Why Is Tulsi Gabbard Paying This Obscure Consultant Big Bucks?

By Nick Grube
Honolulu Civil Beat (9/9/19)

STEHEKIN, Wash. — Deep in the Washington state wilderness, a highly paid political consultant is raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign.

It’s the kind of money usually spent on national name-brand political operatives with bustling offices and large staffs based in Washington, D.C., or New York.

But few people in the business have ever heard of Kris Robinson, the owner of Northwest Digital, a web design and internet marketing firm working for Gabbard’s campaign. His company address is a P.O. box here in Stehekin, a remote village in the Northern Cascades mountains that’s famous for its isolation.

Cell phone service is non-existent and there are no roads in. Visitors travel mostly via ferry, which each day makes a run up Lake Chelan, a 55-mile journey that can take up to four hours. Other options include horse, foot and floatplane.

As one summer hand at the local lodge said, “It’s kind of like ‘The Shining’ here in the winter. Lots of snow. Not many people.”

Yet in the first six months of 2019, federal campaign finance records show Gabbard paid Robinson and his company more than $259,000.

The Robinsons and the Stewarts all have ties to the Kailua-based Science of Identity Foundation, a controversial religious sect that was founded by Chris Butler, someone Gabbard has described as her “guru dev,” or spiritual master.

A second-tier candidate in a shrinking but still large field of Democrats seeking to oust Republican President Donald Trump, Gabbard did not qualify for the September debates.

Robinson is one of her top vendors. The only companies receiving more money in the first half of 2019 were Google, for internet advertising, and Revolution Messaging, a well-known digital firm in Washington, D.C., that ran U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Revolution Messaging and Gabbard parted ways shortly after she announced her candidacy. It was part of a larger shake-up that also saw her then-campaign manager walk away.

While turnover and dysfunction have been hallmarks of Gabbard’s congressional career and, now, her presidential campaign, Robinson has been a near constant in her political orbit.

Like her, he has ties to an obscure religious sect called the Science of Identity Foundation that’s based in Kailua and run by a reclusive guru whose devotees have displayed political ambitions.

Hawaii campaign spending records show Gabbard first hired one of Robinson’s companies, Honu Creative, in 2010 when she was running for the Honolulu City Council. She paid him $75 dollars that year for web hosting and domain purchase.

But Federal Election Commission records show that between 2013 and 2019 Gabbard’s congressional and presidential campaigns have paid out more than $531,000 to Robinson, Honu Creative and Northwest Digital.

He and his companies have never worked for another politician, records show. …

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High Turnover In Gabbard’s Office Preceded ‘Tulsi 2020’ Problems

Her turnover rate has been among the highest in all of Congress.

By Nick Grube
Honolulu Civil Beat (2/1/19)

WASHINGTON — Chaos. Disarray. Meltdown.

Those are just some of the words used by Politico in a new report that reveals just how dysfunctional and disorganized U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is just days before its official launch [Note, this article was published in February 2019. — Ed]

Gabbard’s campaign manager, Rania Batrice, is set to leave after the congresswoman’s Saturday kickoff in Hawaii as is her big name consulting firm Revolution Messaging.

And while the departures alone don’t necessarily spell disaster, they come after a series of slip-ups, mistakes and false starts.

As Politico reported, several people familiar with the campaign over the past several months described Gabbard as a candidate who “managed to be both indecisive and impulsive.”

This isn’t the first hint that Gabbard, who began serving in Congress in 2013, might be difficult to work with.

Gabbard’s office has had some of the highest turnover in all of Congress, according to data analyzed by Legistorm as part of its “Worst Bosses?” review of public salary disclosures and other congressional records. …

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