CMR–Who is she really?

Dear Group,

So who is Cathy McMorris Rodgers really? What is her background? Well, here it is. It speaks volumes. 

Most of what follows is based on her Wikipedia article and an article on her life that appeared in the Spokesman in 2004. Cathy McMorris was born May 22, 1969 in Salem, Oregon. In 1974 when Cathy was five her parents and young brother moved to an off-grid farm in Hazleton (pop. 305), British Columbia, not far from Alaska. She was taught in a two-room schoolhouse. Just seven years later when Cathy was twelve they moved again, this time to Quesnel, B.C. (pop. 10,000) 350 miles SE, so her father could take a job as the principal of a private Christian school. That lasted three years. 

Cathy was a fifteen year old high school junior in 1984 when they moved to an orchard near Kettle Falls where she worked at the family’s fruit stand. Cathy and her brother attended the Columbia River Christian Academy, a school established in 1973 by people looking for a way to school their children in their brand of Christian worldview. Her father taught the younger grades at the same school. He served as chairman of the Stevens County Republican Party. They attended a “non-denominational evangelical Christian church”. 

Ms McMorris went off to the “Pensacola Christian College” in Florida. The wikipedia article notes that at the time she attended the College it was not accredited. It is identified as an “Independent Baptist liberal arts college.” The Independent Baptist churches are also referred to as Independent Fundamental Baptist or IFB. A Pew Research Center 2014 survey found that members of Independent Baptist churches comprised a mere 2.5% of the adult U.S. population. The Pensacola Christian College was finally accredited in 2013 by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. Ms. McMorris graduated in 1990 with a degree identified as Pre-law.

I invite you to the Wikipedia article on the Pensacola Christian College to comprehend the narrowness of the experience. This is NOT a place where a student is exposed to wide ranging ideas. 

In 1990 Ms McMorris went straight from college to managing the campaign of Bob Morton in his run for the Washington House of Representatives from the 7th Legislative District. When he was elected and then took office in 1991 she became his legislative assistant. When Morton was appointed to the LD7 Senate seat, Ms. McMorris was appointed to fill the LD7 Rep seat that Morton had held. Ms. McMorris was all of twenty five years old at the time. 

During her time in Olympia she pursued an “Executive MBA” from the University of WA starting in 1993 and graduating in 2002. According to Wikipedia: “Executive MBA (EMBA) programs developed to meet the educational needs of managers and executives, allowing students to earn an MBA (or another business-related graduate degree) in two years or less while working full-time.” 

Serving for LD7 she never faced serious opposition for her State Rep seat. George Nethercutt gave McMorris the nod in 2004 when he vacated the U.S. House CD5 seat to run for Senate, a race he lost. She bested Don Barbieri that year for the seat, winning with nearly 60% of the vote. Peter Goldmark in 2006 whittled her down to 56.5%, the lowest percentage with which she has won in a general election. 

I will save her U.S. Congressional career for another column. 

If, as George Layoff points out in “Don’t Think of an Elephant”, people develop frames around issues that cause facts to bounce off, Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ frame, based on her education and upbringing, must be particularly impervious. She has been steeped in Independent Fundamental Baptist Christianity. From a fundamentalist childhood and education she shot directly into politics. There was no pause to examine her place in the world. Her frame provides rigid certainty with no need to consider other points of view. Empathy, the ability to imagine oneself in another’s shoes, is not likely to be her long suit.

It is not my intent to paint Ms. McMorris Rodgers as evil. She does not go to the mirror every morning and ask herself, “What nasty, awful thing should I work on today.” She does, however, go to that mirror with the mind frame of absolute certainty conditioned by the narrowest of narrow religious upbringings, carefully shielded even from broader Christian thought. She goes to that mirror having spent her entire adult life in politics in Olympia or D.C. and with almost no broader life experience. 

We need a Representative with a broader understanding of the world and how it works.

Keep to the high ground,


Nigel Farage in Spokane?

