We expect and encourage hard-hitting exposure of political figures, and I rarely spend any time defending incumbent politicians. However, at what point does political opposition to a politician leave the sphere of normal rough and tumble politics and turn into a fetish-like obsession detached from objective reality? When does it become political warfare instead of political opposition? The answer to these questions may depend on your perspective. However, in Clark County, Washington State, a jihad of political attacks targeting one local county councilman presents a good case study of surreal, aggressive political warfare detached from reality and disproportionate to the actual political disputes.
Clark County Councilman David Madore has been the recipient of an impressive amount of hate, attacks, and coordinated political assaults over the past year. He might choose to ignore these attacks. However, the scale, variety, and obsession of these attacks directed at him deserve wider recognition and scrutiny. Let’s start by looking at Councilman David Madore and the context of the political scene in which he exists.
Who is David Madore?
David Madore is the founder and owner of US Digital, a high-tech manufacturing company located near Vancouver, Washington. This company currently employs about 125 people in true living wage, value-added jobs. By all accounts this has been a successful and growing business in Clark County. Most politicians give lip service towards attracting businesses like this to their communities. In fact, both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party claim they want to encourage successful local business owners to be involved in politics because their experience is beneficial in government. At least, this is what the political class will typically say. (In 2015, I produced a video about this here)
Additionally, David Madore is a very generous supporter of many local charities in his community. This is one of Madore’s more impressive contributions to the community. He doesn’t just claim to support charity, but he puts his assets and money to work actively supporting many charities. His US Digital Outreach program is one of the more innovative and efficient ways of supporting local charities that anyone has ever developed in Washington State. At this time, there are over 40 local charities who exist wholly or in part because David Madore donates the free office space, logistical support, and other services to ensure they can spend their time and money on providing their services to the most needy rather than spend their money on overhead and additional fundraising. Anyone who understands the non-profit world knows how critical and practical this type of generous support is for small and start-up charities. (In 2015, I produced a video about this here)
Finally, despite being a successful businessman and a strong
supporter of local charity, Madore decided to engage in local civic issues that mattered to him. Specifically, he led the opposition to proposed tolls on local bridges and the epic boondoggle of the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) mega-project and its unworkable light rail tax scheme. It was his opposition to these projects that created the environment where I first met David Madore in 2011. It seemed a quixotic and herculean effort to oppose the $3.5 billion mega-project called the CRC. Forget about the David vs. Goliath story. This was more like the David ant versus the CRC bulldozer.
Despite the entrenched special interests, a compromised local paper, and the massive sums of public money used to support the CRC project ($220 million wasted), Madore was willing to expose the problems, stand up to the special interests, and fight the power. In cooperation with a growing opposition including local state legislators and local volunteers, David led the charge to help defeat this mega-project. He was not alone in this effort, but few claim his involvement didn’t make a huge difference in the final outcome. Shortly after this, he decided to run for a seat on the Clark County Commission and defeated incumbent Marc Boldt in the election of 2012.
In early 2015, I produced a three video series to tell David’s story. In addition to the videos referenced above, this one was produced to tell the story of David’s civic engagement. The purpose of these
three videos was to encourage other business leaders and
engaged activists that they could make a difference. It really was possible to change the course of local politics, even if the special
interests seemed overwhelming and corrupted. I had been training citizens to run for local office and become more engaged civically since 2010, so David’s story was inspiring to me.
David Madore made political enemies in this process
Politics isn’t a frisbee game, and it would be naive to expect it to be a non-contact sport. However, even in the world of nasty local political conflict, the epic rabidness of Madore’s opposition is impressive. We should expect and encourage hard-hitting exposure of political figures. I believe incumbent politicians and bureaucrats are not scrutinized enough by the tame media. If you can get elected, you should be able to defend yourself and your record. I have written many hard hitting articles (here about Thurston County, here about Douglas County, here about a political candidate for commissioner, here about the City of SeaTac, etc). I wish the media would do this more often, and it is a sad commentary on the collapse of modern journalism that the tame media tends to ignore or give a pass to politicians and bureaucrats for a wide range of corruption and incompetence.
