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Postman on Politics

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

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August 7, 2008 8:58 PM

Rossi talks up his Native roots

Posted by David Postman

Dino Rossi’s campaign issued a press release yesterday about Gov. Chris Gregoire’s charge that a TV ad attacking her gambling agreement with Native American tribes is racist. The release includes a bit of ethnic political positioning.

“Dino Rossi is part Tlingit Alaskan Native and he has made clear that the issue isn’t about the tribes, who should be expected to negotiate the best deal possible,” said Jill Strait, Rossi spokesperson.

Rossi’s mother was Alaskan Native. He mentions those roots in his campaign, but in this case it is being used to help draw a distinction between allegations of wrongdoing in the negotiation of the gaming compacts and what Gregoire says is racism aimed at those tribal members.

Here’s the ad in question. It is not a Rossi campaign ad, but from It's Time for a Change PAC, which the BIAW controls. I watched the ad when it came out and it didn’t strike me as racist. It makes the old lady who stars in it look sort of goofy. And Republicans have made essentially the same charges about Gregoire and the tribes as they have about Gregoire and the labor unions. Watch this for yourself.

Rossi hasn’t made much of his Native heritage. But he said recently that if elected he’d be the nation’s first Native American governor. (There have been Hawaiian Natives elected governor of that state.) It’ll be interesting if that becomes a bigger part of his campaign. Rossi is already trying to model his campaign after Democrat Barack Obama’s message of change, so why not add an historic first to the effort as well.

Rossi's comments came at a pow wow held by the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. He appeared at the annual event a few weeks back and opened by saying hello in Tlingit. He talked about his mother, and about working for Bernie Whitebear who, he said, “kept a lot of us Native kids alive” by providing food and jobs.

Rossi, according to a tape of the event, also made several references to the “tenaciousness of the Tlingit tribe.”

And, yes, that’s true I will be the first ... governor in American history ... that’s Native American.

Until now I haven't heard Rossi raise his heritage while talking about the gaming compacts.

The Rossi press release said that the issue at hand isn’t race.

The issue is whether there were illegal or unethical discussions surrounding the compacts.

But there seems to be different messages coming from Republicans on the issue. State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser told me last week:

I have never claimed it was illegal for Christine Gregoire to negotiate something that would give nothing to the state and everything to the tribes.

It’s damning with faint praise, and designed as a dig. But Esser says he alleges Gregoire was incompetent maybe, but not that she did anything illegal.

And that echoes what was said recently by Esser’s old boss, Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.

“It was a negotiation," McKenna said. "It was conducted strictly in the framework of state and federal law and it produced a compact which was adopted strictly within the requirements of the framework of state and federal law. Period. And if anyone ever questions the process I would be happy to tell them that, to the letter, we believe the law was scrupulously followed."

That doesn't mean McKenna liked the policy behind Gregoire's negotiations. His comments don't seem to leave much room for the possibility of illegal activity. But maybe the Republican AG and the chairman of the Republican Party just aren't being tough enough on Gregoire for Rossi's tastes.

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Posted by K.T. Hilton

9:30 PM, Aug 07, 2008

Rossi"s an opportunist. Oh yea, and he's no Barack Obama. The only change he would bring to Washington State Governor's office would be disarray.

Posted by Katza

10:21 PM, Aug 07, 2008

Is Rossi a real Indian or just the tear drop variety. Has he ever been active with a tribe, lived on the rez, danced at a pow wow, or does he have any traditional regalia? Have Sherman Alexie interview Rossi about being Indian.

Posted by Ryan

10:30 PM, Aug 07, 2008

If Rossi was mobbed up, he could indeed be an Indian Outlaw.

Posted by steve

10:46 PM, Aug 07, 2008

Dino Rossi claiming that he's Native American is rich. This guy continues to be as phony as a $3 bill.

And it's obvious that Dave Postman and the rest of the Seattle Times want to hop in the sack with Dino. Postman is such a right-wing suck-up.

