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Postman on Politics

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

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March 31, 2008 4:31 PM

Governor gives newspapers a break

Posted by David Postman

Washington newspapers won a tax cut today. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed House Bill 2585 into law. That extends an existing tax break on advertising to online ad sales as well.

This will cut newspaper taxes by $946,000 in the coming year and then by $2.7 million for the next two-year budget cycle. It is set to expire after that. Someone remind me in 2011 to check and see if the newspaper lobbyists are able to make this temporary cut permanent.

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March 31, 2008 3:38 PM

Who will I argue with?

Posted by David Postman

Josh Feit is leaving The Stranger. Just in case he changes his mind, I'll wait until he's really gone to say anything nice about him.

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March 31, 2008 10:32 AM

Obama caucus delegates face challenge

Posted by David Postman

Aimee Curl has a story at The Seattle Weekly about people elected in the Democratic presidential caucuses Feb. 9 who weren’t properly registered to vote or were elected from the wrong precinct.

Jim Sharpe, a member of Kitsap County's credentials committee, estimates that more than 10 percent of the 2,300 delegates and alternates elected in his county fit into one of these categories, with the vast majority falling into the former.
I’ve been hearing since days after the Feb. 9 caucus that supporters of Hillary Clinton were going to challenge Barack Obama delegates. But that’s always been denied by the Clinton campaign. Obama handily beat Clinton in the caucus. But even a shift of a few delegates could prove to be meaningful.

Clinton’s caucus organizer, Jim Kainber, wouldn’t tell Curl what the campaign was doing to vet delegates prior to the county and legislative caucuses.

He says it speaks to strategy.

I don’t know if it’s the Clinton campaign, but someone is challenging Obama delegates. I just looked at a list of 38 challenged delegates in Skagit County. Every one questions the validity of an Obama delegate. There are no challenges against Clinton delegates.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 28, 2008 4:41 PM

McDermott doesn't remember suspected Saddam agent

Posted by David Postman

Congressman Jim McDermott doesn’t remember much about the man who paid for his 2002 trip to Iraq and accompanied him on the controversial, prewar visit.

The man, Muthanna Al-Hanooti, pleaded not guilty this week to federal charges that he was being paid by officials in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service to keep an eye on members of Congress and to do other work in America on behalf of Saddam’s regime.

“I don’t remember this man at all,” McDermott said today.

Al-Hanooti was one of three people on the trip from Michigan-based Life for Relief and Development, a Muslim charity that paid for McDermott’s trip. The indictment alleges that the money was funneled from Saddam’s government and Al-Hanooti was later rewarded with 3 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 28, 2008 10:07 AM

What the top-two primary might look like

Posted by David Postman

There may be just two weeks until the next round of litigation over Washington’s primary election. The Secretary of State’s office is working on draft rules setting out how the August top-two primary will be run.

Secretary of State Sam Reed will allow candidates to list a party preference next to their names on the ballot. But the Democratic and Republican parties will not be able to show on the ballot which candidate is their officially endorsed candidate.

Assistant Director of Elections Katie Blinn was on a teleconference with party attorneys this week to tell them what Reed planned on doing. She said it was not a very fruitful conversation and the parties remain opposed to the top-two primary. They're likely to file suits to stop the primary. Blinn told me yesterday:

As soon as we put out that draft version we’ll be back in court.

It will take at least two weeks until that draft is ready to be circulated.

Blinn sent an e-mail this week to legislative caucus staff outlining what the primary might look like. See the full e-mail after the jump:

Continue reading this post ...

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March 28, 2008 7:24 AM

More on McDermott's trip to Iraq

Posted by David Postman

I was away from the blog yesterday as I did some reporting for the paper on how Congressman Jim McDermott’s trip to Iraq ended up being paid for by a man the U.S. government says was a paid agent of Saddam Hussein. You can see that story here.

Bert Sacks with the Seattle-based Interfaith Network of Concern for the People of Iraq & Citizens Concerned for the People of Iraq told me that his group was set to pay for the trip. But then he got a call out of the blue from a man offering to pick up the tab for McDermott and other members of Congress making the pre-war trip.

Sacks has a long history with Iraq. (And maintains a blog on the subject.) He made nine trips before the U.S. invasion. One of those trips led the U.S. government to fine him for violating sanctions against Iraq.

Muthanna Al-Hanooti, the Iraqi-American the government indicted this week was well known in the Detroit area. People there, according to the AP, were shocked to hear that he was an alleged spy.

Sacks was unhappy with some of the coverage of Al-Hanooti's indictment because it said that Al-Hanooti had organized the trip. Sacks told me that he organized half the trip, though not the appointments with high-ranking Iraqi officials.

He wrote this letter to the editor of the New York Times:

Your article "U.S. Says Hussein Spy Agency and Iraqi Organized '02 Trip by Congressmen to Iraq" (p A15, 3/27/08) claims that they "organized and paid for" the trip by Congressmen to Iraq. However the Washington church group you refer to had already organized the trip and begun to pay for it before any involvement with the Detroit-based charity. I helped found that church group. I made the first of nine trips to Iraq in 1996 -- six months after hearing Madeleine Albright say on national television that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were "worth the price." By going to Iraq and learning about the sanctions, I came to say publicly in Seattle (January 3, 2003) that our conflict with Iraq "has always been about regime change. It has never been about weapons of mass destruction." That's a prescient statement -- it might have saved many, many lives.

