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Candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat at the KCTS–League of Women Voters' Debate, 7/13/12. (KUOW/Deborah Wang)

Candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat at the KCTS–League of Women Voters' Debate, 7/13/12. (KUOW/Deborah Wang)


Candidate's Mom Funds Attack Ads In 1st Congressional District Race

Deborah Wang

The race for Washington's 1st Congressional District has taken a strange turn. That's the open seat that used to be held by Democrat Jay Inslee, who is now running for governor. Seven candidates are vying for the seat, including five Democrats. Now, it turns out, one of those Democrats is the target of attack ads funded by another Democrat's mother. KUOW's Deborah Wang has the story.


The flyers started appearing in voters' mailboxes about a week ago. They attack the business record of Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft executive who is one of the leading Democrats in the 1st Congressional District race.

The ads claim that nearly every business DelBene ran eventually failed. It cited her experience as a founder of and what it called her poor performance as the head of Microsoft Mobile.

The ads were paid for by a group called Progress for Washington. Its treasurer is a longtime supporter of another Democratic candidate in the race, Laura Ruderman.

Last week, at a KCTS–League of Women Voters debate, DelBene confronted Ruderman, saying the attacks were from a Karl Rove style super PAC supported by Ruderman's friends.

DelBene: "You always say you have a loud voice and would be a loud voice in congress but you have been incredibly silent on this. And yet this is an opportunity for you to oppose and denounce what is happening."

But Ruderman denied knowing anything about it.

Ruderman: "If you know this is a super PAC then you know more about it than I do, I know what I read in the newspapers."

Then, this weekend, documents filed with the Federal Election Commission revealed that the sole funder of the group behind the attack ads is Laura Ruderman's mother, Margaret Rothschild. She gave $115,000 to the group to fund negative ads against Suzan DelBene. Rothschild lives on Vashon Island, and is battling cancer. Ruderman talks about her mother in her latest TV commercial.

Ruderman: "My mom calls it her dance with cancer and its lasted two years longer than we thought possible. I approve this message for her."

Ruderman's mother says she isn't talking to reporters, but she issued a statement saying she made the donation out of love for her daughter and because she was frustrated that one candidate could self–fund a campaign for Congress while her daughter could not.

Ruderman's campaign manager says the candidate knew nothing of the donation. The spokesperson points out that Ruderman's mother is both a therapist and a spiritual counselor, and that she knows how to keep a secret.

US Senator Patty Murray has called for a truce in the fight, calling the attack ads unfortunate and ugly.

In the meantime, Suzan DelBene's campaign says she is making sure she has the resources to counter any further negative ads. So far, she's put more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign.

I'm Deborah Wang, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW