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Postman on Politics

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

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June 25, 2008 10:36 AM

More than $1 million in union-funded PAC

Posted by David Postman

A new, largely union-funded, PAC has raised more than $1 million over the past six weeks. It’s still not clear exactly how Evergreen Progress will spend the money. But it’s looking more likely the political action committee will soon be weighing in on the governor’s race on behalf of incumbent Democrat Chris Gregoire.

Evergreen Progress has collected money from 14 labor unions and labor PACs, including the Service Employees International Union, which gave $495,000. The Democratic Governor’s Association gave $250,000.

The donors, most of whom have also donated heavily to Gregoire’s campaign, consistently referred questions to campaign manager Rick Desimone. Last week he wouldn’t say much about how the money would be spent. But today, echoing a bit of Gregoire’s campaign theme, he told me via e-mail:

In the future, Evergreen Progress will focus on the facts and do our best to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to consider them as they make up their own minds about the direction they want the state to go in. Governor Gregoire and Dino Rossi both have records and both have positions on important issues that are informed by that record. For months we’ve heard and read a lot about what some people think about Governor Gregoire’s record - it’s been pretty hard hitting. I’m pretty sure the folks advancing this line of argument feel justified in their work. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander - the truth will get out - and I hope we’re part of it.

As Evergreen Progress got organized and quietly raised $1.06 million, Gregoire, the Democratic party and their allies have been bemoaning independent expenditures spent on behalf of Rossi. The ads were paid for by It’s Time for a Change, a PAC controlled by the Building Industry Association of Washington. MOney also came from other business and individual donors who also have donated directly to the Rossi campaign.

The radio ads criticize Gregoire’s performance on transportation, public safety and aid to foster children. The governor’s campaign has complained the ads mischaracterize her record.

The Change ads have become central to Gregoire’s fundraising this month. Monday, a post under her name appeared on the popular national blog DailyKos. It draws a connection between negative ads the governor said are certain to be used against presidential candidate Barack Obama, and her own struggle against the BIAW effort. She wrote that the ads “challenge my integrity as a governor and a mother.”

To help fight these attacks, we launched to help grassroots and the netroots learn the truth about my record so they can spread the word.

Every state has a group like the BIAW, and citizen journalists, like you, play an important role in debunking their myths. I’m glad to have your support.

A prominent feature of the page is a donation button.

Campaign manager Kelly Evans also sent an e-mail to supporters making a similar pitch:

It’s clear that our Republican opponent and his friends will say and do anything to bring the failed policies of the Bush Administration to our state.

Please make a contribution to send a message that we deserve better than the dirty politics of George Bush Republicans.

We’ll soon see whether Evergreen Progress will respond in kind. This first engagement of independent groups will be a telling moment in the rematch between Rossi and Gregoire. Gregoire supporters and opponents agreed that four years ago she ended up in a dead heat with Rossi in part because her campaign had not hit him hard enough and early enough.

There was a valuable comparison that year because Democratic Sen. Patty Murray easily held off a challenge by Republican Congressman George Nethercutt. Murray was much more aggressive in her advertising campaign against Nethercutt. I wrote about that at the time:

Her ads talked about Nethercutt's anti-abortion stance and showed pictures of women under arrest and claimed "George Nethercutt — just too extreme for Washington."

A close Rossi advisor, J. VanderStoep, told me four years ago that the substance of the attacks on his candidate were similar to what Nethercutt faced. But, he said, “stylistically it wasn't the same." Rossi’s polls at the end of the campaign showed just 20 percent of voters identified the Republican as "very conservative."

As former Democratic Party chairman Paul Berendt said earlier this year:

"I don't think it's a mistake that they are going to make again.”

Desimone may be able to help. The choice of him to manage a PAC funded by Gregoire allies certainly makes sense if one is looking for an aggressive independent campaign. Desimone was Murray’s chief of staff in 2004 and an influential player in the senior senator’s rise in the state and in D.C.

Desimone said that in’04 Murray and Nethercutt had a “spirited debate about what kind of leaders they would each make.” I think that debate had a pretty sharp edge to it. Desimone told me:

One of the things that we worked on in 2004 was to make sure the voters understood the choice between Patty Murray and George Nethercutt. Part of what gives voters clues as to what kind of job a candidate will do in office is the record they have - the priorities they’ve advanced, the choices they’ve made, and the judgment they show. I’ll let others apply the adjectives for now - what we were focused on in 2004 is making sure the facts were out there.

I'm sure there are plenty of adjectives to come. Stay tuned.

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