MORE: Sacks just called. He’s unhappy that my story didn’t include more about the effects of U.S. sanctions on Iraq. He called that “death by omission.”

It’s not the first time he’s thought the Times glossed over, or even censored, news about sanctions. He has posted a chart that tracks some examples.

A bit of discussion about sanctions got cut from my story for space. (I wrote too long.) Sacks told me yesterday that at a meeting of peace activists in about 1998 McDermott watched from the back of the room during a discussion about sanctions. Sacks said:

Some people got angry at Jim and said, "You need to go over there. You need to see what’s happening to children," which at that point was 5,000 deaths a month.

Sacks says the Al-Hanooti indictment is a “small story” while the deaths of Iraqi children “is an overwhelmingly major story that no one is covering.”

Sacks had worked for years to get McDermott to Iraq as part of his efforts to fight U.S. sanctions against Saddam’s regime. I asked him yesterday if he thought the 2002 trip by McDermott and the other members of Congress did any good in that effort.

It was simply too late and too little. If the purpose was to educate people about the sanctions it was quite late in the game and if the goal was to try to draw attention to what might happen if we went to war, it was too late.

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March 26, 2008 2:55 PM

Was McDermott's pre-war Iraq trip paid for by Saddam agents?

Posted by David Postman

It looks as if that's what the U.S. government thinks. AP just moved this story:

WASHINGTON (AP)- Federal prosecutors say Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion.

An indictment in Detroit accuses Muthanna Al-Hanooti of arranging for three members of Congress to travel to Iraq in October 2002 at the behest of Saddam’s regime. Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the trip through an intermediary.

In exchange, Al-Hanooti allegedly received 2 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

The lawmakers are not mentioned but the dates correspond to a trip by Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California. There was no indication the three lawmakers knew the trip was underwritten by Saddam.

I'm trying to reach McDermott or his staff.

In September, 2006, federal agents raided a Michigan-based Muslim charity that helped pay for McDermott's trip. I wrote about that here.

The charity, Life for Relief and Development, and the Church Council of Greater Seattle paid for the trip for McDermott and the other Democratic congressmen.

When I talked to McDermott spokesman Mike DeCesare about this in 2006 he said that McDermott was invited on the trip by the church council, not the Michigan group. And when he learned where the money had come from he reported it on his disclosure forms.

I just spoke with DeCesare. He is confident the Department of Justice will say that the congressmen knew nothing of the source of the money and violated no law. He says McDermott went to Iraq before the war "for all the right reasons, to see what was happening with children."

If some of the money came from sources with secret connections to Saddam, he said, that woud be "outside our purview."

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March 26, 2008 12:36 PM

Cantwell could reconsider Clinton support, Murray holds steady

Posted by David Postman

Washington’s U.S. senators remain superdelegates for Sen. Hillary Clinton. But that could change depending on how the race between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama looks this summer.

Sen. Maria Cantwell told The Columbian’s editorial board this week that she will reconsider her support in late June and look to see which Democratic presidential candidate has the most pledged delegates.

“I definitely don’t want the super delegates to be the deciding factor,” she said.

“If we have a candidate who has the most delegates and the most states,” the Democratic party should come together around that candidate, Cantwell said. The pledged delegate count will be the most important factor, she said, because that is the basis of the nominating process.

Cantwell’s staff confirmed that to The Stranger’s Eli Sanders.

Sen. Patty Murray, though, is expressing no less support for Clinton today than when she endorsed her in January. Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass said that Murray was asked about her super delegate status at a meeting yesterday with The News Tribune’s editorial board. (A conversation the board does not seem to have commented on yet.)

Murray, Glass said, believes Clinton knows Washington state issues best. “That was very much the basis of her endorsement and that hasn’t changed,” she said.

Murray hopes the nomination will be decided before this summer’s national convention and “thinks there is still quite a bit of this process in front of us.”

MORE: What about superdelegate and key Clinton supporter Ron Sims? Sanders heard him on the radio today and says

Bottom line: He’s wavering.

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March 26, 2008 7:23 AM

Obama gets big bucks from state donors

Posted by David Postman

Barack Obama continues to dominate in the contest to raise money from Washington residents. As of the end of February, according to records compiled and posted by, Obama had raised $3.2 million from Washington donors.

Hillary Clinton is a distant second, reporting state donations of $1.4 million. One change in the latest numbers is that Obama now leads Clinton in every metro area tracked by opensecrets. Clinton had been doing better than Obama in Tacoma, but now she has fallen a few thousand dollars behind.

Republican John McCain continues to lag in the money race. The latest numbers show him with $553,158 in contributions from Washingtonians. That covers nearly a month of fundraising after Mitt Romney dropped out of the race. But McCain has yet to be able to catch up to the $825,580 raised here by the former Massachusetts governor.

Washington residents have donated a total of $8.2 million to presidential candidates, from
Obama’s big money to $200 donated to Everett Republican Keith Robert Sprankle. (He dropped out of the race in January.)

Washington ranks 15th among all states for total dollars donated to presidential campaigns.

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March 25, 2008 8:25 AM

Did the eco-arsonists win?

Posted by David Postman

After arson destroyed Snohomish County’s “Street of Dreams” early this month, The Seattle Times and other news organizations reported on debates over green-building standards and high density development in rural parts of the county. Those were the debates of polite society, not eco-arson. But the concerns of neighborhood groups and environmentalists were said to echo the sentiments scrawled by arsonists at the model homes.

The Times reported March 4:

Arsonists drew attention to the issue when they torched four houses in the development early Monday. They left a sign slamming "RCDs" — rural cluster developments — as anything but green.

And in a March 12 front-page story headlined, “The fight over what ‘green’ means, ” The Times said:

Even before the cork flooring and reclaimed timbers stopped smoking, the fires had reignited an already smoldering debate in a rapidly growing region struggling to find and keep its Pugetopian identity.

The search is on for a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the green consumer in the real-estate market, and the debate about what's truly green brings an answer from every corner.

The coverage focused on the environmental aspects of the model homes because of a banner allegedly left behind by the arsonists. It said:

Built Green? Nope black! McMansions in RCDs r not green. ELF

ELF are the initials of the Earth Liberation Front, a group that in the past - but not so far in this case - has claimed responsibility for arson attacks.

To see arson spur any sort of civil debate struck Todd Myers as more confirmation of the liberal bias he says stains the media’s environmental coverage. Myers is a Republican political consultant and former top aide to GOP Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland. He now oversees environmental matters for the conservative Washington Policy Center. He wrote at his WPC blog:

Today's Seattle Times has an article about the debate over what constitutes "green." The debate was sparked by the firebombing of homes in Snohomish county by ecoterrorists. The fact that such an act would lead to what some believe is a reasoned debate is truly appalling. I don't think the people who did this could have asked for a better response or better placement in the newspaper.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 24, 2008 9:35 AM

What others say

Posted by David Postman

  • Chris Mulick reports at the Tri-City Herald that Gov. Chris Gregoire’s self-imposed ban on fundraising while signing legislation does not extend to unsolicited donations.

    “If checks come in the mail, we're not going to be sending them back," said Debra Carnes, communications director for the Gregoire campaign.

  • The governor isn't being told about them, Carnes said. And information about those contributions won't be publicly available until monthly reports are due April 10 -- five days after Gregoire's deadline to have decided the fate of all 331 bills sent her way.

    "We've created our own firewall," Carnes said.

  • The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield says Dino Rossi is recruiting Republican candidates to fill the down-ballot spots this fall. Those candidates include former Snohomish Sheriff Rick Bart who will run against Congressman Rick Larsen.
  • And Bart said Thursday if losing a federal race helps Rossi win, then so be it.

    "If I can help Dino I will. If I can help the party I will. I think my candidacy will do both," he said.

  • I’ve been referring to the move toward non-partisan primaries following last weeks’ U.S. Supreme Court decision. But Krist Novoselic writes at his Seattle Weekly blog that the decision threw “partisan elections with actual grassroots participation a lifeline.” It likely headed off a citizen move for a true non-partisan primary. But, Novoselic adds:

    We must also observe that Washington has now abandoned plurality elections for a majoritarian system. This is a welcome step forward with democracy in our state.

    By the way, if you’re not familiar with the two sides of Novoselic’s life, only he could write these two consecutive paragraphs.

    I’ve just returned from a three-night stint at the House Of Blues on Sunset Boulevard. Flipper opened for Bad Religion. Revolution Mother opened the show. The shows were great, and Dale Crover and Buzzo from the Melvins joined Flipper on the last night for a rippinG version of Sacrifice.

    I also got a chance to get up to speed with election reform efforts in Los Angeles. Circumstances in LA make Ranked Choice Voting an excellent alternative to the current system.

  • In this roundup of bill action, The News Tribune’s Joe Turner says a bill sold as new oversight for the Port of Seattle is a “lame attempt to rein in the Port of Seattle.”

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March 21, 2008 12:45 PM

The Republican book club

Posted by David Postman

“There's no certainty in this mortal coil.” State GOP Chairman Luke Esser talking about his count of Republican caucus votes.

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

Hamlet, Act III, scene I

"He never would have succeeded if he hadn't had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there." Vice President Dick Cheney talking about Abraham Lincoln.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

Hamlet, Act III, scene I

(Thanks to a well-read reader.)

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March 20, 2008 1:04 PM

On the primary, gays, the Boy Scouts and a St. Paddy Day parade

Posted by David Postman

Washington’s major political parties had hoped that U.S. Supreme Court decisions allowing exclusion of gays from being scoutmasters in the Boy Scouts or marchers in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade would mean they could exclude voters from the primary who don’t pledge allegiance to either the Democrats or Republicans.

That set off a debate among justices seen in the three opinions released Tuesday when the court rejected the party’s claims and instead upheld Washington’s non-partisan, top-two primary.

Attorneys for the state Democratic and Republican parties cited in their appeal two cases relating to gays, Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., and Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, In Hurley, the Supreme Court said in a 1995 ruling that the state could not require organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to let in groups that disagree with the organizers' message. In Dale, the court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scout’s First Amendment rights were violated by a state law that required the scouts to admit a gay scoutmaster.

Washington's political parties want a more restrictive state primary then what the state traditionally had and hoped that those cases would give them the right to say who could and could not participate in the primary elections. But in a footnote in the majority’s opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the argument missed the point.

In those cases, actual association threatened to distort the groups’ intended messages. We are aware of no case in which the mere impression of association was held to place a severe burden on a group’s First Amendment rights, but we need not decide that question here.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 20, 2008 9:01 AM

Toby Nixon wants back in the House

Posted by David Postman

Former Republican state Rep. Toby Nixon has reversed an earlier decision and says he'll campaign this year to regain the House seat he gave up for an unsuccsesful Senate run in 2006. Nixon, a Microsoft manager, will run for the 45th District seat held by Democrat Roger Goodman.

