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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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December 31, 2007 1:52 PM

Iowa Watch

Posted by David Postman

Sen. Maria Cantwell endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today. I doubt that does much for Clinton in Iowa where residents caucus Thursday in the first official votes of the 2008 presidential campaign. But in this state, Cantwell broke a log jam of sorts among the state’s top three Democrats. Gov. Chris Gregoire and senior Sen. Patty Murray remain neutral and could stay that way until past when an endorsement would matter at all.

Cantwell was waiting, she said in November, to see which candidate was most aligned with state interests on social and environmental issues. A statement from Cantwell issued by the Clinton campaign singles out Clinton’s energy policies.

“Hillary is ready to address our energy challenges on day one with a bold, comprehensive plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and move America toward a renewable energy future."
Cantwell has a lot of friends in the race. Clinton helped raise money to pay off her debt after the 2000 election and a Clinton PAC gave Cantwell money for her re-election. Alicia Mundy wrote last month:
"All these people came and campaigned for me," she said. "I don't think it should be your first instinct after you got re-elected to say 'Thank you' and then endorse one of them over the others."

Sen. Barack Obama came to Washington state twice on Cantwell's behalf. Sen. Chris Dodd raised money for her from his Wall Street contributors. And Sen. Joseph Biden has been Cantwell's mentor and adviser on the war in Iraq.

And then there is Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

"He drove over the Cascades for an event I didn't get to," Cantwell said. "My God, he drove to Yakima."

In other its-almost-caucus-time news, Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic does a reality-check on the claim that Sen. John Edwards is a campaign finance hypocrite. That claim was made by Obama’s campaign because of help Edwards is getting from the union-backed 527, Alliance for a New America. There are too many unnamed sources in Ambinder’s piece and that doesn’t help the effort to demystify the interplay between the Edwards campaign and the independent expenditure group. But he has done more work than most on this story and makes the case that at the least the Obama campaign over-reached on its rhetoric.

At The Slog, Eli Sanders continues to closely cover Iowa, where he’ll be based this week. He is taking predictions on what will happen Thursday. Sandeep Kaushik got the ball rolling with his guesses, including a comfortable win for Edwards. He also posted more than 700 words of explanation. It’s almost as if he’s worried about losing a reputation as a political genius or something. Of course, I don't make public predictions in order to prevent being seen as the really bad prognosticator I am.

Sanders already made a bet on the outcome. He figures he’ll lose the bet, which may cost him in the short-run but will likely get him plenty of invitations to play poker.

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December 31, 2007 12:48 PM

And the winners are ...

Posted by David Postman

Do you remember the November election quiz? I just got around to tallying the answers - closing the books before the year ends - and it appears we have a three-way tie. And the winners are all names you’ll be familiar with: Blogger Stefan Sharkansky, blogger and vice president at the Association of Washington Business Richard Davis, and Scott St. Clair, who writes a column for the Kirkland Reporter and is known in the comment field here and elsewhere as “The Piper.”

All three were the only entrants who correctly guessed the winner in 12 races. That meant that the bonus questions about point spread in three races would determine the winner. But there were three races, and each of our winners was the closest on one of those races. (Everyone but Sharkansky was far off in guessing the right victory margin for Jean Godden, and no one came very close to correctly guessing Tim Burgess’ comfortable margin over David Della.)

So, I declare a three-way tie. I will award prizes to all three and I look forward to seeing Sharkansky, St. Clair and Davis in their Seattle Times finery.

There is a definite conservative slant to our winners. The entrants as a whole -- of those I could put on the political spectrum -- probably leaned a little to the left. I’m not sure if these guys were just better guessers. But one trend I noted was that most of those I could identify as Democrats picked Bill Sherman to win the prosecutor’s race over Republican Dan Satterberg. Maybe wishful thinking took over for the sort of scientific prognostication needed to win these sorts of rigorous contests.

Congratulations to all three winners. Send me your mailing addresses and I’ll ship some Times swag your way.

Thanks all for playing. I had nearly 30 entries submitted on time, and a few late ones. Next time I promise the quiz won’t be so Seattle-centric.

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December 28, 2007 10:58 AM

E-mail raises questions about union effort for Edwards

Posted by David Postman

The head of one of the state's most powerful political unions is in the middle of a presidential campaign controversy. David Rolf, president of S.E.I.U. Local 775 sent an e-mail to fellow union leaders about how best to help Democrat John Edwards' campaign. As the New York Times reported yesterday, the effort was supposed to be independent of the campaign.

But the Edwards campaign may have expected the support of the group, Alliance for a New America, set up by a local of the Service Employees International Union. An Oct. 8 e-mail message circulated among the union leaders who created the group suggests that they were talking with Edwards campaign officials about "what specific kinds of support they would like to see from us" just as they were planning to create an outside group to advertise in early primary states with "a serious 527 legal structure."

You can read a PDF of Rolf's e-mail here. The NY Times reported:

The message discusses plans to swing as many SEIU locals as possible "into a pro-Edwards position" and to coordinate public endorsements with the Edwards campaign. The organizers "to discuss with the Edwards campaign what specific sort of support they would like to see from us" and list specific meetings scheduled between union leaders and campaign officials like David Bonior, the national campaign manager.

The paper said that Rolf was traveling and unavailable for comment. I'm checking with SEIU to see if I can reach Rolf today.

MORE: The national SEIU has not endorsed a presidential candidate this year. But a group of its locals announced its support for Edwards in October. The Iowa local was the big news that day, though Edwards was certainly buoyed by backing from all 10 SEIU locals involved in the announcement.

Dave Regan, president of a pro-Edwards local covering workers in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, issued a statement today responding to the New York Times story. He said, in part:

There has been no coordination or discussion of our support for the organization's work with any individual candidate or campaign at any time.

Alliance for a New America is a 527 -- groups named after a section of the IRS code -- and as an independent expenditure group is prohibited by law from coordinating activities with candidates’ campaigns.

I wasn’t able to reach Rolf. But Adam Glickman, a spokesman for SEIU, said there was nothing in Rolf’s e-mail that indicates any sort of improper coordination with the Edwards campaign. He said he has talked with Rolf since the story ran and that Rolf is clear he never talked to the Edwards campaign about 527 activities.
In fact, Glickman says Rolf is not involved in the independent expenditures. He says that SEIU officials, like those in other unions, divide up between those who work on independent expenditures and seal themselves off from the campaigns, and others who remain legally able to talk to candidates and their staffs about allowable coordination.

He said that Alliance for a New America had already been created at the time Rolf sent out his e-mail, and that no SEIU local had yet endorsed the candidate.

“At that point no one is really making any strategic decisions. It was just listing a number of things that are obvious that the union could do for Edwards. That includes things you could coordinate and things you couldn’t coordinate.”

The endorsements came the week after Rolf’s e-mail.

There is more news developing around Alliance for a New America.

  • The New York Times reports on its political blog that campaign watchdog groups are “raising alarms’’ about SEIU’s involvement.
  • The Washington Post blogs about a well-heeled donor to the group.
  • RealClearPolitics looks at connections between Edwards and the group.
  • And ABC News’ Jake Tapper tries to put the Rolf memo in some context.

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December 28, 2007 9:51 AM

A student looks at local liberal bloggers

Posted by David Postman

My quarter teaching at the University of Washington has come to an end. Times editor Jim Simon and I taught an advanced political reporting class to a small group of journalism students. It was a great experience for me. I found it difficult at first, but ultimately beneficial, to have to explain out loud what I do and why I do it that way. Simon and I didn’t always agree and we didn’t hide our debates from the students. (I figure they should learn early how wrong editors can be.)

I also learned from the work the students did. They went out and talked to voters about the presidential election and undertook in-depth final reporting projects. Over the next week I will share some of that work with you. I’ve edited them a little for posting here.

Today you can read Will Mari’s story about local liberal bloggers. The piece includes some pretty interesting comments from Democratic political consultants. Mari went to Victor’s Coffee in Redmond recently to talk with 20-year-old Andrew Villeneuve who was eager to explain how he’s going change politics in the Northwest. Read it after the jump.

Continue reading this post ...


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December 27, 2007 10:56 AM

Rossi idea man doesn't like rainy day fund

Posted by David Postman

Lou Guzzo the man behind Dino Rossi’s Idea Bank, criticizes Gov. Christine Gregoire for proposing a deposit in the state’s new rainy day fund. He writes from that whacky place where he resides:

Some of the media people are saying that she has borrowed a favorite Republican formula for running a government. That’s a lot of hooey. If there are any Republicans around who favor the “rainy-day fund” conundrum, they have been sadly misinformed and don’t follow Conservative thinking.

For the record, Republicans who favor the rainy day fund include your patron Rossi, who has complained that Gregoire stole the idea from him, as well as every Republican in the state House and Senate, where the GOP remains proud of the idea.

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December 27, 2007 9:23 AM

Supreme Court rules against newspaper in public records case

Posted by David Postman

The state Supreme Court this morning issued a 5-4 decision saying the Spokane school district was within its rights to withhold documents the local newspaper tried to get under the state’s Public Records Act. The justices upheld a Court of Appeals decision that rejected The Spokesman-Review’s request to see 75 documents related to a tragic case of a 9-year-old who died while on a school field trip.

