Plausible Deniability in Spokane

Dear Group,

Plausible deniability is “the ability of people to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy. …In political campaigns, plausible deniability enables candidates to stay clean and denounce third-party advertisements that use unethical approaches or potentially libellous innuendo.”

I was reminded of the concept of plausible deniability as a I read Jim Camden’s article “Candidates dialing up the dollars” in the Saturday, June 8th Spokesman. (The same article appeared in the online version with the title “Woodward leads in campaign money; Stuckart criticizes ‘push’ poll.”

“Push polls” are a low political tactic used on uncritical voters to instill and re-enforce biases. A caller (or an email) pretends to represent a legitimate polling organization, but the questions asked, when critically examined, are leading questions, designed to sway opinion, not elicit it. 

According to the Spokesman article:

Stuckart said he was contacted by a supporter who said she was called for a survey, and after about 10 minutes of what seemed like standard political questions the caller started to ask the “would you vote for Ben Stuckart if” questions. After he posted something about the poll on Facebook, he was contacted by other supporters who said they, too, had been called.

The what if questions were in the vein of “if they knew he [Stuckart] did things like raising taxes or giving himself a raise,” questions designed to implant an idea. In the Spokesman article Stuckart is quoted, “Nobody does that [conducts such polls] for fun.” Still, Camden’s article spent paragraphs gathering denials from various potential actors connected with the Woodward campaign who might have been responsible for these “polls.”. The net effect was to cast doubt on Snuckart’s complaint while letting Woodward and her campaign off the hook. “No, no WE wouldn’t do such a thing, we’re above that,” in other words, plausible deniability. 

The fact remains someone is conducting these polls and doing so systematically. No private, independent citizen is out there calling and posing as a pollster for fun. 

I am reminded of the Woodward campaign’s fund raising boost delivered by the entrance and then rapid exit from the mayoral campaign last month of Andrew Rathbun, an entrance and exit that freed Woodward of municipal strictures on campaign contributions. It is hard to avoid the idea that Andrew Rathbun, now a candidate against Karen Stratton in the District 3 City Council race, was set up by Woodward operatives to crash the fund raising limits in the mayoral race while providing Woodward with plausible deniability. Rathbun later “argued that the limits should revert back to $1,000” after he left the mayoral race. In making that argument Rathbun is either covering his tracks or, perhaps worse, he is ignorant of the campaign law. Either should disqualify him for public office.

In other local race news: Woodward is taking a page out of the Trump/Shea playbook in dealing with media. The Spokesman reports Ms. Woodward has cancelled multiple interviews with The Inlander. “She told the Inlander in a phone call last Friday that she would only answer questions via email because she believed the reporter had an agenda and that the publication had covered some candidates in a biased way.” I encourage you to click the last link and read and share the Inlander article you find there. A former media person doing dodging interviews? Is she so vacuous she doesn’t trust herself to answer questions in an interview? How does she plan to serve as a mayor if she cannot think without a teleprompter?

Woodward claims the Inlander has “an agenda.” An “agenda?” The Woodward announcement was printed shoulder-to-shoulder on the front page with an article gleefully pointing out another media personality, Ron Bair, served as mayor from 1978-1982. The same article conveniently omitted that being mayor of Spokane is a wholly different job since Spokane switched to a “strong mayor” system in 2001. Prior to 2001 the mayor was mostly a figurehead, a role to which Woodward would be better suited. The Spokesman’s front page announcement of the Woodward candidacy was a blatant non-endorsement endorsement, an “agenda,” but, to Woodward, an acceptable one.

Keep to the high ground,