Nixon lost the '06 race for an open Senate seat to Democrat Eric Oemig. Nixon is president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and led the King County initiative that will create an elected elections chief.

Nixon said he changed his mind about not running after being urged to run by Democrats and Republicans.

After watching the legislature’s failure once again to make any real progress toward solving the major problems in our state -- while continuing their relentless drive toward fiscal disaster -- I am disgusted along with the rest of the people of Washington. The incumbent had his chance and did nothing to change things. I am determined to win this election, return to Olympia, and take the lead implementing the new direction the people of the 45th District demand.

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March 19, 2008 3:05 PM

Did political parties misread court’s primary decision?

Posted by David Postman

That’s what the News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan says. At the TNT political blog, Callaghan says a careful read of yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on the top two primary doesn’t invite further court action, but outlines how to conduct the election within the Constitution.

Rather than saying they will wait to see how the law in put into practice, the justices gave the state a road map for implementing Top Two in a way that will meet their approval.

Callaghan includes the important passages from the decision that show the path to follow. Now, how carefully do you think that map will be followed?

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March 19, 2008 2:56 PM

Remember Ron Paul?

Posted by David Postman

Supporters of Texas Congressman Ron Paul out-organized the opposition to win last weekend’s presidential delegate fight at the Whatcom County Republican Party Convention. That’s a pretty good showing given that Paul didn’t win either the February caucus or primary in the county.

Supporters said they worked harder to get their backers to the convention. But Paul’s people also had superior staying power. Sam Taylor writes in the Bellingham Herald:

The convention went so long — 9 a.m. to after 11 p.m. Saturday — that Paul supporters dug in their heels, and when others began going home, they stayed and maintained a strong presence.

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March 19, 2008 10:57 AM

Court decision on primary likely not the last word

Posted by David Postman

I was sorry to not have been here yesterday for the big news of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Washington’s top-two primary. But there’s a pretty good chance the issue will be back in the courts before too long.

Here’s the court’s conclusion:

Respondents ask this Court to invalidate a popularly enacted election process that has never been carried out. Immediately after implementing regulations were enacted, respondents obtained a permanent injunction against the enforcement of I-872. The First Amendment does not require this extraordinary and precipitous nullification of the will of the people. Because I-872 does not on its face provide for the nomination of candidates or compel political parties to associate with or endorse candidates, and because there is no basis in this facial challenge for presuming that candidates' party-preference designations will confuse voters, I-872 does not on its face severely burden respondents' associational rights. We accordingly hold that I-872 is facially constitutional.

So it’s constitutional on its face, but maybe not in practice. Rick Hasen, a law professor at Loyola Law School and proprietor of the excellent Election Law Blog, says the ruling was a shocker. And he explains that if the parties can show voters couldn’t understand the new system they might still be able to throw out the top-two.

The Court, and particularly Justice Roberts, leaves open the possibility of an as-applied challenge to the law later upon proof that voters are actually confused by the designations of the candidates' party preferences on the ballot (thinking that this is really a party primary).

Continue reading this post ...

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March 19, 2008 9:51 AM

Rove coming to raise money for state GOP

Posted by David Postman

Former White House aide, and current Fox News analyst, Karl Rove will be in Newcastle next week for a state Republican Party fundraiser. For $1,000 you can participate in a roundtable discussion with Rove and get your photo taken with him.

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March 14, 2008 4:21 PM

The blog is resting

Posted by David Postman

I'll be away at least until the middle of next week. See you then.

FYI: There is a problem with comments on all Times blogs right now. We are working on it and hope it will be fixed soon.

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March 13, 2008 3:30 PM

Forget money for Sonics this year

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire says there won't be action this year on a plan to renovate Key Arena as a way to keep the Sonics in town. In an interview taped for TVW, Gregoire said that there aren't the votes to pass what a would-be, in-state ownership group says is needed for a viable team.

Gregoire said that she asked Senate Democratic and Republican leaders to do a careful vote count. Shortly after noon Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Minority Leader Mike Hewitt told the governor there were not nearly enough votes to approve the plan for $150 million in taxpayer money.

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March 13, 2008 11:47 AM

GOP lawmakers, but not Rossi, praise gov's flood work

Posted by David Postman

Cooperation between Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and Republican lawmakers from flood-ravaged Lewis County may be robbing Dino Rossi of a prime campaign issue.

Rossi has been critical of Gregoire’s plans for flood relief and prevention projects. Much of what he’s said has come during visits to Centralia, Chehalis and the surrounding areas. But as Rossi told me yesterday, he doesn’t like what he believes is Gregoire’s top-down approach to flood relief.

Are we putting together a bureaucratic model you can tout to people and get a headline from, or are we going to actually listen to the people on the ground who live it everyday?

But Republican lawmakers who live it everyday are celebrating today the passage of several pieces of flood relief legislation, including a $50 million bond authorization to build flood control projects. They say cooperation with Gregoire has been excellent through the 60-day legislative session set to end tonight.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 13, 2008 8:36 AM

Supreme Court rules against random school searches

Posted by David Postman

The state Supreme Court today said that school districts cannot conduct searches on school grounds without some suspicion of wrongdoing or a warrant.

Justice Richard Sanders wrote:

The school district asks us to adopt a "special needs" exception to the warrant requirement to allow random and suspicionless drug testing. But we do not recognize such an exception and hold warrantless random and suspicionless drug testing of student athletes violates the Washington State Constitution.

Article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution provides:

No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his
home invaded, without authority of law.

The case comes from the Wahkiakum School District which has a policy of randomly testing student atheltes for drugs. Parents of students -- who were tested -- sued the district saying the policy violated the state Constitution. The Superior Court, though, sided with the district.

It is a unanimous decision, though with three concurrences, by Barbara Madsen, Tom Chambers, and James Johnson.

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March 12, 2008 3:35 PM

The gracious lobbying community

Posted by David Postman

Some Olympia business lobbyists asked lawmakers for a $12,000 earmark to pay for rent they owe the state.

The state had failed to bill the lobbyists for their communal office space on the ground floor of the Capitol. Lobbyists said it was the state's problem and they didn't want to have to pay. At one time the debt was $24,000. Lobbyists had hoped lawmakers would pony up the rest. But it didn't fly.

"It just didn't make it," said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Maybe the lobbyists should charge admission tonight at the legislators' retirement party they are sponsoring.

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March 12, 2008 1:41 PM

What did Chopp say about the prospect of taxes?

Posted by David Postman

During the taping of TVW’s Olympia On Call yesterday, House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler was asked about the possibility of a tax increase next year. She responded by saying that a recent news story quoting House Speaker Frank Chopp acknowledging the possibility was a mischaracterization of his comments and that one reporter had gotten it wrong.

I wasn’t here at the time. But I found the story today and read a transcript of the Feb. 28 media availability with Chopp. (I also have a tape of the meeting.) The story strikes me as a fair summary of what Chopp said. But you can read the transcript yourself and see if you agree with this from Associated Press reporter Curt Woodward:

Washington's powerful House speaker has acknowledged the possibility of tax increases to balance next year's state budget, but adds that Democrats want to avoid such a step if possible.

Here’s a transcript of the key part of the meeting with reporters.

Question: What do you think the prospects are - as much as you allow yourself to have a crystal ball in front of us - for potential tax increase in the next session? I mean, the Senate even has some proposed in their budget now.

Chopp: Oh the, liquor tax surcharge or whatever it's called?

Reporter: Yeah, right.

Chopp: I don't know, we'll have to deal with that then.

I don't want to anticipate having to do that, but we've got to see how the budget unfolds and how the revenue forecasts actually come in the door.

We'd obviously rather not do that. But we've done that in the past when we've had good justification for it, and when we've needed to make investments.

I mean, part of the reason why our economy's doing better is that we've made investments in our transportation infrastructure and in other things, much more so than other states, by far.

So, we're benefiting from that. Because whenever you invest in a transportation project, you not only get the economic return of the construction, but you've got a lot better economy going throughout the private sector.

So it has this ripple effect that's very beneficial, both for the public coffers, but also for private business.

So, we have literally invested more than the vast majority of other states in these infrastructure projects - on a per capita basis, by the way - obviously there are some states that are bigger than us, obviously. But on a per capita basis, we've done quite well."

And those investments have paid off for the economy, which then generates more revenue into the state coffers, which goes to great stuff.

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March 12, 2008 9:40 AM

Real life civics lesson

Posted by David Postman

A deal has been struck on a bill that had pitted Boeing against state unions. Labor-backed House Bill 3139 would have said decisions about disputed worker benefits made by the state Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals are due on the date issued, even if the employer appeals the decision. Under current law, which Boeing and some other large employers wanted to maintain, the benefits are suspended pending the appeal.

What may be interesting to you - but I know won’t be news to Capital denizens - is that the compromise bill agreed to by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators was actually negotiated and written by representatives of labor and Boeing. This e-mail from staff of the Senate Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee went out yesterday to members of the House and Senate labor committees. It makes clear what is a common practice in Olympia - lobbyists doing the work our civics books say is done by lawmakers and their staff.

Hello all -

House and Senate Joint rules require that a conference meeting be scheduled and notice of the meeting be posted. The rules also require that a conference committee report be available for 24 hours prior to consideration.

Attached is suggested language for the conference report on 3139 as developed by Greg Pierce (representing Boeing) and Jeff Johnson and Owen Linch (both representing labor); and a side-by-side showing the differences between the report and the bill as it passed the House and Senate.

At this point, we need to put together a place and a time for a conference meeting. Please review the attached language. If the language is acceptable to everybody, the meeting shouldn’t take long, and I suggest the meeting happen sometime this afternoon.

Please share any concerns and suggested meeting times.

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March 12, 2008 8:00 AM

The media and Spitzer

Posted by David Postman

In the Wall Street Journal today, Kimberly Strassel writes about what she calls the media enablers of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

The former New York attorney general never believed normal rules applied to him, and his view was validated time and again by an adoring press. "You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you don't get caught," said Mr. Spitzer two years ago. He never did get caught, because most reporters were his accomplices.

She has some good examples of how Spitzer was able to use the press for what appeared to be personal vendettas. It's worth a read this morning.

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March 11, 2008 4:52 PM

Rep. Helen Sommers to retire

Posted by David Postman

House Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers, D-Seattle, will retire this year after 36 years in the Legislature. It has been rumored for months that this would be Sommers' last session. But until today she would only say a decision would come after the Legislature adjourns.

But with an invitation out today for a retirement party with Sommers' name atop a list of eight retiring members, she has confirmed that she won't run again.

Other House members who retiring are Bill Eickmeyer, D-Belfair, Bill Fromhold, D-Vancouver, Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, Jim McIntire, D-Seattle, Lynn Schindler, R-Spokane Valley, and Bob Sump, R-Republic.

