Democrats take $50K gift from warrior spirit ‘Ramtha’ – despite anti-Mexican slurs
Donald Trump has been widely criticized for making offensive statements about Mexicans, but he is not the only politically active figure who has made such statements.
In July, Olympia-area Democrats welcomed a $50,000 contribution from JZ Knight of Yelm, Washington, despite her remarks demeaning Mexicans, gays and others.
Knight is best known for claiming to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior-spirit named Ramtha; her spiritual school in Yelm charges believers as much as $5,000 to spend a day with the ancient entity.
In a videotape first distributed in 2012, Knight decries "the invasion of the Mexicans, who breed like rabbits" at an event at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment.
"They're poison," she says of Mexicans, while supposedly channeling Ramtha.
After conservative activists surfaced that video of Knight disparaging gays, Catholics and Jews as well as Mexicans, the Washington state Democrats announced, under pressure, they would give Knight's $70,000 in campaign donations to charity. Washington Public Disclosure Commission records show that the Democrats gave $35,000 to the campaign to legalize gay marriage and $35,000 to the Anti-Defamation League in November 2012.
Knight gave $50,000 to the Thurston County Democrats this July. It is, by far, this year's largest contribution to the Olympia-area Democratic group.
"We're considering handling it like any other contribution," said Katie Nelson, chair of the Thurston County Democrats.
Nina Martinez, Latino Civic Alliance chair, said she was disappointed to see Thurston County Democrats accept money from a source of anti-Latino rhetoric, when the state party had rejected money from the same source four years ago.
"I would like to see them donate the money back to a civil rights organization that will help all communities eliminate this hate rhetoric we're seeing in our country today," Martinez said.
In 2014, Knight gave $85,000 to the Thurston County Democrats. The group kept that money. It was more than half of all money the Thurston County Democrats brought in that year, according to filings with the Public Disclosure Commission.
Knight has also given at least $25,000 to the Democratic National Committee and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns since 2008, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
"JZ Knight is a member of our community," Nelson said on Monday of the Thurston County Democrats' largest donor. "The people that belong to her organization are interwoven economically and socially into our community. They are a positive aspect of our community."
"They share the same values as the Democratic Party, the Thurston County Democrats, so we accepted their donation like we would any other donation from an organization that believes in our values," Nelson said.
She said the offensive video had been "sliced and diced" to make Knight look racist by conservative activists with the Freedom Foundation, a right-leaning think tank based in Olympia.
"I believe JZ Knight and others when they say the 'offending comments' were edited and taken out of context," Nelson said.
“JZ Knight’s racist comments were not taken out of context," said Susan Hutchison, Washington State Republican Party Chair, in a statement emailed to KUOW. "The Thurston County Democrats continue to accept massive donations from an open racist.”
Knight and her company, JZK, Inc., sued the Freedom Foundation in 2014 not for libel, but for copyright infringement after it distributed DVDs showing Knight speaking inside her school. In a separate case, JZK had sued former student Virginia Coverdale for distributing the videos in violation of a nondisclosure agreement that students at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment sign.
"She's pretty litigious," former Freedom Foundation staffer and Citizens' Alliance for Property Rights director Glen Morgan said.
Knight sued Morgan, his wife and the Freedom Foundation after he sent DVDs of Knight to elected officials and media outlets.
"They were edited for length," Morgan said. "It was like a 13-hour-long, long monologue."
Knight won a $600,000 judgment against Coverdale in 2013, but her suit against the Freedom Foundation was dismissed after a settlement last year, with no money exchanged between the opposing sides.
Through a spokesperson at Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, JZ Knight declined to comment.