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Postman on Politics

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

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July 9, 2008 1:28 PM

Gregoire releases tax returns, but nothing from Rossi

Posted by David Postman

Gov. Chris Gregoire released three years of her family’s federal income tax returns today. The Gregoires’ total income has gone up from $162,290$129,073 in 2005, the governor’s first year in office, to $180,179 last year.

I’m not an accountant - boy, am I not an accountant - but there doesn’t look to be anything too fascinating in the returns. The family paid more than $32,000 $29,000 in total taxes on the 2007 income and made $9,260 in charitable gifts and donations.

In the three years I see only a one-time $10 capital loss.

Why ask the governor for the tax returns and write so little about what’s in there? We ask because we want to collect as much information as possible about candidates for governor.

Republican Dino Rossi has rejected requests to release his tax returns. This is what happened in 2004 as well; Gregoire released hers, Rossi didn’t.

The Rossi campaign says that the candidate has complied with all disclosure laws and filed a personal financial disclosure form this year with the Public Disclosure Commission. Spokeswoman Jill Strait said the candidate "will not release any more personal financial information."

There's no question that releasing tax returns is over and above what’s required by law. And a tax return from a career state employee and office-holder - whose salary is already public information - is likely to be less interesting than one from a businessman and real estate investor.

Those PDC forms, though, leave a lot to the imagination. Office holders, candidates and some appointed officials are required to file the reports. But income and investment numbers are reported only within ranges:

A -- $1 to $2,999 B -- $3,000 to $14,999 C -- $15,000 to $29,999 D -- $30,000 to $74,999 E -- $75,000 or more

Rossi’s filing shows three sources of income that qualify as an “E”: book sales, his salary from the non-profit Forward Washington, and apartment income. He has one “D,” rental income from a medical building.

But those “E” incomes could be - as we know, from other sources, about the non-profit salary - just about $75,000. Or they could up to any amount you could imagine. Or at least up to $1 billion, which would put him on Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world.

If you are a candidate with little wealth, the public will know about your finances with more specificity than if you are well-off. And if you’re super rich, you can pretty much keep that to yourself.

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July 9, 2008 10:48 AM

Another political scribe leaves the biz

Posted by David Postman

The Columbian’s Gregg Herrington has taken early retirement from the paper. He sent an e-mail to friends and colleagues this morning explaining why he was leaving after almost 33 years as the political brain of southwest Washington.

The paper had a mild round of layoffs in late winter, but now more serious cutbacks are upon us, in both personnel and the number of pages and sections in the newspaper itself. My own area, the "Opinion' pages, will drop from two pages a day to one, beginning Wednesday, July 9. The number of staff-written editorials (I have been one of two editorial writers) is dropping from two a day to one. The handwriting was on the wall for me, so I accepted an "early retirement incentive" that was offered to the most senior employees. I will work through mid-August. Others are being laid off this week. Naturally I am sad about leaving The Columbian under these circumstances. It certainly isn't the way I figured I'd depart. Moreover, I'm sad for The Columbian and newspapers in general and for the country, whose citizens are increasingly content to get their information from openly biased sources in talk radio, cable TV, narrowly focused Internet pages and blogs -- or from nowhere at all.

Herrington is looking for his next job. I know how hard it is for a veteran journalist to leave the trade. As an acquaintance told me, “Journalists always think that’s who they are, but it’s just what they do.”

Enough veteran political reporters have left their jobs recently that it qualifies as a trend. The AP’s Dave Ammons went to work for Secretary of State Sam Reed; KING 5’s Robert Mak to Mayor Greg Nickels’ staff; The Herald’s longtime Everett political reporter Jim Haley retired; the P-I”s Neil Modie retired earlier this year and The Stranger's Josh Feit gave up his job to do something new.

I read about Herrington long before I ever met him. He makes a cameo in The Boys on the Bus, the best campaign trail book ever written. That made Herrington a bit of a celebrity in my eyes when I was told he was the same Gregg as the "young AP backup man" mentioned by Timothy Crouse. (The book is largely responsible for me getting into this business, but I don't blame Crouse, or Herrington for that.)

Herrington told his friends today:

I eagerly await the Second Coming of American newsrooms such as The Columbian's where dedicated and professional news reporters and editors trying their damnedest to present the news straight transition increasingly to the Web.

Hey Gregg, let me know when you see that coming.

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July 9, 2008 9:41 AM

Another (losing) case against McDermott's re-election

Posted by David Postman

I’ve been reading about the liberal case against Jim McDermott for years. Many have said Seattle’s congressman is out of touch, worries more about foreign trips than local pork and even when he’s on the right side of an issue, can hurt the cause with his sometimes controversial statements.
But voters in the 7th District return him to office by consistently huge victory margins. I believe Seattle voters know McDermott’s record, as well as his shortcomings, and must believe he is doing just what they want him to. I have no polling to back this up. But I’d be surprised to find that many 7th District voters are unhappy that their congressman spends so much time worrying about, for example, health care in Africa.

Today comes yet another argument against McDermott. This time it’s at Crosscut, where former reporter, former Democratic staffer - now Group Healther - Don Glickstein covers some familiar territory. He writes about the war, McDermott’s travels and his legal troubles. He does so, though, with a level of detail and a thoroughness usually missing from more strident rants against McDermott.

But Glickstein also pokes at McDermott’s financial holdings. As he writes,

… McDermott doesn't let his progressive ideals interfere with his investments.

This was news to me. Its’ the piece of Glickstein’s story that I bet could rile McDermott’s voters.

The man who opposed the Medicare prescription drug program because he felt it "was set up to maximize profits for the pharmaceutical and HMO companies" owned more than $52,000 of Pfizer, Merck, and other pharmaceutical company stock at the start of 2007.

McDermott talks the language of addressing global warming. "A prime challenge facing our nation is the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and oil," he notes on his Web site. Yet he owned shares valued at more than $40,000 in Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal mining company and the target of at least two environmental campaigns.

This issue, in the hands of a capable campaigner, could possibly keep McDermott’s re-election numbers down to the low 70s.

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Recent entries

Jul 9, 08 - 01:28 PM
Gregoire releases tax returns, but nothing from Rossi

Jul 9, 08 - 10:48 AM
Another political scribe leaves the biz

Jul 9, 08 - 09:41 AM
Another (losing) case against McDermott's re-election

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