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March 28, 2007

The blog is on spring break

Posted by David Postman at 4:37 PM

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March 27, 2007

Reichert aide leaves for high-profile anti-poverty group

Posted by David Postman at 4:05 PM

Kimberly Cadena, Congressman Dave Reichert's spokeswoman, is leaving to be press secretary for the ONE Campaign, an effort to build support in America to fight global poverty and AIDS. She has been with Reichert for 18 months and before that worked for Colorado Rep. Bob Beauprez.

Cadena's new employer says on its website:

The ONE Campaign derives its name from the belief that allocating an additional one percent of the U.S. budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the world's poorest countries. We also call for debt cancellation, trade reform and anti...quot;corruption measures in a comprehensive package to help Africa and the poorest nations beat AIDS and extreme poverty.

The ONE Campaign is staffing up a lot like a political campaign. Last fall the campaign hired Susan McCue, Harry Reid's former chief of staff, as CEO.

It is going to be somewhat of a political campaign. Cadena told me that the group will have a high profile in the early primary states and then later in swing states. ONE wants to push candidates to agree to the one percent budget increase and its other priorities.

The group has a long list of prominent partners, including Oxfam, World Vision, United Nations and religious groups. As the Hotline reported:

Yes, it's the Bono thingie.

And George Clooney, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and Don Cheadle, too.

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U.S. Attorneys story is officially the big story

Posted by David Postman at 12:01 PM

A new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism on news coverage of the firing of federal prosecutors says:

While journalists appear fascinated by this battle between Congress and the White House, the public has yet to evince great enthusiasm for it.

PEJ say the U.S. attorneys story was the biggest story in the press last week and "it really amounts at this point to a mega story. " Mark Jurkowitz of PEJ writes:

Filling 18% of the overall newshole, it was the second-biggest story of the year. The only one to receive more coverage was the debate over the Iraq war, which filled 34% of the newshole the week in January when President Bush announced his troop "surge" plan.

Already the level of coverage of the U.S. attorneys flap has substantially exceeded that of two other major Washington scandals — the Scooter Libby trial and conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital.

No news outlet has focused as much on the story as Talking Points Memo. Josh Marshall says that he has gotten a lot of questions about why the site has dug into the story so much, and some that he thinks were sincere. He does an admirable job explaining his reasoning. And that includes:

We all understand that politics and the law aren't two hermetically sealed domains. And we understand that partisanship may come into play at the margins. But we expect it to be the exception to the rule and a rare one. But here it appears to have become the rule rather than the exception, a systematic effort at the highest levels to hijack the Justice Department and use it to advance the interest of one party over the other by use of selective prosecution.

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SEIU tries to kill budget when it can't get its way

Posted by David Postman at 8:45 AM

During House debate on the budget Monday, SEIU was working the doors hard, summoning legislators out one at a time to be lobbied to put another $15 million in for nursing homes. The union was working alongside nursing home operators trying to make good on their agreement to get at least $40 million more in Medicaid reimbursements. That's what's spelled out in a draft agreement between the union and the operators that my colleague Ralph Thomas wrote about earlier this month.

But House leaders of both parties had agreed that no one would offer budget amendments during floor debate and SEIU could not get a lawmaker to try it anyway.

So SEIU wanted lawmakers to kill the entire budget. This e-mail went out to lawmakers moments before the final vote on the budget:

Subject: SEIU 775: Vote No On State Budget

Importance: High

Dear Legislator:

On behalf of the 30,000 long-term care workers represented by SEIU 775, I am writing to urge you to vote NO on the proposed House budget unless it is amended to improve funding for nursing homes. The budget fails to meet the needs of vulnerable elderly and disabled residents in our state's nursing homes.

Nursing homes are under-funded by $60 million a year, which has led to low wages and poor benefits, high turnover among workers, and difficulty finding and training enough staff to provide quality care to vulnerable residents. The proposed budget does not adequately address this shortfall in funding and prevents nursing homes from keeping up with the rising cost of care — especially care for low-income residents.

We strongly urge you to reject this budget unless amended and adopt a budget that meets the needs of our most vulnerable. SEIU 775 members will be counting this as an important vote in our legislative scorecard.

David Rolf
SEIU 775

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Inslee says McKay should get job back

Posted by David Postman at 7:56 AM

In D.C., Congressman Jay Inslee spoke on the House floor Monday afternoon to defend fired U.S. Attorney John McKay. Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, sent a letter to President Bush saying McKay should be re-appointed as U.S. attorney for Western Washington until an investigation into the firings of prosecutors is complete. The letter says:

As you know, forced resignation under the guise of "performance related" issues, is a permanent blemish on a person's employment record. Mounting information is surfacing in this case, providing evidence that the resignation of John McKay, and others, was not based on lack of performance other than a lack of partisan prosecutorial bias. You have the opportunity to set the record straight by offering John McKay another chance to serve in this important post where he already has dutifully served the state of Washington.
In the House, Inslee described the purge of prosecutors as nothing less than a stinking scandal.
"We have witnessed now in the last few weeks the unpeeling of a scandal where the executove branch fired eight well-performing U.S. attorneys because they would not do the political dirty work of the White House."

He said that McKay fell out of favor with Republicans in Washington state and then in D.C. solely because he refused to empanel a grand jury to investigate the 2004 election.

"It was apparent they were learning on him and when he did not collapse, he was fired. ... This thing smells like a mackerel in the moonlight and it needs to be resolved. And until it's resolved the Congress is going to be investigating."

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UPDATED: Redmond pastor fights U.S. policy toward gays in Latvia

Posted by David Postman at 6:45 AM

(UPDATE: See this post by Eli Sanders about German news reports about Ken Hutcherson telling Latvian officials he was visiting their country on behalf of the Bush Administration. They believed he was an official representative of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

"Yes, he is working as this organization's envoy," said the head of Latvia's parliamentary human-rights committee, Janis Smits.

"He said he was a representative of the office. The ministry of integration should be open to all, so I generally trust people and don't ask them if they have their credentials," added Integration Minister Oskars Kastens. Hutcherson was carrying a file bearing the US coat of arms, he said.

Rev. Ken Hutcherson is using his claimed "special commission" from the White House to work against U.S. policy in Latvia designed to lessen discrimination and violence against gays and lesbians in the Eastern European country.

It's hard to find anyone willing to talk about Hutcherson's relationship to the White House. You'll remember, he claims the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives made him a "Special Envoy for Adoptions, Family Values, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief." (The claim was first reported and questioned on The Stranger blog, and Eli Sanders has followed the story here and here.) The White House denies that, but won't say any more.

Hutcherson, pastor of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church, said last week he has proof he was deputized. But he has not yet shared the video tape he said will show he's telling the truth. I'm waiting for a call back from him.

The controversy grows out of Hutcherson's visits to Latvia. There he has aligned himself with conservative politicians and conservative religious leaders to combat a nascent gay rights movement. In particular, Hutcherson is upset at what he claims is money the United States Embassy in Latvia has given to a Latvian group, Mozaika, a gay rights organization founded in February 2006.

Details of the funding have been hard to pin down. Mozaika, reached by e-mail, wouldn't say. Anna Reynolds, the group's office manager, wrote:

Thank you for you letter. Yes we have heard of Reverend Hutcherson and his claims. I wonder why he feels the need to come to Latvia to talk. Perhaps no one is listening at home?

As a rule, we don't give out information about our sources of funding. If you have questions about the U.S. Embassy, I suggest you contact them directly.

The U.S. Embassy in Riga won't comment, though it is my understanding that such grants would be public information. A spokeswoman said by telephone:

"I understand your question sir. Unfortunately at this time we have nothing for you. I'm afraid that's it."

And spokespeople at the State Department in D.C. say the question would have to be answered by the Embassy in Riga.

The Latvian newspaper Ritdena reported last week that the Embassy gave Mozaika $956 in July 2006 to help organize events in Riga, and $7,179 in September to publish pamphlets and produce an amateur theater performance designed to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians. The paper said the pamphlets were titled: "Discrimination at Work", "Homosexuality and Healthy Sex (HIV-AIDS prevention)", and "Help - My Child is Gay!"

Hutcherson has complained about the Embassy's work with Mozaika in speeches while in Latvia, in interviews once back home and in e-mails he sends to "Prayer Warriors" among his supporters and parishioners.

He says that supporting Mozaika goes against American values as well as against the wishes of a majority of the Latvian people. In a speech in Riga earlier this month Hutcherson is reported to have said:

Latvia is a Christian country ... and we need to do everything to ensure that even in the European Union it does not loose its principles. It is a holy right of any nation to decide (in) what society to live.

That is from a translation done by ILGA-Europe, a non-governmental organization that represents some 200 gay rights groups. The original report was in Russian on the New Generation Web site. The same report made clear that Mozaika is suspect in the eyes of anti-gay forces in Latvia:

This topic was developed by Cardinal Janis Pujats. He touched upon the subject how Latvia is faced with fact of indoctrination of homosexual culture in widest layers of society. We learned that organisation of sexual minorities Mozaika developed a national programme of tolerance and calling on a state level to educate on civil tolerance, respect towards people of different sexual orientation.

By joining in an alliance with the New Generation church and conservative politicians in Latvia, Hutcherson is working against U.S. policy. The Embassy has helped organize events with Mozaika to promote tolerance of lesbians and gays — as has the embassies of the UK and Sweden — and the ambassador and Embassy staff have worked to protect gay rights activists when violent anti-gay protests broke out in Riga last year.

The United States has documented anti-gay activities in Latvia. A report on Latvia's 2006 human rights record was released March 6 by the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. It confirms what gay activists say, that Latvia has seen "societal violence and occasional government discrimination against homosexuals."

Under the "Freedom of Assembly" section, the report shows the government treated a pro-gay event differently from other gatherings:

Numerous demonstrations took place peacefully and without government interference during the year. However, in July authorities denied a permit for a gay pride parade on grounds of unspecified security threats to the marchers. Parade organizers attempted to host a private event at a local hotel as an alternative to the denied march. This event was disrupted by protesters who opposed homosexuality (see section 5).

And in Section 5, "Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination," the report offers more details:

Societal violence and discrimination against homosexuals was a problem. On July 19, the Riga city government, after coming under pressure and criticism from various political parties and religious groups, denied a permit for a gay pride parade. The reasons cited for the cancellation were security considerations, although the specifics were never made public and all court hearings were closed to the press and public. On July 22, parade organizers attempted to host several private functions as alternatives to the cancelled march. Demonstrators opposed to homosexuality surrounded and harassed participants outside these events, throwing eggs, shouting aggressive insults, and dumping human excrement on them. Police arrested 14 people for public disorder. In late August the Riga Vidzeme District Court and Riga Central District court fined seven opponents of the gay pride events charged with causing public disorder. In addition all seven faced prosecution for inciting public disorder. These cases were outstanding at the end of the year. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission all voiced their concern during the year over the failure of authorities to protect the gay pride event participants as well as the imposition of a ban on the originally planned parade.

During those protests, Mozaika leaders were in touch with U.S. Embassy personnel who helped monitor the protest. Gaston Lacombe, chairman of the Mozaika board, wrote a report about the events.

As the gay rights activists were surrounded in a Riga hotel by angry protesters from the anti-gay group No Pride, Lacombe was regularly on the phone with someone he identifies as "our friend from the American Embassy." Lacombe wrote:

He told me that he had seen large black jeeps, with tinted windows and No-Pride signs on them, patrolling the old city, driving slowly, as if looking for something. He said it looked very scary, like something from a film and we guessed they were looking for any sign of LGBT people or supporters in the center of the city.

The organizer of the pro-gay rights event had to be whisked away by armed guards. Others snuck out of the hotel, as protesters hurled eggs and excrement. Lacombe wrote that the "American Embassy had to interfere to protect American citizens" and Swedes contacted their embassy for help.

In the meantime our friend from the U.S. Embassy called me, this time to say the Prime Minister's office was accusing my colleagues from other LGBT organizations in Latvia, Imants and Gabriels, for announcing they were going to arrange an illegal march in Vermanes Park. The Prime Minister's office was very angry and condemning. There was an article on the portal about this illegal march. Within 2 minutes I found Imants and Gabriels, and they assured me that they never advertised anything such and that the news was false. I called our friend at the U.S. Embassy right away, and that situation was cleared. It seems that it was provocation of some sort, but that is still not clear.

The Embassy also has played a more formal role in helping to organize events during the pro-gay rights "Friendship Days" last July and the U.S. ambassador spoke to the Latvian government about security concerns. That's according to an article in the newspaper Diena. This translation comes from Latvian blogger Peteris Cedrins:

The U.S. Embassy in Latvia will participate in the organization of the Friendship Days being held by sexual minorities this week, and Ambassador Catherine Todd Bailey met with the Minister of Interior, Dzintars Jaundžeikars, (Latvia's First Party) on Monday with regard to security concerns related to the parade.

(Cedrins has written critically of the anti-gay forces in Latvia and the New Generation church that is aligned with Hutcherson.)

Hutcherson sent an e-mail to the Prayer Warriors March 9

I will be having a difficult meeting with Ambassador...I just found out that our Embassy in Latvia has been supporting gay groups monetarily to come into this country.

Continue to pray for strength and stamina.

On March 12 he wrote:

It went extremely well with American embassy ... they aren't very happy right now, because I had to lay it out, they are not representing American values well.

Hutcherson didn't have much to add when we spoke last week. He said that Embassy officials told him that they only fund established organizations, but that Mozaika received a grant within months of forming. He said he told an Embassy official "you are still a visitor over here" and no help should have been given because a majority of Parliament opposes gay rights.

"They turned around and gave the money and that almost started a riot in the country. ... We have some real serious problems in that embassy, and we want a full report."

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March 26, 2007

"Some people" have lots of questions

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

These were among Katie Couric's questions to John and Elizabeth Edwards on 60 Minutes last night:

And I think some people wondered if you were in denial, if you were being realistic about what you were going to be facing here. ...

And some say, what you're doing is courageous, others say it's callous. Some say, "Isn't it wonderful they care for something greater than themselves?" And others say, "It's a case of insatiable ambition." ...

Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this. ...

Some people watching this would say, "I would put my family first always, and my job second." ...

I guess some people would say that there's some middle ground. ...

Even those who may be very empathetic to what you all are facing might question your ability to run the country at the same time you're dealing with a major health crisis in your family. ...

SOME MORE: At the Huffington Post, Nora Ephron writes about "some people."

"Some people" are saying that Katie Couric went too far on 60 Minutes. I don't actually know who those people are, because I haven't done any reporting on it. Why bother? "Some people" must be saying it. "Some people" will say anything. And there's no real need to mention their names, because I can just say that "some people" are saying it and get away with it.

Ephron says: "I kept waiting for John or Elizabeth Edwards to ask her who 'some people' were exactly, but they didn't."

That's what they should have done, says Rich Galen, a former press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. At his "cyber-column" Mullings, he says that when a reporter started a question with something like "Some people say," he'd always respond this way:

"Who. Who is saying that? Give me a single person - not in your newsroom - who is saying that." And, of course, the reporter couldn't quote anyone and I had the upper hand from that point forward.

Galen says:

If you are a grownup interviewer you ask: "Senator Edwards, aren't you putting personal ambition ahead of your family's needs?"

And a friend reminds me that President Bush has his own version of "some people."

This AP story from last year was the first of several takes on Bush's use of the straw man.

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Mr. Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees," conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

There's more in this Dan Froomkin column in the Washington Post. (Scroll down to the "Rhetoric Watch.")

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Gleeful liberals on Gonzales resignation watch

Posted by David Postman at 9:22 AM

Democrats are getting downright giddy with the growing speculation that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may soon be out of a job.

The Homestead Book blog sums up the feeling best:

Hee hee.

Liberals here are looking at the deepening controversy as the thread to unravel the conservative machine in Washington state. It's a bit ergo propter hoc for my taste, but follow along on the morning's thinking.

In an earlier post at the Homstead blog, it was suggested that Stefan Sharkansky and his focus on the 2004 governor's election should get the credit/blame if Gonzales resigns.

It is now clear that Sharkansky's obsession led to a call to the office of Congressman Doc Hastings, who had one of his lackeys phone the U.S. Attorney John McKay to ask when he was going to start investigating the election. This eventually led to the firing of McKay and now will lead directly to the resignation of Alberto Gonzales.

At washblog, Emmett O'Connell says the thread doesn't end there.

Now with the latest Bush scandal being connected directly to the 2004 gubernatorial election, can Rossi shake the McKay firing, or is he way too close?


Rossi may not have been personally involved in getting McKay fired, but the situation is starting to surround him to the point that he at least has some explaining to do.

But it's also from a liberal blog where I read the first question from any source about a Democrat's role in McKay's application for a federal judgeship. Much has been made in the press about the role of the three Republicans on the six-member bi-partisan panel that did not include McKay on its list of finalists for the judgeship.

J. Vander Stoep, an advisor to Rossi in the 2004 campaign and subsequent election controversy, was the Republican co-chair of the judicial review panel. He has said that McKay's reluctance to investigate election fraud had nothing to do with why he was left off the list of finalists for the job. Instead, Vander Stoep said, it was McKay's lack of trial experience and the fact that he did not reflect Bush's judicial philosophy.

A writer at Evergreen Politics, shoephone, is concerned about Vander Stoep's role, but also wonders about Democratic co-chair, Jenny Durkan.

Vander Stoep's participation on the commission, after his deep involvement with the Rossi campaign, raises a blazing red flag. It's common knowledge by now that the entire state GOP hierarchy was on the warpath for McKay because of Rossi's election loss. On the other hand, I have to wonder why Durkan was chosen too, considering her deep involvement with the court case over the vote counts. Plus, she's a childhood friend of McKay's. I think there's at least the appearance of conflict of interest for both, due to the fact that McKay, as U.S. attorney for Seattle, was an obvious choice for the judgeship short list.

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March 25, 2007

McKay adds few new details on Sunday talk show

Posted by David Postman at 6:41 PM

On Meet the Press today fired U.S. Attorney John McKay said that the very first question he was asked in his White House interview for a federal judgeship was about angry Republicans back home.

But he told Tim Russert his decision not to delve deeper into the 2004 governor's election was backed by the local FBI office and he expected that his superiors in D.C. would back him, too.

RUSSERT: You looked into the case, decided you did not find voter fraud. When you applied for a federal judgeship, that issue was raised with you. Correct?

MR. McKAY: That's correct. I, I was able to go into the White House in a meeting with Harriet Miers and her deputy Bill Kelly, and the very first question that I was asked was, was in reference to the 2004 governor's election.

MR. RUSSERT: And did they ask you why you did not go forward with an investigation or with indictments?

MR. McKAY: No, they actually asked me why Republicans in the state of Washington would be angry with me. And, of course, all of the actions taken by the federal government, which were not publicly discussed, were well-known to, to my supervisors and, and those who follow our work in Washington, D.C. So I was a little surprised that they would ask me about that, since our office had carefully reviewed the evidence, and really, in the case of the 2004 governor's election here, the lack of evidence. And the decision that I made not to go forward was a really unanimous decision with the Seattle division of the FBI. So, so from our standpoint, it wasn't controversial from an evidentiary standpoint, even though it was very controversial in the state of Washington. And, you know, we expected to be supported by people in Washington, D.C., when we make tough decisions like that. And I think that's a, a really important problem here that folks who, who raise their hand and take — took the same oath I did to support and defend the Constitution didn't do the same thing we did, which was focus on the evidence and not allow politics into the work that we do in, in criminal prosecutions.

The Washington Post today sees significance in the wording McKay chose to describe the conversation on Meet the Press.

McKay's disclosure of an explicit White House question about the damage his decision caused to his standing among party loyalists added new detail to his previous statement that Miers accused him of having "mishandled" the voter fraud inquiry.

The use of the phrase "mishandled" left open the possibility that White House officials — who last September were weighing whether to recommend McKay for a federal judgeship — merely disputed McKay's professional judgment. McKay's statement yesterday instead lent new credence to suspicions that partisan political concerns weighed heavily in his subsequent firing.

The Post is making too much of those few words today. And that's probably because thte paper missed something when McKay talked to reporters after he testified in Congress March 6. Our story March 7 said he was asked to explain criticism that he mishandled the election investigation. McClatchy reported it the same way.

But the Post reported just that McKay was asked to explain how he mishandled the investigation.

In remarks after the hearings, McKay said that officials in the White House counsel's office, including then-counsel Harriet E. Miers, asked him to explain why he had "mishandled" the governor's race during an interview for a federal judgeship in September 2006.

You can read the full Meet the Press transcript here.

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March 23, 2007

Gonzales says it's reckless to allege any wrongdoing at DOJ

Posted by David Postman at 2:19 PM

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said today there was nothing improper about the firing of former U.S. Attorney John McKay. In an interview on 710 KIRO, Gonzales tried to turn around the story of the prosecutors purge, saying repeatedly that the only thing improper are the allegations that anyone at the Department of Justice did something wrong.

KIRO got Gonzales on the phone as part of his media tour about keeping children safe on the Internet. Kudos to Jane Shannon and Tony Miner for making sure they got to ask questions about McKay and the larger controversy before getting to the AG's PR agenda. (You can listen to the interview here. What follows is what I transcribed from the recording.)

Shannon: Seattle as you know, is home of former U.S. Attorney John McKay. Mr. Gonzales, why was he fired?

Gonzales: Listen, we made a decision at the department as to the appropriate way forward. And there was nothing improper about the decision here. The president of the United States has the authority to hire and remove political appointees for any reason. Obviously the question here is whether or not, were these political appointees removed for improper reasons?

People may have a disagreement as to those reasons. But so as long as they're not improper, the president has the authority and the discretion based upon the recommendation of a cabinet official to make changes with respect to personnel. There is no evidence whatsoever and it is reckless and irresponsible to allege that these decisions were based in any way on improper motives

Shannon: Was it a matter of McKay's performance?

Gonzales: Again, the question is whether or not it was improper. It was not. We will be communicating with the Congress about specifics going forward. We've already provided a lot of documentation. I've offered to make DOJ officials available for interviews and for testimony. So at the end of the day, the story's going to be out there about what happened here. We have nothing to hide. ... If I felt that anyone at the department was involved in making this decision to retaliate or to interfere with ongoing investigations, I would have fired that person immediately. There's no room for that in the department. I would not stand for it.

Miner: Mr. Attorney General, as a way to diffuse this controversy now, why not just come out and tell the American people exactly why these prosecutors were fired? What did they do?

Gonzales: Well, of course that's something we're engaged with in a dialogue with the Congress. Some of the information is already out there. Some of that information is available in the documents. But I want to remind your listeners about one thing, whatever those reasons are, and people have subjective views as to whether that person should go or should that person not go, there may be disagreements about that, but the president has the authority and the discretion to make that decision. And whether or not you agree with it, he has the authority and it is OK for him to do so based on my recommendation.

What we should all be concerned about is, whether or not were the firings, the removals, based in improper motives, and I am saying to the American people and to your listeners, that the answer to that is no.

And it is irresponsible and reckless to continue to insist that this great Department of Justice was involved in something improper.

Shannon: Well you can certainly understand some confusion, sir, when in August of last year one of your deputies recommended McKay for federal judgeship and just a month later McKay's name was put on a list, basically, of prosecutors to be pushed out. This is according to e-mails obtained from your department. What changed in that short period of time?

Gonazles: Listen, the fact that someone may have had an idea or a discussion, that does not necessarily represent the view of the department or represent my view.

ALSO: On Sunday, McKay will be on Meet the Press along with fellow former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico.

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Reichert to get early campaign cash from GOP

Posted by David Postman at 11:40 AM

Congressman Dave Reichert's close re-election race last year has Republicans wanting to give him an early boost for 2008. The Hill got a copy of the list of Republicans who will benefit from the House GOP's "Regaining Our Majority Program (ROMP), seven of whom are veterans who nearly lost their seats last November."

Reichert is one of 10 Republicans who will be featured at the first ROMP event of the year April 25. The Hill reports:

There are usually four ROMP events in each cycle. The first two raise funds for the most endangered incumbents, while the third allows for members and fundraisers to raise money to go on the offensive. The fourth tends to be a final push to raise money for members in desperate need of campaign funding.

ROMP was created by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and has proved to be a powerful fundraising tool for the GOP.

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Update on benefits for Iraq widow and other military families

Posted by David Postman at 11:06 AM

The Senate Ways and Means Committee amended a retirement bill Tuesday to boost the death benefits given to the widow of an Army reservist killed in Iraq. Under the changes to House Bill 1266, Victoria Johnson will get the contributions her husband, Maj. Alan Johnson, made to his retirement plan as well as what the state contributed during his years as a Yakima prison guard.

I wrote earlier about this here and here.

There's another bill pending to help families of soldiers. Skip Dreps, government relations director for the Northwest Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America stopped by the other day to point out Senate Bill 5002. It would require state colleges and universities to waive tuition for families of soldiers killed or disabled in action.

The bill passed the Senate early in the session and now awaits a vote in the House Higher Education Committee. The Olympian, in an article yesterday, points out:

Under existing law, state schools can waive some or all of tuition and fees for children and spouses but are not required to do so.

All Washington colleges and universities provide the waiver, and some waive up to 50 percent of tuition and fees, state documents show.

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Officials can't agree on a date for presidential primary

Posted by David Postman at 10:40 AM

Democrats and Republicans could not agree this morning on what would be the best date to ignore the results of a presidential primary. The Presidential Primary Date Selection Committee met this morning in the Capitol, but it could not agree on anything other than to adjourn.

There are nine members on the committee. A two-thirds vote is required to pass a motion, so any date would have to get bipartisan support.

Democrats, represented by party officials and legislative leaders, wouldn't support any date earlier than March 18. By then, at least 35 states will have had their say by caucus or primary. Before voting on a motion by Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, to set the March 19 date, the four Democratic members of the committee insisted on leaving the public meeting to discuss the matter in a short private caucus. Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican who chairs the committee, urged them to have the discussion at the table with their Republican counterparts. But they insisted.

Hunt is the sponsor of a bill to cancel the 2008 primary, though that effort has lost steam in recent days and appears unlikely to pass this session.

Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax, suggested Washington join a long list of other states and hold the primary Feb. 5.

At this point, leaders of both parties say they do not want to use the primary results to allocate any presidential delegates. Final decisions will be made next month, and Hunt said that it would make more sense to set a primary date after it is known what the parties plan to do.

Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, representing the Senate on the committee, said lawmakers should not be doing the parties' bidding.

"As legislators, and as a Legislature, we are separate from the party. We represent the people."

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The moderate Dem argument for getting out of Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 7:50 AM

In D.C., House Democrats are more confident that they have the votes today for Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan to approve funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and set a deadline for the U.S. to be out of Iraq by September 2008.

Liberal Democrats have opposed the bill as a weak response to President Bush's Iraq strategy. But in recent days more anti-war Democrats have said they will vote for the bill, or at least not work against it. Congressman Jim McDermott, the Washington delegation's most vocal war critic, said on the House floor Thursday that he will back the plan. But he's not enthusiastic about it.

Speaker Pelosi has given us a plan — not as strong as I want, but one I will support as the bare minimum, because it has a timetable and demands accountability from Iraqi leaders.

Bare minimum, but dramatically better than what we have today, which is a war without end, from a President capable only of escalation, not negotiation.
Conservative and some moderate Democrats don't like Pelosi's plan because they object to setting any deadline for withdrawing troops.

The AP story in The Times this morning said while liberals are falling into line, "More conservative Democrats said they remained opposed." But Congressman Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, said Thursday that nearly all of the members of the moderate Democratic caucus, who call themselves the New Democrat Coalition, will vote for the bill today. Smith is the New Dem whip, and part of House Majority Whip James Clyburn's team of vote wranglers.

Smith told me Thursday that the moderate Democrats he has been assigned to lobby are not necessarily supportive of the Bush strategy, but are "more willing to see a military role in Iraq" and do not feel "we can pull out every last single troop from Iraq in two weeks."

To get that sort of Democrat to vote for the Pelosi plan, Smith said he focuses on the need to battle terrorism around the globe, not just in Iraq. That is the same argument he has made as chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on terrorism. He says that al Qaeda is a real threat in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. He describes his lobbying pitch this way:

"The argument starts with the fact that, yes, we withdraw in a responsible way. ... But when you're trying to battle al Qaeda, does it make sense to have 150,000 troops in Iraq? Is that the wisest use of resources to defeat our clear enemy? If you want to be tough, if you think we need to go after al Qaeda because they are a threat to us, then you have to start thinking about how to get us out of Iraq in a responsible manner. ...


Our message isn't, 'Oh my goodness, we've lost. We better get out right away.' We need to strategically redeploy."

As of Thursday the strategy seemed to be working. Smith said that all but two of 61 members of the New Democrat Coalition are expected to vote for the Iraq bill.

Smith said one person outside the House has had a significant impact on the debate and helped encourage conservative Democrats to back the bill: New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In a column Wednesday, Friedman offered the patriotic argument for setting a deadline for withdrawal. (Subscription required.)

I hope the Democrats, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, keep pushing to set a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, because they are providing two patriotic services that the Republicans failed to offer in the previous four years:

The first, Friedman wrote, was "policy discipline," asking tough questions of the administration. The other patriotic service, he said, is "to give the president and Gen. David Petraeus our commander in Iraq, the leverage of a deadline without a formal deadline."

The surge can't work without political reconciliation among Iraqi factions, which means Sunni-Shiite negotiations — and such negotiations are unlikely to work without America having the "leverage" of telling the parties that if they don't compromise, we will leave.

UPDATE: The bill passed the House on a close vote of 218 to 212. Washington's delegation voted along party lines. Congressman Jay Inslee voted for it, and sent out this statement:

"It would be preferable to have an earlier date to end the war, but this bill sets a concrete, enforceable timeline rather than continuing our open-ended commitment. We should take this opportunity to rein in the president's incompetent policies in Iraq."

UPDATE: And from the no side, this Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers:

This emergency supplemental bill sends the wrong message to our troops and our enemies. Our troops need to know that America stands behind them and the cause for which they are risking their lives. What we need is a plan for victory in Iraq. Establishing arbitrary timetables, restricting funding, and micromanaging the war is not a plan for victory. This bill jeopardizes the ability of our troops to do their job, while simultaneously emboldening the enemy.

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March 22, 2007

Medical marijuana fight splits former friends

Posted by David Postman at 3:31 PM

A fight among medical marijuana advocates has gotten to the point that some patients say they will protest tomorrow outside the Seattle office of the ACLU. The ACLU is siding with Sen. Jeanne Kohl Welles, who sponsored SB 6032, a medical marijuana bill, and has amended it to end opposition from police and prosecutors. It passed the Senate last week and will be heard in the House Health Care Committee Monday at 1:30 p.m.

On the other side are some vocal critics among patients, their attorneys and marijuana advocates. "It's a prosecutors bill now, not a patient's bill," said Steve Sarich. He runs the Everett-based CannaCare that sells growing supplies and teaches people how to grow marijuana.

The split comes over the changes Kohl-Welles made that she said were necessary to get the bill passed this year. In its original form, SB 6032 would have provided extra legal protections for people possessing marijuana with a no-arrest provision and would have authorized growing cooperatives that could help distribute pot to patients.

Both those provisions were removed. Rather than growing cooperatives, the bill now takes a much smaller step forward. It would ask the Department of Health to adopt a rule defining what would be a presumptive 60-day supply of pot for a patient.

Kohl-Welles said the changes were necessary to get around opposition from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. She said the bill still includes many other provisions that would help protect users of medical marijuana:

"We've been trying to deal with this for a long time. Do you hold out for perfection, or do you try to get what is realistic?"

Alison Chinn Holcomb, director of the ACLU's Marijuana Education Project, said the bill still has "some really important protections built in for patients and providers."

"It's moving medical marijuana in the right direction. It provides clarity both to patients and providers and law enforcement about this vague term, 60-day supply, that is built in to the law. That has been a real concern, a source of fear for patients and their providers that ... someone is going to set some arbitrarily low amount for 60 day. And they're really afraid of government getting involved. And rightfully so — the federal government says there's no such thing as medical marijuana."

But Holcomb and Kohl-Welles say they trust the Department of Health to come up with good guidelines that later will provide greater protection to patients. Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, sent a message out on the HempNet listserve — which is getting heavy traffic on the subject — explaining her organization's continued support.

These are good changes even though they are not all that we want.

Having watched the state legislature for 25+ years, I know that change comes slowly — too slowly. But that is the way the legislature works.

It is a long and grueling process.

Sarich says it's already been too long and will now only get drawn out further. He's afraid that involving the Department of Health will just be a delay tactic for those who don't want to strengthen protections for medical marijuana users.

"Look," he says, "the Department of Health doesn't tell your doctor how much medication you can have. But they want to tell us how much medicine we can have. I didn't think the bill was particularly strong to begin with but there were a couple of things in there. Now there's nothing in there that is good for patients."

He says that there will "a lot of angry medical marijuana patients with signs in Olympia" when the House Health Care Committee hears the bill. And he said he is organizing a protest for tomorrow at the ACLU, a group he holds particularly enmity for.

"We have been personal friends with a lot of those people at the ACLU and they are just absolutely screwing us. And they know they're doing it."

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Presidential primary likely, but will the votes count?

Posted by David Postman at 1:18 PM

In the News Tribune Sean Cockerham reports that state Democrats are no longer trying to kill the 2008 presidential primary. He quotes state party Chairman Dwight Pelz saying there will be a primary.

But that doesn't answer the question of whether Democrats will count any of the votes toward selecting delegates to the national convention next year. Pelz has said the party won't count the votes, though some party members hope that at least a portion could be used to apportion delegates. Cockerham writes:

Olympia Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt, the main sponsor of the bill to cancel the 2008 presidential primary, wouldn't go so far as to say his bill is dead. But he indicated Tuesday that it likely won't move forward.

Hunt attributed the bill's fate to the feeling among members of the House Appropriations Committee. Several people who testified last week said a primary is better for participatory democracy than caucuses.

The date of the primary will be set tomorrow by a committee of party officials, legislators and Secretary of State Sam Reed.

MORE: And the PI says Republican Party leaders say they now don't want to count the primary toward delegates.

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Sharkansky draws some creepy connections

Posted by David Postman at 12:55 PM

Stefan Sharkansky today has a post at Sound Politics I keep reading over and over again. I'm mystified why he wrote it. He draws some connection between people involved in the story of Larry Corrigan, the former Norm Maleng staffer who pleaded guilty to trying to arrange sex with people he thought were underage girls, and the story about John McKay, the fired U.S. attorney for Western Washington.

Sharkansky wrote:

At first I dismissed this as a creepy coincidence, but then it occurred to me that it's quite significant.

I hope Sharkansky believes that I respect a lot of work that he has done. I link to him often. But this strikes me as an incredible stretch of logic.

And no, I have absolutely no reason to believe that anybody else is implicated in Corrigan's sick sexual behavior. It's a general problem with a senescent clique of political insiders, Democrats, Republicans and careerists who are indifferent to party. These are people who have been in and around government for decades and who have either lost the ability to smell the stench of corruption, or to act promptly if they do smell it — whether the corruption is the personal acts of a creepy pervert and embezzler who happens to be a long-term employee, or whether it is the public corruption in the county election office.

Yikes. Some of the players are the same. But we're talking about two stories involving high-profile events in Seattle's legal community. Who should be surprised that some of the names are the same?

Instead of comparing the McKay story to the Corrigan case, he could have just as easily connected it to the Green River killer. Norm Maleng was the prosecutor. John Wolfe was on the panel that chose Judge Richard Jones for a federal judgeship. Jones was the judge in the Gary Ridgway case. Dave Reichert was the lead investigator in the Green River case. A creepy coincidence?

It's a problem from the start to use the sordid tale of Corrigan to draw any parallel with other players.

Because Sharkansky believes McKay should have investigated the 2004 governor's election, that to him has become some moral equivalent of Corrigan's crimes. Wolfe is one of the people Sharkansky lists as a player in both stories. He's Corrigan's defense attorney. Is that in any way a sign that he has "lost the ability to smell the stench of corruption"? You may not like attorneys who defend admitted sex offenders, but that's Wolfe's job. And his link on the McKay story is that he served on that judicial panel where five of six members named Jones as their first choice. McKay was an applicant for the job, too. And while he didn't make the list of finalists, there are unconfirmed reports that Democrats on the panel, including Wolfe, supported his candidacy.

Then there is Mike McKay. Sharkansky writes, "he was treasurer of Maleng's campaign from which Corrigan embezzled $70,000." And his connection to the John McKay story? The McKays are brothers. And that is the sole piece of evidence that Mike McKay can't smell corruption in the King County elections office.

And what about Reichert? He makes Sharkansky's chart because a) he says Corrigan worked on Reichert's campaigns, and b) Reichert defended McKay.
The Seattle Times stories on the Corrigan case say only that he was active in Reichert's campaigns. But the real issue here is Sharkansky's strenuous advocacy for Reichert's re-election last year. Does he really believe the congressman is part of some ethically-challenged clique that is indifferent to party? If so, how could he have been so enthusiastic about his re-election? And if not, then his chart of connections starts to unravel pretty quickly as a bit of runaway rhetoric.

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March 21, 2007

Oregon House backs anti-war measure

Posted by David Postman at 11:46 AM

Washington's anti-Iraq war resolutions are unlikely to be heard again after one Senate hearing. But in Oregon, a non-binding measure continues to make its way through the Legislature, though it needed to be watered down to win passage in the House.

The House voted 33-25 Tuesday for House Joint Memorial 9, urging President Bush not to increase troops in Iraq and calling for U.S. troops to leave the country by early 2008. The wording is similar to what is in Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' SJM 8003.

The Oregonian reported this morning:

Although the House resolution is purely symbolic, state representatives debated it for two hours in one of the most tense and emotional discussions this year. Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, took 20 minutes to read the names of more than 80 Oregonians who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He included their ages, hometowns and family information.

Kohl-Welles' measure and a call for impeachment sponsored by Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, had well-attended hearings March 1. There is little expectation they will be considered this session. Nonetheless, anti-war Democrats keep hoping. Last night the 43rd Legislative District Democrats voted to endorse Oemig's measure.

That's House Speaker Frank Chopp's district. He has said he doesn't see a need for the resolution. His seatmate, freshmen Rep. Jamie Pederson, says he'd vote for it if it came to a vote. Charlie Bendock, a 43rd Dem, e-mailed Pederson asking him to support Oemig's measure. He got this e-mail in response:

Dear Charlie --

Thanks for your message and for taking the time to write to me about impeaching President Bush. If it were up to me, President Bush would have been impeached long ago. I'm outraged by his flagrant disregard for the US Constitution, from warrantless wiretapping to military tribunals; from his defense of the use of torture to his abuse of signing statements.

Unfortunately, we have passed the point in the session at which new legislation may be considered in the House. If Senator Oemig's bill comes to the House floor, I will vote for it. That's what I can do to help at this point in the session. In the meantime, I will be focusing my efforts on the many issues of enormous importance to the state and our district that need to be resolved this session.

Thank you for your advocacy. I trust that you will continue to keep me informed about issues that are important to you.

Best wishes,

Representative Jamie Pedersen

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The Weekly tries to show softer side of Cantwell

Posted by David Postman at 10:19 AM

Writing about Maria Cantwell's personality has been a feature of political coverage for years — dating back at least to the time when Republican Slade Gorton held that Senate seat and he was the focus of personality-defect stories.

But nothing about Cantwell was as cutting as what Mike Seely wrote in the Seattle Weekly last year. He worked for Cantwell in her 2000 campaign and came away with harsh feelings for the candidate. There's much to choose from in the piece to illustrate that, but I'd say this line sums it up as good as any:

Her lack of gratitude and common human decency were simply repulsive.

Now the Weekly is taking a more nuanced look. Aimee Curl, a former Hill person herself, writes this week about "Mellowing Maria."

The lighter side of Sen. Cantwell is something few on her staff ever get to see. Yet some who were once in her inner circle say that her boss-from-hell reputation is unfair; that they had great experiences working for Cantwell; that she's smart and driven.

But as she begins her second term as the state's junior senator, one wonders how long Cantwell's newly hired legislative director, 27-year-old Harvard Law grad Courtney Gregoire, daughter of Gov. Christine, will last (she's the fifth legislative director in six years) — and whether Cantwell's reputation for being hell on wheels will truly become a thing of the past.

What I like best about the piece is I see only one quote from an unnamed source. Former staffers aren't all blind defenders of Cantwell or her management style and Curl managed to paint what looks to be a fair picture with nearly everyone on the record. I think I would have quoted Seely's column, though. Certainly he is one former staffer unafraid to speak his mind on the subject. His piece is already a piece of journalistic/political lore in Washington. I've heard this line repeated by people like something out of a favorite movie. Cantwell, he wrote, was a:

"paranoid hellcat of a boss who rolls through staff like toilet paper ..."