The Wednesday retirement party, according to the invitation, is "Graciously sponsored by the lobbyist community."

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March 10, 2008 4:16 PM

In lean budget year, newspapers look for tax cut

Posted by David Postman

Washington newspapers are looking for a $1 million tax break this year - a tax break that’d be worth nearly $3 million to the industry in the next full, two-year budget. The bill to cut taxes on money made from online ad sales passed the House 85-5 and awaits a vote in the Senate.

House Bill 2585, sponsored by Rep. (and treasurer candidate) Jim McIntire, D-Seattle, would change the definition of a newspaper to include online publication. That would mean newspapers would pay the Business and Occupation tax rate of 0.484 percent for printing and publishing rather than the 1.5 percent rate charged on income made from other services. The existing tax scheme - with the existing tax break on ad sales - became law before newspapers were published online as well as on paper.

For the coming year, the tax cut would mean a loss of $946,000 in state revenue, according to legislative committee estimates, and $2.7 million for the next two-year budget. The bill was amended by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to sunset after three years.

The Department of Revenue is “concerned” about the bill. That’s a semi-official term meaning they haven’t taken a position for or against it. But the Department doesn’t sound too supportive based on this description of the concerns.

Allied Daily Newspapers, the newspaper lobbying group, has been making the case for the tax cut. Meanwhile, newspaper editorial boards have been urging lawmakers to save money this year to prepare for lean budget times ahead.

The Times said the state could set aside $1 billion-plus and that lawmakers should cut spending until they have reached that goal.” And the P-I, which is in a joint operating agreement with The Times, has said lawmakers have to prepare for hard choices, “even if that means holding back on some of the new spending being discussed ..."

Of course, if this $1 million tax break is necessary to get my expense account paid, this item was posted without my knowledge, I’m on vacation, I was quoted out of context, bloggers aren’t real journalists anyhow, and this post will self-destruct in five seconds.

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March 10, 2008 2:07 PM

Senators debate the issues of the day

Posted by David Postman

As the case with most of the political world this afternoon, state senators are talking about the allegations surrounding NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer. This e-mail went to all members of the Senate from Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland:

From: Delvin, Sen. Jerome Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 1:27 PM To: @SDC Members; @SRC Members Subject: NY Gov and prostitution ring

Can not say " the Republicans are always falling from grace." One party is no better than the other.

And this response came minutes later from Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island.

From: Weinstein, Sen. Brian Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 1:32 PM To: Delvin, Sen. Jerome; @SDC Members; @SRC Members Subject: RE: NY Gov and prostitution ring

At least he is not a closet homosexual hypocrite that bashes gays like the Republicans who usually get caught up in these scandals.

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March 10, 2008 1:18 PM

Liberal bloggers unhappy with Demo speaker

Posted by David Postman

I have done little reporting on this year’s legislative session. The presidential primary season kept my attention focused elsewhere. But with the Legislature set to adjourn Thursday, I figure it's now or never.

In one respect I see little has changed since in the nearly year since the 2007 Legislature adjourned. A homeowner’s bill of rights is apparently dead in the House - just as dead as it was last year.

This is a bill pushed by Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, and opposed by homebuilders and, it seems, by House Speaker Frank Chopp. Chopp at least doesn’t think it’s yet time to pass the bill that would allow buyers of new homes to sue for defects.

I’m not shocked by this. Last year Chopp only gave the slightest indication that something might happen this year.

"I'm suggesting we work through the interim" and come back in the next session or two with a bill that could be passed unanimously, he said.

It will be “or two” at least. And that has liberal Democrats ticked off at Chopp. The primary rouser of the rabble has been The Stranger’s Josh Feit. His coverage of this year’s session has regularly looked at what Chopp was doing or not doing with left-leaning bills. And last week Feit headlined a post on the Weinstein bill this way:

Oly Inaction: Chopp is Stalling Again

But no one has written more words about the bill than Andrew Villeneuve at the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog Version 3.8. He says “it pains us to have to do this. We don't enjoy criticizing or admonishing Democrats in public - at all.”

I can vouch for that. Villeneuve uses his blog more to cheer Democrats on than to beat them into submission. A lot of the left’s unhappiness with Chopp on this bill is that the prime opponent is the Building Industry Association of Washington, a major conservative political force in the state. Villeneuve writes:

They're not interested in a meaningful exchange of ideas or the common good. They are greedy, they are selfish, and they give no quarter. Their meanness knows no bounds.

They abhor progressive values and despise Democrats. They are against the American way. They don't care about democratic tradition or the rule of law.

He says he’s tired of Chopp’s excuses and stalling.

He has a series of stories from unhappy homeowners. And he says lack of action on the homeowner’s bill of rights is “an outrage and a slap in the face to the thousands of Washington families who have suffered, lost their health, their ability to put their children through college, and their life's savings because of serious defects with their homes.”

David Goldstein at has also weighed in, saying Chopp is overly concerned about the BIAW.

Now, I don’t know if Chopp is simply afraid of the BIAW, or if he’s worked out some kind of a deal with them in which he’s promised not to pass the bill, but that’s the only reasonable explanation for Chopp’s intransigence on a bill that merely gives buyers of single family homes the same rights condo owners have enjoyed since 1990.

Goldstein asks the central question about Chopp’s leadership of the Democratic majority:

when he’s so clearly caving to the BIAW on such an uncontroversial scrap of necessary consumer protection, one has to wonder if Chopp’s focus on building a majority is getting in the way of his willingness to use it?

