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Published:2019-07-01 Opinion
Shouting    Print Snohomish Times    

By Erin Shannon

An old trial lawyers’ saying advises, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.” Or as succinctly summed up by The Rotarian in 1925, “Abuse the other fellow’s attorney.”

The union-front group known as the Northwest Accountability Project (NWAP) has adopted this advice as their preferred strategy. NWAP refrains from addressing real issues and instead lashes out with vitriolic and personal attacks against any person or group that opposes the forced unionization of workers.

With an innocuous sounding name, NWAP portrays itself as a legitimate, non-partisan “social welfare organization” dedicated to “shining a light on right-wing extremism and the moneyed special interests behind it” Never mind that NWAP is funded by organized labor, the ultimate moneyed special interest in our state.

Unions created NWAP in 2015 to attack the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization in our state challenging the forced unionization of government workers and educating those workers on their right to quit paying union dues for representation they do not want.

NWAP engages in guerrilla warfare that centers on no-holds barred personal attacks against Freedom Foundation staff and supporters. NWAP has mailed out full color, glossy mailers to neighbors of Freedom Foundation employees, complete with unflattering photos, warning they live next to an “extremist,” who is “racist,” “xenophobic,” “anti-gay,” and “dangerous.”

Not content with spending taxpayer union dues dollars to attack Freedom Foundation staff, NWAP also targets the individuals who support the nonprofit organization.

From staging angry protests at their businesses, to leafleting hate-filled flyers to their customers and neighbors, and even mailing letters to the charities they support, NWAP has demonstrated that no tactic is off limits.

One NWAP flyer dramatically warns the clients of a Freedom Foundation supporter about the business owner’s “ties to extreme, divisive politics” and advertises a website dedicated to “alerting” the public about his activities. The flyer explains “unsuspecting” customers may find his “shocking” support of the “controversial and polarizing Freedom Foundation” to be “disturbing and worthy of a second look.”

The NWAP hit pieces are dotted with wild accusations linking ordinary citizens with policies promoting white supremacy, attacking minority communities and opposing women’s rights.

Of course, the Freedom Foundation has never espoused any such policies.

Neither has Washington Policy Center. But facts don’t matter when your strategy is to pound the table and yell.

Thanks to our new focus on promoting worker rights, WPC is now the latest target in NWAP’s smear campaign. NWAP recently published what it solemnly refers to as “a background document on their [WPC] policy positions, leadership, and funders.”

Predictably, the “background document” is littered with the same dog whistle political buzzwords designed for maximum shock value. They say we are white supremacists, that we hate Muslims, we hate immigrants, we hate women, and we hate the environment.

In NWAP’s words, WPC is a “right-wing extremist organization” and my colleagues and I are “fringe right-wing business leaders and advocates.”

What makes us “extreme” according to NWAP? WPC supports school choice and charter schools. WPC supports a workers’ right to a job without being forced to pay a union. WPC supports open and transparent government that is accountable to the people. WPC opposes increasing taxes. WPC opposes government-run health care. WPC opposes the heavy (and ineffective) hand of government in favor of free market policies to encourage environmental conservation.

For these principles NWAP declares us shills for greedy corporations and a puppet of the dreaded Koch brothers.

The personal attacks on Freedom Foundation employees, on the group’s supporters, and on WPC are so far-fetched they are laughable. Presumably NWAP hopes their assault will intimidate and silence us.

The only thing NWAP’s weak attack has accomplished is to prove that we’re standing on solid ground when it comes to the substance of the issues (not to mention the high ground). Because we all know when your opponent can’t win with facts or law, their only resort is to yell like hell and hurl some abuse.

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