Posted by Roberta

11:07 PM, Aug 07, 2008

Ladies please, your mascara is running.

Posted by jk

11:12 PM, Aug 07, 2008

This is all so stupid. Rossi never criticized the Native Americans, he criticized Gregoire who either cannot negotiate her way out of a paper sack or she had other motives to allowing the tribes to keep all of their gaming revenues. Sure, she broke no laws but come on, we are the ONLY state in the union that does not require revenue sharing on gaming revenues! Think about that when all of the union members (who she basically bought off as well) do not get their raises over the next few years because WE ARE BROKE!!! Think people!! When candidates have no way of winning an argument, they will do anything to distract from the issue at hand.

Posted by AD

11:16 PM, Aug 07, 2008

Well, being a Native American isn't the same as joining the Rotary. Going to powwows is not required. His mom was a Native American, so he's part Native American. End of story.

But it all goes back to what, exactly, Gregoire found racist about that ad? She said it was racist and disgusting, but no reporter thought to follow up with, "um, what, specifically, did you find racist about the ad?" I mean, what do these reporters get paid to do? Transcribe speeches? We can hire court reporters to do that. :)

There's nothing racist about the ad. Gregoire is just upset that she's getting called out for being a corrupt, wasteful politician.

Posted by JimD

6:22 AM, Aug 08, 2008

I'm not sure the ad is "racist" per se.
But it certainly appeals to those who think Indians, by virture of their racial distinction, are taking advantage of non-Indians.
And that viewpoint is common to anti-Indian racism.

Posted by HandyAndy

7:01 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Typical judgementalism.

KT Hilton 'he's no Barack Obama'? What's so special about Obama, anyway? Apparently you believe the hype of the media and Obama's speech writers.

Katza 'Is he a real Indian'? What exactly gives you (or Alexie) the right to determine what a 'real Indian' is? Everyone is real, and free. Lose your assumptions and judgements. The people who think they're most open are often the most closed minded and categorical. Think about it.

Steve 'phony as a $3 bill'? That's quite an assumption, and highly simplistic. Something about Gregoire smacks of authenticity to you? Think about how you came to that assumption. Does it have anything to do with 1) The media, 2) your assumption that yours is the only Truth, and that other viewpoints and positions are dangerous?

JimD: that's quite a leap and association you're making. The ad 'appeals to those who think non-Indians are taking from Indians, and it is common to those who are anti-Indian racists'? I bet deep down you know that's spurious.

We are the largest state that has a compact of this type, where none of the money flows to improve infrastructure and other investments for the broader good of the State. Like many who jump to conclusions, turning to the 'race card' must be instinctive to you.

Please people, think about why you feel the way you do. If you remove media and your own bias and prejudice, it's liberating to think about issues in a fresh, objective light.

Posted by jan

7:07 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Rossi needs to find something to talk up because his campaign appears to be sinking fast.

Meanwhile Gregoire is gaining in every county.

Most people dismiss this back and forth as political nonsense.

The next two weeks are going to be interesting because campaigns will be tracking every day. If somebody is getting desperate, expect the dirt balls to fly.

So far,it looks like Rossi and company are doing everything they can to bail out a sinking ship.

Posted by JimD

7:49 AM, Aug 08, 2008

"...JimD: that's quite a leap and association you're making. The ad 'appeals to those who think non-Indians are taking from Indians, and it is common to those who are anti-Indian racists'? I bet deep down you know that's spurious. ..."

No, I actually DO think a component of anti-Indian racism is the desire to eliminate the special status provided recognized tribes in treaty law.
Do you honestly think an ad depicting a little old white lady being ripped-off by tribal slot machines doesn't appeal to that racial sentiment?
What's even more telling is how the ad's makers excuse the racial overtones by pointing to the Rossi/Sopranos ad, saying in effect - your ad is more racist than our ad!
I'd say its a draw.
And although the dem's ad never made it to television the way the Rossi ad did, shame on both camps for attempting to capitalize on racial prejudices and resentments.

