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August 27, 2010 at 8:08 PM

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State Sen. Jean Berkey asks PDC to set aside election results

Posted by Lynn Thompson

The Aug. 17 primary election hasn’t been certified yet, but State Sen. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, is asking that the results be set aside because of deceptive attack ads.

Berkey, who narrowly finished third in a three-way race in the 38th District, filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission Friday charging that her political opponents “conspired to funnel money with the purpose of concealing the funding source for political advertisements.”

She said the attack ads purported to be from Republicans concerned about taxes, but were actually funded by the same coalition of labor unions and progressive groups that spent almost $300,000 attacking her for being too conservative.

She said the deceptive mailers, which were sent on behalf of conservative candidate Rod Rieger, violate state election laws that make it illegal to hide the funding source of political advertisements.

Berkey is asking that all three candidates’ names appear on the general election ballot. If the commission does not act, she will consider a lawsuit, said her campaign chair, Larry Vognild.

“The PDC has a broad range of powers. They could set the election aside,” Vognild said.

Berkey, who was seeking her third term in the Senate, was attacked by the unions for not supporting working families.

A coalition including the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, and the Washington Federation of State Employees spent money on 15 mailers attacking Berkey and supporting her more liberal Democratic opponent in the primary, Nick Harper CQ. The organizations also contributed volunteers to doorbell and make phone calls for Harper.

A week before the election, according to Berkey’s complaint, the same group, using the political consultant Moxie Media of Seattle, created the Cut Taxes PAC and attacked Berkey from the right for raising taxes. The ads urged voters to support Rieger and identified him as a Republican, although he was not affiliated with the party. Rieger identified himself as a conservative in the voters’ guide.

Those mailers were sent to likely Republicans who hadn’t yet voted in the week before the primary, Berkey’s campaign said. She said that early election returns showed her leading Rieger, but that late ballots broke in his favor. She now trails him by 116 votes, too great a margin to trigger a recount.

Rieger was an unlikely candidate to topple an incumbent. He raised just $800, put up no yard signs and mailed no fliers. In the voter’s guide, his proposals for improving education included teaching speed reading and memorization. He did advocate cutting government spending and not raising taxes, but did his only campaigning via his website and a Facebook page.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.