Smiley Campaign Files FEC Complaint Against The Seattle Times

Updated: Oct 3

For Immediate Release

September 30, 2022


Smiley Campaign to Federal Election Commission: In Attempt to Take Down TV Ad, The Seattle Times Illegally Used Corporate Resources to Support Patty Murray

Media Organization, Along with Starbucks and Seahawks, Part of Woke “Corporate Dirty Pool” Bullying Republican Candidate Over Commercials Holding 30-Year Incumbent to Account

Pasco, WA – Pasco, WA – In response to a frivolous “Cease and Desist” letter from The Seattle Times claiming unauthorized use of its logo and content in a television advertisement currently airing called “Cup of Coffee,” the Smiley for Washington campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against the news organization for illegally using its corporate resources to support the re-election campaign of Senator Patty Murray.

In the September 21 letter to the “Jane Smiley” campaign, The Seattle Times demanded the removal of logos and story headlines used in the “Cup of Coffee” ad, claiming violations of copyright law. In a response to the news organization, the Smiley for Washington campaign pointed out The Seattle Times had previously allowed Patty Murray, whom they have endorsed, to use their logo and content without license during her 2016 re-election campaign. Since corporate resources were used for arbitrary enforcement of its copyright claims, The Seattle Times clearly violated federal election law by providing a prohibited corporate in-kind contribution to Patty Murray’s campaign.

“Tiffany Smiley didn’t back down when she was BULLIED by federal bureaucrats working against her fight to help her husband Scotty become the first blind active-duty Army officer,” said Kristian Hemphill, Campaign Manager for Smiley for Washington.” “Woke corporations thought they could help Patty Murray by BULLYING Tiffany with senseless legal threats. Their efforts have both failed and backfired. This campaign will continue to hold to account the failures of a three-decade incumbent and offer Washingtonians a path from crisis to hope, just as Tiffany did for Scotty and countless other injured veterans.”

This comes as both Starbucks and the Seattle Seahawks sent similar “Cease and Desist” letters on the “Cup of Coffee” and “Game Day” ads, respectively, making the same frivolous claims. In responses to The Seattle Times and Starbucks, the Smiley for Washington campaign notes “fair use is intended to protect and promote freedom of expression, which … allows The Seattle Times to publish extreme leftist commentary and pretend that it is news” and while their “political affiliation may not align with Tiffany Smiley’s,” the legal claims made have “no merit.”

As reported by The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel, Democrats are “bothered enough” by Patty Murray’s re-election chances that “Seattle’s corporate heavyweights are playing dirty pool on her behalf.”

“[A] trio of titans—Starbucks, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Seahawks—are actively attempting to sabotage the Smiley campaign, albeit in a distinctly underhanded fashion. Their targets are two effective Smiley campaign ads.

“‘Game Day’ hit the airwaves Sept 1. Five days later, according to documents I obtained, the Smiley campaign received a terse email from the Seahawks claiming a trademark violation …

“‘Cup of Coffee’ went live on Sept. 20. The next day, the Seattle Times sent an email to the ‘Jane Smiley’ campaign—apparently without running it past its fact-checking desk—accusing it of ‘unauthorized use of The Seattle Times logo and two headlines’ in violation of the paper’s ‘copyright and trademark.’ …

“Two days later, Starbucks sent a certified letter saying the campaign was appropriating its intellectual property …

“One such letter may be the product of an overzealous lawyer, but three in a row looks like more than a coincidence. One might even wonder if some Murray staffer was putting bugs in Seattle business leaders’ ears. And while corporate political-action committees routinely play politics by making donations, it’s something else for individual companies to go to bat for a candidate via behind-the-scenes threats based on tenuous legal claims …

“The campaign didn’t roll over .. In a legal letter sent Thursday to Starbucks, the campaign rebutted the company’s infringement claims … It suggested Starbucks focus on its own problems, like its recent union woes.

“The Seattle Times also received a letter refuting its claims, but it got something in addition. The Smiley campaign on Thursday filed a Federal Election Commission complaint, charging the paper with providing the Murray campaign a prohibited in-kind contribution. It turns out that Ms. Murray has also used a Seattle Times headline in her ads. Her ‘First 2016 Ad’ sports the newspaper’s logo under the headline: ‘Patty Murray’s and Paul Ryan’s Teamwork Is a Model for Congress.’ It seems the Times has a different legal standard for candidates it endorses …”

Read the full article here.

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