the world and also from the U.S. Alumni include Ruben Gallego, who is now a Congressman from Arizona; Bee Nguyen, who represents the good people of Georgia's House District 89; and Paulette Jordan, who is doing her damnedest to kick ancient Idaho Senator Jim Risch out of office.
So the company is good, and the credential is worth listing, but the only trouble is these people aren't "German Marshall Scholars."
"We refer to our alumni as follows: GMF TILN alumna/alumnus (TILN’19), GMF alumna/alumnus (TILN’19)," said the organization's leadership programs officer.
A current TILN participant, King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, said he believes they refer to active participants as "TILN Fellows." In the few communications he's seen so far, he hasn't seen anyone use "German Marshall Scholars."
I have found one other guy—a Hungarian justice named Dr. István Stumpf—who describes himself as a "German Marshall Scholar," but the GMF doesn't list him as a participant in any of the leadership programs, so he may have actually been one of the think tank's experts, or maybe he was a janitor—who knows. I've asked the GMF and will update when I hear back.
Espinoza didn't respond to a request for comment, but given her history of exaggerating her achievements, it's not exactly a stretch to believe she's trading on the name of more prestigious institutions—hoping people hear "Marshall Scholar" when they hear "German Marshall Scholar"—in order to inflate her resume in this case, too.
Obviously this bullshit wouldn't top the list of bullshit claims coming out of her campaign. It's not as bad as running a nonprofit that claims tax-exempt status without actually having it, or calling herself a "school teacher" when she has no teaching certificate, or claiming she's "not a politician" despite losing a state house campaign not two years ago, or claiming she earned a one-year degree from an online university she hadn't yet earned, or claiming her opponent Chris Reykdal supports a policy that teaches sex positions to 4th graders when he doesn't, but the fact that she seems to have inflated a credential she didn't even have to inflate is telling. It suggests she's willing to bend the truth no matter how small that truth is. But mostly, it's just kinda sad.