Koster, Larsen swap ethics accusations


Herald Writer

With the election just a week away, members of both major political parties are flinging accusations as the campaign heats up in the 2nd Congressional District race.

State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt Monday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing Republican candidate John Koster and the Snohomish County Republican Party of making "unethical and illegal" telephone calls.

Koster, a state representative from Monroe, denies that charge. Furthermore, his campaign Monday leveled complaints that his Democratic opponent, Snohomish County Councilman Rick Larsen, has recently run deceptive and inaccurate campaign ads on television.

First, the complaint Democrats have with Republicans:

Democrat leader Berendt filed his complaint with Lawrence Noble, general counsel for the FEC, alleging that the telephone calls were meant to mislead voters in the 2nd District and push them to vote for Republican Koster.

Berendt said he has an affidavit from a union member who received a call last week from someone saying he was from a union coalition. The caller urged him to vote Republican.

Berendt said organized labor has endorsed the Democrat, Larsen.

The union member traced the call back to the Snohomish County Republican phone bank, part of an all-out campaign to get out the vote for that party. The caller didn’t specifically push on behalf of Koster or against Larsen, but Berendt said the misrepresentation is "a clear violation of campaign laws."

"I hold Mr. Koster responsible for such underhanded tactics," Berendt said.

Not so, said Gregg Richard, campaign manager for Koster.

"This is total nonsense," he said. The call apparently came from the Republican phone bank, which is staffed by volunteers. The volunteers stick to a script simply urging people to go with the GOP.

"How is Koster involved in this?" Richard asked. "That’s not part of the script. There’s no way this could be happening."

Richard also wants to know why Koster is singled out by Berendt and not other Republican candidates.

"It just seems to me to be politically motivated to earn free press," Richard said. "I just think they’re trying to take a cheap shot at Koster."

And the Republicans have a beef of their own with the Democrats:

Richard said he telephoned some Seattle TV stations recently to inquire about a couple of Larsen campaign commercials that he said "distort the truth." One of the ads challenges Koster’s stance on tax cuts, and the other his position on birth control.

"We stand by our ads," said Kim Richan, Larsen’s campaign manager.

She said Koster has spoken in favor of a proposed federal bill that could outlaw many common forms of birth control.

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