Published October 25, 2012
JZ Knight video spurs GOP calls for Democrats to return fundsBRAD SHANNON
The flare-up over a videotape of Yelm-based spirit channeler JZ Knight railing against Catholics is turning into a cause celebre for Republicans. Days after state Republican Party chairman Kirby Wilbur asked Democrats to return campaign contributions from Knight, Republican state Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville also is seizing on the issue. On Wednesday, Becker called on her Democratic challenger, Bruce Lachney, to return some $3,600 in campaign contributions that Knight and her school made to his campaign for the 2nd Legislative District. The state Republican Party also has sent a pair of mailers to voters that say Lachney is supported by a “cult leader,” label him “extreme” and suggest Knight is Lachney’s “most trusted adviser.” Spokeswoman Meredith Kenny said the party is spending $26,658 on the mailers attacking Lachney and $174 more for a website that labels him “wacky.” The spending suggests Republicans are worried about losing Becker’s seat, which the GOP needs if it is to narrow or erase Democrats’ five-seat majority in the Senate. The 2nd District takes in eastern Thurston County and southeastern Pierce County. On Thursday, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee led by Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, chimed in, calling on both Lachney and Washington Senate Democratic Campaign Committee to give back money from Knight. The fallout also has spread to the race for the state’s new seat in Congress. Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri, a Republican candidate for the 10th Congressional District, posted on his Facebook page this week that he will to ask his Democratic opponent, Denny Heck of Olympia, to donate any contributions from Knight to charity and “to condemn the vitriolic statements” in the video. Federal Election Commission records show Knight made August donations totaling $3,500 to Heck’s campaign, which did not respond to a reporter’s inquiry. A spokesman for Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment said the video takes out of context Knight’s comments, which were meant to call attention to the Catholic church’s cover-up of pedophile priests. The video clearly had been spliced with footage of Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero – another recipient of Knight’s campaign donations – speaking at a candidate forum at the Knight’s Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment this year. Ex-student Dave Champagne said that Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old warrior spirit that Knight claims to channel, sometimes uses shocking language. The two-minute video shows Knight in snippets of a tirade against the Catholic Church. She also makes derogatory references to homosexuals and Jews. The Olympian is not publishing the comments because of the severity of their profanity; the video can be viewed at http://ow.ly/eM05Q. Readers are warned that it contains vulgar and offensive language. In a news release, Becker said she is Catholic and offended by Knight’s diatribe, which she said was insensitive and imparted bigotry. “My opponent has embraced J.Z. Knight, both literally and figuratively,” it states. “Knight contributed $3,600 to his campaign and also contributed $60,000 to the Washington State Democratic Party, which then gave Lachney an additional $5,000. He should return those contributions immediately and distance himself from Knight.” Lachney said he spoke at Knight’s school once about education, has no other connection to the school and has never taken classes from Knight. He apparently is not going to give up the contributions, and his campaign is carrying on with its own mailers that hit Becker for her proposal to let some smaller schools seek state waivers for a shorter, four-day school week as a money-saving measure. “I haven’t seen the hit piece yet,” Lachney said in an email late Wednesday. “Anyway, it is programmed subterfuge, trying to redirect the education issue with sleight of hand. We will keep talking about education and the budget.” The Democrat did acknowledge that two allegations in the GOP’s mailers have a factual basis. One deals with his support for repealing the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases, which he thinks is unconstitutional, and the other is a claim he cut 30 percent of a community college budget. Lachney said Clover Park Technical College, where he sits on the board of trustees, had to cut its budget 40 percent as a result of reduced state funding. The Republicans aren’t alone in trying to indict through guilt by association. A Lachney-funded flier attacks Becker for siding “against our social security benefits.” As evidence, it says – accurately – that Becker belongs to the conservative and corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council. Lachney cites a Washington Post article from 2005 linking the group to privatization proposals. But Becker did not become a legislator, and thereby an ALEC member, until 2009. It is not clear she has ever publicly backed changes in the guarantee of Social Security benefits.