Washblog

Truly "Dirty" GOP Tricks: Nothing New

David Goldstein of Horses Ass recently wrote, in relation to the GOP sex offender smear, that "This is not politics as usual. This is not just another political dirty trick. This is a new low – at least for WA state Republicans – and it is unforgivably despicable." He's right that it's unforgivably despicable. But he's wrong that it's new. Here is a short history of a similar smear from 2004 -- against Representative and Firefighter Geoff Simpson. This one used a little girl to model a rape victim. Evidently, the 47th, just about the most swingy of the swing districts here in King County, was just a testing ground for this year's onslaught.

Keep in mind as you read this that the GOP tactic of trying this out on Geoff Simpson -- who received a Distinguished Service Award from the Kent Fire Department for rescuing a child from a murder scene, who has co-sponsored several bills increasing penalties for violent offenses, and who was Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WSCOPS) legislator of the year in 2003 – was perhaps seen by the GOP as a good way to "market test" this kind of malarkey. If you try to pin the soft-on-offenders rap on a legislator who happens to be an outstanding protector of children -- and there’s no great public outcry – then perhaps you can attack all the Dem. legislators in swing districts.

Read below to learn how Simpson was being pilloried on the basis of legislation he co-sponsored that actually increased penalties for sex offenders -- and how the exploitation of a little girl to deceive the public was done on behalf of Simpson's challenger -- the owner of a local Christian camp for children. Steve Altick, the owner of Camp Berachah, is running against Simpson again this year.

Back in late October 2004 - just when it was too late for any effective response against last-minute dirty tricks - the Republicans here in the 47th Legislative District sent out a flyer that suggested incumbent Geoff Simpson was helping child rapists escape punishment.

The flyer showed a devastated little girl (the implication that she had been raped) crying on a curb. The outrage that the flyer expressed was directed, not at the rapist, but at Simpson.

My first response to this flyer was disbelief. A child was being exploited here, used to model as a rape victim in order to smear a legislator who, in fact, has long been a champion of children's health and welfare and a supporter of tough sentences on sex offenders.

After I received this brochure, I wrote Steve Altick, Simpson's challenger at the time (and, I see now, probably his challenger again.)

Altick runs a religious camp for children. I thought it was particularly distressing that a person responsible for children in such a way - and especially someone claiming to follow the teachings of a religious leader who advocated special love and care for children, would allow a minor to be used for political gain.

Mr. Altick answered with a denial of personal responsibility for the brochure. "Another fact is that mailing was not from my campaign as you can note on the return address" (personal correspondence 10/30/04).

He also referred to the O'Brien Amendment, clueing me in that the vote at issue was for HB 2400. This bill, which became law, increased penalties for child rape, adding 3-5 years. And it narrowed the ability of offenders to substitute treatment for imprisonment. Simpson had co-sponsored it.

The bruhaha over this law was reported in the Tacoma News at the time (Public outcry pushes bill on child rape to top of agenda ; Olympia: Early release plus treatment program under fire. Feb 14, 2004.)

I asked Representative Simpson about how this possibly could have been portrayed as a case where he was helping rapists. The reply I remember is that the O'Brien amendment, which Simpson voted for, adjusted HR 2400's increase in penalties. Child abuse experts had informed legislators that increasing penalties too much can have the unintended consequence of reducing the willingness of offenders' family members to turn them in - and thus, increasing the number of children at risk. In other words, there is an optimal sentencing level for a given offense at a given time and place. Simpson and the other legislators who voted for the O'Brien amendment were acting with due diligence in order to impose the optimal punishment.

The season's postcard, which Darryl at Hominid Views pokes fun at sublimely, targets both Geoff Simpson and Pat Sullivan in the 47th.

Sullivan, a recipient of Washington PTA's Golden Acorn award for outstanding service to children, also has a strong pro-child, pro-education background. As a legislator, now just in his first term, he too, has consistently upheld health, safety, and well-being measures for children. Both these legislators are fathers.

Washington State's Republican party has become a public menace.

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