J.Z. Knight, the Yelm-based spirit channeler with followers around the world, has given $65,000 to Thurston County Democrats for political activities this year, the largest of any donor. The move reverses a position of Democrats in 2012 – when the state Democratic Party gave away $70,000 and local Democratic candidates gave away smaller contributions from Knight and her Ramtha School of Enlightenment.
The spurning of contributions in 2012 came after a right-of-center think tank posted videos online showing Knight ranting about Catholics, gays and Mexicans, whom she said bred like rabbits.
This time, the county party is resisting calls by the Freedom Foundation, the libertarian-styled think tank in Olympia that posted the videos, and state Sen. Tim Sheldon to give the money back. Party chairman Roger Erskine said he welcomes the money that will be used to sponsor a yearly Kennedy dinner later this year and assist with party activities, but not used for donations to candidates.
“We’re comfortable that is she is in fact a good Democrat and she supports our program. We’re thankful for the gift,’’ Erskine said. “We reported this quite a while ago (to the Public Disclosure Commission). We have not had a single inquiry.”
The foundation posted a report on Knight and the donations on its web site on Wednesday, asking why the party would accept the contributions given Knight’s statements on the videos.
“We definitely think the Thurston County Democrats should give back the money. And this time actually give it back to the source rather than simply funneling it to another liberal organization. If it was the right thing to do then, it's the right thing to do now. Since when is there a statute of limitations on sleaze?” said Jeff Rhodes, managing editor of the libertarian Freedom Foundation's publications, in an email.
Knight’s company – JZK, Inc. – has won two legal fights over the videotapes, which it has said took Knight's comments out of context. It secured a Thurston County judge’s order last year preventing a former student of her Ramtha School of Enlightenment from distributing portions of videos that came from training sessions. The school asserted copyright control over the material.
That ruling and another stemming from the school’s lawsuit against the ex-student, Virginia Coverdale, are on appeal at the state Supreme Court, and no court date has been set. See details in a news report from Jeremy Pawloski of The Olympian.
Knight’s spokesman Rob Wynne released a statement this week from the school that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the videos:
“It has taken a lot of effort to reveal the lengths to which our critics have gone to cast JZ Knight in a false light in order to support their vitriolic agenda. Only when put under oath in litigation did we finally get the truth. “Court documents are available for public inspection in Thurston County in the case against Virginia Coverdale and in the New Zealand High Court in Auckland in the case against David McCarthy. JZK, Inc. received admissions by both defendants that the videos they disseminated in 2012 had first been edited. Virginia hired a video editor to create what she wanted. David did the editing himself to create the impressions he wanted, including altering audio tracks from the original video recordings. “Our critics aren’t happy that the truth contradicts the image of the 'evil demon' they promulgate. To them, Democratic officials had been corrupted or fooled by JZ Knight but not our critics. They wouldn’t let facts distract them so they ignore the conclusions of competent authorities and become vigilantes. “There is a way to find truth in our courts of law. In the courts, justice is served against vigilantes who lie, slander, and abuse the public trust. And just like in November 2012, the public won’t forget who has abused their trust.
UPDATE: David McCarthy responded Thursday:
Mr. Wynne's press release is full of false and malicious statements against me.
There are no court documents in New Zealand that resemble anything that Mr. Wynne said about me. My initial defense documents haven't even been turned in.
I did not alter the audio. As Sandra Romero pointed out in her October 2012 statement, it was apparent that my video was not doctored.
No court has stated that I did any of the things that Wynne attributed to me.
Erskine described Knight as an upstanding citizen and said “she keeps winning business person of the year awards from her (Yelm) constituency – the chamber of commerce out there.’’
Erskine – and Sandra Romero, a county commissioner who gave away Knight’s contributions to a charity helping immigrants in 2012 – both question whether Knight is racist. They question whether the profanity-laced videos showing her denigrating the Catholic church, gays and Mexican were accurate. In one video Knight describes a population explosion from Mexican Catholics; in others she complains of the church and says gay men were once Catholic women.
“Those are allegations that have been made. Those are being dealt with in the courts,” Erskine said. “As far as I know the courts have not charged her with anything. … I don’t know the background on that. She was never jailed; she has never paid any fines.’’
Erskine said Thurston Democrats put the issue to a vote of their central committee. “They voted unanimously to accept the gift,’’ he said. “We had a good thorough discussion about it. A motion was made and it was adopted.”
“I think the Freedom Foundation, if they had received the money, would not have said anything except thank you. She does not agree with their goals and platform,’’ Erskine added.
Romero said the videos, which included pictures of her attending a Knight-sponsored candidate forum in 2012, may have been tampered. “Evidently they even took some of her comments and juxtaposed some of them,’’ she said.
“I don’t believe she is a bigot, just because of the people I know that are part of her school,” Romero added. “They are probably more (racially) integrated there than any other place in the county. Maybe Lacey is better integrated. I think it’s all electioneering. It’s all campaigning. It’s spreading divisiveness. I just want people to work together. We have a lot of issues that divisiveness does not help solve.’’
That is a lot different view than Romero had in 2012 when she decided to give away Knight’s contribution after seeing a video of Knight talking about Mexicans. At that time, Romero said:
"Unlike the other videos that were heavily edited, spliced and taken out of context this most recent one appeared to be undoctored. I am appalled by Ms. Knight's outrageous anti-Mexican, anti-Catholic raging. These vile, racist, and divisive comments against responsible and caring people have no place in Thurston County, or anywhere else. I am particularly stunned by these anti-human rights comments from her, because of her otherwise very positive record of supporting scholarships for students in the Yelm area, her support for positive environmental organizations and policies, her support of local social service agencies and her significant contributions to the economy in southeast Thurston County. However, these hateful comments are the complete opposite of everything I stand for. I denounce them. I condemn them."Knight says she channels a 35,000-year-old warrior and in 1998 founded her Yelm school to teach others about her beliefs. The school has had tens of thousands of followers.