At issue was whether exemptions to the Public Records Act for attorney-client privilege and attorney work product should apply in the case. The majority opinion, written by Justice Bobbe Bridge, said that earlier court decisions on public records give the district latitude to withhold the documents. She said:

We conclude that the vast majority of the documents at issue here are protected from disclosure because they are handwritten notes or memoranda about witness interviews created by the legal team, making them protected work product. Three additional documents are protected work product created by the legal team, even though they are not handwritten notes from witness interviews. The remaining documents involve privileged communications between the attorneys and their clients.

Joining the majority were Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and justices Susan Owens, Mary Fairhurst and, writing a separate concurrence, Justice Barbara Madsen.

The dissent says the decision is a major blow to the state law that requires release of public documents. Justice Charles Johnson wrote:

The majority essentially creates a public nondisclosure act, turning the act inside out so that documents are withheld from the public unless the public can demonstrate that no remotely connected litigation exists, past, present, or future. The result of this broad, expansive extension of what should be and have been narrowly crafted exemptions, is well beyond the exemptions' intended parameters, past any meaningful limitation, ultimately encouraging public agencies to hide public records from the public.

The facts of the case couldn’t be sadder. It involves the death of student Nathan Walters. He died after eating part of a peanut butter cookie served to him on a field trip. He was highly allergic to peanuts and although school staff had epinephrine with them to inject Nathan if he had been exposed to peanuts, the shot was not administered soon enough to help. His parents said they would sue for wrongful death, though they and the district eventually settled the claim instead through mediation.

As part of the settlement both sides agreed not to discuss the case publicly.

Before the mediation began, though, The Spokesman-Review filed a request for all documents related to the case. The district withheld documents that had been collected while its attorneys were expecting the wrongful death suit. That included notes from a private investigator who interviewed witnesses and notes from the attorneys to the school superintendent with “their factual theories and what they perceived to be the strengths and weaknesses of a wrongful death case against the school district.”

The majority says some of the records could be withheld because they were “relevant to a controversy” which creates an exemption in the Public Records Act. The newspaper and Allied Daily Newspapers, a press organization that filed a friend of the court brief, argued that the documents were done in the ordinary course of business and should be made public.

But the majority of the Supreme Court said that earlier court decisions give an “almost absolute protection for a legal team's notes prepared from oral communications.”

The attorney-client privilege exists to allow clients to communicate freely with their attorneys without fear of later discovery. The privilege encourages free and open communication by assuring that communications will not later be revealed directly or indirectly.

The majority rejected arguments from the newspaper and the dissenters on the court that today’s ruling would encourage government officials “to hand contentious or potentially embarrassing investigations over to their attorneys to avoid public disclosure.

"As the Court of Appeals noted, the school district fully acknowledges the need for liberal access to agency information, but the school district also raises its countervailing duty to safeguard the public treasury by aggressively defending itself against civil liability."

Madsen wrote separately to say that that dissent “addresses strong policy arguments in favor of public disclosure,” but that the majority is correct on the law.

However strong the policies favoring disclosure, every exemption included in the public disclosure act, chapter 42.56 RCW, results from a deliberate weighing of competing interests by the legislature, and it is the legislature's province to amend a statute, not this court's.

Joining Johnson in his strongly worded dissent were justices Richard Sanders, Tom Chambers and James Johnson. Johnson wrote:

The majority erroneously expands the scope of what have been narrow exemptions to the public disclosure act, formerly chapter 42.17 RCW. In doing so the majority fails not only to effectuate the mandate of the act, but also expansively denies disclosure in this case where, both legally and factually, no basis exists to withhold disclosure.

Sadly, under the majority's broad application of the exemption to the facts of this case, public agencies will be encouraged to request their counsel to hire investigators to look into incidents, the result being that all those public records are exempt from disclosure forever, even where no controversy exists.

..

In this case, the majority leaps to the conclusion that, because the district's attorneys hired the investigator, then automatically the investigation notes must be protected by attorney work product exemption. This conclusion is unsupported by our prior cases and disregards our responsibility to apply exemptions narrowly.

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December 24, 2007 10:01 AM

Presidential match game

Posted by David Postman

If you didn’t get a chance to see the Sunday paper, check out this story by Ralph Thomas. He looked at online presidential match games that are designed to help people decide which candidate thinks most like they do. There were some pretty surprising results when he got some local political types to try the games.

My favorite pairing was business lobbyist Carolyn Logue and her political soul mate -- well, one of several, depending on the site -- Kent McManigal. If you’re not familiar with McManigal, he’s a write-in candidate for president as a Radical Libertarian. He’s a protest candidate, having given up his active campaign “when I realized that it wasn't possible to force the government back into the cage that the Constitution was designed to be while using methods approved and "allowed" by the same rogue government.”

He says on his personal Web site:

I was born at least a hundred years too late. Probably more like one hundred and fifty. I think I would make a better caveman than a "cog in the machinery of modern life".

He’s not totally adverse to modern amenities, though. He likes to sing Karoke. You can click here to check out the song stylings of the self-described “Mountain Man, primitive survivalist, ‘Hooligan libertarian’, anarchist, write-in presidential candidate, opinionated writer of blogs and letters-to-editors, gun lover, UFO-loving skeptic, animal lover, karaoke singer, and all-around character.”

Want to see if you match up with the Mountain Man? Try these and let me know what you find:

It’s easy to dismiss such tools. But at least one reader is reconsidering his presidential choice after reading Sunday’s story and trying the match game. He wrote to Ralph this morning:

The matching applications bring issues back into the fold and help people make sure they aren't voting completely on charisma or religion or looks. I want the leader of the United States to handle the issues I care about, not just to look good and speak well while continuing to drive the US into obscurity.


For instance, I was originally completely on the Democratic side in favor of Obama. I did some of these quizzes a while back expecting to see Obama at the top of my list. I was surprised when it came out Ron Paul, but I didn't take this to mean that the selection was wrong. Even though I had completely dismissed Ron Paul up to that point (partially because of my annoyance with is fanatical supporters), I took the opportunity to read up on him, and watch his great Google video on youtube (from the Google Candidates talk). Surprisingly, his views rang true to me more than the Democrat views. Looking at the 'issues', the matching applications were correct, even if I had favored another candidate previously. Now I favor Obama as a Democrat, but Ron Paul as a Republican.


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December 21, 2007 3:51 PM

A Democrat's new plan for Iraq troop withdrawal: Move them to Afghanistan

Posted by David Postman

Congressman Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, introduced a resolution this week calling for withdrawal of an unspecified number of troops from Iraq in order to build U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Smith told me:

"There's absolutely no equivocation, at every level of the military or from any observer looking at it, that we need more troops in Afghanistan. When I was there, there was no doubt they need more troops and there's no doubt that one reason they can't get them is they have all the eggs in the Iraq basket. You will not see an increase in troops in Afghanistan if you don't get a decrease in Iraq. You simply don't have the resources."

Smith got a chance to ask military leaders about Afghanistan last week during a hearing before the Armed Services Committee. Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the committee that the U.S. military's focus was "rightly and firmly in Iraq.''

"It is simply a matter of resources, of capacity. In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must."

Continue reading this post ...


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December 21, 2007 10:59 AM

Rossi gets big backer

Posted by David Postman

Dino Rossi already had pretty decent sports credentials in his 2008 gubernatorial campaign. He is a part-owner of a minor league baseball team, buddies around with fellow co-owner Jay Buhner and has gotten fundraising help from Seahawks Mack Strong and Matt Hasselbeck. And today, according to Seth Kolloen, fundraising letters are going out from former Hawk Rob Tobeck Tobek.

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December 21, 2007 7:03 AM

Up and running

Posted by David Postman

After two days of blog maintenance and a day of blogger maintenance I'm learning the latest version of Movable Type, the blog software the Times uses. There may still be glitches, particularly with comments, so be a bit patient but also let me know if you have any problems. And I'm pretty sure that this software upgrade will make my posts more interesting, so stay tuned.

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December 18, 2007 8:05 AM

Blog maintenance

Posted by David Postman

The Times is making some software changes on blogs this week and it is apparently causing some problems with comments. I apologize for any weird things you encounter, or at least any things weirder than what you usually see here. It appears I will be able to create extended entries, though, and other things that will make the blog easier to read in the near future.

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December 17, 2007 3:37 PM

Will Obama open an office here?

Posted by David Postman

Eli Sanders Slogs that he's been told that Barack Obama will soon open a campaign office in the state. Congressman Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, is chairman of Obama's campaign here and an insider on the national organization. He told me this afternoon that nothing has been decided for sure, but said:

"I've been arguing for a while that there should be an office here and we would help pay for it."

Washington Democrats will select presidential delegates during their Feb. 9 caucus. Sanders wonders if an Obama office means

the Obama campaign is starting to seriously plan for a scenario in which Washington matters to their nomination fight — a scenario that would be far from the campaign's fondest hopes.

