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Mankra Dhingra
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Tom Shillue

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Rantz: Manka Dhingra cowers from criticism, but asks favor

Mankra Dhingra. (AP file photo)

Manka Dhingra, a Senate Democrat, having been called out for her wildly inaccurate defense of the public disclosure bill she supported, is now sprinting from criticism, insisting, through a staff member, that “the issue is kind of dead.” It is not.

Furthermore, in an effort to deflect criticism of her response, a staff member with Manka Dhingra asked me for a favor.

Last week, reacting to unusually passionate constituents, Senator Manka Dhingra sought to convince the communities she represents that her vote to hide her emails, text messages, and calendars were justified because marketing firms might abuse the information. Writing on behalf of the senator, a temporary office worker, argued (in part) if the bill passed, voter information could be turned over:

Should a marketing firm be allowed to do a records search of all communications to and from my office for everyone who has e-mailed me about an issue? […] Personally, I do not think these kinds of emails should be subject to a commercial or political effort that could demand any and all communications on a certain subject or bill.

Her defense was asinine, made even more ridiculous by the fact that Dhingra touts herself as a well-versed lawyer. This information is already exempted under the Public Records Act; she should have known that. I explain in more detail here.

Now, Dhingra is running from additional criticism, hoping to hide behind Governor Jay Inslee’s veto.

My producer reached out to her office for an interview on this matter, but we did not receive a response. We did, however, hear from Sharlett Mena, who serves as the senator’s communications coordinator. She had a favor to ask of me.

In my previous piece, I named the legislative aide who wrote the absurd argument to the constituent. Mena asked me to remove that name because she is, it was explained, a temporary staffer and essentially shouldn’t have to suffer consequences of the communication sent on behalf of Dhingra. I agreed. Why should she suffer because of what appears to be a lie from Dhingra?

Because Mena did what most flacks do when asking for favors — buttering me up about being fair to Democrats (this is true, as evidenced by the many Democrats who come on the show but it pains these folks to admit it) I decided to, again, ask for time to talk with Dhingra to discuss her defense of the bill. I was told that she’d check with Dhingra, and she offered me this tepid renewed sense of hope because I’m doing them a favor (that I otherwise would have obliged anyway).

But I knew not to hold my breath. Manka Dhingra routinely turns me down, knowing that I disagree with her, and it’s hard for her to defend some of her positions. I was right.

On Sunday, Mena turned us down telling me that “this issue is kind of dead,” while promising me that, in the future, if I ever need an interview, they’d work with me to find the time. Please. That’s the kind of promise made to buy some favorable coverage.

Worse, it betrays the reality. Dhingra cannot defend her position and she’ll run like hell from anyone calling her out, using the veto to pretend the issue is dead. But it’s not.

Democrats (and presumably Republicans) are now pretending the concern from voters over the public disclosure bill was over the quick process. That is partly true. But the main concern was they wanted to hide public documents, even after a court sided against them. They’re going to make another go at legislation and Dhingra will play a role; if they don’t address all the issues we have with it, there’s reason to believe we’ll get the exact same bill, but they’ll just take a longer amount of time in passing it.

Dhingra can run from facing the criticism all she wants. But she’s never coming on my show unless she agrees to stop hiding from it. My listeners in her district — and there are many, listening in on 94.5 FM in Bellevue — are due some answers; the constituent they mislead is owed an explanation. Perhaps she thinks this won’t matter; maybe it won’t. But her re-election campaign may not be flushed with the same outside money it was the first time around and if she’s unwilling (or unable) to defend her positions in the media, it may not bode well for her re-election campaign.

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