I'm not sure why supporters of this bill focus only on Chopp. If stopping the bill is such a violation of Democratic principles - because it is good policy and good politics apparently - why aren't members of the House majority speaking out? It's not just members of the Rules Committee who decide these things. If the Speaker really is acting against the interests of the majority, the majority has the right to challenge the decision. If you have enough votes you can force a vote on any bill. While some have said they are unhappy there is a hold on the homeowner's warranty, I have yet to hear any Democratic member say that Chopp is abusing his power or is not acting in the best interest of his caucus.

It’s not just the bloggers who pin the blame on Chopp. KOMO TV’s Keith Eldridge made the same thing clear in a “Problem Solvers” report he did on the bill. Eldridge tried to talk to Chopp “but the Speaker would not come out of his office for comment.” He had to settle for some slo-mo video of Chopp walking by.

The bill is SB 6385. Last year, opponents said that there needed to be a “a study bill to work out the problems,” according to the House committee report on the bill. “There needs to be a worked out approach everyone can agree to such as the condo act which took four years to negotiate.”

The same message came in testimony this year. The summary of opponents’ arguments said:

This type of major policy change shouldn't be rushed through on such short notice with little time to examine its impact. You need to evaluate the information that is out there to determine what the problem is and how it should be addressed.

Here are the people and organizations shown as opposing the bill:

Kevin Coker, American Institute of Building Design; Amy Brackenbury and Shelli Lucus-Kennedy, Building Industry Association of Washington; Daimon Doyle; Cliff Webster, Architects and Engineers Legislative Council; Mel Sorensen, Washington Defense Trial Lawyers; and Stan Bowman, American Institute of Architects of Washington Council.

UPDATE: Feit posted more today about Chopp and bills that have died in the House. And he linked to a story he wrote last year. In reminiscing about last year’s story, Feit makes the point for me that Chopp shouldn’t bear all the brunt of unhappy liberals.

When this ran last year, Chopp was super pissed, and his sycophantic colleagues, who were more than happy to criticize him off the record, cheered him in caucus when he ridiculed the story.

Here’s what I said last year and what still holds true today:

The House speaker — as the case with any speaker — is only as powerful as his members allow him to be. To portray Chopp as a dictator excuses the 61 other members of the Democratic caucus from any responsibility. And frankly that's part of what Chopp wants to do — shield members from criticism to help them get re-elected.

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March 5, 2008 2:37 PM

Away from the blog

Posted by David Postman

I am going to take a few days off. I expect to be back Monday.

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March 5, 2008 6:47 AM

Huck-reflections from East Texas

Posted by David Postman

This post is from UW's SeattlePoliticore blogger Will Mari.

He took the bad news rather well.

Stanley Smith, 70, of Center, Texas, a small town some 17 miles from the Louisiana border, has been a committed fan of former Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee.

But after hearing that Huckabee conceded the nomination to Sen. John McCain, Smith, a retired dentist from Pennsylvania, was circumspect.

“I think all things considered, he did very well,” Smith said. “He started as an unknown and got really far.”

Continue reading this post ...

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March 4, 2008 11:17 AM

S.F. mayor in Texas backs Clinton, "disappointed" in Obama

Posted by David Postman

This report is by Mehgan Sellers, a University of Washington student who, along with other members of professor David Domke's blogging class, is filing reports from Texas on today's key primary there.

HOUSTON-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told me on Saturday that Clinton has “been at [GLBT] issues a lot longer.”

Talking with the mayor for ten minutes before his appearance at the Stonewall Democrats rally for Clinton that day, he said, “I got to tell you I was very disappointed when Barack Obama said he didn’t see any difference between civil union and marriage…To me it was very hurtful particularly coming from someone in the African American community who understands separate is not equal.”

The mayor continued, “It only just reinforced my own experiences on these issues.”

Continue reading this post ...

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March 4, 2008 11:03 AM

McCain in the "Heart O' Texas"

Posted by David Postman

This post is from Liz Burlingame, Charles Cadwallader, Cailin Magruder and Will Mari. They are students of UW professor David Domke's blogging class and are filing reguar reports from Texas on today's key primary there. You can see more of their reports at

WACO - Free trade, Iraq, immigration, social security and the economy; all things that Arizona Senator John McCain talked about at his town hall meeting in Waco, Texas last night.

After introducing his wife Cindy McCain as well as former Texas Senator, Phil Gramm; McCain gave the speech that campaign volunteers said he has been giving for over a year.

The audience pulled no punches in asking tough questions on the issues that they wanted to hear. Veterans, university students and ten-gallon hat toting Texans came in out of a blustery and cold Waco evening to sit and stand in a long, hanger-like building where normally you would see a petting zoo.

It was a proverbial political 4-H, with McCain as the exhibit being judged.

“He stayed on his toes” said Brandon Bellows, graduate student in political science at Baylor University, “those were not easy questions.” And while he doesn’t agree with McCain on everything, he appreciates his moderate stances on the issues.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 3, 2008 12:02 PM

Visit to campaign headquarters reveals Texas strategies

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Liz Burlingame, a University of Washington student who, along with other members of professor David Domke's blogging class, is filing reports from Texas in advance of Tuesday key primary election there. Go here to see other dispatches from the class.

“Look at this place…” University of Washington student Devon Hampton said, as he entered the backroom bar area of Historic Victory Grill in downtown Austin, Texas. Through the diffused blue lighting, we could see the walls were covered with yellowed photos of African American singers and songwriters. The room was empty except for a few worn tables and chairs.