That does sound like at least part of the thinking. Smith said "there is a distinct possibility that Washington State will matter." He says there still could be a race on the Democratic side even after Super Tuesday. Washington is the only state that has a caucus or primary on Feb. 9 so a candidate could afford time to campaign here. And probably no matter what happens in the early states, Obama and Hillary Clinton have enough money to keep going until that day.

Washington Democrats have given more money to Obama than any other candidate; more than any Republican has gotten, too. But Smith said that doesn't help convince the candidate to open an office here. The move has to be strategic nationally, he said.

Will Washington matter? I'll leave the last word on that to an anonymous critic. He left this voicemail for me about eight years ago after a story I wrote ran under the headline: "State's primary suddenly big deal."

"Hi. Interesting article about the state's primary suddenly being a big deal. You must be an idiot. There's no big deal. You're so stupid. It's no big deal for the rest of the country what Washington votes on this. Give me a break. What an idiot. I guess it makes you feel important to write something like suddenly it's a big deal when it's no big deal. God. What an idiot."

UPDATE: Obama volunteers in the state have decided to open an office on their own while the campaign decides on its decision. The "local grassroots Obama office" will have no official connection to the Obama national campaign, according to an e-mail supporters got today. The office will be in Pioneer Square and be used for Obama-related volunteer efforts.

The e-mail asks for donation to help pay January rent and for volunteers to staff the office daily from noon to 8:30 p.m. "from now until Feb 9th or beyond."

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December 17, 2007 10:13 AM

Reporters should quit protecting cheap-shot artists

Posted by David Postman

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz has a column this morning that I hope will be read by every reporter covering the presidential campaign. It's a spot-on attack on the widespread granting anonymity to campaign aides so they can lob attacks on competitors.

Is it really necessary to allow operatives from one campaign to attack another candidate without their names attached? These strategists are paid to slam the other contenders. Why should they be able to hide behind a curtain of anonymity? Do you really want to be aiding and abetting that sort of cheap-shot politics?

Bravo, Mr. Kurtz. He lists some recent examples, including from his own paper. My favorite, though, is this:

The Los Angeles Times quotes an "aide" to Mike Huckabee saying that Mitt Romney's Mormonism "is definitely a factor in the race. . . . To a lot of people, [Mormonism] is a strange religion that they don't understand." This is a twofer: The aide gets to demean not just Romney but also an entire religion.

In 1987, John Sasso was forced to resign as campaign manager for Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis after admitting that he gave the New York Times, Des Moines Register and NBC a videotape showing that Joe Biden had plagiarized language from a British politician. But the tape simply contrasted publicly available speeches. These days, campaign operatives don't need such "evidence"; they simply whisper unflattering remarks to favored correspondents.

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December 17, 2007 8:58 AM

Cantwell gets new chief of staff

Posted by David Postman

Michael Meehan, Sen. Maria Cantwell's chief of staff and architect of her 2006 re-election victory, will leave the job at the end of next month. Meehan will become a partner in Virilion a public affairs firm in D.C. He will also be working on his own as a political consultant, and one of his first clients could be Gov. Christine Gregoire. Meehan said he's been talking to Team Gregoire as well as the Democratic Governor's Association and it seems likely he'll play a consultant's role in the re-election campaign.

He helped bring Cantwell from a razor-thin victory to looking like a powerhouse, so maybe he's developing a bit of a specialty in that field.

Meehan is well connected among D.C. Democrats. He is a former aide to Tom Daschle — Daschle's son runs the DGA — and was a key aide to Sen. John Kerry. He was part of the team that Kerry brought in late in his 2004 campaign for president after a major housecleaning of his staff.

Cantwell's new chief of staff is Maura O'Neill. She and Meehan will work through a transition in January. O'Neill is a management consultant and a former dotcom executive with some political background and an expertise in energy issues, a favorite topic for Cantwell. She was on Seattle City Light's Energy Advisory Board, and was president of Explore Life, a group pushing for public and private investment in a regional biotech center. She has also served on the city's Public Safety Civil Service Commission. O'Neill has also been chairwoman of the Washington Women's Political Caucus.

(Hat tip to Mike Seely at the Weekly, who earlier reported unconfirmed reports of Meehan's departure.)

Katherine Lister, Cantwell's deputy chief of staff and communications director, is also leaving. Her replacement as communications director is Ciaran Clayton, who had been doing the same job for Rep. Brian Baird.

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December 17, 2007 8:28 AM

Gary Locke stumping for Clinton in Iowa

Posted by David Postman

Former Gov. Gary Locke was in Iowa over the weekend as part of a surrogate blitz for Hillary Clinton. The Des Moines Register reported:

Iowans who grocery shop at Hy-Vee in Oskaloosa will be wooed by James Lee Witt, the former director of FEMA. And Iowans attending a ceremony at a Chinese language school in Johnston will hear a pitch from former governor of Washington, Gary Locke, who is Chinese-American.

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December 14, 2007 4:35 PM

Is Helen Sommers thinking about retiring?

Posted by David Postman

Shouldn't you be skeptical of stories beneath headlines with question marks? Isn't it just a way to write about a rumor?

At Crosscut, public radio's Austin Jenkins, fast becoming one of the better sourced Olympia reporters, heard rumors that Rep. Helen Sommers might be retiring after next session. And that would be news because Sommers is one of the most powerful members in the Legislature and by far the longest-serving lawmaker in office. She was elected to the Legislature in 1972.

Jenkins writes that the rumors came after news that Sommers was returning campaign checks.

For her part, Sommers, who would be up for re-election next year, claims she sent the checks back -- some written for the maximum $700 allowed per election -- because she doesn't currently have a campaign treasurer. With all the complicated reporting requirements, she explains, "it's a hassle" to process the checks.

I just talked to Sommers and she wouldn't say any more about her future plans to me than she did to Jenkins. She did say she has returned checks before this year. Sommers said she'll make a decision about running after the 2008 legislative session. And if she runs, she's not too worried about a tough race that would make her sorry she turned back a few $700 checks.

So, I asked, no one should read too much into her sending back campaign checks?

"Right," she said. "Because, you know, it's very attractive to be in the position I'm in." That would be chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

But, she added, "I'm also getting older." She's now 75. For fun, Sommers studies geology; specifically geological time and its impact on history. She told the Times in 1999:

"Isn't it amazing that just 50 million years ago there were no Olympics or Cascade mountains? Don't you think it's good for us to put ourselves in context? Everybody around here can't think further than two years ahead."

So, given that, 75 years old doesn't really sound very old, does it?

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December 14, 2007 8:07 AM

Jarrett's message to campaign supporters

Posted by David Postman

Rep. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island, e-mailed his supporters today to explain his decision to abandon the Republican Party. You can read it here.

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December 13, 2007 4:16 PM

Republican leader responds to Jarrett's party swap

Posted by David Postman

The post below is getting so long I thought I'd start a new one to post this statement from House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis:

"Right now I'm out helping my constituents put their lives back together after a disastrous flood, which helps me keep perspective on Representative Jarrett's announcement. It is clear Fred put his finger up in the air and didn't like the way the political winds were blowing. He made a decision that he thinks is best for him politically, which runs counter to what he told the voters of the 41st District he stood for when they elected him. Fred has let a lot of his friends, staff and constituents down."

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December 13, 2007 12:01 PM

Jarrett quits GOP, will run for Senate as a Democrat

Posted by David Postman

State Rep. Fred Jarrett, R-Mercer Island, is quitting the Republican Party and will run next year for the state Senate as a Democrat. His move, a year before the election, means the former Republican legislative stronghold through east King County is now pure Democratic territory.

It also means that House Democrats increase their already strong majority by one vote in the upcoming legislative session and it gives the party's Senate majority an advantage next fall, too.

Jarrett told me he was recruited by Democratic leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. He will run for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Brian Weinstein, a one-term Democrat who told Jarrett he will not run for re-election.

Jarrett has been a moderate Republican who came of age as a campaign worker for the icon of that stripe of the GOP, Gov. Dan Evans. Jarrett told me today:

"I felt there was a strong tradition in the Republican Party that really couldn't be lost. So what I've been doing as long as I've been in the Legislature is trying to articulate that moderate Republican, progressive Republican, viewpoint, and what I found is I may have a lot of ego, but I don't think I have enough ego to think anymore that I can do it."

He is in his third term in the House. He has served on the Mercer Island School Board, city council and as the island's mayor. He's an Air Force veteran and works at Boeing as a project manager in the commercial airplane division.

Jarrett represents the 41st District. His House seatmate is a Democrat, Rep. Judy Clibborn. Weinstein has held the Senate seat since defeating longtime Republican lawmaker Jim Horn, R-Mercer Island, in 2004. I asked him about Weinstein's plans and he said, "My expectation is that you will hear that Brian won't run." He said he talked to Weinstein and heard that from him directly.


(Look at this 2006 story by Andrew Garber and the accompanying charts to get a good sense of political changes on the eastside and through the Seattle suburbs.)