Dear Group, 

During the Affordable Care Act/American Health Care Act debate I wrote of being invited to attend a forum hosted by “Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ staff”. While it was true that Traci Couture, CMR’s District Director, was there, the featured “physician”/speaker was Dr. Roger Stark, a member of the Washington Policy Center. We were all admonished repeatedly to speak into the microphones so Chris Cargill, the Eastern Washington Office Director of WPC, could record our opinions, presumably for later analysis. When Dr. Stark asked for a show of hands of the attendees who were in favor of a single payer system, all attendees raised a hand. I realized this was not really a forum, but a “constituent biopsy”, an effort to gauge the arguments of the opposition. 

That experience made it clear to me that the Washington Policy Center functions as Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ brain. As such, it bears watching, which, thanks to the internet, is not all that difficult. You can go right to their website or you can explore WPC’s links to the Koch brother’s donor group, their links to the American Legislative Exchange Council, and their misinformation on climate and the environment, for example, here

Legislators like Cathy McMorris Rodgers have neither the time nor the money to read widely and form their own opinions, especially if they are not exactly intellectual giants to begin with. Most legislators simply must depend on the framing and “facts” fed them from well-funded institutions like the WPC. 

It is worth your while fix the term Washington Policy Center in your memory. Learn the names of some of the talking heads on their staff. Once you do you will notice how often they get quoted and the influence they wield. 

It is with that background that I noted the ad I posted above. Just think, prominent donors and Republican supporters in little ‘ol Spokane can attend this Gala Dinner at the Davenport for a mere $150 or sponsor 20 people with a contribution of $15,000. For your donation you’d get a chance to listen to a speech by Nigel Farage, “Briton of the Year”, former leader of the far right UK Independence Party, prominent anti-immigrant spokesperson, engineer of Brexit and friend of Steve Bannon. (There was a rumor that Betsy DeVos was coming to Spokane. I cannot confirm that, but she IS noted somewhere on the WPC website.) 

Put September 27th on our calendar. It would be a good evening to take a walk…with a sign. More later.

Keep to the high ground,



Constituent Biopsy by the Washington Policy Center fbo CMR

Dear Group,

“Constituent Briefing” Turned Gauging Meeting, Constituent Biopsy

Yesterday I attended a “constituent briefing” to which I was invited by an email from Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office.  It was limited to thirty participants.  About fifteen appeared.  Traci Couture, CMR’s head of staff, officiated, but it was really a meeting held by the Washington Policy Center, the Koch donor network funded non-profit “think tank”.  They were represented by Dr. Roger Stark, who did much of the talking, and Chris Cargill, who said not a word but sat dourly in a corner behind his Washington Policy Center stickered computer, probably recording the event.  The second spokesperson was Megan Perez, CMR’s Legislative Director and Healthcare Policy Advisor who has worked “on the hill” for seven years for a variety of Congresspeople.  I heard no mention of Alison White with Better Health Together, although she was advertised in the invitation.

A handout was provided with all the usual Republican talking points about freedom, choice, and the “failed” Affordable Care Act. Dr. Stark and Ms. Perez each made very brief presentations and then the floor was opened to questions and comments. They got the earful I’m sure they were counting on. When Dr. Stark asked for a show of hands of those who were in favor of a single payer system, every hand shot up. We had been carefully chosen…

I left feeling used. I and others suspect this meeting will be used to craft the Republican defense of their abominable AHCA. This was what some describe as a “gauging meeting”. The image I have is of Frank Luntz, the genius of Republican framing and messaging, carefully choosing the right buzzwords to prescribe for the Republican propaganda machine.  

How much Cathy McMorris Rodgers functions as a mouthpiece for the policies of the Koch-funded Washington Policy Center and the mega-wealthy Libertarian Koch donors seemed glaringly obvious. 

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of course, was nowhere in evidence. We were told she was “meeting with constituents mostly in the southern part of the district”. Clearly, she isn’t holding town halls. Traci gamely encouraged everyone to sign up for a “Coffee with Cathy”. 

Keep to the high ground,