The sign outside said, “Austin’s first home of the blues.”

Hampton was here searching for a man named Clifford Gillard, a Barack Obama supporter who needed volunteer help for the evenings’ Early Vote Party. “Have you guys seen Clifford?” Hampton asked two older men as we returned outside.

They hadn’t, but they directed us to Obama headquarters only a few blocks away. The location was virtually indiscernible from the rest of the community (aside from the Spanish-English Obama posters and blue and red streamers on the outside). This small operation was nestled in between residential homes and a nearby liquor store.

Inside, we saw a wave of activity. Volunteers were practically working on top of each other, in this confined space, compiling polling locations and taking calls. One man squeezed by us in the hallway, carrying a large stack of lawn signs that would be sold at the night’s event.

Continue reading this post ...

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March 2, 2008 1:45 PM

A response from Portsmouth, Ohio

Posted by David Postman

I got an e-mail from someone in Portsmouth commenting on my post about the little town on the Ohio River.

The portrayal of our city is not necessarily off, but political races, gas prices, and a brief visit by a former president are just ripples compared to the waves of volunteer hours, financial sacrifice, and fresh vision that is being invested by the citizens of this community who are determined to make this a better place to live, work, and play. While the campaigns roll on, our sleeves roll up! As president of the Main Street Portsmouth board of directors I am proud of the potential that lies, hidden to most eyes, smoldering like an ember waiting for breath. Hopefully you will visit our town in the next few years, asking a clerk in a convenience store to ensure you are in the correct place. Thanks

Craig DeAtley
General Manager
DeAtley's Greenhouse

Portsmouth was my favorite stop on my Ohio tour. I could have spent hours just sitting in the music store. I made a point of going back through on my way back from Hanging Rock. It was my second visit to the Ohio River Valley. I was on the Kentucky side a few years back. I hope I get the chance to go again some day and see what's happening there.

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March 2, 2008 1:42 PM

What's happening in Texas

Posted by David Postman

The UW students at are hard at work in Texas. You can catch up with what they've done here.

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March 1, 2008 3:13 PM

How I burnt my shoe and met Rudy

Posted by Richard Wagoner

This post is by Will Mari, a University of Washington student who, along with other members of professor David Domke's blogging class, is filing reports from Texas in advance of Tuesday key primary election there. Go here to see other dispatches from the class.

AUSTIN- It’s about 9 p.m. on a Friday night in East Austin. Rudy Malveaux, a community organizer and volunteer for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign, is busy grilling burgers.

I smell burnt rubber.

“That’s rather odd,” I thought. I’m talking to Malveaux about the Obama neighborhood block party that’s just now wrapping up. The buzz of street lights and crickets blend together in the humid air.

I look down, and note calmly that my right shoe is on fire. To be more accurate, the corner of the rubber sole is melting on a piece of stray charcoal. I stamp it out, and get back to listening.

What Malveaux is talking about is too important to ignore, burning shoe or no.

“What we’re talking about is the realization of the dreams people died for,” he says.

I finish putting out my shoe-fire, and look up. He’s got my attention. I ask him to clarify.

“We’re talking about a black man running for president and winning in a state that has so much history, I don’t know what to do with it,” he added.

That “history” is a history of racism and urban poverty in East Austin. Jim Crow didn’t die easily in this part of the South, Malveaux said, and that legacy of racism combined with poverty made for a painful combination.

It wasn’t long ago, Malveaux said, that his community was regarded as one of the roughest parts of town, with a reputation for drug-dealing and violence.

For the past several years, the at-times controversial Austin Revitalization Authority has been working to restore East Austin through community development projects.

But an Austin American-Statesman story from July 2003 on the ARA’s initial efforts in the area included this piece of criticism:

Some see the ARA as straying from its purpose, arguing that small businesses won't be able to stay when the ARA is done with the place.

"ARA was created to fulfill the initiative of transforming the 11th and 12th street corridor into a business zone with African American businesses supported by government funding," said Akwasi Evans, publisher and editor of the Nokoa newspaper, which operates out of a tiny office on Angelina Street. "Now 11th and 12th streets are being transformed into a business corridor for white-owned businesses."

Evans is not the first to charge that the ARA has become a vehicle for the "G" word: gentrification. The high-end office space, the town homes that will run in the $230,000s . . . Are they the best projects to help the small and minority-owned businesses and East Austin residents?

Still, the efforts have brought people of sometimes vastly different backgrounds together, despite the gentrification, or aging, of the local population as younger people move to cheaper areas in Travis County, Malveaux said.

But another force is at work to heal some of the still very raw racial tensions in this mostly minority community: the enthusiasm for Barack Obama that’s transcending old boundaries.

“Folks who never talk to each other are now shopping together, their kids are playing together,” he said. “We’re starting to realize that we’re in this together.”

He sees this election as an opportunity to change the way Texans vote.

“In a sense, Texas is responsible for Bush … what we’re doing is fixing the eight-year screw-up that’s GWB,” he said.

He admits that Texas Democrats, especially in Austin, still have a ways to go in terms of getting themselves organized for a post-presidential season.

“We’re a work in progress,” Malveaux said. But “we find that have more in common that we thought,” starting with Obama. Malveaux and others see Obama as a sort of living metaphor for what America can be, a racial uniter in the truest sense.

“It’s bringing people together like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

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Recent entries

Mar 31, 08 - 04:31 PM
Governor gives newspapers a break

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