Posted by YIKES

8:09 AM, Aug 08, 2008

JimD--
I'm still waiting for your explanation of how Gregoire's Tribal Gaming Pact benefited the citizens of Washington State.
How did it benefit you or I???

Posted by HandyAndy

8:13 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Would it have made more sense to have an American Indian man being ripped off by the slot machine, or a black man, a black woman, a young white woman?

What ethnicity or nationality would have been a 'neutral' choice for the ad that wouldn't have aroused your suspicion?

Anyway, I think we can both think of truly racist ads, such as the one in Tennessee that victimized Harold Ford in his race recently. Calling the Rossi ad racist, in my opinion, is extremely oversensitive at best, and wrong at worst.

My stance is to not be sensitive and instead consider facts.

It's true that Gregoire made a massive haul from the Tribes, and that Washington is one of the only states without a revenue sharing agreement for gambling taxes. At the very least, the funds could be used to alleviate infrastructure demands caused by the casinos.

Posted by Roberta

9:02 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Jan:
Your mixed up as she is. Your view is correct except you have the names reversed.Jimd, suffers from that to.

Posted by jk

9:16 AM, Aug 08, 2008

JimD and Jan are just like all the other Gregoire kool aid drinkers. You never hear any specifics, just attacks on Rossi. No ideas on fixing our horrible traffic, broken schools, horrific budget deficit, nothing but attacks! They make random accusations with no evidence to back up them up. Come on guys, think for yourselves! How has Gregoire improved our state?

Posted by Raven

9:31 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Yikes - I'm Native American and a citizen of Washington State. The pact benefitted me....and my people. Ipso facto, it benefitted "citizens of Washington State."
If that isn't enough for you, I'll state the obvious. We all pay taxes of one kind or another. I believe that benefits the general population, does it not?

Posted by YIKES

9:37 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Raven spews:
"Yikes - I'm Native American and a citizen of Washington State. The pact benefitted me....and my people. Ipso facto, it benefitted "citizens of Washington State."

What you are saying is it benefited a small interest group...NOT the majority of Washingtonians.
As for paying taxes...........
Aren't you a sovereign nation that is exempt from many taxes??
Gregoire pandered to a small interest group to the detriment of the vast majority of Washingtonians and in exchange received Huge Campaign Contributions.
As Postman pointed out, Gregoire is begging & pleading for more campaign dollars.
Connect the dots.

Posted by YIKES

9:44 AM, Aug 08, 2008

jk--
Very good point.
How has Gregoire and her $8 BILLION of additional spending improved our State? Seems like the vast majority of people are not better off than they were 4 years ago...and traffic still sucks.
How about the $1.1 BILLION spent or dedicated to Alaska Way Viaduct and Gregoire doesn't even have a plan!

She is a lifetime government bureaucrat who only knows how to grow inefficient bureaucracies and raise taxes. Look what she did at Ecology and the AG's Office?
Huge spending increases.

Washingtonians are fed up with tax-and-spend left-wingers like Gregoire.

Posted by TJ

11:24 AM, Aug 08, 2008

Like Cristines Ku Klux Act Cases in that Federal District Courthouse, when she sat as AG?

Judge Zilly, sanctioning the State for incompentance, like the missed hearing date where everyone showed up except for the AG???

Spending your taxdollars wisely, loosing cases with a statue designed to reform the democratic party from 1871, and our 42nd Congress, unchanges in Olympia since 1889.

Posted by Methow Ken

11:26 AM, Aug 08, 2008

For anyone to try and claim that the Change PAC ad is racist is absurd. This issues and the blatent appearance of a quid pro quo and conflict of interest by the Gov would be the same if somehow WA residents of Norwegian ancestry were allowed to have casinos and THEY got a sweetheart deal from the Gov in exchange for huge political contributions from the Sons of Norway.

OTOH the (D) attack ad not long ago that did the Sopranos thing DID have a least some level of racist overtones, since it suggested that Dino Rossi was associated with organized crime because of his Italian heritage.

