The husband of state Senate candidate Tami Green, D-Lakewood, sent out an anonymous mailer this week that didn’t identify who paid for it, something Republicans quickly decried as a violation of state election laws.
But Green’s husband, a Democratic party official, told state election watchdogs that he didn’t spend enough on the mass mailing to require listing a sponsor.
State Rep. Tami Green is running to unseat state Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, in one of this year’s most expensive legislative races.
Her husband, Donald Green, said he sent about 5,000 mailers this week to voters in Pierce County’s 28th Legislative District. The mailers reprint parts of an Oct. 24 News Tribune editorial, and list The News Tribune’s name prominently.
The excerpted editorial — written by an editorial board that operates separately from the paper’s newsroom — criticized “laughably misleading” election advertising in some of this year’s races, including the contest between Green and O’Ban.
The only identification on the mailer is a Lakewood address that is the Greens’ home.
In a statement Thursday morning, Tami Green said that her husband had sent the mailer without consulting her.
“Since March I have been dealing with half-truths and statements out of context against me,” Tami Green wrote in an email to The News Tribune. “Steve O’Ban’s party has used sleazy tactics by placing my head on others people’s bodies and portraying me as a witch ...
“My husband reproduced the News Tribune opinion article and sent it out to voters as an attempt to set the record straight. He did not ask my permission to do so and paid for it with his own funds. He believed it was within his First Amendment right to do so.”
Don Green is the chairman of the Democratic party in the 28th Legislative District, and is a precinct committee officer for the Pierce County Democrats.
He said Thursday he didn’t think that his mailer violated state election rules because he paid for it himself and it didn’t tell voters who to support or oppose.
He might be right, according to officials at the state Public Disclosure Commission. While all election advertisements must list their sponsors, Don Green’s mailer doesn’t qualify as an election ad because it doesn’t engage in “express advocacy,” said Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Commission.
The fliers could be considered electioneering communications — which are also required to list a sponsor — but only if they cost more than $1,000 to produce and distribute, Anderson said.
Don Green told PDC officials he didn’t spend that much, she said.
While Don Green said he used his own money to print and mail the fliers, he used the 28th District Democrats’ bulk mailing permit to send them, securing a lower bulk mailing rate in the process.
After seeing the mailer, Republicans were quick to denounce it as illegal.
“This is about more than just failing to list the sponsor, it’s about the purposeful and fraudulent concealment of legally required information to influence an election,” wrote Brent Ludeman, executive director of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, in a emailed statement Thursday. He later said Republicans plan to file a complaint with the disclosure commission.
The mailer omitted some noteworthy pieces of the News Tribune editorial, including a line that said literature “put out by O’Ban’s campaign is perfectly acceptable.” The flier also didn’t mention that the News Tribune editorial board endorsed O’Ban, not Green, earlier in the campaign.
“Don Green is doing exactly what Tami Green is complaining about — misappropriating our image and identity and using material out of context,” said David Zeeck, News Tribune publisher. “By hiding his authorship of this piece, he’s clearly trying to misuse our good name and reputation, and that’s not only wrong, it’s sleazy, to use the word Tami applied to the material targeting her.”
The 28th Legislative District includes University Place, Fircrest, Steilacoom, Dupont, Anderson Island, Elk Plain, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and parts of Lakewood and Tacoma.