In Clark County, the scale and proportionality of the Hate-Madore crowd is strangely off the charts. Opposition is awesome, but foaming at the mouth craziness is not rational. This is particularly true considering the nature of the problems that the opposition claims to have with David Madore. I can’t find a comparable level of absurdity anywhere else in Washington State, so this is a unique story worth studying.
David isn’t perfect. Nobody who holds political office ever can be perfect. He has made mistakes in office just like every other elected official. Everyone is flawed and everyone is a sinner. That being said, it is helpful to have proportionality in evaluating the flaws of elected officials. Let’s compare David’s flaws to other local newspaper-endorsed politicians around the state. Did he personally cost the taxpayers of Clark County $200 million like Democrat Commissioner (and former legislator) Sandra Romero? No. Did he try to invent a new $42,000 pocket gopher tax on new property owners in Clark County like the Thurston County Commissioners? Nope. Did he fail to follow the law, commit gross misdemeanors for five years, and hide capital assets like the Republican commissioners in Douglas County? No. Did he try to steal property from local citizens, and use straw buyers to threaten property owners to sell to the county, in the process costing the county an $18.3 million jury verdict like the City of SeaTac? Doesn’t look like it. Did he try to force a local income tax on the local citizens like the City of Oympia? No. The tame media largely gave a pass to these stories identified above. What the heck did David do to inspire this hate?
According to the complaint filed against him by the public sector union, he committed three crimes against bureaucracy for which crucifixion may be the only proportionate punishment:
- He asked too many questions.
- He tried to understand how they did their jobs
- He tried to schedule meetings with staff to better understand the work they do.
From a bureaucrat’s point of view, these might be capital crimes worthy of the death penalty. Bureaucracy thrives on making the simple complex and by reducing transparency so that oversight is difficult if not impossible. However, these were not the only crimes he committed. Here are even more grievous crimes committed by Councilman David Madore:
- He challenged the math models used the Central Planners to determine their comp plan methodology. Alone, among elected officials, he actually tried to look behind the curtain to see how these mystery models were formulated. How Dare he look?
- He presented alternative options to the Central Planner schemes cooked up in the back rooms on the 3rd floor of the Clark County staff offices.
- He eliminated taxes, reduced fees, streamlined some regulations, and attempted to reduce the costs of local government.
Truly, these are crimes of the worst sort against the bureaucracy of Clark County. Now I understand the depth and angst of the Hate Madore Crowd. In the end, it comes down to money, and the future of government grants is all lubricated by cash. See this theme video for government. Not their own cash, but the money they can extract from taxpayers and the residents of the county.
A crazy cast of characters, recalls, lawsuits, and games
Leading the charge against David Madore is a local newspaper/blog site called The Columbian. This declining circulation traditional paper has been steadily laying off staff while writing more obsessively negative attack articles and blogs attacking David Madore than I have ever seen any traditional paper/blog site write in Washington State. Looking back over the past year, there are hundreds of negatively slanted articles, fetish-focused attack editorials, blog posts, and many Madore-obsessed hate tweets. This dwarfs all other topics or individual subjects. It has been an endless mudslide.
Additionally, according to sources inside the Columbian, the editor – Lou Brancaccio – has been spending much of his time in Florida or Chicago. The Columbian appears to have shifted its funding model into a unique approach selling Chinese made coffee mug trinkets online, and Mr. Brancaccio has been taking a hands on approach to selling these trinkets personally when he is not in Florida. The declining circulations and recent staff layoffs indicate the trinket selling may not be adequately closing the funding gaps, but the negative obsession with David appears to define the primary output of writing at the Columbian between increasingly rare random acts of journalism
In addition to Mr. Brancaccio’s fetish-like obsession with Madore and trinket sales, the bureaucrats in Clark County are willing to pull out every stop to attack Madore. Phony and discredited attacks of racism have been used by the Clark County Central Planning Director Oliver Orjiako who did not want his math model questioned. Orjiako has worked in the planning department for over 20 years and was part of the planning staff who were called to task in a 1996 lawsuit for using wildly inaccurate math models to support their planning ideology which directly harmed rural residents. Orjiako appears to have taken this historic defeat personally, and he was strongly motivated to keep his secret sauce methods “super secret.” He and his fellow Central Planners used these secret math models to obscure the data which underpins the Comprehensive Plan for Clark County. When questioned by David Madore about these math model problems, Orjiako filed a discredited and silly charge of “racism” against Madore.