And since one of Rossi's grandparents was a member of the Tinglet Nation, it is obviously fair and correct for him to note his Indian heritage.

A couple footnotes:

Steve claims:
''Postman is such a right-wing suck-up.''
David can take comfort in the fact that he continues to be beat up by both left and right. Must mean he is about in the appropriate ''space'' for a political reporter.

And then of course ''Jan'' makes yet another in her continuing sequence of appearances here and on SP.com, as a one-note shill for the Gov.
Jan: Whatever they're paying you, they're not getting their money's worth.

Posted by JimD

1:31 PM, Aug 08, 2008

YIKES! posted:
--------------------------------
"Raven spews:
"Yikes - I'm Native American and a citizen of Washington State. The pact benefited me....and my people. Ipso facto, it benefited "citizens of Washington State."

What you are saying is it benefited a small interest group...NOT the majority of Washingtonians.
As for paying taxes...........
Aren't you a sovereign nation that is exempt from many taxes??..."
--------------------------------

Ah...no.
Again, you simply have your facts wrong (while addressing an opinion repeatedly asked for here, from a self-identified native American as "spew".
No need to go any further demonstrating your racial resentment.

Bothsides - I pay for government services that never benefit me directly, just as you do.
No one argues that some government service is aimed toward groups or situations outside our individual sphere of benefit -- until now I guess, when Native Americans are singled out as un-deserving of consideration that doesn't "benefit us directly".
Creating this argument out of thin air to express your your disdain for native American status is quite ugly.
But I gotta give you credit for expressing your prejudice and resentment truthfully, unlike the more common attempts on this blog to disguise it.

Posted by Laura G

8:00 PM, Aug 09, 2008

Rossi is in fact of Tlingit descent. His mother is from Klawock, Alaska the same as my mom. My mother and my aunt knew her. We are also Tlingit.

I have to say, when I saw the ad, I was disappointed. The absolute clear intent of the ad is to stir up anti-Indian sentiment and to remind voters of their long-held prejudices that somehow Indians are getting a deal.

If Rossi identified more strongly as a Tlingit, he wouldn't have given his approval for this ad because as a Tlingit he would understand that there is no honor in using anti-Indian feelings to advance his own career.

Posted by John A. Bailo

10:02 AM, Aug 10, 2008

I think that Rossi has shown enormous restraint in the past 4 years. Here is Gregoire accusing him of racism -- against his own race!

Obviously she is too lazy to do her homework, which is why every state agency is over budget, infrastructure is crumbling and the crooks and charlatans are siphoning budget dollars into pork barrel projects each and every day.

Posted by John Gray

11:45 AM, Aug 10, 2008

Rossi?An Indian?He's about as divorced from Indians as you can get!I seriously doubt that prior to it becoming an issue in this race that he ever attended any Indian function on an Rez anywhere in the United States.
After joining a party that is racist to its core and that would destroy what few safety nets there for Indians he now comes out about how proud he is of his Indian heritage.
Ask him what he thinks about the Boldt decision and Indian treaty rights.Then you'll find out how "Indian" he is.

Posted by Village idiot

2:08 PM, Aug 10, 2008

John Gray
"Rossi?An Indian?He's about as divorced from Indians as you can get!"

Obama is a straight white male.

Posted by JimD

6:30 PM, Aug 10, 2008

No - Obama is a straight black man, who's does not appeal to racial bogotry against his own half-black heritage, the way Rossi has appealed to prejudice against his own half-indian heritage.

Posted by Raven-Frog

7:44 PM, Aug 10, 2008

Rossi has been criticized by Tlingits & other Native Americans for not being more forthcoming about his heritage. And now, when it's politically expedient, he finally decides to champion his mother and her background. Totally shameful.

Posted by Turbine

8:31 PM, Aug 10, 2008

Not according to articles about Rossi in October of 2004 by Angela Gallowy and Ralph Thomas. It wasn't a problem for Rossi when he met with Chairman Thomas of the Haida-Tlinglit people in 2006 either . When Sealaska corporation ( a Native owned company in Alaska) asked him to consider serving on it's board, it didn't seem to be an issue. It appears that Rossi's Native Status is only an issue when Gregoire is failing as Washington State Governor and could lose an election. Pathetic

Posted by michaeljohn

9:07 PM, Aug 10, 2008

This is a very interesting post, especially since Rossi has run as a self-made millionaire. No one has ever asked him whether he received any scholarships or capitalized in any way -- financially or preferences -- on his Alaskan native heritage. Demand proof. He's not exactly the most honest guy in the race.

Posted by village idiot

9:34 PM, Aug 10, 2008

JimD,Frog,Gray


Who has proclaimed you our almighty to tell someone about his or her own heritage?

Posted by JimD

2:15 AM, Aug 11, 2008

"..It appears that Rossi's Native Status is only an issue when Gregoire is failing as Washington State Governor and could lose an election. Pathetic.."

It's an issue when Rossi issues a press release suggesting his native heritage gives him license to promote anti-tribe prejudice in a political TV commercial.

Posted by Raven-Frog

8:03 AM, Aug 11, 2008

Village Idiot (good nick - for you as a self-descriptor) -

As a Tlingit, I could point how Rossi could have spent 4 years working with the tribes in Washington State & Alaska, building a base of support for his present run at Washington State Governor. There is plenty of money in Native America now - and they give freely to those who give back to their own and it doesn't have to be in dollars and cents. But no, Rossi instead chose to work with real estate developers, the builders' coalition, and his "foundation" AND only now touts his heritage. That's how I decide: Rossi could have VOLUNTEERED his time in terms of advocacy, but he is too busy with the self-serving greedy interests of his "base" to be bothered with his "heritage." Working with the grassroots is part of winning an election, and working with ALL grassroots constituencies is crucial

Posted by Bothsides

8:27 AM, Aug 11, 2008

JimD,

"Bothsides - I pay for government services that never benefit me directly, just as you do.
No one argues that some government service is aimed toward groups or situations outside our individual sphere of benefit -- until now I guess, when Native Americans are singled out as un-deserving of consideration that doesn't "benefit us directly".
Creating this argument out of thin air to express your your disdain for native American status is quite ugly.
But I gotta give you credit for expressing your prejudice and resentment truthfully, unlike the more common attempts on this blog to disguise it."

HUH?? As usual, you have your facts wrong..

Posted by JimD

9:13 AM, Aug 11, 2008

The real irony in Rossi's criticism of the state not taxing the tribes enough, is how this demand for higher taxes conflicts with the whole premise of his campaign - to LOWER taxes.
Imagine if he and his supporters insisted restaurants, or big-box stores or builders aren't being taxed enough?

A casino is a retail hospitality business.
Income not diverted to taxes lowers the cost to consumers and helps create wealth that's invested back into the economy - same as any other business.

Yet Rossi (a half-Tingit no less) promotes MORE taxes from the Indian gaming business - based solely on the distinction of their racial heritage and treaty rights.
And then he complains that they're supporting Gregoire for governor with their campaign contributions, just like builders support Rossi because he'll lower THEIR tax rates.

The only folks who can't see the obvious hypocrisy are those who find support for their racial resentment through Rossi's campaign.
Shame on Rossi for plastering this anti-tribe prejudice across our TV screens in his attempt to win a constituency of racial bigots.

Posted by Bothsides

11:50 AM, Aug 11, 2008

JimD, Still trying to figure out why you addressed me when I didn't post anything about this! Need sleep?

Posted by Village Idiot

12:30 PM, Aug 11, 2008

Raven-Frog
“Village Idiot (good nick - for you as a self-descriptor) -
As a Tlingit, I could point how Rossi could have spent 4 years working with the tribes in Washington State & Alaska, building a base of support for his present run at Washington State Governor. There is plenty of money in Native America now - and they give freely to those who give back to their own and it doesn't have to be in dollars and cents. But no, Rossi instead chose to work with real estate developers, the builders' coalition, and his "foundation" AND only now touts his heritage. That's how I decide: Rossi could have VOLUNTEERED his time in terms of advocacy, but he is too busy with the self-serving greedy interests of his "base" to be bothered with his "heritage." Working with the grassroots is part of winning an election, and working with ALL grassroots constituencies is crucial”

Glad you have decided.
Sure they you would have said he is pandering.

Posted by JimD

3:19 PM, Aug 11, 2008

Bothsides:
"...JimD, Still trying to figure out why you addressed me when I didn't post anything about this! Need sleep?..."

No, that's actually a direct quote from your post on the adjoining thread regarding this issue.
Are you having trouble remembering what you've posted?

Posted by Lincoln

4:01 PM, Aug 11, 2008

John Gray said:

"After joining a party that is racist to its core and that would destroy what few safety nets there for Indians he now comes out about how proud he is of his Indian heritage.
Ask him what he thinks about the Boldt decision and Indian treaty rights.Then you'll find out how "Indian" he is."


Never mind the fact that Gregoire joined a racist sorority that excludes blacks. What's that you say? She didn't know about it when she joined? Did she quit when she found out? No. In fact, the racist Christine Gregoire went on to become PRESIDENT of that sorority.

Not surprising given that the Democrat party is the party of slavery and the party of the KKK. Just look at the "Grand Old Man of the Senate " Robert KKK Byrd, Grand Kleagle of the KKK.

It was the Republican party that freed the slaves by fighting against the Democrat slave party.

Posted by Bothsides

5:21 PM, Aug 11, 2008

Uh JimD, please show me where I said that, I wasn't involved in that conversation regarding Native American's whatsoever, so YOU must be having a hard time reading, sorry to break that to you, I know I'm getting old and forgetful but not this time.

Posted by JimD

1:18 PM, Aug 12, 2008

Bothsides,
You're right (man it hurts to say that) and I'm sorry.
I actually highlighted and paste the comment into my post verbatim as usual, but it apparently wasn't yours.
I can't find the original now, but it may have been from YIKES (given a similar comment above) and in the course of re-booting a weak wi-fi signal (a problem out here on the road) I apparently lost my train of thought.

I'm not sure which is worse, incorrectly attributing at quote to you, suggesting you and YIKES post similar material, or making excuses.
So I'll just stop here with a sincere apology for the and a renewed determination to not make the same mistake again.

Posted by A Concerned Citizen

1:20 PM, Aug 12, 2008

My recollection is that the trade-off was that in return for the tribes keeping casino revenues that the tribes would then have that money available to fund their own social services programs and other tribal government needs, rather than having to pay the state and then ask the state for money to fund those same services. All in the name of sovereignity!

Please, if someone has better / more specific information about the negotiations, please chime in.

This is the first I am hearing of Rossi's Native heritage. I'd definitely have taken note, since my mother is also Native.

I don't mind raising questions but I was offended by the ad. It wasclearly designed to appeal to anti-Indian / anti-Native sentiments.

So I'd like to know if Rossi supports the rights of U.S. Native tribes as sovereign nations. (I suspect that he does not!)

Rossi's claim to Native heritage is through an Alaskan tribe. Alaska Natives fall under a different classification with their "Native Corporations" rather than "tribal governments", so perhaps this legal difference has bearing on Rossi's stance.

Bottom line is that Rossi will have a hard time portraying himself as a member of the Native community if he fails to support sovereign rights for tribal nations.

Meanwhile, it's a crying shame that so many people outside the Native community fail to understand the concept of sovereign tribal nations, or treaty law.

Posted by upchuck

11:43 PM, Aug 12, 2008

if every other state jumped off a bridge should we?

so then also if every other state demands kickbacks and payoffs for 'allowing' indians to host gambling (ooooh!) on their 'soveriegn' land then we should?

Posted by Turbine

9:51 AM, Aug 14, 2008

If it was the 520 Bridge , we should jump. It could pay it off the budget shortfall in 10 years.

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