There were a few recent events that helped push Jarrett out of the Republican Party. In the recent special session, Jarrett said he found himself agreeing with Democrats and voting for a bill that created a new property tax deferral program for middle-income homeowners. Republicans opposed it, saying it would put those homeowners further into debt by requiring that the property tax be paid, with interest, when the home was sold or the owner died. Jarrett said he was bothered "to hear the vehemence of the opposition in our caucus without even thinking through anything other than who proposed it."



GREG GILBERT/SEATTLE TIMES


Jarrett, left, talks with Sen. Ed Murray in 2005.


Jarrett also disagreed with the Republican argument during the session that the 1 percent property tax cap proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire wasn't enough, even though it was identical to what voters had passed in a Tim Eyman initiative. Republicans could have declared a rare victory when Democrats agreed to back the 1 percent cap. But, Jarrett said, "instead we raised the bar so we could lose again."

Jarrett has talked with both Democratic and Republican leaders about a possible run for the Senate. He said the tipping point to the Democrats may have come when a Republican senator told him that if he was endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington "it'd be a problem in the caucus."

"My district is 70 percent pro-choice. How could I represent my district and tone down a record that I've had that has always been pro-choice?"

Then last week a recent Republican-turned-Democrat made a pitch for Jarrett to follow him. Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, had been trying to recruit Jarrett since Tom made his party switch in 2006.

"Rodney has been one of the people who have been trying to make this move since about two days after he made the move, and he has talked to me several times and I've said no. I guess the process started late last week when he said, 'What would it take to get you to think about running as a Democrat?' And until then I was pretty sure I'd run as a Republican."

But assured of backing from Democratic leaders in next year's election, Jarrett decided to defect. A draft of the press release Jarrett planned on releasing tomorrow echoes what Tom said when he switched parties: He hasn't changed, the party changed. Jarrett's release says:

I have, I think, remained true to Republican values of investment in education and transportation, civil rights, environmental protection, and well managed and effective government. And, I've felt an obligation to work within the party to maintain or restore those traditions.

Yet over the years, while those values have remained important to the 41st District and to me, the Republican Party has evolved in different directions.


Jarrett told me he would be telephoning Republican leaders today with the news. One of those was Alex Hays, executive director of Mainstream Republicans of Washington. Jarrett is on the board of the group and his party-switch will be felt hard there, Hays said.

"We're going to organize some conversations with him and hope we can change his mind."

But, he said, "I'm not optimistic."

"He's a friend. Of all the House Republicans, he's my closest friend and he was the only guy we had who was my ally to think big things about advancing the cause of moderate Republicanism. It's really personal. It's sad for me."

While Jarrett was conflicted about his party ID, those closest to him have not been surprised when he confided he was going to become a Democrat. He says his family's response was something along the lines of, "Well, duh." And when he told his campaign treasurer, the treasurer's wife said, "It's about time." Jarrett said he does not expect to lose support of anyone who worked on his campaign.

This is the latest in a series of hits to the House Republican Caucus. Former Rep. Richard Curtis quit suddenly after a sex scandal. Rep. Jim Dunn was reprimanded and kicked off all his committees after making an inappropriate sexual remark to a female staffer. Rep. Shirley Hankins agreed to pay a record settlement with the Legislative Ethics Board for violations related to her work promoting her daughter's business. And Rising star Rep. Chris Strow quit last week for a new job with the Puget Sound Regional Council.

MORE: Weinstein just issued a press release announcing his retirement. In it he said he planned to go back to practicing law full time. He said:

My election in 2004 tipped the balance in the Senate in favor of Democrats and because of that, I believe we were able to improve education funding and transportation funding. I sponsored the "Washington Learns" bill which hopefully will lay the groundwork for Washington to once again become a national leader in educating its children. We also championed civil rights legislation for gays and lesbians and important environmental protection legislation.

Courtesy Washington Legislature

Weinstein

I tried to carve out a niche for myself in the area of consumer protection, and am particularly proud of sponsoring the Insurance Fair Conduct Act which the public overwhelmingly ratified at the polls last month after the insurance forced it to the ballot in the form of R67.

I am disappointed that although the Senate overwhelmingly approved my Homebuyer Bill of Rights, I was unable to persuade Speaker Chopp to bring it up for a vote in the House.

To read Weinstein's press release Click here.

The homeowner bill was a major issue for Weinstein and he got in a well-publicized squabble with Chopp about it.

While Hays was personally upset about Jarrett's move, the group's chairman, former Republican Congressman Sid Morrisson, was more upbeat in a prepared statement:

"Today we lost one moderate Republican, which is a disappointment, but we retain strong centrist leaders in the House and Senate ... and we remain committed to recruiting and supporting the moderate candidates who will return Republicans to the majority party in Olympia."

Andrew Garber just talked with Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, who said he heard the news this morning:

Hewittt said he was "very disappointed" by Jarrett's decision. Hewitt had expected him to run for the Senate as a Republican. "We thought we had a closed deal out here. We've been talking with him for months and he assured us he was going to run as a Republican. so I'm obviously back to the drawing board," Hewitt said.

A NARAL endorsement would not have precluded him as a GOP candidate, Hewitt said. "Fred has been a moderate for a long time and I think people understand his politics. Fred would be welcome in our caucus."

He speculated the reason Jarrett changed his mind is because Weinstein doesn't plan to run again. "They cleared the primary for him and he thinks he has an easier time getting through as a Democrat than he does as a Republican," Hewitt said.

MORE: Lisa Brown said she has been talking with Jarrett for a little while about the switch. She said she told him last week that he could win the Senate seat either as a Democrat or a Republican, and should consider which caucus he could accomplish more in.

Brown also told Jarrett that Weinstein was not going to run and if he was a Democrat her caucus would back him in the 41st District Senate race.

"I feel pretty confident that he can win in that district as a Democrat. He has served there for a long time. I think he definitely gets that district and he fits the district and represents the district well, too."

She said Weinstein has been leaning toward not running for re-election. He told her recently he had definitely decided to retire and Brown asked him to hold off making the announcement public so she could continue talks with Jarrett.

MORE: We haven't been able to reach House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt yet. But his deputy, Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, was surprised by the news when Garber called him.

"He's going to run for the Senate as a Democrat? Well that's funny," said Ericksen, who thought Jarrett was going for the Senate as a Republican. He said he was sorry Jarrett's leaving the party, but confident Republicans can regain the seat next year.

Ericksen said he's not bothered that Jarrett switched parties just before the start of the 2008 legislative session, given the large majority Democrats already hold. "In the upcoming session Fred's vote would not have mattered anyway. You need 50 votes to pass a bill. Fred being the 64th vote will not make a difference in what we do."

MORE: Chopp says, in case there was any question, that Jarrett will be welcomed with open arms into the House Democratic Caucus. Chopp said he had no role in trying to convince Jarrett to run for the Senate as a Democrat. But Chopp noted, "A lot of people have been talking to Fred over the years. When you look at Fred's positions on the issues, a lot people thought he was more of a Democrat anyway than a Republican."

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December 13, 2007 9:37 AM

Court agrees Seattle school board recall was invalid

Posted by David Postman

The state Supreme Court agreed unanimously this morning that a recall petition against five members of the Seattle School Board did not meet the legal standard for a recall. The court, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, said that King County Superior Court Judge William Downing was right to reject the petition earlier this year.

The court also said the petition was moot against three of the members because through election defeat and retirements, they won't be on the board after next month.

But there is disagreement on the court about whether the Seattle School District should have intervened on behalf of the elected board members. The recall petition was begun by Eric Dawson, who was upset about proposed school closures. Dawson went to court after the King County Prosecutor's Office rejected the petition in January. Dawson argued that the district, as a public entity, should not be able to join the legal action on behalf of the elected officials. The majority of the court said the district was within its rights to join the lawsuit, saying that court rules say

a party may be permitted to intervene in an action when that party claims an interest in the action that is not adequately protected by the existing parties to the action or when the new party's claim or defense has a question of fact or law in common with the main action. A trial court's decision to allow intervention under this rule is discretionary, and the question on review is whether that court has abused its discretion. Judge Downing granted the intervention motion, under CR 24, after determining that "a) The School District has a separate and distinct interest in these proceedings; and] b) Its participation is likely to be of assistance to the court in focusing on the issues at the sufficiency hearing." In our view, Judge Downing did not abuse his discretion in reaching these conclusions.

But Justice James Johnson, writing in a concurring opinion signed by Justice Richard Sanders, argues that the school district was essentially using public funds to campaign on behalf of the board members. Johnson said that despite laws against use of public funds for political campaigns, Downing's ruling "allowed the District to accomplish the same end — likely with its limited taxpayer funds."

Johnson said there are legitimate roles for local government to play when members of its legislative body face recall. But he said that a majority of the non-conflicted members of the legislative body, and its attorney, have to approve intervention, "To make sure such request is not just a veiled use of public funds to oppose the recall."

That was tough in this case because five of seven board members had conflicts. Johnson wrote:

Here, the District did not follow this procedure before it used (and continues to use) public money to intervene and oppose recall. ...

