Candidates decline to do video for rivals’ donor

Wealthy activist says his website is a fair venue

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Three Vancouver City Council candidates have turned down offers to do video interviews on political activist David Madore’s website because the business owner and Columbia River Crossing critic has endorsed and given money to their opponents.

Larry Smith, Bart Hansen and Anne McEnerny-Ogle all said no to Madore’s requests that they appear on Madore’s website, Couv.com.

“David Madore supports my opponent,” Smith said Friday. “Why should I give credence to Couv.com? I don’t think it’s a fair and balanced operation.”

Madore — owner of U.S. Digital in east Vancouver and contributor of well over $100,000 in recent races to conservative and Tea Party candidates — said his site is “an unfiltered source of the truth.”

He said city council candidates from all eight Clark County cities with races this fall were invited, adding that everyone will get the same questions and the video won’t be edited.

“It’s just truth and transparency, and honest questions. How can you beat that?” Madore said. “I think they’re hiding behind something, and I think they should be forthright and out in the open.”

Madore and his wife, Donna, have contributed $1,600 each to Bill Turlay (who is facing McEnerny-Ogle) and Josephine Wentzel (who is facing Hansen). They contributed $800 to Cory Barnes (who is facing Smith).

He did not say if he was going to reactivate his NoTolls.com Political Action Committee, which he funded with more than $100,000 of his own money in the 2009 elections.

“The more I see, the more motivated I get to support new leadership,” Madore said. “I do not support the status quo.”

Smith said he didn’t want to attend an interview that slants toward a single topic: the CRC.

“Everything … will focus strictly on light rail and the bridge,” he said. “There are a lot of other issues — baseball, biomass — that the city’s facing. And the CRC and those decision-making processes are moving to the federal and state level, anyway.”

Smith, Hansen and McEnerny-Ogle said they would stick with more traditional forums, including taped interviews on Clark-Vancouver Television, newspaper interviews, or debates at the League of Women Voters or the Chamber of Commerce.

McEnerny-Ogle, who is vying with Turlay to take incumbent Pat Campbell’s seat, has been one of the most prolific campaigners thus far, turning up at events and meetings constantly. But said she was told the video would be edited for promotional purposes, and that made her uncomfortable. She said she would stick to public, rather than private, venues.

“The Columbian, the League of Women Voters … don’t contribute to races,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “I figured those were the public forums, with a clean, crisp set of protocols.”

McEnerny-Ogle was on the board of the League of Women Voters, but temporarily resigned for the duration of the campaign.

Turlay called Friday, shortly after completing his interview for the site, to say it went well and he encourages his opponent to also participate.

“It was a very relaxed atmosphere, and no trick questions,” Turlay said. “It was the same questions that have been asked of us the whole campaign. There’s no way they’re trying to trick her or anything.”

Madore argued that campaigns try to buy exposure with their donations, and that when a newspaper endorses a candidate it contributes to the campaign via that exposure.

“The equivalent would be The Columbian: The Columbian endorses candidates, yet they send (reporters) to interview candidates,” Madore said.

Reporters, however, operate separately from editorial staff, and endorsements have no bearing on news reporting.

Madore recruited Christian radio station host Mike Deckon from Way FM to ask the questions of candidates, and he called Deckon a third party. However, Madore did say that he also provides financial support to the radio station.

In declining his interview request, Hansen pointed out that Wentzel is an employee of Madore’s who was highly active in the NoTolls.com PAC.

“I appreciate your efforts in ‘striving for fairness and neutrality,’ but I don’t believe you can achieve this with your current proposal,” he wrote in an email to a Couv.com employee. “I’d be more than willing to do a debate or forum with Mrs. Wentzel, possibly through Clark College or the League of Women Voters where it will be truly fair and neutral.”

Madore said he has no issue with the other forums and media coverage of candidates, as all present an opportunity for voters to have a better picture of what each person stands for.

“The more candidates can share their views, the more informed people will be, and the better elections will turn out,” Madore said. “It would be foolish to hire someone without interviewing them first.”

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall