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August 31, 2006

Going virtual for the geek vote

Posted by David Postman at 11:49 AM

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner showed his overly enthusiastic embrace of the power of the Internet by sponsoring a lavish reception at June's YearlyKos Convention, the annual gathering of liberal bloggers and fans of the popular DailyKos blog.

This afternoon Warner, a Democrat considering a race for president in 2008, takes another deep step into the online world: He will appear in virtual reality to be interviewed in a computer game, Second Life, and to announce a "virtural-world town hall meeting" to be held later in the year.

Second Life, according to the site, is "an online society within a 3D world, where users can explore, build, socialize, and participate in their own economy." People also appear there as avatars, to live out another life in the digital world.

At 12:30 Wagner James Au will interview Warner's animated, digital replica. Au is listed as an "embedded reporter" in Second Life. He says on his blog:

But it's still a bit vertiginous to be in-world standing there in front of the avatar of a man that leading Democratic Party financier Chris Korge ... pronounced as, "[T]he one to watch as an outsider in this race. He seems presidential."

Mark Warner's avatar seems presidential, too — tall, stern, and statesman-like.

The event was the idea of Warner's political action committee, Forward Together, which says in a release about today's event:

Imagine a world where politicians tell the truth, focus on the future, and work together with their fellow citizens to solve problems. Forward Together PAC is working everyday to make that a reality. And it isn't stopping at the boundaries of physical space. Tomorrow Governor Warner will become the first American political leader to engage in the online virtual world, Second Life.

Warner, clearly playing to the uber-geek vote, says in a statement:

In Second Life, distances and time differences vanish. It will allow us to reach people through a whole new medium.

UPDATE: You can read a transcript of the interview and see screenshots of the virtual Warner here.

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McGavick and his friend the secret senator

Posted by David Postman at 8:53 AM

Last week Mike McGavick blogged about the news that someone in the U.S. Senate had a secret hold on a bill that would have created a searchable database of federal spending.

This is a sad state of affairs when a senator (or senators) secretly prevent legislation to remove secrecy. The American people have a right to know how their money is being spent. We need senators who are willing to hold their colleagues accountable for this sort of thing, regardless of party.

Well it turns out that that the secret senator is McGavick patron Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. McGavick wrote yesterday afternoon:

It has been revealed that Senator Ted Stevens was behind the secret hold we blogged about last week. His hold stalled legislation to create a searchable online database of federal spending. We called it "sad state of affairs," and that is certainly true. This legislation would give taxpayers more insight into how their money would be spent than ever before, and that is something we should all welcome. With the identity of the holder revealed, we hope public pressure moves this bi-partisan legislation forward.

Maybe McGavick should write Stevens a letter. It worked before.

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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:02 AM

(UPDATE: At the Seattle Weekly, Philip Dawdy is not amused by Savage. He says the nightclub ordinance is dumb, but Savage is dumber.)

  • On the Stranger blog, Josh Feit says Mike McGavick's admission of his DUI showed Democrats were asleep at the wheel, though he's finding it not so easy to get the records.

    All you ever hear from Democrats these days is: "Man, we gotta play hardball like the Republicans. We got to play mean and dirty. Man, if I had been running Kerry's race..." etc etc etc...

    Well, my question is: Why didn't the Cantwell campaign have this first?

  • With the state's top-two primary ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit, Krist Novoselic — from grunge pioneer to Grange activist — looks to the future of partisan voting. He says:
    Either the unpopular and flaccid Pick-A-Party primary stands (unlikely), or we take the party designation off the ballot to have only two candidates on the ballot each November. The current primary system is obviously broken and we already have non-partisan elections in many municipalities. Either way, there are no new ideas on the table. It's not hard to see that, like a tragic opera, our story is doomed to endure continued heartbreak and frustration.

    Novoselic hopes Pierce County's Amendment 3 passes this November. It would create instant runoff voting in county races and, he hopes, a model for a statewide system.

  • In the King County Journal, Sen. Pam Roach is upset about the ranking she got from the Municipal League, in part, because one of her reviewers had a pierced nose. And multiple piercings at that. And we know Roach is not a fan of body art on kids today.

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August 30, 2006

Are we lazy or biased?

Posted by David Postman at 8:30 AM

Sound Politics has a new writer. He's former journalist Don Ward, known at Sound Politics and as reporterward.

Unfortunately he's gotten off to a rough start with a post at Sound Politics that purports to be a journalism critique but falls short of even the most basic standards of reporting.

Ward writes about Mike McGavick's open letter to voters about his DUI arrest and other embarrassing regrets. In the simplest summation, Ward says it's a choice of either stupidity or cupidity. Either the media is lazy if it didn't already know about the DUI, or, if it did know, it is evil for holding the story in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Ward says reporters should have discovered the DUI through "a little courthouse bloodhounding." Yes, that'd be great if we had already searched courthouses 3,000 miles away.

Yes, it happened very far from here, Don.

Ward wrote,

You'd have thought that at least The Olympian would have caught wind of this or the Associated Press' bureau in the state capitol. The incident did happen in their neck of the woods.

No, it happened close to the other Capitol. In every story I read it made it clear the incident was in Maryland.

Ward wrote, "So far I have not read any story from an editor or writer admitting one way or the other about their knowledge beforehand of this incident."

And that's important because it would help show whether the media was sitting on the story, as Ward wrote:

Because if the "media" was choosing to do this they'd be going from informing the public to trying to mold and influence public opinion; a behavior that is antithetical to any good journalist.

Here's what I wrote within an hour of McGavick's announcement:

I hadn't heard anything about his DUI before, but the rest of McGavick's list are not secrets and he certainly has gotten questions on all of them before.

The AP's Dave Ammons wrote, "Word of the DUI in 1993 was new, as was his overall decision to publicly discuss his shortcomings." The P-I wrote about McGavick: "He said that to his knowledge, no news media or political antagonists had been aware of the DUI charge."

And the McGavick campaign confirmed for me this morning that they had not heard anything about anybody — from the media or the opposition — knowing anything about the DUI.

The problems with Ward's post aren't really the factual errors. Anyone can make a mistake. But he set out to accuse the media of malfeasance or misfeasance and was not dissuaded by a lack of evidence to back up either claim. He said he wanted to write about the McGavick story because he was interested in the motives of the reporters who covered the news, who he suspected of "sniffing news ink." Maybe after seven years as a reporter Ward has yet to get the fumes out of his system.

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August 29, 2006

Apology watch

Posted by David Postman at 4:35 PM

Mike McGavick may have been catching a wave last week when he decided to "tell you directly the very worst and most embarrassing things in my life for you to know."

It's certainly a higher grade of personal admission than my favorite example: In the 1997 King County executive race the candidates were asked to name their greatest faults. Republican Suzette Cooke said she was too serious and intellectual. Democrat Ron Sims said he worked too hard. And they didn't care if everyone knew it.

Regret is suddenly everywhere.

Just today in the New York Times are two stories with examples that make McGavick's stories pale in comparison. And they begin the new Postman on Politics Campaign 2006 Apology and Personal Regret Watch.

Bill Clinton's is hard to top. He said he was sorry he didn't intervene to stop the Rwanda genocide. "The United States just blew it in Rwanda," he said.

And Michiko Kakutani's review of Jonathan Franzen's new memoir, The Discomfort Zone, makes it sound like a book-length apology for personal misdeeds. Or maybe a boast. Franzen says he was bugged by Katrina charity campaigns, once dropped a frog in a campfire to watch it burn and described his and his wife's favorite sport as "deploring other people."

Franzen and Clinton have set a high bar. But there's likely more to come.

I read in my paper today that "Cantwell ... hasn't apologized for any ads."

Does the senator have nothing to apologize for? And if not, why not?

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Montana Senate candidate raises Seattle money

Posted by David Postman at 1:11 PM

Montana U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester was in Seattle last night for a fundraiser. This is one of only a handful of states the Democrat has visited outside of Montana to raise money in his race against Republican Sen. Conrad Burns. The evening affair was at the swank offices of Ron Dotzauer's Strategies 360 firm on Westlake. Expected to arrive as I was leaving were Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Turns out Tester has plenty of Seattle connections. His media consultants are Laguens Hamburger Kully Klose, with offices here and in D.C. The ubiquitous Christian Sinderman is doing Tester's direct mail.

Both firms have been with Tester since he began what seemed like a long-shot campaign to face Burns, who has been engulfed in the Jack Abramoff scandal. When Tester won the primary, he said the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and other national players were ready to sweep into Montana to take over. In an interview before heading to the buffet, he told me:

"We had more friends than we knew we ever had after the primary and we had a lot of folks who were wanting to run our campaign for us. ... You go with the ones that brought you there."

He said the biggest surprise in the campaign has been the realization of how much he has to delegate to staffers. But he says he's learned to put his full faith in the group that has surrounded him.

"Nobody has done anything to make me think they're trying to tomahawk me. They bitch at me, and I bitch at them. But it's cool."

Tester has an iconic connection to the city, too. He is friends with Jeff Ament, Pearl Jam's bass player. They're both from Big Sandy, Mont., population 700. When Ament was in high school, Tester was teaching junior high music to Ament's younger sisters. Ament's dad, George, was mayor, and the town barber, "and first endowed me with this haircut."

The haircut has become famous. The National Republican Senatorial Committee ran a TV ad that featured a barber who claimed Tester's trademark buzzcut was a way to hide his left-leaning ways, and came with the tag, "Jon Tester, conservative haircut, liberal values."

Tester's campaign responded with it's ad, "Creating a buzz," that showed Montanans getting their hair cut like Tester's, with its tag line that he will "make the Senate look a little more like Montana."

Tester and his wife Sharla are organic grain farmers. They still farm, even in the heat of the campaign. Sharla said yesterday she was on the tractor just two days ago listening to campaign commercials on the radio. Tester is president of the state Senate. He sounds more than a little like Mike McGavick when he says that he and Sharla almost decided against a run for the U.S. Senate because of the uncivil tone of campaigns these days.

"It just seems like every political campaign anymore gets nasty and they don't talk about the things that impact people. They just try to rip apart a person. But I think we're comfortable enough with our relationship and we're comfortable enough with knowing who we are and where we come from to put up with this stuff. You just have to hold your nose for the next nine weeks."

The campaign has taken on national implications in part because of Burns' ties to Abramoff. It's seen as one of the Democrats' better chances to pick up a seat. It's going to be an expensive campaign. Tester said that $20 million will likely be spent just by him, Burns, and their national parties. That doesn't count the groups that are sure to do independent campaigns. And that's for about 400,000 voters.

In Washington, probably a few million more than $20 million will be spent in the Senate race. That's to reach about 2.8 million voters. You have to feel sorry for those Montanans and the political deluge they face.

Here's an AP story that does a good job summarizing the race.

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Dick Armey coming to town

Posted by David Postman at 11:59 AM

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey will headline the Washington State Republican Party's fall dinner. Armey was one of the architects of the Republicans' 1994 Contract with America. He is now chairman of Freedom Works, the group created from the merger of his Citizens for a Sound Economy and Jack Kemp's Empower America, and a lobbyist at DLA Piper, where Jennifer Dunn also works.

The Sept, 29 event at the airport Hilton also will honor former state party chairman Ken Eikenberry, who will get the Slade Gorton Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Democratic Party works to oust "infidel" from its ranks

Posted by David Postman at 9:20 AM

The state Democratic Party will officially pick sides in an intra-party fight later this morning when it endorses Kyle Taylor Lucas over incumbent Sen. Tim Sheldon in the 35th District.

The party has never much liked Sheldon. The feeling is mutual. "I'm the infidel and won't do what they say, and they just can't stand it," Sheldon said earlier this summer.

This morning party chairman Dwight Pelz and Democratic leaders from the four counties in Sheldon's district will appear at Thurston County Democratic headquarters to endorse Lucas, former head of the Governor's Office of Indian Affairs.

Sheldon has raised about $142,000, compared to Lucas' $29,000.

UPDATE: Lucas' money numbers got a boost with $15,000 from the Thurston County Democratic Party. This from the Dems' press release from this morning's event:

"Tim Sheldon is the Joe Lieberman of Washington State politics," said Dwight Pelz, Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party. "He would kiss George Bush if he could," said Pelz, citing Sheldon's role as the leader of "Democrats for Bush" in the 2004 election.

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Gregoire proposes compromise rule for pharmacists

Posted by David Postman at 7:09 AM

Gov. Chris Gregoire has sent a proposed compromise to the state Board of Pharmacy that she hopes will be adopted Thursday in place of a draft approved in June that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for moral reasons.

In a letter to board chairman Dr. Assad Awan, Gregoire wrote yesterday:

I present this alternative rule as the most reasonable compromise. It clearly states that pharmacies have a duty to dispense lawfully prescribed drugs and recognizes the role of pharmacists in using their professional expertise to determine reasonable exceptions to that duty and maintain patient safety.

None of those exceptions in Gregoire's proposal covers refusal to prescribe medicine because of pharmacists' personally held moral beliefs. The proposal, which Gregoire says is backed by the Washington State Pharmacy Association and Planned Parenthood, says pharmacists must fill prescriptions except for these reasons:

(a) Potential drug therapy contraindications;
(b) National or state emergencies or guidelines affecting availability or supplies of drugs or devices;
(c) Lack of specialized equipment or expertise needed to safely produce, store, or dispense drugs or devices, such as certain drug compounding or storage for nuclear medicine;
(d) Potentially fraudulent prescriptions;
(e) Unavailability of drug or device despite good faith compliance with WAC 246-869-150;

At the heart of the debate have been concerns that the pharmacy board's proposed rule would make it difficult for women to get the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive. A Food and Drug Administration ruling last week will allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B, which is likely to reduce some of the controversy surrounding the issue.

Gregoire's letter said there were many hours of negotiations with board members, women's groups, pharmacy representatives and others. Board member Donna Dockter, who supported the board's draft rule in June, was part of those negotiations. But Gregoire says she was unable "to reach full accord" with Dockter on the compromise.

The board adopted its draft in June. Gregoire said the board had made a mistake and if they didn't correct it she would consider removing members from the board. In July the board postponed final action until this week.

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August 28, 2006

What's a character attack?

Posted by David Postman at 10:01 AM

Mike McGavick's announcement last week of his drunken driving arrest and other personal and business regrets was certainly unusual. It was interesting, a little risky I suppose, and generally well played by McGavick and his campaign. But was it courageous? An act so noble it stands out over a generation of American public life?

Sen. Elizabeth Dole thinks so. She wrote on her blog:

Yesterday, Mike made a brave, personal decision to discuss some of the past mistakes he has made in his life. And, friends, I have to say Mike's choice to openly talk about his past is one of most noble and courageous acts I have witnessed in my forty-plus years in public service.

If that's the ad absurdum defense of McGavick ... and it's got to be, because no would compare him to one of the world's great thinkers, would they? ... the far other side is staked out by David Goldstein at Goldstein is looking for volunteers to replicate the drinking McGavick would have had to do to blow a "0.17 percent blood-alcohol level, and a general idea of the associated level of impairment."

Goldstein wasn't blogging in 2003, so he's off the hook here. But does anyone remember any concerns from the left about Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge's ability to do her job after being even more drunk than McGavick? Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire came to Bridge's defense. Surely blood alcohol levels are not a partisan thing.

Lost in the novelty of McGavick's announcement and the hyperbole of the reaction is a blurring of the line between character attack and legitimate campaign inquiry. In his open letter, McGavick goes for a broad sweep, saying, "The candidates and the incumbents spend their time attacking each other's personal character instead of attacking the issues and problems that face our country and our families. ... In this campaign for example, my opponents have attacked my leadership in turning around Safeco."

But isn't his leadership at Safeco a legitimate campaign issue? Certainly Maria Cantwell's time at Real Networks was worthy of exploration when she ran in 2000. McGavick says one of his more embarrassing failings of his life was the way he handled layoffs at Safeco. That alone makes it important because carrying a burden like that shapes a man.

It's not just a business record that is fair game in a campaign. Character is an issue in American politics. Why wouldn't it be important to find out if someone was, for example, less than truthful? The standard is always changing about where the line is for legitimate inquiry, and for what voters are willing to accept in their politicians.

Maybe the question is not whether character is fair game, but what constitutes an "attack." The quote that got the most press from Friday's news wasn't McGavick's, but Democratic spokesman Kelly Steele who said, "From privatizing Social Security to drunk driving it becomes clearer every day that Mike McGavick and George Bush are cut from the same cloth."

That was a shrill attack that would have been better left unsaid.

Last night I was on 710 KIRO as a guest on the David Goldstein Show. As I said above, he wants to talk more about how much McGavick had to drink. On his show, though, Goldstein took several giant leaps into speculation about McGavick's behavior and character. I objected and he said, "Is that a character attack?" No doubt.

Both sides do it. But we shouldn't let the talk show or blog attacks confuse the issue when it comes to serious and substantive questions about character or candidate's background.

There's been lots said in the past few days about McGavick's open letter. Here's a roundup of some of it.

On Fox News' "The Beltway Boys," Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke not surprisingly gave McGavick high marks.

KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Up: Republican Senate challenger Mike McGavick of Washington state. He's using a gutsy but risky campaign strategy in his race against incumbent Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell. In an open letter, McGavick preemptively confessed to several personal and political shortcomings, including a drunk-driving incident.

He said in the letter that was the — the most embarrassing and worst things that he'd ever done in his life. And that — you know, that they're rather — rather minor. There's the drunken-driving arrest. There's a — a dirty trick that he played when he was helping to run the Slade Gorton campaign. There was a — a business error that — that he made. And — and he wasn't — and he wasn't a good father to his — to his child. I mean, that — that's pretty minor stuff.

I think though that getting out preemptively is a good — is a good step, and it attracts a lot of publicity, and makes him look like a — like a — a clean citizen.

BARNES: Well, I agree with that, and probably all that stuff was going to come out anyway, and it will be hard for Maria Cantwell to attack him as a bad father. His son's going to the University of Virginia, by the way.

Locally, Eric Earling at Sound Politics is mostly pleased with how the media reacted.

Bradley Meacham at The Cascadia Report says the open letter makes McGavick look like "the honest, aw-shucks guy who most voters like to support."
He says the "chattering class" think McGavick made a mistake, but I think he's mostly talking about Danny Westneat.

The Sensible Mom says "I don't think it was a powerful event that shaped his life more than it was a powerful event that could have derailed his political career if not handled properly."

There's praise for Kelly Steele's zinger at Daily Kos, while the journalist and ventriloquist behind The Moderate Voice compares McGavick's confession to George Allen missteps.

And you can always rely on something thoughtful at Ridenbaugh Press, where Randy Stapilus says about McGavick:

There is also a certain amount of gruesome credibility in what he says here. At the end of his statement, he says, "My pledge to you is one of authenticity, civility and transparency."

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August 25, 2006

Reichert ads by U.S. Chamber funded by drug industry

Posted by David Postman at 3:44 PM

U.S. Chamber of Commerce TV ads praising Congressman Dave Reichert for his support of a Medicare drug plan were paid for in part by the drug industry. That's what The Associated Press is reporting, though the chamber is refusing to say where it got the money for the campaign.

The ads have already been a problem for the Chamber around the country. In Ohio an ad was pulled because the congressman praised for his support actually voted against the measure. Three others, including one for Reichert, were changed after the Chamber realized that the incumbents were not in Congress when the bill was passed.

AP reports there are no legal problems with the drug company financing: "In political terms, though, the disclosure is likely to embolden Democratic critics of the Medicare drug program, who charge it amounts to a Republican-engineered windfall for drug companies."

Indeed. Democrats were quick to respond. Bill Burton, communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement:

There's a civics lesson here from the drug companies. They write checks to protect their GOP friends, and then they write the laws to benefit themselves, all the while doctors are writing prescriptions middle class Americans can't afford.

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John Groen on the big screen

Posted by David Postman at 2:40 PM

Coming to a theater near you tomorrow are 15 second commercials for Supreme Court candidate John Groen.

The ads are the first shot in the Building Industry Association of Washington's campaign to elect Groen and two others to the high court. The ads will run in 43 movie theaters throughout the state from tomorrow until the Sept. 19 primary.

BIAW Executive Vice President Tom McCabe said the ad buy cost less than $50,000. The spots will run before each movie. They are only on behalf of Groen, running against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, and not the other BIAW-endorsed candidates, Justice Tom Chambers or Sen. Steve Johnson, who is challenging Justice Susan Owens.

"I'm not certain how effective this will be," McCabe told me. But he says that just like other advertisers, political groups need to find new ways to reach people through the burgeoning media saturation.

I don't know if anyone has run political ads in a movie theater here before. I've certainly never seen one. BIAW has tried different approaches before. In the parking lot of the group's Olympia office is slightly run-down ice cream truck - a relic from a decade-old campaign for Sen. Pam Roach that featured free ice cream for the kids and a Roach brochure for their parents.

As soon as I get a copy of the ad I'll post it here.

Also, my column today is about BIAW and the court races.

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August 24, 2006

McGavick's open letter, including his DUI

Posted by David Postman at 4:25 PM

On his campaign blog this afternoon Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick posted an open letter to voters, saying, "I have lots of faults, and I have made some mistakes that I deeply regret."

The top two "great failures" are the failure of his first marriage and arrest for drunken driving.

The second terrible mistake, which was difficult to discuss with my teenage son, was that I was cited for DUI when I cut a yellow light too close in 1993. I was driving Gaelynn home from several celebrations honoring our new relationship and should not have gotten behind the wheel. Thankfully, there was no accident, but it still haunts me that I put other people at risk by driving while impaired. All in all, it was and remains a humbling and powerful event in my life.

McGavick also talks about professional failings, as CEO of Safeco and as Slade Gorton's campaign manager in 1988 when he backed an erroneous campaign attack against Democrat Mike Lowry.

MORE: McGavick has sent mixed signals in the past about the Lowry ad. It claimed, based on an old article in the UW student paper, that Lowry favored legalizing marijuana. When questions were raised about the accuracy, McGavick stuck by it.

In 2002 he said in a speech: "We clearly need to raise the level of civil discourse in our community. If I see one more of those negative 30-second ads, I'm going to throw up — and I used to make them!"

But he told he earlier this month: "I have to admit that's a little bit of an overstatement."

Now he says that ranks among his top two professional failures. His blog says today:

We let the ad finish its week-long run. Though we never raised it again, we should have pulled it once evidence mounted that the Daily article was not an accurate reflection of his views

(CLARIFICATION: I don't have this Lowry stuff quite right. When McGavick told me the line in the speech was an overstatement, he meant that he hadn't done the sort of character attacks that he says have now become a regular part of so many campaigns. When we talked about it earlier this month he did express regret for not pulling the Lowry ad.)

As for Safeco, McGavick says he regrets telling employees after a round of layoffs in 2001 "that I thought the worst was behind us."

This led to real and justified hope by my Safeco colleagues that there would be no more lay-offs. I was wrong to raise such hopes. Several months later, it became clear that we still were not competing effectively, and it was not until after another round of layoffs that we really were able to turn the ship and set the company on the course it is on today.

MORE: McGavick has chosen an unusual strategy in trying to protect himself from negative stories and attack ads. I hadn't heard anything about his DUI before, but the rest of McGavick's list are not secrets and he certainly has gotten questions on all of them before.

He clearly is making a preemptive move:

Still, I know that the character attacks against me will not stop. So, how about I just tell you directly the very worst and most embarrassing things in my life for you to know, and then I will get back to talking about how much the U.S. Senate needs a new direction.

I don't know if Democrats were on to the DUI or not. Wouldn't surprise me. And McGavick gets no points from the Democratic spokesman for coming clean on his own. Said Kelly Steele:

"From privatizing Social Security to drunk driving it becomes clearer every day that Mike McGavick and George Bush are cut from the same cloth."

MORE: McGavick will be on Fox News tonight at about 9:20 as Brit Hume does a piece on the Washington Senate race.

McGavick's confession is unusual in substance, but I think unheard of in how it was delivered. McGavick chose to make the announcement on his campaign blog, not in a press release or a press conference. Some reporters were alerted to the posting, but it certainly was a softer opening to the story than it would have been if a reporter had dug up the DUI charge.

It's also interesting to see how McGavick wrote the post. The DUI is the most explosive bit, and the only one previously unreported. It is the second item in the post; not the lead where it would have attracted more attention or at the bottom where it would have led people like me to say it was buried. (McGavick is making himself available for interviews so the blog post doesn't stand alone.)

In 2004, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi volunteered to a Times reporter that he had been arrested for driving while drunk. He telephoned one day to say he had something to say. His arrest came when he was 18, and it never became any kind of issue in the campaign.

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Dueling views of the trifecta bill

Posted by David Postman at 11:22 AM

When Republican Congressional leaders cobbled together the "trifecta bill" earlier this month, they thought the something-for-everyone approach would be clever enough to win votes from both parties to eliminate the estate tax, raise the minimum wage and extend state sales tax deductions.

The strategy failed, of course, with potential swing vote Sen. Maria Cantwell voting against it. But the beauty of the bill is that there's still something for everyone in there to campaign on.

Cantwell and Mike McGavick are both running ads pegged to the vote. In this great piece of Rashomon politics, McGavick is running a radio spot that focuses on the part of the bill that would have extended the sales tax deduction for state's like Washington, saying, "Maria Cantwell voted with her party, against our deduction and against our families."

Cantwell's TV ad focuses on the tip credit provision that would have eaten into the state's guaranteed minimum wage, saying, "My parents struggled and I worked as a waitress so I know people count on us getting these things right."

You can listen to McGavick's radio spot here and read the script here.

Cantwell's TV spot can be seen here and the script is here.

Neither ad tells anything even approaching the full story of the trifecta bill. (Not that anyone should expect anything different. These are political ads after all, not Frontline.) The candidates cherry pick the legislation to make their points. In fact, it just so happens they use it to make the central points of their campaigns: Cantwell voted against the bill because she sticks up for the little guy, and McGavick says the incumbent's vote is just another example of the "partisan nonsense" that infects D.C.

A few observations:

I would have thought the estate tax vote would have been campaign fodder for one side or both. But it hasn't merited a mention yet.

McGavick's ad shows the difficulty in taking a hard shot at an opponent while sticking to a civility pledge. His ad uses an announcer to say, "Maria Cantwell voted with her party, against our deduction and against our families."

All the negative words come from the disembodied, anonymous announcer. McGavick remains avuncular. He's not angry, you see, but disappointed and surprised: "I really thought that Sen. Cantwell would vote to keep this deduction in place."

The announcer says Cantwell refused to talk about a compromise on the bill. But then McGavick says, "This isn't really about Sen. Cantwell. D.C is so caught up in this partisan nonsense that people are called to vote against their own state's interests. "

Cantwell does most of the speaking in her ad. She sits in a restaurant, mentions that her parents struggled and that she worked as a waitress. She's clearly using the ad not just to inoculate herself against criticism for the trifecta vote, but to portray herself as the product of a hard-scrabble upbringing. That's a better contrast to McGavick, the millionaire former insurance executive, than Cantwell's profile as career politician and high-tech millionaire.

Cantwell says in her ad, "Republican leaders tried to cut Washington state's minimum wage." It is fair to say there are varying interpretations of the local effect of the tip credit, though the intent was to, at the very least, cut the growth of the state's minimum wage. But the state Legislature could have fixed the problem, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.

TO BE CLEAR: What Labor and Industries said was that if Congress passed the bill, the Legislature would have the power to fix the problem.

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August 23, 2006

No "Millionaires'" boost for Cantwell

Posted by David Postman at 1:01 PM

It doesn't look like Mike McGavick's $2 million loan to his campaign will mean campaign donation limits will be lifted for Maria Cantwell.

The Federal Elections Commission says in a draft of an advisory opinion that the "Millionaires' Amendment" applies only to McGavick's opposing candidates in the Republican primary, not the incumbent Democratic senator.

The millionaires' clause sets a formula that lifts campaign donation limits for a candidate facing a candidate who self-finances a campaign. Cantwell's campaign argued that McGavick's loan should have meant that Cantwell donors now limited to $4,200 could give $25,200 instead.

The draft says:

The Commission concludes that Mr. McGavick is not Senator Cantwell's "opposing candidate" in the primary election, so Mr. McGavick's expenditures from personal funds made before the primary election will not trigger the provisions of the Millionaires' Amendment for Senator Cantwell or Cantwell 2006. However, any personal funds that were contributed by Senator Cantwell or Mr. McGavick to either of their respective authorized committees before the primary election, and that are retained by either committee for use in the general election campaign, will be expenditures from personal funds in connection with the general election.

So, if McGavick has any of that $2 million left over after the primary that could trigger the Millionaires' Amendment. The draft opinion will be considered by the FEC Aug. 29.

UPDATE: In Arizona, it's the Republican incumbent senator looking to get the "Millionaires'" boost in the primary, according to the Arizona Republic.

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The liberal critique of Burner's first TV spot

Posted by David Postman at 9:31 AM

No candidate running in Washington state this year has as much support from liberal bloggers as Darcy Burner, the Democrat running against Congressman Dave Reichert in the 8th District. Some are downright giddy about her.

But a provocative liberal critique of her first TV ad points out a big gap between Burner's almost pop-star like appeal among the left and the lack of any progressive message in the spot.

The commercial is a bio piece to introduce Burner to voters. Matt Stoller, writing at the popular liberal blog MyDD, asks:

Notice anything missing? I-R-A-Q.

Notice anything else missing? Well if you saw this ad, you wouldn't know whether Darcy is a Democrat or a Republican. (That is a failure to take advantage of the "Republicans Control Congress" message, which is that when voters know who controls Congress, they vote for the other party.)

Notice anything else missing? Bush.

In other words, this ad is a complete failure.

Stoller refers in his post to MyDD's analysis of the special election in California's 50th District and a strategy memo he and others wrote afterward on the lessons there for Democratic congressional candidates. It is a tough-guy strategy that includes:

Pick a fight, any fight. Voters need to be convinced that Democrats can credibly challenge Bush. Whether the fight is over de-funding Cheney's personal staff, attacking John Bolton's confirmation, impeachment hearings, or stopping war profiteering with a new "Truman Commission," Democratic candidates must demonstrate strength through aggressive confrontation where the term "accountability" is more than just an abstraction or corporate lingo. It must be made real through a fight you plan to pick.

As Republicans try to make liberal bloggers a campaign issue by portraying them as an arm of the Democratic Party, it'll be interesting to see what happens this fall if blogger-backed candidates fail to follow the netroots-approved strategy. Burner is one of the Democratic challengers who can raise money from the backing of Kos and others. Will that be harder to do if her campaign continues to steer away from Iraq and the sort of attack on Bush that fuels the liberal blogosphere? Will it be seen as more important to win, or to win with the "right" message.

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GOP attacks leading liberal blogger

Posted by David Postman at 7:24 AM

There are times I wonder if partisan bloggers exaggerate their influence on politics and campaigns. But could there be any better validation of the increasingly important role they play than the attack the Republican National Committee launched this morning against the man behind the popular and influential liberal blog Daily Kos?

The RNC sends out regular missives compiling quotes and news clips to attack opponents, or less frequently, boost their own candidates. Democrats do the same. But few pack the punch or are as long as this morning's RNC release: "WHO IS MARKOS MOULITSAS ZUNIGA? A Partisan 'Nutroot' Who Turned His Hate-Filled Blog Daily Kos Into A Leadership Post In The Democrat Party."

Republicans spend 2,800 words on Moulitsas, the co-author of his recent book, and Daily Kos diarists. Among the RNC attack points: "Moulitsas Has Plans To Take Over The Party," "Moulitsas Makes An 'Excellent Living,' "Moulitsas Vehemently Opposed DLC Member Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) In Democrat Primary," "Moulitsas Also Provides Liberal Bloggers A Venue To Promote Their Own Extreme Messages And Ideologies," and the damning claim, "Daily Kos Blogger Markos Moulitsas Zuniga Back From 'Relaxing' Vacation." Republicans also say Moulitsas holds radical positions on the war on terror, including his position that, "The French Are Right."

Moulitsas practices politics not journalism. And the RNC is right that he is becoming increasingly influential within Democratic Party politics. Bloggers who play behind-the-scenes roles in politics deserve scrutiny and should strive for transparency.

The Republican attack on Daily Kos is reminiscent of Democrats trying to tie the GOP to their backers among conservative talk radio hosts. Neither attack is about trying to get the parties to distance themselves from the controversial figures. They are about trying to make party members seem out of step with the mainstream by playing up the influence of people like Moulitsas or, in the past, Rush Limbaugh.

And while this morning's RNC release seems shrill, almost comic in places, it is sure to do the intended job and boost Moulitsas' standing among Democrats. Daily Kos will probably be selling "The French Are Right" T-shirts by the end of the day.

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August 22, 2006

Business groups split from controversial I-920 sponsor

Posted by David Postman at 4:36 PM

Two of the state's biggest business lobbying groups have broken off with the sponsor of the estate tax repeal initiative, forming a separate group to campaign for Initiative 920.

The Association of Washington Business and the National Federation of Independent Business/Washington formed the "Yes on 920 — Keeping Washington Family Business Alive" committee. The groups said in a statement they "wanted a campaign focused solely on family-owned businesses."

The official 920 campaign is run by Dennis Falk, a former Seattle police officer now living on Fox Island. He has raised more than $1 million to get the initiative on the fall ballot. Most of that came from developer Martin Selig.

It seems like an odd move to have business groups break off from Falk. Falk is unconcerned, telling my colleague Andrew Garber:

"I'm still the parent campaign. More groups and more organizations that come forward to help to get rid of the death tax the better. I don't see any problem with it."

The opposition campaign sees something more Machiavellian behind the splinter group. Sandeep Kaushik, communications director for the No on I-920 campaign said in a release:

Apparently, they are desperately scrambling to disassociate themselves from Dennis Falk and his sordid history of radical fringe politics. They are trying to clean themselves up for the big local and national donors they hope will contribute to the estate tax repeal effort, but the taint is not going to be so easy to wash off.

Kaushik calls Falk the "controversial I-920 mastermind." Falk was a long-time member and leader of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society and in 1978 worked with another fellow Seattle police officer to sponsor a city initiative that would have done away with anti-discrimination laws protecting gays.

During that campaign Falk was involved with a controversial shooting of a mentally retarded man. The shooting was ruled "reasonable under the circumstances" and the prosecutor's office reviewed the shooting but said there was insufficient evidence to sustain charges. The P-I reported that Falk "once boasted of having worn lead-lined leather gloves to gain 'respect' on The Ave until the mayor ordered him transferred off the beat."

Carolyn Logue, state NFIB director, said today that there was no falling out between the business groups and Falk. Were there concerns about Falk or the way he's run things?

"We're not going to comment on that," Logue said.

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August 21, 2006

Tom Chambers wants to "drive a stake through some undeserving political careers."

Posted by David Postman at 8:06 AM

Some tough talk and a questionable pitch for money disappeared from Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers' campaign blog last week. The whole Web site is down this morning, so I can't tell if Chambers edited the entry and reposted it, which is what he told me Friday he planned to do.

When I talked to Chambers he said he wasn't exactly sure what led his campaign team to decide the post should be removed. He said he was distracted by other things last week when the issue came up.

The post — which I have a printed copy of but can't find on the Internet Archive — was headlined "The Name Game" and talked about the issue of court candidates with similar names to incumbents or other challengers. And the tone is unlike what you normally hear in a judicial election:

The name game; there ought to be a law against it. I'm pumped. I'm stoked. I'm ready to drive a stake through some undeserving political careers.

Question: Who are these people anyway? Answer: My name is Smith or Johnson or I have lost so many political campaigns that I have great name familiarity. I think it's just like the lottery. I pay a filing fee and hope the voters confuse me with someone else or are just so plain stupid that they will elect me. Whoopee!! I always wanted to be on the Supreme Court.

Chambers wrote that his opponent, former King County Superior Court Judge Jeanette Burrage, is playing on her name recognition from many unsuccessful campaigns.

What is her best quality? Her name is Burrage which rimes (sic) with courage. I think it takes a lot of courage to go to your friends and family again, and again, and again asking for support to run for political offices.

His post also included this appeal:

I need your help more than ever now. I need your money and your boots on the sidewalks.

Judges and judicial candidates aren't supposed to personally solicit money, according to the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Chambers said that on top of the tone, the fundraising pitch also could have been why it was suggested he retool the blog post.

UPDATE: Chambers has rewritten his blog post.

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August 18, 2006

In other news

Posted by David Postman at 4:43 PM

  • is a new Web site to help people figure out how to vote on judicial elections. There's a long list of groups that are sponsoring the site, including the Association of Washington Business and the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. You can find information about campaign donations. An announcement says, "No candidate is favored over another and ratings and endorsements by diverse groups are provided." It seems like it'd be pretty helpful to the many voters who often skip judicial elections.
  • At Sound Politics, Stefan Sharkansky fact-checks Darcy Burner's Gas Pump Man Web site. He says the claim there that Rep. Dave Reichert gave away $14 billion to the oil and gas industry exaggerates Reichert's role and the amount of energy industry tax breaks.
    Reasonable people can debate whether this was the best possible energy bill. But Dave Reichert is hardly the only Congressman who deserves credit for it. Washington Democrats Norm Dicks and Rick Larsen voted for the final version, as did 25 of 42 Senate Democrats — including Sen. Maria Cantwell
  • Here's one way for bloggers to get their phone calls returned. The other morning, at 11:54 to be exact, Dan Savage slogged about the Connecticut senate race and wondered why Sen. Patty Murray hadn't come out in support of Lamont yet.
    So, Patty, whose side are you on? I'm know I'm curious.

    And then he gave Murray's phone number and Web address for others who also might be curious. Within three hours, Murray's spokeswoman told Savage that Murray was in China but had sent word that she was indeed backing Lamont.

  • And completely off topic, I found this in the archives of and think it would make an excellent weekend project. Hope you have a good one.

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Conservative bloggers like Mike, the hawkish one

Posted by David Postman at 8:42 AM

I'm starting to think Mike McGavick has the pitch-perfect position on the war. I'm not exactly sure what it is. But it's money.

On Monday, McGavick showed he and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had differing views on Iraq. The troop withdrawal debate that Frist thought showed Democrats weak on national security, McGavick saw as meaningless political gamesmanship. McGavick also said he wouldn't have voted for the initial war resolution knowing what he knows today about WMDs and Frist said he wouldn't have done anything different.

McGavick hasn't been clear and or consistent about the way he talks about the war. You can see Josh Feit's attempts to straighten it out here. Josh seems to be picking on me as much as McGavick, though, saying I "took the bait" on what was a "campaign stunt" that netted McGavick a "nifty headline" in the Times. In the end, his tag-team deconstructing with the McGavick campaign does little to clarify the situation.

McGavik has been clear and consistent about one thing when talking about the war: He says his position on the war is substantively indistinguishable from Maria Cantwell's.

Talking about Iraq Monday at the Frist event, McGavick said, "I would have voted to go to war as did Senator Cantwell based on what we thought we knew at the time," and, "I would have supported the war in the same way Senator Cantwell has supported the war."

Somebody needs to alert the Rightroots. That's a group of conservative bloggers raising money for a select few GOP candidates. The group's pitch says:

What if you could make Charlie Rangel quit, stop the Dems from Pelosifying America, and keep the left from cutting and running in Iraq? Well, you can make all those things happen by donating to 18 blogger endorsed candidates in key races the GOP needs to hold on to Congress.

McGavick is one of four endorsed Senate candidates. But it is not the Mike McGavick who sells his position on Iraq as indistinguishable from Maria Cantwell's. This is a much more hawkish McGavick. This from My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy:

Unlike Maria Cantwell, who supports immediately beginning to bring the troops home and a complete withdrawal from Iraq regardless of the situation on the ground, Mike McGavick supports VICTORY in Iraq through stability.

And from Right Wing News:

McGavick talked about a variety of issues, but what he said about the war on terrorism was really spot-on.

He said it's vitally important for us to give the Iraqi government an opportunity to defend itself. We're seeing a transition from our troops to their troops, but they need a little more time. If we do take off from Iraq, and leave a civil war in our wake, we're going to encourage the terrorists and give them a potential base to use against us.

Pretty good deal to have a position on the war that allows you to raise money as a hawk, look as much anti-war as the Democratic candidate and, as a bonus, probably tick off the left-wing by reminding them they never really much liked Cantwell's stance on the war.

Speaking of Cantwell, largely lost in the talk about McGavick's comments about the war this week was the reaction from anti-war Democrats to Cantwell's similar comments.

Several people have asked for the full statement from Cantwell. Here's what I got Monday night:

"If the Congress knew then what we know today, even the Republican leadership would not have brought it to a vote.

"If the Bush Administration had done the hard work of building an international coalition to really contain Saddam, there would have been no vote.

"If I knew then everything that I know today and the Republican leadership still brought it up for a vote, I would have voted no.

"While mistakes were made in the way Bush took us to war, the Republican led Congress has not done its job of providing aggressive oversight of the Iraq war. In the days ahead, the Congress must use the power of the purse to hold the Bush Administration accountable for more progress towards beginning to bring our troops home this year.

"We will always make sure our troops have everything they need to do their jobs well, but we will look at other cost-cutting measures.

"I am for changing the course in Iraq, my opponent is for staying the course. I oppose permanent bases in Iraq, my opponent does not share that belief. We do have different views of where to go next in Iraq.

"The Iraqis must take over responsibility for their own security this year."

Chad Shue said it is a "dynamic 'change of course' for Senator Cantwell and I welcome it whole heartedly."

If you read Alex Fryer's story yesterday about our Iraq poll, you'll see that Cantwell initially made her if-I-knew-then statement only after hearing what McGavick's position was.

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August 16, 2006

Away from the blog

Posted by David Postman at 7:55 AM

There will be light, at best, posting for a few days as I take a little time off.

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August 15, 2006

What Bin Laden's chauffeur means to the elections

Posted by David Postman at 8:47 AM

Senate Majority Bill Frist is hoping Salim Ahmed Hamdan can boost Republican chances in the mid-term elections.

Hamdan is one of Osama Bin Laden's former drivers. He is being held at Guantanamo and has his name attached to a June Supreme Court decision
that said the military tribunal system the U.S. wanted to use to try Hamdan and others is illegal.

Frist said in Seattle yesterday that he will use a chunk of the few remaining days of this year's session to debate a bill for new special military courts to replace the trials stopped by the Supreme Court. The Bush administration has asked Congress "to expand the reach and authority of such 'commissions' to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism ... ."

Frist told me that the debate over how to handle Guantanamo detainees will be a surrogate for the larger question about national security. He said that's what he tried to do with the June debates on Democratic troop withdrawal resolutions. He's pleased with the "global picture" that emerged: "They're waving the white flag and we're going to fight the war on terror."

Hamdan, he said, will provide another opportunity to drive home that message. He said Democrats just want to talk about Iraq, while Republicans want to broaden the national security debate to the larger "war against radical Islam and the extremists." The June debates on troop withdrawal were focused on Iraq, but Frist said that he thinks Republicans did a good job stressing "the larger philosophical" differences.

When Congress debates military trials for terror suspects, he said, "That will come right back. And I think that's important for voters to see."

"You don't want to make it a partisan issue, but who cares about preserving homeland security and the safety and the security of the American family? And when it comes down to it, our leadership has been more aggressive more pre-emptive , more focused and theirs has been a defeatist, a fatalistic, a more timid, approach."

Frist said that he "didn't plan specifically" for the Hamdan debate to be the finale for his year's session. He said he waited until Senate Republicans worked out a legislative proposal to set the debate and "it does happen to be the last week before we get out."

Frist was here yesterday to raise money for Mike McGavick. As I wrote in the paper today, McGavick was not as enamored as Frist with the Senate debate on troop withdrawal.

Frist said at a press conference with McGavick that the debate came down to Republicans saying ''We're going to continue to adjust with time but we're going to address the challenges that we have overseas'' and Democrats disagreeing about "whether to cut and run now, or six months from now or a year from now."

McGavick, though, said he had a different take as he watched the debate:

"It struck me as one of these partisan squabbles without much meaning because in the end, the Levin amendment doesn't cause anything to happen. It just expresses what I think is the heartfelt feeling of everyone that we'd like our troops home sooner rather than later.


"I know the Republicans thought they had to make a case for supporting the president and the Democrats to show distance, but when I look at the content of the resolution I just think it was another chance to throw bricks at each other as far as I was concerned."

Frist told me that the disagreement comes from McGavick's literal reading of the troop withdrawal resolutions, while senators were focused on the bigger message.

"He gets right down to the wording of the resolution. To be honest with you, the people who go out to the floor and speak about it, no one even talks about the wording of the resolution."

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August 14, 2006

Is the GOP cutting and running from stay-the-course?

Posted by David Postman at 11:48 AM

Republicans have a new motto for their war effort: adapt-to-win. You'll hear that a lot in the coming days because it is the Republican National Committee's newly minted catchy counterpart to the "cut-and-run" Republicans use to describe the Democratic plan for Iraq.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman tried out adapt-to-win on Meet the Press yesterday:

Look, the fact is that our mission in the war in Iraq is critical. We agree on that; we agree it's wrong to cut and run. But look, we're not coming in and saying "Stay the course." The choice in this election is not between "Stay the course" and "Cut and run," it's between "Win by adapting" and "Cut and run."

It used to be "stay the course."

Here's Vice President Dick Cheney from CNN on June 22 as the Senate was debating Democratic resolutions calling for the administration to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq:

With respect to the overall course of the campaign, I think it's been very successful. With respect to this question of liberation, we have indeed liberated 50 million people, 25 million in Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban, 25 million in Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein, two of the worst regimes in modern times, very, very significant achievement. But we have to stay the course.

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Democrats battle each other in 32nd District

Posted by David Postman at 8:03 AM

State Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, was offered a deal last week that would have guaranteed her a free ride through the September primary. She turned it down.

First-time candidate Chris Eggen, who joined the Democratic primary against Fairley on the final day of candidate filing July 28, told Fairley he'd drop out if the incumbent would agree to four conditions: Include sustainable energy and campaign finance reform in her campaign material, endorse her Democratic seatmate — 32nd District state Rep. Maralyn Chase — and agree not to talk about Chase.

Fairley and Chase don't get along. Their voting records aren't so different. But Fairley backed another candidate when Chase was appointed to the open seat and they've continued to clash personally.

So Fairley's answer? "When hell freezes over."

Eggen said he doesn't understand the Fairley/Chase conflict:

"There is, as near as I can tell, little or no ideological difference between the two individuals. It's a mystery to me why they can't support each other more."

Eggen never really wanted to run against Fairley. He said he filed because he heard rumors that Fairley might not run and he didn't want the state party to be able to appoint a candidate if no one else filed. He says he'll now stay in the race but will not run a campaign against Fairley. Instead he'll talk about energy and campaign finance reform and Fircrest School, a residential center for the developmentally disabled in the district.

He said he won't try again to make peace between Fairley and Chase.

Fairley said that after the Eggen offer, which was relayed by a Democratic campaign staffer, she called Lila Smith, chairwoman of the 32nd District Democrats. Smith repeated the request that Fairley endorse Chase and agree not to bad-mouth her in public or private.

Fairley says Smith "demanded to know why I wouldn't endorse Maralyn. I finally told her why. 'She's mean-spirited, divisive, is not well-thought-of in her caucus and is totally ineffective as a Legislator.' Boy, that ended that."

Chase could not be reached. But Smith talked to her and said Chase didn't want to engage in "what she frankly categorizes as an unprincipled struggle."

Smith said Fairley was not endorsed by the 32nd District Democrats because she refused to back Chase.

"We've asked Darlene to stop it and asked her to stop calling the newspaper and telling them things that are lies, half-truths and innuendos."

Smith says Fairley and other Democrats who didn't back Chase are carrying a grudge.

"I just wish they'd let it go because Maralyn is a smart woman and she's an honest woman ... and she works really hard for people. She has been fighting for justice and peace for decades."

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August 11, 2006

First Lady Laura Bush to campaign for McGavick

Posted by David Postman at 6:26 PM

First Lady Laura Bush will be in the state later this month to raise money for Mike McGavick at two events.

Someone with an invitation read me these details: On Aug. 30, Bush will headline a $250-a-head breakfast fundraiser at the Bellevue Westin. Photos with the First Lady will cost $2,500.

Later that day she travels across the mountains to Kennewick for a $150-a-head lunch event, with $1,000 photos.

Both events are joint fundraisers for the McGavick campaign and the state Republican Party. The First Lady's office earlier today said there was nothing to confirm or announce about a Washington state visit.

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McGavick loans his campaign $2 million

Posted by David Postman at 3:58 PM

Mike McGavick announced just now that he donated $2 million to his campaign. It will be reported as a personal loan to the campaign.

McGavick said in statement:

From the beginning of this U.S. Senate campaign, my wife Gaelynn and I have thought about this decision. I am making this personal contribution to the campaign because so many Washingtonians have worked hard to get us where we are today.

We know that the incumbent senator and her allies are spending and will spend nearly unlimited amounts to win this election. My opponents have already placed over $5 million in television buys throughout the state.


McGavick trails Sen. Maria Cantwell in fund raising and Democrats have been expecting McGavick to use some of his own money to catch up.

McGavick raised about $4.4 million through June 30 and had more than $1 million in the bank. Cantwell has raised more than $11 million and had about $6.4 million in the bank.

Cantwell, a former high-tech executive, largely self-financed her $10 million 2000 campaign.

Said McGavick:

In 2000, Sen. Cantwell contributed over $10 million dollars to her campaign and outspent her opponent two to one. She has been a tireless fundraiser over the last five years, raising over $16 million since her election, nearly 60 percent of it from outside our state. From her campaign contributions, Sen. Cantwell has put $1.1 million into her personal bank account in loan repayments and her campaign still owes her $2.3 million — money she continues to loan her campaign and that they are able to spend each day in this election.


McGavick is a multi-millionaire from his work as CEO of Safeco. He got $28 million when he left the company earlier this year. The money came from stock options, bonuses and performance rewards.

Disclosure forms filed with the U.S. Senate show his net worth between $36 million and $65 million.

The McGavick loan triggers the so-called "Millionaire's Amendment." That is a Federal Election Commission rule that raises the amount of money that can be raised by opponents of a self-financed candidate. It can also raise the lid on what the political parties can spend on media.

McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy said the loan triggers the Millionaire's Amendment for McGavick's "primary opponents only and has no affect on Sen. Cantwell. Accordingly with FEC regulations we have notified our primary opponents of Mike's contribution."

McGavick has five, little known, primary opponents and none have raised any significant money or run any visible campaign.

Cantwell has asked the FEC to clarify whether she could raise more money if McGavick donated to his own campaign before next month's primary. As Alex Fryer reported in the Times last month:

Because McGavick doesn't have a viable Republican opponent, Cantwell argues that any personal investment made by McGavick should trigger the Millionaires' Amendment and allow Cantwell to ask her donors to write bigger checks.


Democrats say their concerns about what they call McGavick's golden parachute have been justified. Said state party spokesman Kelly Steele:

"The $2 million is the first installment of his illegal, special interest favor from his insurance industry pals."

Cantwell's chief strategist Michael Meehan said the Cantwell campaign will continue to press its case with the FEC about the Millionaire's Amendment. He said that McGavick never mentions his Republican opponents on the campaign trail:

"He has always said, 'My opponent Senator Cantwell' so we firmly believe he thinks we're his opponents."

Meehan said if the donation limits were raised for Cantwell donors now limited to $4,200 could give her $25,200 instead.

He also said Cantwell has spent $1.5 million on TV buys so far, not the $5 million that McGavick claimed in his statement. Bundy said the $5 million is what Cantwell and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee have reserved at TV stations around the state.

CLARIFICATION: McGavick was careful in the wording of his statement in regard to the TV buys, saying, "We know that the incumbent senator and her allies are spending and will spend nearly unlimited amounts to win this election. My opponents have already placed over $5 million in television buys throughout the state." "Placed" means air time reserved but not necessarily paid for.

Steele was quick to point out that the reference to "My opponents" again obviously refers to Cantwell and the Democrats, not the little known GOP opponents who were informed of McGavick's loan to satisfy requirements of the Millionaire's Amendment.

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Dirty words

Posted by David Postman at 3:00 PM

Over at the Slog Eli Sanders is talking about my efforts in the past few days to set some standards for comments:

I don't envy David Postman for having to police the language in the comment threads of his Seattle Times blog, Postman on Politics. But by cracking down on cuss-words and uncivil discourse, he's creating an interesting experiment (in addition creating a lot of work for himself).

I'm really not as worried about cuss words as it may seem. If the debate on the blog was interesting, informative or unpredictable it would hardly merit a mention. I certainly don't plan on stopping people from calling each other idiots. But all the other words around the expletives and petty insults remain a problem. The swear words are an indicator species in a way. They started popping up just as I began to be concerned about the general tone of the comments. I started jumping on them this week in the hopes that it would help raise the level of debate.

If some of those words were in a different context they'd be fine, even natural and would, as Eli suggests, reflect how people really talk about politics.

It is also worth keeping in mind, as Wayne says in the comments on the Burner TV spot post, that this is part of the Seattle Times. Standards are different here of course in many ways from what appears in the newspaper. But they're also different than what you'll find at or the Slog. Here, Santorum is a senator.

Eli asks:

Is consistently high-minded and expletive-free discourse possible, or even desirable, on a political blog that's open to anyone with an internet connection?

No, of course not. And it hasn't been much of a problem. We have had over 2,800 comments posted since this blog started in late May and I've commented on swear words at most half a dozen times. The real question is, is it possible to have a interesting discourse running through the comments, even hard-fought debate by ardent partisans, without it devolving quickly into something predictable and petty?

The comments work best for the widest readership when people bring new information or point out errors and fallacies in my writing and, yes, when they debate each other. Ad-hominem attacks and predictable, partisan, talking points tarted up with cuss words or schoolyard taunts don't do much for me. Unless they're funny of course.

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Debating intelligent design

Posted by David Postman at 7:33 AM

My column in the paper today is about intelligent design and the push by some academics to do a better job engaging with the public about the controversy.

Some scientists critical of intelligent design don't like to see public debate on the issue because they think that gives ID too much credibility. But it remains part of the public, and political, dialogue.

The Stranger has a story this week by Josh Feit about Mike McGavick's support for teaching intelligent design in public schools:

McGavick did a lot of qualifying: He thinks Darwinism has more scientific weight than intelligent design; he's not running for school board; curriculum should be set at the state, not the federal, level. Finally, however, McGavick stated that, yes, intelligent design should be taught in public schools. And it's okay if it's taught in science class, he added.

I asked McGavick spokesman Elliott Bundy about this and he added, "Mike thinks students should be exposed to all ideas and theories — and the scientific evidence for and against those ideas."

On this issue, Cantwell has the quicker answer. Spokeswoman Amanda Mahnke told me: "Senator Cantwell believes that intelligent design has no place in the science curriculum of our public schools."

UPDATE: Ah, it seemed like such a nice simple, short, post. Of course as soon as I published the above with Cantwell's "quicker answer" I see that Eric Earling has gone and complicated the issue by doing some reporting.

He points out a 2001 Canwtell vote on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum to the No Child Left Behind Act. The amendment says in part, that it is the "sense of the Senate":

where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.

Earling writes:

Call me crazy, but the intent of that amendment is pretty clear in supporting the discussion of all available theories, though it obviously allows evolution to be the dominant focus of instruction. Whether intelligent design is correct or not it certainly seems to fit the intent of the amendment to explain intelligent design at the same time the theory of evolution is taught so students have a more complete understanding of competing theories.

Cantwell spokeswoman Katharine Lister says, "It was not an intelligent design vote." And if you look at the 91 senators that voted for it, including senators Kennedy, Clinton, Murray, Feingold and Wellstone, it is hard to imagine they thought they were backing the teaching of intelligent design, or even backing "teaching the controversy."

But once it was passed, pro-ID forces embraced it as an official stamp of approval for teaching of their theory. Scientists and academics on the other side worried that is how it would be read and launched a massive lobbying campaign to have the language removed. They were successful.

The original resolution likely was meant as a pro-ID statement since that's where Santorum's inclinations were at the time. (He later backed off his support.) Some, including the National Center for Science Education say senators didn't know what they were voting on:

On June 14, the bill, including the Santorum Amendment, passed the Senate 91-8. It seems likely that most of the senators who voted for the bill were unaware of the antievolution implications of the Santorum Amendment, although Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) alluded to them in their remarks in the Congressional Record.

Jeremy Leaming at Americans United for Separation of Church and State told me this morning:

The resolution was a pro-ID subterfuge designed to bolster the Discovery Institute's claim to have congressional support for its efforts. Few of the senators who voted to support the "Santorum amendment" actually could have recognized the resolution for what it truly was, however.

Here's what ended up in an introductory statement to the conference committee report:

The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.

The Senate vote, though, and the remaining language remained a weapon in the battle between IDers and evolutionists. John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, wrote in January 2002:

Most people would consider that statement an endorsement of the right of teachers to present both sides of the scientific controversy over evolution.

MORE: In the comments, Richard Shepard asked about the Green and Libertarian party Senate candidates' positions. (He's Libertarian Bruce Guthrie's campaign treasurer.) I sent e-mails to Guthrie, Green Aaron Dixon and Democrat Hong Tran.

Guthrie's campaign manager, Travis Wright, said the candidate believes that if schools accept federal funds, "those funds should be spent teaching scientific methodology and promoting genuine inquisitiveness. If local schools prefer another direction, the impetus is on them to find alternative funding." He said that Guthrie "personally believes Intelligent Design is a subject more appropriate for a philosophy course than a science class but the real issue is whether or not the Federal government should be developing curricula."

UPDATE: Hong Tran says:

I do not support the teaching of intelligent design in public school science courses because I believe it is a religious view not a view based on science. If the public schools were to offer a course on world religions and as part of a discussion on Christianity the teacher were to mention that some Christians support the theory of intelligent design to explain the creation of the universe that would be okay.

And Mike Gillis, Dixon's press secretary says:

Aaron's position is that "intelligent design" is thinly veiled creationism that uses fake scientific language. It belongs in church, not our public schools.

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August 10, 2006

Darcy Burner's first TV spot

Posted by David Postman at 12:23 PM

Democrat Darcy Burner's first TV ad in her campaign against Congressman Dave Reichert began airing today. It's a 60 second, fairly soft, bio spot. You can see it here.

In this first step in introducing herself to 8th District voters, two things stick out. Burner clearly is stressing her military ties. The ad points out in the narration, photos and graphics that both her father and husband are veterans and that she lived in "military towns." (Her brother is in the military now and served a tour in Iraq. The ad doesn't mention that, though Burner includes it in speeches.)

The other thing was that the last piece of the ad is Burner talking about the American dream "slipping away." I've seen Burner speak and she is quite good. But I've watched the ad several times and her voice and on-screen presence lacks the full confidence she shows in person. That's something Reichert does exceptionally well, too; even more so on TV. Burner's brief appearance in the ad comes off almost as if she were trying to restrain herself.

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Cantwell looks to "prosecute" if Dems take Senate

Posted by David Postman at 11:02 AM

Sen. Maria Cantwell's campaign aide (and former opponent) Mark Wilson appeared on her behalf Tuesday night at the 43rd District Democrats meeting. (My colleague Jim Brunner was there and shared his notes with me.)

Wilson spoke right after Hong Tran, and he got a little dig in at Cantwell's primary opponent:

"I'm Mark Wilson and I'm also not going to be your next U.S. senator."

He said the Senate race was a chance to "get that gavel in our hands," referring to something Congressman Jim McDermott had said earlier about plans for oversight hearings if Democrats take control of the House.

Said Wilson:

"What a tragedy it would be if in fact we capture the House but not have the ability to prosecute in the U.S. Senate."

What would the Senate prosecute under Democratic control? Wilson didn't say. I asked the Cantwell campaign to elaborate on what their ambassador to the left said. Spokeswoman Katharine Lister said Cantwell wants Congress "to do more to hold the administration more accountable for its actions and spending in Iraq."

"The Republican Congress has refused to hold meaningful hearings on no-bid contracts or fraud related to reconstruction efforts in Iraq or even to fund veterans' health care, especially mental heath care, for our troops coming home. The best way to do that is for Democrats to regain control of both the House and the Senate."

The 43rd District couldn't agree on which legislative candidate to endorse Tuesday. The Slog has the tally. Cantwell easily got enough votes for an endorsement.

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August 9, 2006

Finding meaning in Tuesday's primary results

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

As with any good pundit and political reporter this morning I'm trying to figure out the broader implications of the big campaign news of the day: The loss by an incumbent in a primary election who had been painted so far out of step with his party he was made to look like all but a traitor to the cause. And today the results have some wondering whether it signals a major split in the party that could have fallout across the country.

I'm talking about the Michigan Congressional race where Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz was defeated yesterday by Tim Walberg, a former Republican
state legislator. Walberg painted Schwarz as a big-spending liberal and attacked him for his support of abortion rights.

Schwarz was endorsed by President George Bush and Sen. John McCain. But Walberg was backed by the anti-abortion groups and the Club for Growth. In fact, this was the first primary win ever against an incumbent by a candidate backed by the Club for Growth, a conservative, anti-tax group, that targets GOP members they call RINOs, Republicans in name only.

The Associated Press reported "the implications could reach far beyond the borders of the rural southern Michigan district." Schwarz was reported as saying:

"I look at this election as probably a victory for right to life, anti-abortion, anti-embryonic stem cell groups but it's a net loss for the Republican party because it just pushes the party farther to the right."

Of course most of the attention today is on another primary, Tuesday's Democratic vote in Connecticut that saw liberal businessman Ned Lamont defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman in a campaign largely focused on Lieberman's support of the Iraq war.

It's that race that Republicans want to define the 2006 mid-term elections. In the coming days you can be sure that Republicans will be describing Democratic candidates as the "The Ned Lamont of (your state here.)"

This morning Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman gave a speech to the City Club of Cleveland. He was there to give a boost to Sen. Mike DeWine, who is facing a tough challenge from Rep. Sherrod Brown. Mehlman talked a lot about the results in Connecticut's Democratic primary:

"Why is this relevant in Ohio?

"Because right here, the Democratic Party has chosen to nominate for Senate a leading proponent of the isolationist, defeatist, blame America first philosophy.

"Sherrod Brown is Ohio's answer to Ned Lamont."

Mehlman is spinning Lieberman's loss as evidence — proof, really — that "defeatism and isolationism are now Democratic Party orthodoxy." He describes the Connecticut primary as a major turning point for Democrats. He seems so nostalgic for the old Democratic Party — the pre-Tuesday Democratic Party — one wonders what he ever found to criticize Democrats about before Lamont's victory.

I can't imagine that this will play a significant role in Washington state races. I'm sure Hong Tran hopes it does, but her long-shot campaign against Maria Cantwell is likely not in a position to capitalize on the Lieberman defeat.

Republicans here will spread the Mehlman gospel and play up divisions on the war we've already seen among state Democrats. Anyone want to take bets on how long before we see a GOP-penned line that includes mention of Lamont and Dwight Pelz?

In Cleveland this morning — according to excerpts of the speech the RNC sent me — Mehlman contrasted Democrats as the party of exclusion with the Republicans and their "commitment to a big-tent Party, where independent voices like Mike DeWine, Ken Blackwell, and George Voinovich are welcomed."

Joe Schwarz? Not so much.

UPDATE: Even if Republicans are successful in making the Lamont victory a declaration that the Democratic Party is now the anti-war party, I'm not sure how that will play with the electorate.

This from CNN today:

Sixty percent of Americans oppose the U.S. war in Iraq, the highest number since polling on the subject began with the commencement of the war in March 2003, according to poll results and trends released Wednesday.

And a majority of poll respondents said they would support the withdrawal of at least some U.S. troops by the end of the year, according to results from the Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted last week on behalf of CNN. The corporation polled 1,047 adult Americans by telephone.

I don't think Democrats have yet settled on what the Connecticut results will mean. But this is the best quote I've seen:

"This shows what blind loyalty to George Bush and being his love child means," said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the leader of the Democratic House Congressional campaign. "This is not about the war. It's blind loyalty to Bush."

UPDATE: Cantwell endorses Lamont: "I congratulate Ned Lamont on his victory last night. I respect the decision of the Connecticut Democrats in choosing their nominee and I will support him."

UPDATE: Mike McGavick says he plans to not only endorse Lieberman in his independent campaign against Lamont, but will donate money to the effort:

"I don't agree with Sen. Lieberman on most issues. But as the Senator said in his concession speech last night, it's time for our elected leaders to stop playing political games so that we can get things done for this country. Senator Lieberman's message of independence and bi-partisanship is right for our country."

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Supreme Court grants extension for reconsideration of DOMA

Posted by David Postman at 8:36 AM

The state Supreme Court clerk's office confirmed this morning that the court has granted an extension in the amount of time plaintiffs in the gay marriage case have to ask for reconsideration.

A motion for reconsideration usually has to be filed within 20 days of a decision. For the court's 5-4 decision upholding the state's gay marriage ban, that meant it had to be filed by Aug. 14. Yesterday afternoon the court's deputy clerk granted a 15-day extension.

The request for the extension came from counsel for Celia Castle and her partner Brenda Bauer, some of the lead plaintiffs in the case.

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August 8, 2006

Scientists urged to fight intelligent design

Posted by David Postman at 11:49 AM

When I wrote in April about Seattle's Discovery Institute and its efforts to regroup after a federal judge's stinging rebuke of intelligent design, most of the reaction I got was negative, and most of it was from academics. Opponents of ID from the scientific community were angry that I even wrote about Discovery (which didn't like the article either) and its anti-Darwinian theory. They said there was no debate, the theory was fully debunked and I was manufacturing controversy in what some read as The Seattle Times implicit endorsement of intelligent design.

But it turns out it's not just me who still sees a debate churning about this. The Society for the Study of Evolution — which says ID "is not, and can never be, science" — has published "A multi-pronged, multi-year strategy to oppose creationism and intelligent design in the science curriculum of public schools."

The existence of a massive and well-funded network of anti-evolutionary groups has contributed to the persistence of creationism, but at the same time scientists could have been more effective in outreach and education (Pigliucci 2002, 2005). Thus, while scientists certainly cannot hope by themselves to overcome the problem, it seems increasingly clear that inaction is no longer an option. The public already perceives academics as aloof and isolated, lost in a pampered world of irrelevancies, unwilling or unable to come out of the ivory tower even for brief periods to explain why their research is worthwhile (Sagan 1995). We think that professional societies ought to take the lead and generate an internal cultural change within academia, to help scientists rethink their priorities and make outreach and public involvement a matter of normal practice, rather than a suspect activity carried out only by a few individuals.

The goals include defending the teaching of evolution as the "framework for all biological science" and to "preclude the teaching of creationism, intelligent design, and other pseudoscientific 'alternatives' as part of the science curriculum in public schools."

The group calls its manifesto the anti-wedge document. That's a play on the most famous intelligent design document, The Wedge Document, originally published in 1999 by the Discovery Institute. It spelled out a strategy to "defeat scientific materialism" and "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

The document was leaked and widely publicized and has been an albatross for the Discovery Institute, which says the document has become a "sort of intellectual urban legend."

The Evolution Society's call to arms is being met with mixed reaction at The Panda's Thumb, a popular Web site among those who "critique the claims of the antievolution movement."

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I-933 backer says opposition signs "morally should not be up"

Posted by David Postman at 10:06 AM

The No on 933 campaign yesterday forwarded this message they found on Yahoo's property rights discussion group:

No on I-933 Signs

All you wonderful proprights folks:

If you see those lying I-933 signs, take them down. They are full of
lies and morally should not be up. If you don't want to do that, tell
me where they are and I will do it. Those people put those signs up in
clusters of five or six and they are full of those suggestive, lying
questions to put fear into people.

Edwina Johnston

I e-mailed Johnston to ask about the posting. She says she has not taken down any signs, though she says her signs for conservative Supreme Court candidates and Mike McGavick have been taken down.

"Our group does not believe in that activity. We believe in just getting the truth out and the truth will prevail."

She did not address directly why she suggested 933 supporters take down anti-933 signs.

"Our discussion group is a private group — not open to the public. If someone misrepresented themselves to be on our group, that does not give them the right to publish the private communications they find there and it does not give you the right to publish it either. Do you use a moral code?"

Johnson thinks my writing is "very leftist and biased against the right" and instead of picking on her, she said:

"You should write about how 'No on I-933' people have infiltrated our discussion group. They will stop at nothing."

The Yahoo groups can be read by anyone and all you need is a Yahoo sign-in to reply to a comment.

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August 7, 2006

McGavick's hardball consultant

Posted by David Postman at 8:46 PM

One of the top advisors on Mike McGavick's civility-themed Senate campaign is an accomplished purveyor of the negative political ad. Henry "Eddie" Mahe Jr. says that reputation "may or may not have anything to do with reality." But just minutes into an interview earlier today, it's clear this guy isn't afraid to land a punch.

"I bring to the campaign sufficient experience to be able to evaluate what might make the most sense given the circumstances of the race we have to run. There are times you chop people's heads off and there are times when you don't. I've done both. This is not a formulaic business. This isn't chemistry."

Mahe, 69, says he and McGavick are long time friends. McGavick hired Mahe for Slade Gorton's 1988 election, which McGavick managed. Mahe said he'd work on the McGavick campaign for free "if it were not for the insanity of these laws." As a professional campaign consultant, the law won't allow him to work gratis.

So far McGavick's campaign has paid more than $50,000 to the D.C. law firm where Mahe works. Campaign reports filed with the FEC showing those payments led a Democratic operative to point out to me that Mahe worked for that firm. (Mahe said he is the only one at the firm working on the McGavick campaign.) The point being the obvious dynamic of a campaign based on civility getting advice from a consultant with a resume of hard-hitting tactics.

Here's what made this a story for me: Eddie Mahe is an influential player in GOP politics and in the interview today he gave an insider's view of negative campaigning as well as his view that the atmoshphere may be changing in a way that makes that sort of advertising less effective.

Does Mahe deserve a reputation as a negative campaigner? He was quoted in a 1990 article about the infamous Willie Horton ad that an independent group ran against Michael Dukakis, saying, "We can't worry about being too negative. ... If we don't get the anti-Dukakis message out, we can't win — period." Mahe was a George H.W. Bush backer in '88 but was not involved with production of the Horton ad.

He didn't remember it when I asked him, but Mahe was paid $25,000 by a wealthy Chicagoan for helping with "Troopergate," the story pushed by conservatives about alleged adultery during Bill Clinton's tenure as Arkansas governor.

Mahe told me, "I never received any compensation of any kind for anything" related to the case, but helped a friend for free. But after being reminded that word of the $25,000 payment was attributed to him in the media, Mahe said, "Well if I said it, it had to be true at that point. I won't deny it. I don't remember even what I did to earn the money."

Press accounts quote Mahe as saying he reviewed material collected in Arkansas to see if the mainstream press would be interested in the story and helped publicize the allegations against Clinton.

Mahe also has ties to Americans for Job Security, one of the pioneering, business-backed independent political groups. That group was launched with help from the American Insurance Association, where McGavick once worked. Mahe was a consultant for the insurance group and was credited in the press with helping AJS get started, though he said today he has never been paid by AJS.

Americans for Job Security ran ads to help Republican Sen. Slade Gorton in his 2000 campaign against Maria Cantwell. Mahe was a consultant to Gorton that year. Ads by the group in Washington state and elsewhere have been criticized on editorial pages around the country for being negative or for the lack of disclosure of the financial backers of the group.

Mahe said that negative campaigns work, almost anywhere in the country. (He said places like Washington and Minnesota don't like to admit that.) He said the country is gradually coming out a 10-year period in which "I don't know if there was any rational limit" on how negative a campaign could go.

"We all had to do it and I underline the word had." He said if a campaign put up a "soft/fuzzy" ad and poll "numbers didn't move an inch in your behalf and then you put a tough one and all of a sudden the numbers move, what are you going to do?"

Mahe said campaigns don't create negativity, but reflect the zeitgeist.

"For the last 10 years the whole culture has been mean, it has been tough, it has had a rough edge to it. So why would we expect our material, our presentation, to be significantly different?"

Mahe thought there would be a bigger shift by now away from negative campaigning. His candidate in Washington has made civility the main theme of his campaign. And by Mahe's early predictions that would have been a perfect fit with broader societal and cultural changes in America.

He said, though, that "it's just barely happening." And the real change may not be evident until 2008.

"This cycle is still puzzling to me. The campaigns to this stage are continuing to be overrun by events. The campaigns are not defining the political environment yet."

If things aren't turning out like Mahe thought, does that mean that McGavick will rethink his civility campaign?

No way, McGavick says. He told me this afternoon that he and Mahe have never talked about Mahe's theory of the country's coming shift away from negative campaigns.

"I've never thought about it as where society was going, so much as where it ought to go," McGavick said. "We're not doing it because we think it's a good tactic, we're doing it because we think it's right."

McGavick lacks Mahe's bravado about negative campaigning. In a 2002 speech to the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, McGavick said:

"We clearly need to raise the level of civil discourse in our community. If I see one more of those negative 30-second ads, I'm going to throw up — and I used to make them!"

That's a reference to his work as Gorton's campaign manager in 1988. When I asked McGavick about that statement today, though, he backed away from it some.

"I have to admit that's a little bit of an overstatement," he said.

There was one ad in the campaign against Democrat Mike Lowry that McGavick says he regrets. It claimed Lowry supported legalizing marijuana and it was based on something in the University of Washington student newspaper.

McGavick defended the ad at the time despite charges that the information was suspect. The Times reported that year: "Asked if he had any more evidence that Lowry supports legalization, Gorton's campaign manager Mike McGavick snapped: 'I have no indication that he doesn't.' "

"It was a mistake," McGavick said. "I've always second-guessed whether we should have pulled the ad."

I told McGavick that I was pointed toward Mahe's role in his campaign by a Democratic operative. He responded, "It's a continuation of this whole guilt by association campaign they are running."

UPDATE: In the paper today is an excerpt of this post. The headline says: "NEGATIVE TURN BY CAMPAIGN?" For the record, I don't think so. I don't write the headlines. I think that headline put a negative twist on the piece that wasn't necessary.

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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 8:17 AM

  • A Boston Globe columnist compares the media's reaction to two recent incidents of anti-Semitism, the Seattle Jewish Federation shooting and Mel Gibson's drunken tirade.

    TWO INCIDENTS occurred on July 28. Both took place on the West Coast; both involved an American venting his hostility to Jews. But only one of them became, in the days that followed, the big national story about anti-Semitism. The other was treated as a serious but local matter, and drew only modest coverage around the country.

    You can guess which is which.

  • In Snohomish County, the Herald's Jerry Cornfield reports on a primary challenger to Doug Roulstone, the retired Navy officer the Republican Party has endorsed to take on Congressman Rick Larsen. Teri Moats got in the race at the last minute, surprising friends and even her husband who tried to talk her into withdrawing. She only responded to Cornfield's questions with a brief e-mail.
    "I will certainly attempt to win this election and to serve the people of the state of Washington with dignity and honor," she wrote. "For obvious reasons, I prefer not to share my strategy with those outside of my campaign team."

    Why she is running is the big question.

    "To represent the conservative, pro-life views in Congress," she wrote.

  • On the flip side, state Rep. Bill Hinkle continues what Chris Mulick says is a charmed political life. And it comes with a headline in the Tri-City Herald that I bet shows up on Hinkle's office wall: It's great to be Bill Hinkle.

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How Tim Eyman secretly controls the Supreme Court

Posted by David Postman at 7:13 AM

Tim Eyman sees himself as a very influential man. While I figured he had moved on from his failure to qualify his anti-gay rights referendum to concentrate on explaining why he may fail to qualify his latest $30 car tab initiative, Eyman is not done spinning the sorry tale of R-65.

In a post on The Reagan Wing Saturday — thanks for the head's up blatherwatch — Eyman says he's responsible for the state Supreme Court upholding the Defense of Marriage Act.

Imagine if there had never been a referendum filed against HB 2661 — would the state supreme court justices, especially those up for reelection this year, have interpreted the lack of opposition to it as a sign of acceptance by the people of the bill's policies? You bet they would have.

It was only because all of you fought back against HB 2661 that these justices realized the amount of opposition they'd face if they unilaterally imposed same-sex marriage on the citizens of Washington.


R-65 turned out to be an incredibly effective lobbying campaign that you should all be very proud of. That 5-4 ruling wasn't a fluke — it wasn't luck — it was a direct result of your hard work and effort on Referendum 65 that made it happen. Don't ever doubt that.

Some things to keep in mind when reading Eyman. "You," means "I" and "incredibly effective lobbying campaign" means "fell far short of the signatures necessary to quality for the ballot."

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August 4, 2006

New Cantwell ad features spat with Ted Stevens

Posted by David Postman at 4:50 PM

There are reportedly Democrats in the Washington Congressional delegation who thinks Maria Cantwell should have made nice with Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Some see Stevens as just too powerful to have as an enemy. They worry Cantwell's battle with Stevens over ANWR and tankers in the Sound could hurt Washington's standing in D.C.

Well Cantwell certainly hasn't apologized. And I think she kind of likes the feud. Her second TV ad of her re-election campaign features Alaska's senior senator. The ad just released is called "Sound" and is billed by the campaign as highlighting Cantwell's work in getting Stevens to give up his proposal to allow supertankers in Puget Sound. (Stevens of course credits Cantwell's Republican foe, Mike McGavick for that.)

I'd call the ad "Ted." The 30 second spot features the Stevens battle as much as the Sound. The narrator says "When a powerful senator from Alaska tried last year to increase super tanker traffic through the Sound," the screen shows a Times editorial headlined, "Sen. Stevens' Crude Attack on Puget Sound."

Will McGavick follow with his own version of the tanker story? He could quote Stevens from the Senate floor explaining why he gave up the tanker fight: "One letter from a Washingtonian convinced me." McGavick was the letter writer of course.

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Did Frist offer Cantwell a deal?

Posted by David Postman at 7:25 AM

The Hotline blog says Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist offered to fix the tip credit problem in the trifecta bill to get Maria Cantwell's vote.

Cantwell refused Frist's entreaties and enticements to vote for cloture on the Trifecta bill. Frist offered to further fix the tip adjustment matrix that poisoned the minimum wage increase for many Democrats, but Cantwell sent word that she was not open to changing her mind.

So now, per a senior Republican aide: "We won the last 2 elections and beat Tom Daschle by campaigning against Democrat obstructionism. This could be the gift we were looking for.

And Frist will be here soon to deliver it in person. He is holding two fundraisers in the state for Mike McGavick on the 14th. Hotline says Washington is the first stop on Frist's August recess travels.

UPDATE: It doesn't sound like Frist offered a very good deal. Cantwell aide Michael Meehan said that Cantwell talked to Frist by telephone Wednesday night. Cantwell said she had a problem with the minimum wage proposal and Frist said "Well, maybe we can work on a fix."

Cantwell wanted to know what that fix would be, and the only thing she got as a follow up was a copy of the U.S. Department of Labor letter to Frist that said the tip provision was open to interpretation and that the department would work with Congress to clarify it.

"It was clearly not a fix," Meehan said. And that's why Cantwell turned it down and voted against the measure.

UPDATE: Frist's press secretary, Carolyn Weyforth, says by e-mail that Frist was willing to do whatever it took to satisfy Cantwell's concerns:

Sen. Frist told Sen. Cantwell that he would work with her on this issue and to fix the tip credit in anyway that she wanted, clearly she did not take the Senator up on this offer because she voted against the bill.

UPDATE: I just read the e-mail traffic from Wednesday night between the Frist and Cantwell staffers on this issue. Frist's office thought one potential solution was for the state legislature to fix the problem.

Cantwell aide Jennifer Griffith e-mailed Frist aide Rohit Kumar:

How is this a solution? Senator Cantwell cannot bind a future legislature to never increasing the minimum wage, unless they also accept a mandated tip credit.

Kumar responds:

If this doesn't work, do you have a fix that would allow Sen. Cantwell
to vote for cloture on Friday? Maybe a state opt-out?

And Griffith ends the exchange:

Sen. Cantwell believes a package that completely omits the tip penalty
provisions in this bill would be worth discussing.

Here's the U.S. Department of Labor letter that Frist was relying on to say the tip credit would not mean a drop in the minimum wage here.

And here's what Cantwell sent out last night with a letter from the state Department of Labor and Industries with its analysis.

UPDATE: I just heard from Weyforth again, clearly upset at what has become a public spat between Frist and Cantwell. She says what the e-mails don't show is that:

Frist picked up the phone, to call her and discuss her omission provision, before their release went out. She wouldn't take his call and was avoiding him on the senate floor and now low and behold inter-office emails appear on your blog... That is a new low.

Weyforth said the Department of Labor letter was sent to Cantwell's office at the request of her staff, not as a proposed fix from the majority leader. Frist wanted to follow up but never was able to connect again with Cantwell. Weyforth said if Cantwell's office says there was no fix offered, it is "only because they didn't want to hear the solution."

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August 3, 2006

Too clever trifecta?

Posted by David Postman at 8:06 AM

Republicans were so excited about the tax-cut package put together for a House vote last week that they couldn't help but boast.

Their tone was best captured by Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp, a Mayberry Machiavelli if ever there was one, who could not restrain himself from telling House Democrats, "You have seen us really outfox you on this issue tonight."

Republican leadership had cobbled together a bill they called the "trifecta" that included repeal of the estate tax, an increase in the minimum wage and extension of a bunch of tax breaks — including for Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser and for the state's sales tax credit against the federal income tax. The theory was that Republicans would embrace the bill for the estate tax and tax breaks and Democrats would do the same for raising the minimum wage.

The House passed the bill Saturday morning on a 230-180 vote, with 34 Democrats voting with the Republican majority. It's now in the Senate.

And GOP leaders continue to crow about the clever packaging of a bill that gives a raise to some of America's lowest paid workers and a tax break for the wealthiest.

Even if they do not win enactment of the "trifecta" bill, they said they would be able to blame Democrats for standing in the way of both parties' policy goals.
"There's no risk. It's all reward," said Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "It's a very compelling political package."

But even in Washington, D.C., there is such a thing as too clever.

Also in the bill was a provision that would effect Washington and six other states and could mean a cut in the hourly wage paid to workers who earn tips.

And that has Republican Congressman Dave Reichert hustling to make sure his vote for the trifecta isn't read as a vote against service workers.

The tip credit, pushed for at least 10 years by the National Restaurant Association, is in place already in 43 states and allows employers to pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage.

There's a dispute about exactly how the tip credit would work. The short story is Democrats and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says it could mean a drop of $3 an hour in the minimum wage for tipped employees. Republicans and the restaurant association say the effect would be much less.

The Democratic reading of the bill was enough to bring labor activists and Democrats out to a rally in Seattle yesterday to protest the bill. It was billed as an "emergency rally" and Reichert's Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, was an advertised headliner.

Republicans seem to have gone from self-congratulations for their legislative acumen to damage control.

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist got a letter from a top Department of Labor official saying the administration would read the law "as protecting the current minimum wages of the tipped employees in the seven states." Victoria Lipnic, the assistant secretary for employment standards, wrote Frist that the department was aware some thought the wage provisions in the bill were ambiguous:

"We would be pleased to work with the Congress to clarify that the intent of Congress is to protect the current minimum wages of tipped employees."

Reichert wrote a letter yesterday to House Speaker Dennis Hastert making it clear he didn't vote for the bill thinking Washington workers would see a drop in their minimum wage.

There are competing opinions regarding how this provision will be interpreted. If the Tipped Wage Fairness provision becomes law I will monitor its interpretation as I do not believe it would be proper, nor do I think it is Congress's intent, to interpret it in a way to use the "date of enactment" language to retroactively apply the current $2.15 tip credit amount to Washington State and the six other states.

Ultimately a legislative fix may be necessary to correct the Tipped Wage Fairness provision to ensure that workers in Washington State do not suffer adverse effects due to this provision.

Rep. Cathy McMorris also moved to distance herself from the tip credit vote. She wrote a letter to the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce saying:

"I firmly believe that these provisions should not be interpreted to allow employers to reduce employees' base pay for the purpose of meeting federal minimum wage requirements."

Reichert also asked for a quick vote on a bill to allow tipped workers to exempt the first $10,000 they get in tips from their federal income tax.

I asked Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, yesterday if this was a case of Republican leadership being too clever about what they thought was a brilliant legislative strategy. He said he'd describe it as the results of "sausage-making" that resulted in a bill the size of a phone book.

"The Democrats were saying they didn't have a chance to read it. Dave didn't have a chance to read it either. That's not an excuse for any vote that is contained therein. Dave voted for this bill because overall this is good legislation. ... But when the leadership forces bills like this together inevitably there are going to be provisions contained within that are going to be problematic."

Shields said Reichert never heard anything about the tip provision from labor lobbyists prior to last week's vote. He said Reichert is willing to work with labor and the restaurant association on the issue, but he seemed bugged that Reichert was a target of yesterday's "emergency rally."

"It makes it a little more difficult when people go the route of immediately attacking and using things in a partisan way."

UPDATE: I'm not sure what the labor guys are smoking. But on the website of the Washington State Labor Council, spokesman David Groves goes off on an unbelievable rant about The Seattle Times, praising every other paper in town for its coverage of the tip issue. He writes that we "offered NO COVERAGE of the tip-penalty issue today." Of course, as anyone who reads the papers knows, the Times has the most coverage of the issue today. It is our banner story. It could not be more prominent in the paper. It got more prominent play than any other paper in the area. There was a story on our website yesterday as well. And he links to my post yesterday about Frank Blethen as evidence of some evil doing, though it is not clear exactly what.

(NOTE: THIS WAS THE LINK TO THURSDAY'S FRONT PAGE THAT SHOWED THE BANNER STORY, NOW IT SHOWS TODAY'S PAPER, SO IS OUT OF DATE.) Here's what our front page looks like today. I'm not sure how we could have given the issue any more prominence.

UPDATE: Groves has deleted his bashing of the Times. Now he just ignores what the paper did today to try to make it look like we're not covering this issue. Just click the link above and decide if you think The Seattle Times underplayed this story today.

SENATE UPDATE: The Senate tonight stopped the bill. The AP reports the bill got a 56-42 vote, four votes short of what Republicans needed to advance it.

Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray both announced earlier they'd vote no.
Cantwell posted a statement on the NPI blog. She also released a state Department of Labor and Industries letter on the bill's tip credit provisions. It says in part:

Under our preliminary analysis, this proposal, in effect, appears to nullify an employer's obligation to pay the minimum wage rate in RCW 49.46.020 with regard to tipped employees. This means that Washington workers who receive tips -- typically service industry workers -- would see a decrease in income. However, the proposal does give states the right to amend their laws to specifically reinstate their current minimum wage rate laws.

I didn't realize the current minimum wage could be reinstated like that, which shouldn't be tough if Democrats retain control of the Legislature.

Mike McGavick's not buying the argument that state wages would be hurt. His statement tonight shows no worry about tipped employees.

Contrary to Sen. Cantwell's claim, the bill would not lower the wages of employees receiving tips below Washington state's minimum wage of $7.63 and hour. In response to Democrat claims, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a letter stating that the Department interprets the bill as protecting the current minimum wage in Washington state.

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The Democratic drift and Maria Cantwell

Posted by David Postman at 6:49 AM

One of my favorite prognosticators, Larry Sabato, is out with his latest Crystal Ball report. He labels our Senate race "Leans Democratic."

This is a contest that everyone is beginning to watch; Mike McGavick is a comer, and he is impressive, and he has a real chance for what may be the Republican party's only pick-up of a Democratic Senate seat. Yet it says a great deal about the year that we cannot even call this race a toss-up yet. For all of Senator Maria Cantwell's weaknesses, she must continue to be listed as a narrow favorite because of the Democratic drift of 2006. If Cantwell is defeating McGavick handily on election night, you'll know Democrats are doing very well in the midterm elections.

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August 2, 2006

Chuck Taylor out as managing editor at Seattle Weekly

Posted by David Postman at 4:31 PM

I don't see the news on the Weekly's site, but The Stranger has it.

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Blogger plays role in McGavick lawsuit

Posted by David Postman at 2:32 PM

I mentioned yesterday that liberal blogger David Goldstein of had solicited Safeco shareholders who might be angry at the amount of money paid to the company's former CEO, Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick.

I sent an e-mail to Goldstein this morning asking him if his solicitation had played any role in what led up to a lawsuit being filed yesterday against McGavick and the Safeco board. I haven't heard back. But the Seattle Weekly did. George Howland Jr.,reports Goldstein's solicitation came after a discussion with attorney Knoll Lowney, one of two attorneys who filed the suit yesterday.

The attorneys claimed the suit was "non-political and non-partisan."

Howland writes:

Goldstein's involvement will certainly raise the credibility of McGavick's claim that the suit is politically motivated.

Here's what horsesass guest blogger Darrly said about the suit on the blog yesterday:

But not everyone sees this as a political scandal. Take, for example, 27 year old Emma Schwartzman. Today she filed a lawsuit against McGavick over his "excessive" severance package.

To Ms. Schwartzman this is not about politics. Instead, it is about theft. And it's about family honor. Specifically, it's about McGavick stealing from Safeco — a company founded by her great, great grandfather — and its shareholders


And he asked, "Are the charges politically inspired, or contractually inspired?"

I don't know if Darryl knew at the time what Goldstein's role was. But I'll ask him.

UPDATE: Darryl, who normally resides at Hominid Views, says by e-mail he didn't know any more about Goldstein's role than I did when I posted yesterday.

David did not share the story behind that post, nor did he share the outcome with me.

The only communications I've had with him since the story broke was a brief (7 minute) phone call over a lousy connection. The topic of a connection to the plaintiff didn't come up.

If he knew, would it have changed what he wrote?

I'm not sure, since I don't know the story; but, if it was juicy, I may well have posted it on my own blog. Since I am guest blogging on Goldy's blog, I would feel compelled to speak to him first. I mean, blogs make everything seem so urgent, but I think it can wait a few days for an authoritative statement direct from THE Horsesass (so to speak).

Darryl is certainly right about that sense of urgency — an impulse I need to remind myself to avoid at times. When Goldstein returns from vacation maybe we'll hear more about the story behind the story.

UPDATE: I just talked with David Goldstein. He's on vacation at the coast and said he sent me an e-mail earlier, but he has had spotty wireless at best and I never got it.

In any case, Goldstein says that Lowney talked to him about a possible lawsuit against McGavick and Safeco and asked if horsesass could help find a good plaintiff. He said that if he had been in town this week when the story broke he would have reported his role.

Does his involvement, as Howland said, lend credence to the argument that the lawsuit was political?

"Everything I do is political. But that doesn't mean the case doesn't have merit and that doesn't mean it shouldn't be brought until after election. ... I'd love to take more credit for it. I think the only thing you could say is if not for me, they would have had a different plaintiff."

Goldstein does think Schwartzman makes a boffo plaintiff. It was Schwartzman's mother, Ashley Bullitt, who responded to Goldstein's solicitation. He then connected Lowney with Schwartzman.

"I was more than happy to be involved," Goldstein said. Goldstein keeps up a steady attack on McGavick on his blog. He has been a strong Cantwell supporter and helped lead the charge against anti-war critics in the Democratic party that were unhappy with the senator. But he says his involvement in the McGavick lawsuit does not mean that the Cantwell campaign or the Democratic Party played any role.

"I can tell you I have no more connection to the Cantwell campaign than you do," he said. By way of showing his relationship to the campaign, Goldstein told me that when he got his radio gig at KIRO, one of the first things he did was call Cantwell's people and tell them "it would help me keep this job" if he could get Cantwell on the air. It took six weeks or so, he said, and then she came on only for a few minutes to talk about the decision to hire her former opponent, Mark Wilson. He said sometimes he'll send an e-mail to Cantwell's campaign consultant or a staffer and "usually they don't respond."

"When someone uncovers the paycheck to me from the Cantwell campaign or the Democratic Party they can come after me. Somebody should be paying me. My God, they owe me."

Lowney has a political background himself. So the involvement of Goldstein doesn't tell us a whole lot more about the motivation for the suit. It does give a glimpse into a chain of events that I think readers of the McGavick story should know.

It's important for Goldstein to disclose his role. He has a foot in the established media now with his Sunday night show on KIRO, and I know at times at least he tries to reach Republicans to get their side of things for horsesass. Appearing to be more a player than chronicler or cheerleader for the Democrats could make that more difficult.

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McGavick to get fundraising help from senate leader

Posted by David Postman at 2:02 PM

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will be in the state later this month to raise money for Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick.

Frist headlines a $100 a head lunch event in Spokane on Aug. 14. The fundraiser is hosted by Rep. Cathy McMorris and a group of local doctors. That night Frist will be at the Rainier Club in Seattle. That'll cost $500 a head and is sponsored by, among others, Washington State Medical Association executive director Tom Curry, Premera senior vice president Jack McRae and Dr. John Vasko, a director of Joe Fuiten's Faith & Freedom Network and also headed a 1995 anti-gay rights initiative to the Legislature.

Local Democrats just put out a press release with a variety of attacks on Frist, leading with his leadership role in the move to have Congress intervene in the Terry Schiavo case.

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Frank Blethen on estate tax lobbying

Posted by David Postman at 11:22 AM

With another vote on repeal of the estate tax on the horizon, Sen. Maria Cantwell is again the focus of Republicans searching for votes and pundits looking to prognosticate. Bloomberg News today elevates Cantwell to the senator who may hold the "crucial vote." And they report:

Cantwell's state is also home to outspoken advocates on both sides of the estate tax issue. Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen has been a leader in the decade-long campaign to wipe out the tax, while William H. Gates Jr., father of Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, the world's richest man, is urging lawmakers to keep it.

Yes, whenever the estate tax comes up, Blethen's name is not far behind. And with another vote coming up, and an initiative headed for the November ballot to repeal the state estate tax, it seemed a good time to ask Blethen about his political activity. We talked on the phone this morning.

There's sort of an odd quote attributed to Blethen in the Bloomberg piece:

"It's going to be a major test for Maria,'' Blethen said in an interview. "We're going to find out whether she pays more attention to leadership back there, or whether she pays attention to leadership.''

Blethen said that's not exactly what he said. But he's not backing away from looking like he's putting some pressure on Cantwell. He told me, "This is the whole issue, is Maria responsive to D.C. Democratic party bosses or is she responsive to the people of the state of Washington?"

Blethen said he and his lobbyist, Jill Mackie, have lobbied Cantwell as well as Patty Murray and the state's House delegation. He also lobbies the congressional delegation from Maine, where the family owns newspapers.

Blethen said he knows that people in the newsroom are uncomfortable with his political activity on the estate tax. He said editor Mike Fancher has made it clear on many occasions and said former Managing Editor Alex MacLeod was "far less subtle. He just looked me in the eye and said, 'You shouldn't be doing this.' And I'd say, 'Your job is to make sure we don't affect anything you do.' "

Does it pose a conflict to lobby a senator who will soon be looking for an endorsement from the paper's editorial board?

"No, it doesn't. All of our endorsements are based on a whole range of public policy issues and their philosophies on them, as well as their past behaviors on them."

Blethen points out that the paper endorsed Cantwell in 2000 over Sen. Slade Gorton even though the Republican incumbent was fully in support of the family position on the estate tax. Cantwell, he said, "was never for our position; always this nebulous, 'I'm for reform.' "

"So we had a candidate who was a huge champion for our position vs. one who was totally in the other camp and we chose to endorse her."

In June Mackie told me Blethen did not intend to make any political donations to Initiative 920, which would repeal the state estate tax. Blethen said today he still doesn't have any plans to do that. But the corporate side of The Times is involved.

"Jill has been having some conversations with some of the folks who are putting together the campaign. We may be involved on the periphery because people keep calling us. But we're not going to make any political donations, and I may do the things I normally do, which is talking to groups like minority groups."

To that end, Blethen has a new angle on lobbying for repeal of the estate tax. He wants to enlist gays and lesbians in the campaign for repeal.

He said that especially with last weeks' state Supreme Court decision upholding a gay marriage ban, same-sex couples should be concerned about what the estate tax hit would be. If they could marry, even under the current law, there would be a partial exemption on an inheritance. Now in Washington state there's no chance of that.

"If you're a couple and you're trying to preserve assets for a surviving spouse and children you get a 100 percent hit."

Blethen said the estate tax has not been a primary concern for gays and lesbians. But now that the gay marriage fight has ended, for now at least, he said there could be increased interest in the issue. Log Cabin Republicans, the organization of gay Republicans, supports repeal of the tax.

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U.S. Chamber ads for Reichert pulled from stations

Posted by David Postman at 9:56 AM

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce TV ads boosting Dave Reichert are being redone on local stations to fix inaccuracies. The ads praise Reichert for his support of a prescription drug plan that was approved before he was in Congress.

The Chamber has had to rework three other ads around the country and pulled a fourth for similar problems.

Kate Bedingfield, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that the committee's attorneys confirmed that the chamber was pulling the ads from KIRO and KCPQ. The big buy was on KING and those ads have been reworked, according to Ann Sobil, director of sales and marketing for the station, and will begin airing today.

The chamber has not responded to calls about the ads today.

A graphic in the ad says: "Congressman Dave Reichert believes seniors deserve affordable prescription drugs." The voice over says, "That's why Reichert supported the Medicare Part D law giving seniors a quality drug plan." And then another graphic: "Reichert supported Medicare Part D law giving seniors a quality drug plan."

But Part D was passed in 2003. Reichert was elected in 2004.

UPDATE: KCPQ says as they were looking into complaints that the ads were inaccurate the ad agency that placed them asked that they be replaced with a different version.

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August 1, 2006

Deja news

Posted by David Postman at 10:58 AM

In San Diego yesterday a lawsuit was filed trying to get the results of a June election thrown out because of counting and ballot security irregularities. It was a special election to fill the seat of disgraced Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Ever since Republican Brian Bilbray won the election, supporters of Democrat Francine Busby have been sounding like Dino Rossi backers circa 1995 2005.

The lawsuit took specific aim at the practice of allowing poll workers to take the machines home with them prior to the election - a practice Haas said is done to ensure that polling places open on time.

The same thing happened here. King County poll workers were allowed to take machines home from the weekend before the election. Of course last year it was Republicans complaining about the practice and Democrats trying to make it sound like wild-eyed conspiracy mongering.

The attorney who filed the suit in San Diego provides another local connection. He's Paul Lehto of Everett, an election activist. He told the San Diego Union-Tribune:

"The thing you've got to know about using computers in the election is that computers do whatever they're told to do, without any regard to law, ethics or morality," Lehto said, adding he believes some machines were tampered with. "When you send them on 'sleepovers' from anywhere from three days to over a week, then you've lost all illusion about any kind of security."

Maybe Rossi backers here should have enlisted the help of the Democratic National Committee and Howard Dean, who said in San Diego, "All I'm asking the Republicans to do is count every vote!"

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Conservatives look to say more than "no" on transportation

Posted by David Postman at 9:49 AM

Prompted in part by John Carlson teaming up with former Gov. Gary Locke and Jessyn Schor of the Transportation Choices Coalition, some local conservatives say they need to get serious about finding solutions to the region's obvious transportation problems.

Orbuxmax got the ball rolling with a call for suggestions:

As conservatives and libertarians, it's not enough to say "no more taxes" when there is a genuine problem. We need to step up to the plate and offer ideas that can work. Taxes are inevitable when it comes to transportation issues, but it doesn't have to mean throwing money down bottomless rat-holes.

At Sound Politics, Eric Earling, joins up, too. After expressing some unhappiness at how he's been attacked at SP for his philosophy on transportation - including the attacks based on the fact that his father was chairman of the Sound Transit board - Earling says he's not impressed with what conservatives have suggested so far.

Now that we're back in reality, I must confess that while I applaud Orbusmax's endeavor, I've found the feedback from his readers rather insufficient. Most of the suggestions are either already being implemented (focusing bus resources on heavily utilized commuter routes), cost a ton of money (double-decking freeways), or are absolutely unworkable (ticketing cars eligible for the HOV lane but who choose not to drive in it).

But give them an E for effort. Republicans haven't had much of a cogent transportation plan in recent years. The party's opposition to raising the gas tax put it at odds with some of its friends in big business. We haven't heard much lately about the Locke/Carlson/Schor effort but it has gotten people thinking at least.

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Shareholder to sue Safeco, McGavick for big payday

Posted by David Postman at 8:36 AM

A descendant of a founder of Safeco Corporation and her politically active attorney will announce later this morning that they're suing Senate candidate and former Safeco CEO Mike McGavick for the $28 million he was paid by the company this year.

Emma Schwartzman is the great, great granddaughter of a Safeco founder. She is scheduled to appear at a press conference near Safeco's Seattle headquarters with attorney Knoll Lowney. who successfully challenged in court Tim Eyman's property tax initiative. Lowney and his firm have given political donations to liberal candidates and groups such as Washington Conservation Voters. His law partner, Richard Smith, announced last week he would run for state Supreme Court.

According to a press release sent this morning the "central claim in the suit is that a significant portion of the $28 million McGavick received from Safeco after he resigned as Safeco's CEO resulted from a fraudulent transaction between McGavick and the Board of Directors that breached defendants' fiduciary duties to shareholders. The suit also alleges that the Board of Directors violated federal securities laws by concealing the magnitude and extraordinary nature of the payout."

The Democratic Party and supporters of Sen. Maria Cantwell have already focused on McGavick's pay. The state Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in April, alleging that McGavick's compensation was an illegal campaign contribution. In June, liberal blogger David Goldstein was searching for Safeco shareholders angry at McGavick's compensation.

McGavick reported pre-tax income of $28 million from Safeco this year even though he left the company in February to run for the Senate. Some of the money, according to his financial-disclosure form filed with the U.S. Senate, came from stock and bonuses, including for work done several years ago. In April an expert in executive salaries told The Times McGavick's pay was not out of line with other executives have gotten in recent years.

The press release says Schwartzman is represented by two prominent Seattle law firms, though only Lowney is mentioned by name.

McGavick's campaign said it would not have a comment until after the press conference.

UPDATE: A website has just gone live on details of the suit. The other attorney is Steve Berman, well-known for his shareholder lawsuits.

The PR firm handling the lawsuit, Soapbox Communications, has done some work for liberal causes in the past, but its current client list tends more toward non-profits and community groups.

UPDATE UPDATE: Mike McGavick has issued a written response to the lawsuit:

"This is a politically motivated character attack. The allies of the incumbent senator have found yet another avenue to continue their daily personal attacks on me. Today's action further demonstrates how far my opposition will go in attacking my character and the character of Safeco, one of the Northwest's great companies.

"These allegations regarding my compensation are without merit and obviously politically inspired. It is sad that my opponents insist on dragging Safeco into the mean-spirited political process."

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