We ought not turn a blind eye to a government's misconduct or misuse of limited taxpayer resources. Recall in Washington is not just a statutory right, but a constitutional right. When a government illegally spends tax money to oppose exercise of a constitutional right, there is an injustice of constitutional dimension. The courts must diligently guard against such violation.


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December 12, 2007 11:14 AM

High-caliber objectivity

Posted by David Postman

In the 18 months I've been writing this blog I've tried various ways to convince people I have no political bias. But maybe I'm just not thinking big enough:

Sam Taylor.jpg

That's Bellingham Herald reporter Sam Taylor. He posted the photo on his blog with this caption:

Maybe this makes me right wing
I've been accused of being a liberal and a right-winger during the course of my journalism career, and on this very blog (and in e-mail). It appears that the reason why people come to such conclusions is because I'm just not reporting their perspective, I'm trying to cover all sides. Some people just can't seem to accept that there are other viewpoints than theirs. Sure, yours might be correct, but does that mean that nobody else should be covered?

Taylor's gun post attracted attention of media watchers across the country. Editor & Publisher, has a story up about it this morning.

Taylor told E&P today that he posted the photo and the comment about it making him appear as a right-winger in an effort to show that it is wrong to label him or anyone a liberal or conservative based on appearance. "People will look at it and try to peg me in some hole," he told E&P. "Looking at someone, you cannot just do that. I thought people were going out of their way to try and peg me."

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December 12, 2007 8:30 AM

On last night's Obama visit

Posted by David Postman

Barack Obama played to a sold-out crowd last night in SoDo. His stump speech may have been familiar to those following the presidential race. I'm sure that hardly mattered to the smitten. But I was struck by this passage in Ralph Thomas' story on the event in this morning's paper.

Farther back in line, Monique Duluoz, of Kent, was wearing an "Obama Mama" T-shirt and a pin that read, "Mommy make the scary Republican go away."

Duluoz said she would be happy with Obama or Clinton as president.

"I think she's going to take it," Duluoz said of Clinton. "But I'm hoping she'll ask him to be her VP [vice president]. I think together they could really rock it."

What does it mean to Obama's campaign that a woman willing to stand in line and deck herself out in Obama-wear has already given up on the candidate's chances to win the top slot? Obama is surging in the polls, particularly those that match him up against potential general election Republican opponents. But yet even Obama's fans remain unconvinced that he can beat Clinton. And it's not just Duluoz. I heard the same thing from others when Obama was here in June. And I hear it from friends and others who say they like Obama best but figure someone else, usually Clinton, will win the nomination.

In an interview with Joel Connelly Tuesday, Obama said he disregards the conventional wisdom about his campaign.

"It was over," Obama laughed, referring to commentators' early fall take on the Democratic presidential race. Hillary hagiography ran through The Washington Post and the U.S. capital's commentocracy.

"I don't believe the punditry when we are down, or the hype when we are up," he added.

Eli Sanders, just back from Iowa for The Stranger, wrote a brief recap of the Obama event last night and had this bit of reality for Seattle:

The crowd in Des Moines, Iowa — Des Moines, Iowa — was way, way more diverse than the crowd tonight at the Showbox.

A Slog commenter says a more exclusive fundraiser was more diverse:

I was at the Pier 66 fund raising event at 6:30pm. I'm black and I was more surprised to see more blacks at that event than what you probably saw at the Showbox.

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December 11, 2007 2:06 PM

Rocker turned writer's advice for Dem turned Repub

Posted by David Postman

Krist Novoselic, the Weekly's nice get of a political and music blogger, has an idea for King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer. von Reichbauer is a former Democrat, now Republican, who said in a Times story last week that he wants to make the county council, executive and assessor all non-partisan races.

The Times said that Pete Von Reichbauer doesn't want to wear either party's label when he runs for reelection. If that's the case, he should run as an independent!

Instead of a useless change of the election system for King County, an independent candidacy can actually foster competition. In a three-way race, a candidate needs only 34% of the vote to get elected in the general. This lower threshold is a reasonable expectation for an experienced public servant like Mr. Reichbauer.

From a partisan perspective, increasing competition isn't necessarily better. If Pete Von Reichbauer ran as an Independent, Republicans would still have to run a candidate to protect what has traditionally been their district. Recognizing an opening, Democrats would run their candidate in prospect of the conservative vote diluting between the former Republican Independent and the proper Republican candidate. Considering the Republican's current ebb, another loss on the eastside of King County, to either an Independent Reichbauer or Democrat, would not look good.

Novoselic also has a nice slice of history in this post about the Washington Grange's progressive roots.

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December 11, 2007 10:02 AM

Rossi breaks $1 million in November

Posted by David Postman

Republican Dino Rossi had a big money month in November. Reports filed Monday with the Public Disclosure Commission show that he raised $600,000 last month. Gov. Christine Gregoire raised $311,852.

That's a good bump for Rossi going into the three months that Gregoire won't be able to raise money due to the legislative session freeze. He's still got a lot of catching up to do. PDC records show Gregoire has raised a total of nearly $3.7 million to Rossi's $1.1 million.

UPDATE: Gregoire raised much more than I wrote above. That number came from individual contribution reports that were available late yesterday. Her total for November was $608,688, according to the totals reported later. Rossi's actual total was $646,132.

Rossi has $904,000 cash on hand. Gregoire has $2.6 million.

I should have checked again this morning for those summary reports.

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December 11, 2007 9:32 AM

Obama here tonight

Posted by David Postman

Barack Obama makes a quick Seattle stop tonight. He will appear at a SODO nightclub for an event aimed at young voters. He did a similar event last night in Los Angeles. The Illinois Democrat shows up at an interesting point in his campaign. From Eli Sanders at The Stranger:

Obama is morphing from alleged wimp to all-around all-star, and beating Hillary Clinton in at least one recent Iowa poll. Again, the politics of peaking too early, and the length of the nominating process, are probably at play here — at least in part. Obama was a muted presence for much of the year, but conspicuously turned it on just as Democrats and political writers were tiring of the Clinton coronation narrative.

There's a new CNN poll that will add to a growing theme and means "Edwards and Barack Obama will make the argument, again, that they are more electable than Clinton."

The Clinton campaign has been responding by digging for dirt on Obama (when they should be investing in spell-check) and spreading some muck, too.

Locally, the Clinton campaign tried to grab a little attention from Obama's visit with the announcement Monday of its state steering committee. One of the members, political consultant Christian Sinderman, e-mailed this morning to say that Obama has been

dissing Microsoft on the East Coast while now he returns to Seattle to continue raising money from MSFT employees.

That is based on this, from Obama's appearance before the Boston Globe editorial board.

Obama also dismissed doubts that he lacks experience as a chief executive, saying launching his candidacy was akin to launching a $100 million start-up against the "Microsoft of Democratic politics" — the Clinton campaign — and raising more money than his main rival and creating a better on-the-ground organization.

I liked the Apple/IBM comparison better, but someone lost their job over that one.

Obama, of course, arrives here after a surge of publicity from appearances with Oprah Winfrey. All I can add to everything that's been written about this is "Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah." Thurman (at least in 2004) is a Clinton fan, giving $2,000 to the New York senator.

MORE: Sanders was in Iowa and just posted a story about Obama and Oprah. And I'd say he's spot-on about this:

It wouldn't normally be considered smart politics to fly a sophisticated black woman in from Chicago to tell the residents of Des Moines that they need to use their minds -- that they "better think," as the Aretha Franklin song that Oprah entered the hall to put it, rather bluntly. Most political rallies offer paeans to the innate wisdom of the American people, not challenges to them to get serious. But Oprah can go there. She's made herself into a transcendent figure in American culture and it gives her a certain license to push people.

The local Edwards campaign has also weighed in on Obama's visit. Attorney Jenny Durkan, just back from helping Edwards in Iowa, had a message for Obama:

As Edwards Washington State Chair, I honestly can say: Welcome to Seattle, and I hope you stay a long time. Every day he is not in Iowa, is good news for the Edwards campaign -- which is good news for America. Having just been there doorbelling and calling in a number of towns, I think it is a real gamble to think a one-time celebrity bash with Oprah is a substitute for meeting with people, answering their questions, and giving substantive answers on the issues. None of the undecided caucus goers I met seemed star struck by anyone.


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December 9, 2007 11:30 AM

Seeing flood damage, and politics, from up high

Posted by David Postman

I spent most of Saturday flying around southwest Washington as the state's top politicians viewed flood damage, made announcements of aid and thanks emergency officials and volunteers. But as I write in this morning's paper, this was a lobbying trip. Gov. Christine Gregoire, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressman Norm Dicks were the well-known names on board the Washington National Guard helicopter. But much of the day's activities were aimed at convincing federal officials of the need, and the urgency, of federal flood relief.

Sitting on the 50-foot long helicopter with the state officials were J. Richard Capka, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, Carlos Castillo, FEMA's assistant administrator for disaster assistance, Thomas Barrett, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and their aides and underlings.

There already was some tension obvious as state officials had made clear their frustration that President Bush had not yet approved widespread aid for flood victims. I wonder if it was a coincidence at all — or just a smart move — that as the helicopter was ready to take off, Bush announced the first round of disaster assistance. It changed the tone of the stories that followed, with mine and others leading with the disaster declaration.

