Rantz: AG Bob Ferguson sent taxpayer-funded bribes to dead people

Jan 1, 2024, 7:16 PM | Updated: Jan 2, 2024, 8:11 pm

Image: A photo of a refund check sent out posted online by Toby Nixon....

A photo of a refund check sent out posted online by Toby Nixon. (Photo courtesy of Toby Nixon)

(Photo courtesy of Toby Nixon)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson appears to be using taxpayer dollars to bribe low-income voters into supporting his campaign for governor. The transparent political scheme is likely why so little vetting went into the stunt. In fact, Washingtonians who have been dead for decades are receiving the bribes.

Ferguson’s office filed an anti-trust lawsuit in 2021 against canned tuna and broiler chicken providers for price-fixing. The attorney general left the work to his staff. But when legal resolutions delivered $40.6 million to the state, Ferguson quickly took credit. Rather than distributing the funds to victims of the price fixing, Ferguson unilaterally decided to redistribute the funds to approximately 400,000 low-income Washingtonians. It became an opportunity to buy votes.

The Democrat and gubernatorial hopeful reportedly sent out “refund” checks to every Washingtonian whose household income is 175% of the federal poverty level and below. They did not have to even eat canned tuna or broiled chicken to be eligible for the “refund.” And everyone who received a check was reminded — multiple times — that it came courtesy of Ferguson.

The name Bob Ferguson appears on every check, even though his name is superfluous to being able to cash, plus the envelope and form letter that reads like a campaign ad. It declares, “Hardworking Washingtonians cannot afford to be cheated by large corporations” and that “one of my top priorities is protecting consumers from fraud and deception.”

His top priority, actually, has always been to seek higher office. And he’s so desperate for votes that his office doesn’t appear to have vetted the database it used to determine eligibility.

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I see dead people … getting bribes from Bob Ferguson

Ferguson’s office would not explain how they compiled the list of eligible refund recipients. The majority of the funding came from the chicken broiler lawsuit, which claimed price fixing started in 2008. But the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has heard from several listeners with dead relatives who received a check. Many of them died before the alleged price fixing.

“A relative of mine who’s been dead for two decades received a $120 check from Bob Ferguson this month. Two decades. It suggests that the AG is using a terribly out of date database to determine who to mail checks to. There’s no way this relative is the only dead Washingtonian who received a check,” listener A.C. wrote.

A.C. was right — other dead people received checks as well.

“I received a $50 check and letter addressed to my deceased mother to my post office box in Olympia,” J.S. said in an email to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “She was never attached to my address other than a real estate record when (my siblings and I) sold the family home after her death. We have not had the same last name since 1972. My mother never lived anywhere but Pacific County from 1949 until her death in 2005.”

Washington State Republican Party chair Jim Walsh has received similar reports, sharing nearly 20 examples with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

In one case Walsh illustrated, a man said his brother received a $120 check from Ferguson. His brother has been dead for four years. Also alarming, the man said his brother “maybe voted once in Asotin county Washington but spent at least 30 years in Lewiston, Idaho. He was disabled and never bought chicken and hated tuna!” Similarly, Walsh shared communication from a man who died in 1987 received a check, according to one man. In another case, a father received a check addressed to his deceased son. The dad called it “dumbfounding and a slap in the face to both my son and I.” Plus, one woman’s father received a check. But he has been dead for decades.

“This check was made out to my dad, who has been deceased since September 1966. What a joke,” she wrote.

You didn’t have to be scammed by Big Tuna and Big Chicken

Since Ferguson’s intent appears to be to pitch his campaign, he sent checks to everyone who was financially qualified. You could be allergic to tuna or chicken and still receive a check. Is that justice for victims or a bribe for votes?

Listener V.D. shared a photo of the check sent to his 99-year-old mother-in-law. Why is he so convinced that Ferguson is, as he wrote in an email to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, “using his office and probably our money to try and buy votes?”

“One of many problems with this is she lives in a senior center and hasn’t purchased any food items (especially canned chicken and canned tuna) in years,” he wrote.

