An email from state Sen. Don Benton scolding fellow Republicans for their votes on a Democratic-led bill sparked an internal brouhaha among legislators this week.
Benton took 14 House Republicans to task for voting in favor of a bill that would create new rules for signature gatherers under the state's initiative process.
House Bill 2552, which cleared the House last week, would require signature gatherers to register with the state and complete a training program before collecting signatures, among other requirements.
Benton said he was "deeply disturbed" by the Republicans' yes votes on the bill. Among those in his sights: Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, one of the bill's co-sponsors.
"I did my due diligence and checked and confirmed that you did, in fact, vote for HB 2552 and I was completely surprised to see your name on the list," wrote Benton, R-Vancouver. "Republicans in the Legislature have diligently defended the initiative process from legislative assault by Democrats going back as far as 2003."
The email went on:
"HB 2552 is one of the most oppressive Big Government anti-initiative bills they've ever tried. And you voted for it! Even the ACLU opposes it. Remember the words of the First Amendment: ÕCongress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, ... and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.'"
Benton's blast reportedly received at least one response in the form of a sarcastic email from Rep. Joel Kretz, the House Republicans' deputy leader. Kretz began by informing Benton, a "fine gentleman," that "someone may have hacked your online account and sent the below-attached message from your email account!"
Kretz then listed a series of Democratic proposals that Benton has supported over the years.
"We all know the high ethical standard to which you hold yourself, so there is no way I can believe that you - who has so often crossed his own caucus and voted for Democratic bills for what some uncharitable observers might say were self-serving reasons - would be so shameless as to try and take to task fellow elected officials whom you judge "guilty" of the same party-crossing conduct for which you are so rightly famous," wrote Kretz, R-Wauconda.
"While I appreciate all of the extra time you have taken to research my 20 year voting record (although some of it is inaccurate) I fail to see the point. I am passionate about the initiative process and my brief email rant about the history of Republicans protecting it had but one point - it makes it more difficult for the (Senate Majority Coalition Caucus) to stop bad D bills like (2552) when it comes over with a strong bi-partisan vote count from your chamber. I never intended to accuse or chastise any member's vote, that is each and every member's right!"
Benton went on to apologize to "any of your members that were offended by my email."
"Remember," he wrote, "we are all on the same team!"