But what was announced Saturday is really a small piece of what Washington state officials want. They're looking for individual assistance from FEMA. That would give cash grants of up to $28,000 per person. It would also allow the state to issue unemployment benefits and food stamps on an emergency basis.

There were about 24 people on the Washington National Guard Chinook helicopter, including the politicians' staffs, state and federal officials, National Guard officials, a TV cameraman, an AP photographer and me. We sat on the ground for a little while because the helicopter's engines wouldn't start. After a jump start, we were lumbering into the air and on the way to Chehalis.



PoP/THE SEATTLE TIMES


At W.F. West High School in Chehalis, House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt asked Gregoire for help in getting a local water system restarted.


The press was kept out of a meeting there between the travelling dignataries and local officials. Press aides for Cantwell and Gregoire told me I couldn't go in, though no one could explain what was going on that required a press-free zone.

Afterwards, DeBolt said it was a misunderstanding. He said the locals wanted to meet with the Gregoire and the others in a large circle they formed on the gym floor. "We just didn't want press standing in the circle," he said.

I drove with DeBolt from the high school to a makeshift United Way center downtown. He said he has been pleased with the state response but thought the feds were too slow in responding with emergency relief funds.

The volunteer center was remarkable. There were easily 100 people in what was pre-flood a vacant hardware store. Cars pulled up outside with donations. Inside a coordinator shouted from a staircase for workers to deliver goods or for other chores.

It was there that Gregoire announced the state would take over a local levee project that has been stymied for years. In 2003, $30 million of money to be raised with an increase in the state gas tax was to go to pay the local share of a project that would have built a series of levees around the spot on I-5 that suffered major flooding last week.

That never got built because local officials could never agree on which city or agency should be in charge and work with the federal government which was to pay more than $70 million for its share. Eventually the $30 million set aside for Lewis County levees was spent on other transportation projects, Gregoire and Murray told me Saturday.

The Olympian wrote about the levee project today.

"The issue always comes down to who's going to pay for the building of it, and the maintenance of it," Centralia Mayor Tim Browning said. "So far, it's always come down to the city of Centralia should pay about 60 percent of the maintenance costs, and that isn't going to happen."

It hasn't been a priority for the federal government, either.

Bush has not included funding for the Chehalis River project in his requests to Congress since 2004, said Mona Thomason, chief of the planning branch for the Corps of Engineers Seattle District.

Congress has included some design money since 1999, although it was as little as $25,000 in 2006, but the Bush administration has focused on projects with a higher projected rate of return, she said.

Gregoire and Murray, who heads the transportation subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Saturday's announcement will clear the way for the project to finally begin. Gregoire will ask the Legislature to authorize $50 million in bonds, which is now the local share. Murray said there is $74 million for the levees in the budget bill that recently survived after a Congressional override of President Bush's veto.

"We're finally working in concert in a we haven't been for a very long time," Murray said.

Anything the governor does these days is obviously going to be looked at by some as a political move. But comments from DeBolt and other Republicans Saturday showed no sign of local dissent. In Gregoire's press release on the levee funding she thanked DeBolt and other Republican lawmakers from the area.

(When I was in Centralia last week, some people said the levees had broken, sending a wall of water through their homes and businesses. But Gregoire said they didn't break. There was just so much water they were overrun and "created a bathtub" that soaked I-5 and the surrounding area. The state and county later breached the levees in two different spots to allow the water to flow away from town.)

From Chehalis, we flew to the Grays Harbor Fairgrounds at Elma. One thing I'm not sure any of the politicians could have said without it being misconstrued: It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the skies were as clear as I've seen them in weeks. We were able to watch the scenery below from the open rear ramp. Like the politicians, I had a webbed harness on that was tethered to the helicopter floor when I wanted to venture to the open hatch and get an incomparable view of the muddy flood waters below.



PoP/THE SEATTLE TIMES


From left, Gregoire, Murray and FEMA's Carlos Castillo look at flood damage from the back of a Washington National Guard helicopter.


We flew over a massive slide on Highway 6. Gregoire said the mountain side is still unstable and state transportation workers have not been able to work there yet. "It may look like a rural road, but its a major transportation corridor," Cantwell said as she watched out a small side window in the helicopter. She later urged Gregoire to come up with specific figures about how much timber moves on the road to show the federal government.

On our front page today is a story that says the flooding may have been made worse by development and logging in Lewis County. In Grays Harbor County, officials say the problem is the opposite: Environmental policies made things worse and will also hamper recovery efforts.

Officials with the Grays Harbor Public Utilities District said that laws restricting how far back trees can be cut from streams and rivers left too many tall trees standing too close to electrical towers. When the winds and floods came, the trees hit the towers which "just crumpled like an accordion," said Richard Lovely, general manager of the PUD. He said five towers on the BPA line into the county were lost. "We just kept watching things collapse and collapse," he said.

He and others blamed the state law requiring buffers of trees between sensitive habitat and cleared land, whether for logging or a utility right-of-way. Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, told me that some trees that took down utility towers had been required to be left standing because they were designated habitat for the endangered marbeled murrelet.

There will also be a renewed push to allow more salvage logging following the flood. People in Grays Harbor say there will be trees rotting on the ground if loggers are not allowed to go after the windfall.

Dicks told me he's certain some additional salvage logging will be allowed. But he couldn't say how much. But it was clear that even limited logging will be controversial. Neither Dicks nor Murray seemed anxious for the D.C. battles that are certain to come with any push for salvage logging.

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December 7, 2007 2:35 PM

Working hard on a Friday

Posted by David Postman

When I came into work this morning I could not find a place to put down my coffee. I decided to clean my desk. Below is a photo of what it looked like. Click here to get a photo tour of some things I found as I dug down to the bottom.




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December 7, 2007 8:33 AM

Rep. Strow resigns from Legislature for new job

Posted by David Postman

Rep. Chris Strow, R-Freeland, is leaving the Legislature to take a job with the Puget Sound Regional Council. Bill McSherry, director of economic development for PSRC, said in an e-mail — that a recipient forwarded to me — that Strow will start "sometime in the next three to four weeks after his departure from the Legislature is effective."

At The Herald, Jerry Cornfield talked to Strow Thursday and confirmed the lawmaker was leaving the Legislature, but didn't say what he would be doing.

Strow, who was elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2006, said he hasn't accepted a new job but is considering "family friendly" employment that pays a higher salary than a lawmaker's and enables him to spend more time at home.

These issues were on his mind earlier this year when he pursued a vacancy on the Island County Commission. He later withdrew from consideration and declared he would stay in state office. He had roughly $7,000 on hand for a 2008 election.

"I could certainly see a return to public life one day," he said. "My family will always be the most important thing to me."

According to McSherry's e-mail, Strow will be the PSRC's principal economic policy analyst. Strow is married to the former Mary Lane, a veteran Republican press operative now working for Dino Rossi's campaign. He was an aide to the late Congressman Jack Metcalf.

A Republican will be appointed to fill out the last year of Strow's term. More from Cornfield:

Strow said he's backing longtime friend Norma Smith for the seat. Smith ran for Congress in 2002 and narrowly lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen.

Democrats had already been gearing up to challenge Strow in 2008. Democrat Tim Knue of Mount Vernon had already launched his campaign against Strow. In 2006, Knue ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor.


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December 6, 2007 4:47 PM

The PDC vote on Rossi non-profit raises more questions

Posted by David Postman

The Public Disclosure Commission voted 3-2 today to dismiss a complaint against Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi that alleged he had used his non-profit foundation as a way to campaign without having to disclose his donors. But that doesn't mean the commissioners were convinced it wasn't an attempt by Rossi to dodge campaign laws. PDC executive director Vicki Rippie told me that even those commissioners that voted to dismiss worry about a loophole in the law that allowed Rossi to conduct political activity with the non-profit Forward Washington Foundation.

"There's concern on the part of all commissioners that the statute as written does not address all of the political activity that is taking place today ... with Forward Washington. ... None of them were totally comfortable with the activity that occurred."

I was on the road today and missed the meeting. The Olympian has a short story on its website.

The PDC staff had recommended that the complaint, filed by the state Democratic Party, be dismissed. Rossi has said that exonerated him and he called for Gov. Chris Gregoire to apologize for what Democratic officials had alleged about him.

Not that there was any chance an apology would happen. But now the PDC vote keeps the issue more alive than it would have been if there was a clear dismissal of the complaint. While the PDC investigation was underway, Rossi and his backers questioned whether the commission would be fair to him. When the staff recommendation was released late last month, it was Democrats' turn to criticize the PDC. Now, there's something for both sides to complain about.

Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said in a statement today:

"Now that the PDC has acknowledged this loophole in the law, Republican Dino Rossi needs to come out of the shadows and tell Washingtonians who's been bankrolling his political activities all year ...quot; a prospective governor should not engage in covert fundraising and political activity in the shadows."