Also problematic, some listeners pointed out that they know people who are above the federal poverty level who received the bribes.

“Jason, my co-worker, a single man making well above 175% of Federal poverty level income received a check for $120 from the fund set up to pay out the chicken/tuna price fixing lawsuit. Something smells fishy,” one listener wrote.

This is obviously an attempt to bribe voters

Ferguson’s spokesperson did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment and would not verify if the claims are true. Perhaps it’s because the check scheme was an attempt to bribe voters and the spokesperson is prohibited from responding to campaign-related inquiries. There is speculation from Ferguson’s critics that he might have used outdated voter rolls to target recipients.

While the transparent political stunt has been given a pass by most Seattle media outlets, it was greeted with a complaint to the State Ethics Board.

“Bob Ferguson decided to send checks to hundreds of thousands or millions of lower-income people, giving them a portion of the settlement with chicken and tuna companies,” the complaint states according to a report picked up by The Washington Examiner. “He put his names on the check as the payer, AND he attached a letter to the checks that is blatant and illegal campaigning with public funds.”

The complaint cites R.C.W. 42.52.180, which prohibits state officials and employees from using tax dollars or taxpayer-funded facilities to directly or indirectly support a political campaign. It’s punishable by a $5,000 per violation fine.

The complainant calls the checks a “blatant violation… for Ferguson, during an active campaign for governor, to send money to voters and have the checks indicate that it is coming from him by name and to include a letter extolling his virtues. It is absolutely, undeniably, attempting to buy people’s votes.”

How does Bob Ferguson get away with this?

Ferguson will undoubtedly get away with his abuse of office. He would need to have ethics to be bothered by an ethics complaint.

The attorney general spent years harassing Savers Value Village with a frivolous lawsuit. It resulted in the state having to pay the thrift store chain almost $4.3 million in legal fees. The judge in the case called the lawsuit “needless.” Similarly, a judge smacked Ferguson for his “egregious” conduct after his office illegally withheld documents from the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state.

He’s also been waging a war against cops to benefit his political career. Ferguson recently charged three Tacoma Police officers in Manuel “Manny” Ellis’ death during a traffic stop, blatantly ignoring Ellis’ heart condition and high levels of methamphetamine in his system, pinning the blame solely on the officers. Fortunately, the jury saw through this and acquitted Officers Matthew Collins, Christopher Burbank and Timothy Rankine. The Democrat’s attempt to frame Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer in a racially charged case also fell flat.

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Ethics? What ethics?

If Ferguson had any ethical standards, his office wouldn’t be mired in such controversies. And like the other ones, this controversy will be buried.

Ferguson will get out of paying a $5,000 per violation fine because he’ll disingenuously claim he needed to put his name on the checks and letter so that people wouldn’t think they were receiving a check from scammers or junk mailers.

Media outlets won’t express much dismay over this stunt. They’ll parrot his talking points like they’ve done for years while doing the bare minimum to eventually address this scandal.

Local reporters have mostly supported Ferguson’s years-long crusade against former President Donald Trump, and haven’t offered much criticism for his many abuses in office. With no consequences, this check scheme is likely one of many abuses Washingtonians will see during the campaign.

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1/2/24 UPDATE: Ferguson responded to the criticism in an interview with KIRO Newsradio Tuesday.

“We worked with Experian, so it’s not our list,” Ferguson said. “We went to a data broker or somebody who would have, what we believed, to be as reliable a list as can exist for sending out 400,000 checks to Washingtonians. Obviously, on a data set that large, the system’s not going to be perfect.”

Ferguson also said his name is only on the check so recipients know it’s a real government check, not part of a scam.

“Look, I get what this is all about, but this is a practice that we’ve been doing for literally a decade and nobody’s complained,” Ferguson said in response to Walsh’s claim. “I get that people are complaining now because I’m running for another office. The state Republican party is literally tweeting out that people should sign their checks over and donate them to the Republican party.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: AG Bob Ferguson sent taxpayer-funded bribes to dead people