Politics Blog

Conservative's motives for using progressive names remain elusive

I wrote a story to follow up on yesterday's blog post about Drew Zinecker, who filed last month with the Public Disclosure Commission to start two new political action committees. The curious thing is, Zinecker, well known as a conservative, has named his PACs after two well established progressive organizations here -- Whatcom Wins and Whatcom Conservation Voters. This leads one to wonder what Zinecker has in mind with these committees.

My story was postponed for publication until Saturday, Feb. 15, so I will show you what I have so far. Maybe another 24 hours will yield more information on this.

Here's my story, as yet unfiled and unedited:

A conservative activist filed two new political action committees with the state last month, using the names of two groups who helped elect progressive candidates to the Whatcom County Council.

Drew Zinecker, 27, registered “Whatcom Wins” and “Whatcom Conservation Voters” as political action committees on Jan. 15, according to Public Disclosure Commission records. Both names represent local progressive organizations.

Zinecker has not returned phone calls seeking comment, and it remains unclear why someone who is not a Democrat and does not align himself with Whatcom Conservation Voters would use their names on new PACs.

“I think it’s a really silly tactic,” said Lisa McShane, a Whatcom Wins organizer. “If he wants to get our message of good environmental progress and protecting drinking-water quality out there, then he’s welcome to do that.”

Whatcom Wins was the arm of the Whatcom County Democrats that coordinated the campaigns of county council candidates Rud Browne, Barry Buchanan, Ken Mann and Carl Weimer. All four won, shifting the balance of the council to majority progressive.

Whatcom Conservation Voters is the local chapter of Washington Conservation Voters, which spent more than $260,000 to get the same four men elected in November.

Whatcom Democrats have said they raised more than $180,000 for the Whatcom Wins campaigns.

People close to the ground game of last fall’s campaigns said they recognized Zinecker as a doorbeller in Whatcom County for conservative candidates. Zinecker has a well established political persona online, where he identifies as a Republican.

Conservative council candidates Kathy Kershner and Michelle Luke paid Zinecker $1,050 for campaign work last year, according to PDC records. Most of that was for an ad that appeared on the Drudge Report website.

Zinecker was hired by the North Bend-based consulting and fundraising firm Strategic Campaign Group in February 2013. He no longer works there, said Erin McCallum, the firm’s president.

“He’s just a young guy, and he’s highly partisan, but that’s not really how I built the company,” McCallum said.

Last year’s PDC reports give Zinecker’s address as a post office box in Wenatchee. On his form for the two PACs, Zinecker gives as his address 1461 Van Dyk Road, Lynden — the address of conservative council candidate Ben Elenbaas.

Elenbaas said on Thursday, Feb. 13, that he gave Zinecker permission to use his address to receive mail, but he did not know Zinecker was starting PACs with his address.

“A few months ago, he asked if he could have some mail sent to our address since he would be in and out of the area for a bit. I said sure,” Elenbaas said.

Nothing on Zinecker’s filing appears out of order, said Lori Anderson, PDC communications and training officer.

“The only restriction in the statutes is, there can’t be two political committees that have the same name,” Anderson said. 

Alex Ramel, a board member for the real Whatcom Conservation Voters, said Zinecker’s filing was “dishonest” and brought to mind Bill Knutzen’s campaign staff, who in the waning moments of the 2013 elections posted a negative website about Knutzen’s opponent, Browne, with the web address rudbrowne.org.

Knutzen has said he repudiated the action and took the website down.

“There’s the possibility that what Drew is trying to do here is create a false presence to fake voters out,” Ramel said. “I think it’s safe to say we’re going to work with the PDC and make sure the rules are followed.”

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