Ted Dahlstrom, executive director of Forward Washington, said he would not comment until having a chance to talk with the foundation's attorney who attended the meeting.

Rippie said there would be support to change the law to restrict political activity by non-profits, though she said it would have to be carefully crafted to withstand a constitutional challenge. She said the PDC has only seen a few examples of politicians creating non-profits in the state.

"But it is an approach that is quite common at the federal level and not that all uncommon in other states, so one suspects it was only a matter of time before it was imported here."

Forward Washington's activity would have been prohibited political work only if there was direct campaigning for or against a candidate. Just highlighting one candidate's qualifications, or criticizing another's, does not constitute the sort of direct advocacy the law restricts.

Rossi's campaign issued this statement:

From the very beginning, Rossi and the foundation bent over backwards to ensure they were following all public disclosure requirements. They obeyed the law and followed the advice of the PDC. After a very long investigation, the PDC found no evidence that he was a candidate while he was at the Foundation. Perhaps the commissioners felt the need to justify the five month long, taxpayer-funded investigation.

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December 6, 2007 8:36 AM

Legislator admits to ethics violation

Posted by David Postman

Rep. Shirley Hankins, R-Richland, has agreed to pay more than $4,000 in penalties after the Legislative Ethics Board found she repeatedly violated the law by using her office to promote family business interests. That is the largest settlement ever agreed to by the board.

The ethics investigation followed a series of stories by the Tri-City Herald. You can read the paper's past coverage here. Reporter Chris Mulick wrote about the settlement in today's paper.

The stipulated agreement details work Hankins did on behalf of Northwest Tire Recycling, a company owned by her daughter and son-in-law. The ethics board found a

fact pattern which demonstrates that Respondent has been unable to appropriately separate her legislative interests in tire recycling from the business interests of NWT.

The full order will be available later at the board's Web site. One of the things Hankins did to help her daughter's company was attempt to influence the Department of Ecology.

Respondent repeatedly intervened with the Department of Ecology and often in an argumentative and threatening fashion. DOE employees will testify that while Respondent did not influence agency decisions relative to NWT and the first Goldendale contract "she certainly influenced our workload."

One letter from Hankins to DOE included this passage:


Your office, as well as the Director of Ecology, was contacted. The department was offered assistance of cleanup. Your office and the Director's office have not responded as of yesterday, May 17th. I would like to know why. The Department of Ecology has allowed the site to be cleaned up by an illegal, unlicensed, and un-permitted corporation. They continue to call and harass your only legal and permitted company. I'm not sure why I've spent the last three and a half years on a tire bill that gives your department authority to help solve this state's problems, and that would give your department your only legal and permitted company in this state. Frankly, I'm a little tired of this.

Hankins issued a statement last night. While she signed the agreement, she disagrees with the findings.

While my greatest respect is for the institution of the Legislature, I am extremely disappointed with certain findings of the Legislative Ethics Board. It was never my intent to promote one company over another, but to ensure that the Department of Ecology carried out the job the Legislature asked the agency to do. . . and that was to dispose of tire piles that constitute a serious environmental threat to the health and safety of our citizens.

...

I believe it is in the best interest of the 8th District to expeditiously settle this matter and to move forward. Therefore, I have decided not to contest the matter, but instead, bring it to a close. I will respectfully accept and abide by penalties stipulated by the board.

It will now be interesting to see how House Republican leaders react. Republican Leader Richard DeBolt has moved quickly to discipline members for misconduct. He pushed Rep. Richard Curtis to resign after his sex scandal and removed Rep. Jim Dunn from all his legislative committee assignments after he made an inappropriate sexual remark to a female legislative staffer.

Will DeBolt now use the ethics board settlement to strip Hankins of her committee assignments or otherwise add punishment to what is in the stipulation?

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December 5, 2007 6:28 PM

On flood duty

Posted by David Postman

I was one of many reporters sent out to cover the aftermath of the big flood. I went south, to Rochester, Centralia and Chehalis.

In the afternoon I was driving west out of Rochester on Highway 12. I went around the "Road Closed" barrier just out of town — with permission from Thurston County Sheriff Dan Kimball, who I had run into at a nearby fire station. Walking along the muddy shoulder was big Dan Ditlow and his wife, Bobbie Pflugmacher.

I asked them if they lived nearby and if they had been hit by the flood. "It was damn-near up to my singlewide trailer," Ditlow told me. "But all that water couldn't knock all that steel off those cinder blocks." They knew they were among the lucky ones.

Ditlow offered to show me around so I parked nearby and ran back up to join him and his wife. Ditlow pointed to a river of water running beneath the highway and around a bend where his 1.3 acres of land is. "This grass," he said pointing to small reeds sticking out of the water, "is about seven feet tall." Really? "No exaggeration. I'm not going to b.s. you. Seven-feet tall."

The grass normally grows in a gully of a wetland that snakes past Ditlow's ramshackle compound. Today it looked like small, fast-moving, but muddy river. Ditlow and Pflugmacher moved from near Olympia about six months ago. The new place is a former meth lab, he said. The contaminated double-wide is torn down and gone.

He pointed to the spot on the culvert that marked the water's high mark Tuesday. Today it was a good three feet lower, but as far as we could see everything was wet and muddy.

"Brother, it's bad," he told me. Ditlow asked his neighbor's permission for us to walk through so he could get a good look at his property from a high spot. He said he hadn't ever walked through there before. It's mostly an empty lot with two houses under construction. Ditlow said he had shot his shotgun out across the gully, though.

"I'm just your local hillbilly," he said. He made sure to walk first in our line of three figuring his bulk would cave in any sinkhole before his wife or I would get to it. "There are more trails out here than Carter's got pills," he said. He was careful to hold each whip-like branch so it didn't swing back and hit Pflugmacher. "Watch it here, honey," he'd say. He gave her his knit hat when she said she was cold. He stopped suddenly and crouched down to look at mud prints of what he said was a good sized deer. (A big deer, but maybe not as big as the one that ran into the side of his truck recently that left a head-dent in the door and a butt-dent on the rear fender.)


Dan Ditlow points to his property.

We stood across from his property and got a clear view of the place. There are still a few shacks and an old RV that looks like its being slowly swallowed by the earth. Each day Pflugmacher, 21, goes off to work and Ditlow works the property. "I've been cleaning up and cleaning up every day," he said. Today, though, his best remaining trailer looked like a houseboat.

They had stayed away from the trailer most of Tuesday but were back in their beds last night. "You know, it's beautiful out here. I'll deal with the floods and everything and it's still better than in town," he said.

Pflugmacher said she was awfully glad they didn't have to evacuate. "We would have had to find a place for three pit bulls, a rat, three cats and kittens." That's a lot of animals. "What I'd tell you," Ditlow said. "I'm a redneck hillbilly."

An awfully nice one, though. He even offered me one of the kittens.

Further west on Highway 12, I had to stop when the water covered the road and looked deep enough to swamp my car. I got out just as Frank McCarthy, the owner of the Emerald Turfgrass Farms, and his farm manager, Ken Shumake, were wheeling a piece of irrigation equipment down the road.


Frank McCarthy, left, and Ken Shumake

The pipe had broken free during the flood despite their precaution of chaining it down. They got it back to the farm a few hundred yards away and rolled it into a deep basin of water that Monday was a field of commercial turf.

That was about the worst of it for the farm. The flood waters ran into the barns but stopped inches short of drenching a season's worth of grass seed sitting on wooden pallets. McCarthy said he was trying to look on the bright side. He hopes that maybe with the expanse of flooding this year something will be done about the drainage system in the area.

And maybe there'll be some work on Highway 12, which he calls "Death's Highway." "Every year I've been here someone has been killed here." Including just a few weeks ago right at the intersection where he and Shumake had rolled the pipe through.

There were still wreaths attached to a nearby guardrail in memoriam to the latest fatality.

About 60 people were rescued from this area Tuesday. Today, searchers were out on horseback, in jeeps and a military truck on huge, fat tires looking for any stragglers. Neighbors Jeremy Osbun and Josh Stevenson had their homes surrounded by water, but other than some flooding in Stevenson's garage there was no damage to speak of.


Osbun, left, and Stevenson

But the water was deep. And when the military truck rolled through the two young men warned the driver not to go toward the Chehalis River, even on those fat tires. The locals' warning was heeded. Osbun and Stevenson had been in touch throughout the past few days as first flood warnings came and then floodwaters increased. But they're not sure where another man went to.

"Our other neighbor floated by about 6 a.m. yesterday in a canoe. He was going to stick it out," Stevenson said. "We haven't seen him since."

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December 5, 2007 8:17 AM

Dean Logan moving up

Posted by David Postman

Next week former King County elections director Dean Logan will become acting registrar of voters for Los Angeles County. And there's a good chance he'll get the job permanently, making him head of the country's largest county elections department.

That's what I heard over the weekend from Conny McCormack, the current L.A. registrar. She was a panelist at the election conference I attended in San Francisco and we talked a bit at lunch. She's retiring Tuesday. She said Logan, who left King County to be her deputy in June, has a lot of support in L.A. County and she hopes, and expects, he'll be given the permanent appointment.

