The Democrat and Republican candidates running to replace retiring Democrat Deb Eddy in the 48th Legislative District plan to file complaints with the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) concerning the lack of transparency with campaign funding.
Republican Hank Myers, a Redmond City Council member, claims Democrat Cyrus Habib — or one of his supporters — is responsible for a misleading “push poll,” which attempts to influence voter opinion under the guise of conducting an impartial survey without saying who is paying for the campaign messages.
Both candidates deny responsibility for the poll, which asked provocative and suggestive questions about both candidates, according to 48th District voters who have received the lengthy, non-automated phone survey.
Myers is concerned that the push poll, which makes negative insinuations against both candidates, will lead to personal attack ads.
“We are tying to establish a record with the PDC that this has happened,” Myers said of the poll, which he believes is being conducted by the same firm that allegedly conducted a push poll on behalf of an Eastside Democrat in 2010. “It’s a sleazy-type campaign.”
Habib, a Bellevue attorney, said that Myers’ push-poll accusations are a distraction tactic and added that he plans to also file a complaint with the PDC concerning Myers’ failure to comply with PDC deadlines.
“My opponent has missed several disclosure deadlines since commencing his campaign in May and I do intend to follow up with the PDC to ensure that he is aware of and complies with the law,” Habib said. “I certainly think it’s possible that he and his supporters want to distract voters’ attention away from the fact that the mayors of Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Medina have all endorsed me over my opponent and that even a majority of his own colleagues on the Redmond City Council have chosen to endorse me over him.”
Myers said he has resolved his issues with filing his reports to the PDC and said all of his reports are current and up to date.
As of Wednesday, Habib has raised $155,100 and spent nearly $40,000, while Myers has raised $16,347 and spent nothing, according to the PDC website.
Myers, along with the King County Republican Party, is convinced that Habib was somehow financially involved in last month’s push poll phone survey of voters in the 48th District, which includes Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland.
HARD TO FIGURE OUT
It is difficult to decipher who is behind the poll, according to voters who received the phone survey.
Former longtime Redmond City Council member Richard Cole, who retired last December, said he received the call from a person who asked questions and made positive and negative insinuations about both candidates.
“It was so balanced with pluses and minuses on each side,” Cole said. “I have no idea which party paid for it.”
Cole said the phone caller made several “blatantly untrue, outrageous” claims against both candidates, making it a “distinct possibility that neither candidate knew about it.”
Cole, who is working for the campaign of Democrat Laura Ruderman in the 1st District Congressional race, says he is staying neutral in this race because of his past work with Myers on the Redmond City Council.
When asked if the poll could be funded by a third party, Myers said “these are not cheap polls. What third party would benefit from this?”
The survey asked questions about Habib’s Iranian-American ethnicity, triggering one Redmond Reporter reader to write a letter to the editor that said the poll started out “merely insulting to candidate Cyrus Habib, then became viciously racist.” The letter writer wrote that she believed the poll was being done on Myers’ behalf.
Another 48th District voter who received the phone survey responded to that letter a week later with a letter to the editor and said he got “the impression it was paid for by the Cyrus Habib and/or a Democratic group.”
“I thought there were more negative questions concerning Hank Myers than for Cyrus Hybib,” including one question that falsely insinuated that Myers did not pay his taxes, the letter writer wrote.
The letter went on to say that “the poll went on way too long and based on the large amount of questions you could make anything you want out of the poll.”
GOP, DEM PARTIES DENY INVOLVEMENT
Myers said he believes the poll is being conducted by Mountain West Research Center, an Idaho-based firm that was fined in 2010 for a push poll that was affiliated with a Democrat Senate candidate in New Hampshire.
The King County Republican Party, which also denied responsibility for the poll, issued a press release Monday, saying Mountain West is the same firm that used a push poll for Democrat Marcie Maxwell in her 2010 election in the 41st Legislative District, which includes Mercer Island, Bellevue and Sammamish.
“The same company used the same unethical tactic in 2010 for another Eastside Democrat,” King County Republican Party chairwoman Lori Sotelo said in the press release. “Cyrus Habib is simply the latest Democrat to use this sleazy tactic that is used to illegally spread false rumors without having to include a disclaimer saying who paid for it. It is clear that Habib knows who is doing this.”
Habib said he had nothing to do with the poll.
“I didn’t authorize nor do I condone push polling,” Habib said. “I am not aware of any push polls from supporters and would urge any supporter to not engage in such activity. I feel strongly, as I hope my opponent does as well, that moving our state forward on education, transportation and job growth should be the focus of this race, not insinuations regarding my ethnicity.”
The King County Democratic Party was also not responsible for the poll, according to the party’s communications and technology chairman Andrew Villeneuve.
“Our view is that people who pay for push polls are wasting their money,” Villeneuve said. “If you’re trying to do legitimate opinion research, you have to ask neutral questions, otherwise the answers you get will be of no use.”
Mountain West officials did not respond to Reporter’s attempts for comment.
If either candidate was responsible for the poll, it will come out July 17, the next PDC filing deadline, according to PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson.
Any campaign spending must be itemized and reported to the PDC each month. Donations must be reported on a weekly basis. Donations and spending for all the state races can be found at pdc.wa.gov.
Myers admitted that it will be hard to prove Habib was responsible for the poll, but he still plans to file a complaint.
“If someone is lying I want them to be exposed,” Myers said. “I am really offended by this.”
Habib said he will also be following up with the PDC on the push-poll issue.
“I want the truth to come out,” he said.