Sale of bills mocking Obama cut off at GOP fair booth
The county GOP chairwoman said party leaders did not approve sales of the notes at the GOP's fair booth.
Carol Ronken, a Snohomish County Democratic Party volunteer, purchased this fake bill with an image of Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday at the Snohomish County Republicans' booth at the Evergreen State Fair.
Carol Ronken, a Snohomish County Democratic Party volunteer, purchased this fake bill at the Snohomish County Republican booth at the Evergreen State Fair on Tuesday.
In addition to the image of Sen. Obama, the likely Democratic nominee for president, the "Obamanation Note" design includes a silhouette figure of a camel, identifies Obama as "Da Man" and is signed by "Teddy Kennedy, Chief Socialism Advisor," and "Al Sharpton, New Spiritual Advisor." The serial number, "IBD14UOK" when read aloud, is fractured English: "I be de one for you, OK."
Snohomish County Republican Party chairwoman Geri Modrell said when she first learned of the item's existence Tuesday afternoon, she called volunteers in the booth to have it removed but someone already had done so.
"It wasn't approved by the board and it wasn't approved by me and it shouldn't have been there," Modrell said. "I want to apologize to anyone upset or offended by seeing it."
At the fair, volunteers at the booth said they did not know how many of the bills may have been sold or where the proceeds went.
The bills caught the eye of more than one fairgoer on Monday and Tuesday.
"I thought it had racist overtones," said Ronnie Thibault, 44, of Monroe. She described herself as a Democrat and a "left-wing liberal" but said she's not currently active in the party.
While the bill perpetuates the myth that Obama is a Muslim, Thibault said, "the most offensive part of it is they were selling it."
Thibault said she called in to complain to as many branches of both the Democratic and Republican parties as she could, all the way up to the national level.
Iris Lilly, executive secretary of the county GOP who was working the booth on Tuesday afternoon, took the display down after receiving a call on her cell phone.
She said the call was from party activist Bob Clark, who she said set up the display.
Clark, of Monroe, said Tuesday he had no knowledge of the bills and no involvement in their display or sale.
"I don't have any idea what you're talking about," he said. "I think you've got the wrong guy."
Lilly said she didn't hawk the bills and sold none of them in her stints working the booth. She said some in the party, herself included, did not agree with the method of political statement the bills represent.
"I was told somebody thought it was funny and made it available," Modrell said. "I do not believe it is humorous. I certainly don't see maligning a national public figure in that manner to be productive."
When asked about some who were offended, Lilly said volunteers at the GOP booth also have been subject to unprovoked harassment, unrelated to the Obama bills, from passersby during the fair.
"We are trying to be as calm and nonconfrontational as possible," she said.
It appears the bills were produced by a Southern California company called Slick Times. The company Web site appears to lean to the political right, and describes the company as "America's Premiere Political Lampoon." The Obama bills are available in pads of 25 for $5.75, or 23 cents per bill, with discounts available by ordering larger quantities.
State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser knew nothing of the bills until called by a reporter.
The state party does not provide or sell such an item to the county organizations, he said, and he does not endorse the party selling those types of items.
He did not criticize Snohomish County Republicans for doing so.
"I don't want to micromanage," he said. "My recommendation is that it is better to focus on the shortcomings of Barack Obama's record and his lack of experience in this campaign."
At the fair, Tesmer Atsbeha of Seattle, wearing an Obama shirt, said she was glad the Republicans took the bills away.
"We didn't really pay attention to the Republican booth," said Atsbeha, 30. "We were trying to ignore it."
Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or email@example.com.