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December 5, 2007 7:35 AM

Valley hospital chair ousted in recount

Posted by David Postman

The chairwoman of the troubled Valley Medical Center appears to have been defeated after a recount in the race. Challenger, and apparent victor, Anthony Hemstad sent an e-mail to supporters late last night saying that the final count gave him 21,215 votes to incumbent Chairwoman Carole Anderson's 21,107.

King County elections picked up an additional 266 votes that had apparently been undercounted via the first count. Those votes split perfectly 133 each and so — even after the recount — the victory margin remains 108 votes.

The county elections site doesn't have the latest numbers posted yet.

On election night, another challenger, Sue Bowman easily defeated incumbent Gary Kohlwes. Hospital administrators have admitted to illegal use of public funds for campaign purposes. The commission has been criticized for failing to provide oversight.

Hemstad, who signs his e-mail, "Anthony 'Landslide' Hemstad," said "we've shaken a very entrenched organization."

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December 4, 2007 10:17 AM

Gregoire makes her first Supreme Court appointment

Posted by David Postman

Court of Appeals Judge Debra Stephens is the newest member of the state Supreme Court. Gov. Christine Gregoire made the appointment this morning. Stephens will replace retiring Justice Bobbe Bridge.

Stephens has been on Division III of the Court of Appeals since Gregoire appointed her to that position seven months ago. It's a quick climb up the judicial ranks for Stephens, who had practiced appellate law in her hometown of Spokane. According to Gregoire's announcement, Stephens

has appeared before the Washington State Supreme Court over 100 times, the Washington Court of Appeals, the Idaho Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and as the counsel of record in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Even Stephens' scant judicial experience means she has more time on the bench than five of her new colleagues did before they got to the high court.

Stephens' was not a name I had heard was under consideration until just Monday. There has not been an Eastern Washington justice on the court since the former Chief Justice Richard Guy retired in 2000.

Gregoire was interested in giving Eastern Washington a presence on the court and maintaining the current gender balance on the court. Stephens was elected to the Appeals Court seat this fall after running unopposed. That likely played into Gregoire's decision as well. A judge who faced a tough re-election wouldn't have been an easy choice. Stephens will have to run for election next November. Some names rumored to be under consideration for the job had been unsuccessful candidates for election to the court. I thought it unlikely Gregoire would do that, in part because it could be seen as second-guessing the voters, and it would not be the best strategic move to choose someone who lost an election and then make him or her run the next year.

Gubernatorial appointments to the court can find themselves hurt — or I suppose helped — by the fortunes of the governor.

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December 3, 2007 4:15 PM

Cantwell staffer arrested in child sex case

Posted by David Postman

The Smoking Gun reports:

A U.S. Senate aide was arrested Friday after allegedly arranging a lunchtime sexual encounter with a teenage boy, according to federal court records. James McHaney, 28, was nabbed by FBI agents after he arranged the afternoon liaison via a "cooperating witness" working with investigators.

The website reports that until his arrest Friday, McHaney was working as a scheduler for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington.

Cantwell's office just released this statement from Chief of Staff Michael Meehan:

Late Friday afternoon the FBI informed our office that a Senate employee was arrested. The employee was immediately fired. Our office has and will continue to fully cooperate with the ongoing federal criminal investigation. Senator Cantwell has zero tolerance for crimes against children.

McHaney was at work while chatting on-line with the confidential witness who was cooperating with the FBI.

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December 3, 2007 3:36 PM

Gregoire to announce court pick?

Posted by David Postman

It certainly looks as if the governor will say tomorrow who she has picked to replace retiring Justice Bobbe Bridge. The governor has a press conference at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Temple of Justice. Unfortunately, I'll be on the road at that hour and unable to write about it until later. So, if you see who it is, and have something wise to add, please do. Also, any good guesses on who will get the job?

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December 3, 2007 1:57 PM

Sen. Prentice to face primary challenge

Posted by David Postman

Former Congressional staffer Juan Martinez tells Josh Feit he will run for state Senate against Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton. Martinez worked for Congressman Jim McDermott and is now the field organization for the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition.

He cited Sen. Margarita Prentice's heavy-handed approach to pushing millions in subsidies for the Sonics and her refusal to look at reforming the payday loan industry as "causing a lot of unhappiness" in the district.

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December 3, 2007 11:09 AM

Read this

Posted by David Postman

Writer Daniel Bergner has a fascinating and provocative profile of Booth Gardner in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. It is worth reading the whole thing. It's focused on Gardner's campaign for a death with dignity initiative, which the former governor calls his last campaign.

But it's about much more than that. It delves into Gardner's family and intimate details of his life as he struggles with Parkinson's and years of familial strain. Gardner and his son, Doug, talk candidly about their relationship.

Gardner and his son told the same story. "I wasn't a good father," the former governor said to me. "I didn't give him enough support. So he found it in religion." Doug told a longer version: his father's absence; his own "very rebellious" youth that he resisted discussing in detail; his coming under the guidance of a devoutly Christian tennis coach at Pacific Lutheran University, where he had enrolled not for reasons of religion but for the chance to get his undergraduate business degree after his grades failed to qualify him for the business program at the University of Washington. "I was lost," he said about the years before his tennis coach found him. "Dad has done all these things. Success in business. Owning sports teams. State senator. County executive. Governor. How? He cut corners. He lost his wife. He didn't spend enough time with his kids. Kids equate love with time, with being there. Not with, 'Dad bought me a great tennis racket.' My dad missed it. Where was he when I needed help?"

In conversation, Doug often lowered his head, sometimes in forgiveness. Booth Gardner's mother died, along with his sister, in a plane crash when he was 14. When Gardner was in his late 20s, his biological father, a car salesman and alcoholic (whom his mother had divorced years before), jumped or fell to his death from an upper-story hotel room. Sometimes Doug talked about his father's failings with pity, as the product of Booth's own early losses. But sometimes the lowered head " and lowered voice and wincing expression " seemed part of a strenuous attempt to restrain a lancing anger. "We don't need Booth and Dr. Kevorkian pushing death on us," Doug said quietly about his father's campaign. "Dad's lost. He's playing God, trying to usurp God's authority."

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December 3, 2007 8:37 AM

Could a Clinton candidacy drag Gregoire down?

Posted by David Postman

At The New Republic, political scientist Thomas Schaller looks at what might happen to down-ballot Democrats next year if Hillary Clinton is the party's presidential nominee. Schaller quotes a few worried Democrats. His lead quote comes from a supporter of John Edwards, which is interesting because the only person I've heard talk about the Clinton-drag factor is an Edwards supporter here.

Schaller says there's not much to worry about.

While there are plenty of other reasons not to vote for her, concerns about Clinton's down-ballot drag are overwrought. Though she could have a marginal effect on a few races here and there, our electoral system has become so shock-absorbent that presidential candidates barely have a down-ballet effect anymore.

...

Still, is there something unique about Clinton that could put other 2008 Democratic candidates at risk? The strongest claim to that is she's an uncommonly unifying figure -- for Republicans and the right. So while the intensity of Clinton hatred may not multiply a voter's vote, it could motivate citizens to engage in other ways, such as donating to Republican candidates, walking precincts, or persuading their friends and co-workers to vote against Clinton and other Democrats. Such activities have the potential to alter the composition of the electorate from the one currently being polled -- with potentially damaging ramifications for Democratic candidates in close races.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is one of the few Democrats Schaller thinks could be hurt by running with Clinton. Of course, looking at her 2004 dead heat, it's not unreasonable to think that any political dynamic could effect her re-election. But Schaller's wrong on one point. He says:

... Washington and Indiana are swing states that might be influenced by the presidential campaigns.

Washington is not a swing state. I've thought the same thing myself at times. But given that the state has voted Democratic in presidential elections since Ronald Reagan -- which is also the last time a Republican won the governorship -- Gregoire doesn't need to worry about that mythical swing.

But again, given how close the '04 race was, an anti-Clinton surge in eastern Washington or other solidly Republican spots in the state could be a boost to Republican Dino Rossi.

I wonder if the Edwards and Obama supporters among you think this is a real threat and whether you are talking it up in trying to peel away support for Clinton. Thoughts?

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December 3, 2007 8:30 AM

Supreme Court won't hear McDermott leak appeal

Posted by David Postman

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Rep. Jim McDermott's appeal of the lower court decision that said he has to pay nearly $1 million for leaking a tape of a conference call among Republican leaders. The Wall Street Journal says "the court didn't comment on its action."

McDermott issued a statement this morning saying he was disappointed that the Court of Appeals' decision wills tand, but said he was "proud to have vindicated important free speech rights on behalf of the American people and the press."

"The Court of Appeals majority accepted our argument that the First Amendment protects the disclosure of information under these circumstances, but then a different majority held that my position in Congress stripped me of that same protection.

"While I disagree with the Court of Appeals on the latter point, and think that its decision erodes the separation of powers doctrine, the fact remains that this litigation made important new First Amendment law that will protect the dissemination of truthful information on matters of public concern by the news media and the citizenry."

McDermott filed his appeal in September.

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