This led to another character, a mercenary Attorney Rebecca Dean, paid to write a $54,000 “investigative” report pre-targeted at David Madore. This 40 page report cost $1300 per page and was written to discredit Madore’s questioning of staff and contained Orwellian language like:
“Orjiako made correct statements based upon his misunderstanding of Madore’s contentions.” (p. 23)
“In a related allegation, Madore has stated specifically that the DSEIS has inflated the number of buildable lots on forestlands by a “factor of 10,” a factor of “1000 percent,” or in later public statements, by “500 percent.” Madore’s statement is false … Pool (staff) states that GIS had been running alternative scenarios and turned the forest exclusion “off” in the code – and then forgot about it. So, as best as Pool can determine, when GIS gave the software and data to Madore, the forest exclusion was still turned off…GIS staff did not realize the error had been made until they tried (with limited success) to reproduce Madore’s methods” (p.15)
There are plenty of other examples, but as these two quotes illustrate, when Madore tried to understand the math model used by Central Planning staff that damaged the financial lives and dreams of thousands of people in the community – the staff gave him a screwed up math formula. David produces flawed data and points out the problems. Staff admits they screwed up the data, so this $1300 per page investigator decided to say Madore lied. Then, when Orjiako decided to make wild accusations against Madore, disproved by the facts, he is “correct.” The heavily slanted and very expensive “report” is really just a political hit piece funded by taxpayers instead of a political action committee.
Finally, there are the three other Council members. Council Chair Marc Boldt has an ax to grind because he was an arrogant, incumbent politician booted from office by David Madore in 2012. Mr. Boldt came roaring back in 2015 and became the new Clark County Council Chair, which probably felt like vindication. However, he is determined to payback Madore out of personal animus. Councilor Julie Olson is a former Ridgefield School Board Director and lost a close race for state legislature in the 17th district in 2012 (I supported her race at the time). Olson seems as obsessed with Madore as Boldt, so between them they try to compete for who can be the most rude. Councilor Jeanne Stewart is a bit more nuanced. I admired her when she sat on the Vancouver City Council and I supported her when she was elected to the Commission originally (with a lot of help from David Madore). It seems that she is determined to prove that she can be bitter at Madore as well, but at least she seems capable of thinking for herself. Either way, all three of these folk are targets of a recall petition (a video about it can be found here). They are all on the anti-Madore jihadwagon.
At the end of the day, despite all the political drama, litigation, and posturing – this story is really very simple. The solution, regardless of how you feel about the people involved in this situation is even simpler.
This is a story about a successful person who chose to become a politician trying to fix the problems he had seen in government after attempting to fix these problems from the outside. He gets into government and holy crap, he actually meant what he said. More shocking than this, he made the thankless effort to understand the Byzantine world of Central Planning. He steps on a lot of toes. The toes kick back.
David Madore has pissed off some powerful special interests. He helped kill a $3.5 billion (some say as high as $6 billion) boondoggle that promised to re-distribute a lot of money to a select group of special interests in Clark County and in Oregon. They are not happy. They hate David. All the dramas, bitterness, lawsuits, and silliness is just the complicated chaos that obscures this simple situation and helps the Columbian’s editor peddle his Chinese-made trinkets.
Now, the people of Clark County get to decide:
Do they want someone like David Madore, who is not perfect, but willing to question the establishment, dig into the details, and appears fearless opposing special interests?
Or, do the people of Clark County prefer the typical bobble-head politician who rubber stamps staff and cares what a Florida-based editor of a shrinking local newspaper writes while sipping drinks poolside?
Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.” It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people. It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government. It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.” Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed…