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“Getting Down and Dirty” – A letter to the president of Olympia Master Builders

Dan Deering, President            

Olympia Master Builders/
Affordable Housing Council

1211 State Avenue NE

Olympia, Washington 98506

Re: Advocacy: “Getting Down and Dirty”


Dear President Deering,

I am writing for two reasons.

First, I wish to know who is responsible for a mailer sent from the “Affordable Housing Council of the Olympia Master Builders” with regard to Port Commissioner E.J. Zita and Bill Fishburn. These two individuals were candidates for the Port of Olympia Commission in the November 2017 election.

Second, I wish to understand the meaning of your Government Affairs Advocacy slogan, “Getting Down and Dirty.”

Your organization provided financial support to Port Commissioner EJ Zita’s opponent, Gigi McClure and also to Port Commissioner Bill McGregor who was opposed by Candidate Bill Fishburn. This support certainly lies within your legitimate advocacy function.

However, despite the many legitimate issues up for discussion in this race, your organization in its mailer resorted to McCarthy-era red-baiting and character assassination using demagogic words and alarmist punctuations “Extremists!” and “Anarchists” to characterize Bill Fishburn and EJ Zita. Was it Mr. Fishburn’s Presidency of the Hispanic Roundtable that allowed you to characterize him as an “Extremist?”

You represent a firm, Northwest Family Homes, on the Olympia Master Builders whose “governors” are Nathan Deering, Ronald Deering and Andy Gruhn.  The firm’s website says they have developed “a sterling reputation for honestly (sic) and integrity.”  Did these “governors” approve of this mailer?  If  they did approve it, it raises questions as to the validity of any reputation for honesty and integrity.

Jon Jones serves as Olympia Master Builders’ Executive Committee’s Secretary.  Mr. Jones represents Washington Business Bank and is the bank’s CEO and President.  The bank states among its core values “Honesty”and “Friendliness.” It has a vision to build “long term relations” with, among others, “communities.”  Did Mr Jones approve this mailer? I can’t believe he thinks this mailer promotes the Bank’s core values or vision, let alone long term relationships with communities.  Are these claimed core values empty words, meaningless except for promotional purposes?

Mr. Jones’ fellow Bank Board members represent a wide array of community leaders: Dr. Ernie Grubb (Chambers Prairie Veterinary Hospital), Eugene J. Johnson (Rainier Dodge, Inc), Dr. Donald C. Paradise, Richard I. Rokes (Investors Development Group), Laura I Skillings (Skillings-Connolly, Inc.), and Kirk Veis (Owen Davis).  Did any of these Board members approve the mailer? The Board’s slogan states the greatest leader is the one “that gets the people to do the greatest thing.”  Would the Bank highlight this mailer as one of its “greatest things?”

Mike Auderer of Olympia Construction, Inc sits on your Executive Committee as Immediate Past President of the Olympia Master Builders/Affordable Housing Council.  Mr. Auderer is a member of the Olympia Planning Commission.  Your Council supported Max Brown for City Council. Brown was defeated by Council Member Clark Gilman. Will Council Member Gilman and the other two newly elected Council members be subjected to the type of attempted character assassination when they run for re-election? Is your Government Affairs Committee preparing mailers like this for future “down and dirty” advocacy?

Your organization changed executive staff in the midst of this campaign. Executive Officer Troy Nichols resigned for a job with Phillips Burgess Government Relations and was replaced by Ms. Angela White. Perhaps this change, along with a string of losing campaigns for Balsley, Brown, Kemp, and McClure, convinced someone at the Olympia Master Builders to resort to this last minute, “down and dirty” mailer. Is that what happened?

Some OMB business affiliates send a $40 contribution to your “Advocacy” arm, the Affordable Housing Council. Did businesses like Pioneer Technologies, Kaufman Construction,  Harrington Construction, C&E Development and Town and Country Roofing, Inc who sent their $40 during this election know about this mailer?  Did they agree to be associated with your “down and dirty” tactics?

I was surprised to see “endorsed by ILWU Local 47 Longshoreman” on this mailer. I am aware of the Local’s endorsement of McGregor and McClure. However, placing the name of that union on a red- baiting mailer seems unimaginable to me.  Red-baiting has been used to counter unions like the ILWU and workers’ rights throughout our history. Did the Local approve of you including their name on this particular mailer?

The Olympia Master Builders’ Government Affairs Committee oversees your Advocacy program, administered by staff member Joel Baxter. This is the Committee that oversaw and approved the mailer. Ms. Heather Burgess lists on her resume the “Olympia Master Builders Association, Government Affairs Committee.”   Ms. Burgess is also legal counsel to the Port of Olympia.  The Committee’s mailer claims Port Commissioner E.J. Zita “supports anarchists and political extremists.” How can we be sure that Ms. Burgess’ advice and performance will not reflect the prejudice indicated by her Committee’s attack on Commissioner Zita?

Commissioner Zita carried 59% of the 145 non-city precincts, as well as the cities of Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey, and Rainier.  Mr. Fishburn, who you characterize as “oblivious,” won 62% of the voters in Olympia, as well as coming within 809 votes of unseating Commissioner McGregor. 

My final question is who would want your endorsement as long as OMB is known for these “down and dirty” campaign tactics?

I look forward to your answers.

Dan Leahy

Olympia, Washington 98502



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