WASHINGTON — Activist Glen Morgan’s false-flag mailers show how special interest groups use political action committees, or PACs, to disguise their sources of funding and their true loyalties. PACs are loosely regulated entities that raise and spend money on behalf of candidates or initiatives.
In mid-October, Morgan, a Thurston County resident, spent almost $13,400 dollars to produce about 32,500 mailers that urged Democrats to write in candidates who weren’t actually running. The postcards were designed to split votes in close legislative contests, including the local race between Democrat Erin Frasier and state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen. Morgan also sent out mailers intended to influence Thurston County races.
The local postcards, which call Frazier a “fake progressive” and urge voters to write in “a real progressive” appear to be the work of a leftist group — they also include logos for union groups, Planned Parenthood and Fuse, a progressive nonprofit. But Morgan is actually a conservative, and the postcards were financed in part by Peter Zieve, a wealthy, famously bigoted Republican aerospace entrepreneur who in 2016 donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Zieve, the founder of Electroimpact, Inc., made national news in 2017, when an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office found “outrageous” discrimination against Muslim employees and non-white job candidates at his company. Among other things, Zieve sent emails in which he described Muslims as “terrorist savages” and immigrants as “rubbish from the desperate and criminal populations of the third world.”
It took Morgan a few weeks to lay the groundwork for his mail campaign. In September, he registered Send a Message PAC with the state Public Disclosure Commission and deposited a $10,000 check from Zieve. On Oct, 10, he registered a second PAC, Conscience of the Progressives. Two days later, he lent the first PAC $10,000 of his own money. That, along with a couple other contributions, brought its bank balance to about $21,250. He then immediately moved all of the money from Send a Message to Conscience of the Progressives. Morgan started spending Conscience’s money that day. By Oct. 13, he’d spent just under $13,400 on design, printing and postage for the mailers. Voters started receiving them last week, just as ballots were mailed.
The postcards prompted an immediate backlash from people who are concerned that Morgan’s deceptive tactics could hurt the democratic process. MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow discussed the scandal on her show, and on On Oct. 22, a coalition of groups named on the postcards filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission, according to a press release from Fuse.
“Above all else, these underhanded tactics undermine the democratic process and hurt voters seeking to make an informed choice when casting their ballot,” Fuse said.