I doubt even Curl's description of Cantwell doing ballet exercises in a Central Washington diner will be remembered as well as that.

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Sheriff Bart out of SnoCo exec race

Posted by David Postman at 9:02 AM

Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart dropped out of the race against County Executive Aaron Reardon. The Herald has the story. Bart has spent two years trying to build a campaign but hasn't been able to raise enough money to make serious run. The Herald says he's raised $21,000 and Reardon has $222,000:

There just isn't enough support among Snohomish County Republicans, he said.

"I feel like my political capital in this county has been spent," Bart said.

County Republicans are looking for a new candidate. County Councilman John Koster's name comes up first. But at Sound Politics, Eric Earling points out something that would likely make it tough for Koster to do any better.

More specifically, the problem is Reardon's strong support — at least financially — from the business and development community that traditionally support Republicans in such Snohomish County races. Reading through PDC reports one sees a lot of the same donors filling Reardon's coffers that also supported Republicans John Koster and Jeff Sax in their 2005 County Council campaigns. That was always a challenge for Bart.

I expect Republicans will find a candidate. They don't want to give Reardon a free ride to a second term. Already he's looked at as a rising figure in the Democratic Party; a New Democrat kind of Democrat. I don't know what his long-term plans are, but an easy walk to a second term would give him plenty of time to think about it.

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March 20, 2007

Hutcherson told Latvians he had "the power"

Posted by David Postman at 4:02 PM

Eli Sanders is keeping on the story of Rev. Ken Hutcherson's claim that the White House made him a special envoy that gave him authority to act on the administration's behalf in Latvia.

Sanders has an audio clip at The Slog of what seems to be Hutcherson saying in Latvia that he had "the power and the commission" that gave him some official standing.

He also has this about a Seattle attorney asking the FBI to investigate Hutcherson.

I have not heard back today from Hutcherson, who said he was getting a videotape that would prove he was telling the truth, or from the White House, which I've asked more questions about Hutcherson's claims.

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Justice Department tried to help McKay get judgeship

Posted by David Postman at 12:21 PM

Former U.S. Attorney John McKay still had friends in high places a few months before he was fired. When McKay did not make a list of three finalists for a Seattle federal judgeship, officials in the White House and the Justice Department came to his defense and he had backing from the state's Democratic senators and former Republican office holders with White House ties.

Soon after a bipartisan judicial review committee forwarded three names to the White House — without McKay among them — Justice Department official Kyle Sampson e-mailed Robert Hoyt in the White House Counsel's office. The Aug. 8 e-mail: said

I heard our U.S. Attorney, John McKay, got screwed by Washington's judicial selection commission. What do you know? Can we let them know that we want to consider him along with the recommended candidates?

(Sampson is the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who resigned over his handling of the recent firing of McKay and seven other U.S. Attorneys around the country.)

What Hoyt did next apparently was call J. Vander Stoep, the Republican co-chair of the six-person committee that made the recommendations. Vander Stoep told me today:

"I received a call from the White House Counsel's office, indicating that a high Justice Department official had asked him to make a special inquiry and I confirmed, yes, McKay had applied but he didn't receive a majority of votes on the panel."

Hoyt wanted to know why McKay didn't make the cut.

"I said first of all in his interview Mr. McKay indicated he had taken through trial fewer than 10 cases. In my mind that was a disqualification to sit on the federal district court bench."

Those 10 were cases McKay personally tried during his career, Vander Stoep said.

Vander Stoep went further than that, though. He told Hoyt that he didn't think McKay shared President Bush's judicial philosophy. He concluded that, he said, from McKay's interview with the panel. The question, according to the committee's printed list of questions asked each candidate, was: "If as a judge you were confronted with a case where you believed that the right result based on policy or fairness indicated one outcome but the legal precedent pointed in a different direction, what would you do and why?"

"He answered it, in my judgment, both ways," Vander Stoep said. He said the answer that would have reflected Bush's philosophy would have been, "Follow the precedent. The law's the law. He gave an answer which I thought would not match the president's judicial philosophy."

At about the same time as the Hoyt call, Vander Stoep also heard from his former boss, former Sen. Slade Gorton. Gorton also wanted to know why McKay hadn't made the final list.

Meanwhile, the White House and the Justice Department were working to see if McKay could get back into the running for the judgeship.

On Aug. 9, Debra Wong Yang, then the U.S. Attorney in Southern California, e-mailed Sampson. The subject was: "Follow-up on McKay."

Additional info regarding the district court position in WDWA (Seattle). Two Dem Senators from the state strongly support his being interviewed. They will also support his nomination. Especially since all Ds on bi-partisan committee voted for him. They will also call WH to request interviewing the three plus McKay.

Local GOP members will also call WH expressing support for McKay and indicating he had strong Rep ties and credentials. Also, the 2 prominent Rs in the state, former ------ and ---- strongly support him.

Let me know what you think his chances are. Also let me know if you need more info.

(The names of the prominent Republicans are blanked out in the e-mail.)

Sampson told Yang, "re John, it's highly unlikely that we could do better in Seattle." He forwarded Yang's information about McKay's support on to the White House the same day.

Then on Aug. 17 Yang followed up with a longer e-mail to Sampson.

Subject: John McKay


Sorry we've been playing phone tag. Completely sleep deprived today and trying to get a million things done. Both of us have been too busy. Anyway, I wanted to forward some additional inside information to you re John's situation. Apparently, the Seattle paper is about to run an article that would be embarrassing to the Republicans, saying essentially that they have dissed one of their own in the their ranks. I think the sentiment up there is that if John gets to be interviewed, it's one way of combating that issue. However, more importantly is the issue of seeing if he can get the nod for the district court. To that end, here's some local info from Seattle that might help.

It was three (Republicans) of the six committee members who declined to support John. They pointed to the fact that he "lacked trial experience" when in reality John once served as the head of the litigation department in a very well-regarded law firm in Seattle. As you know, this is the local gamesmanship that goes on, when in actuality it should always be the White House making the final decision whether its U.S. attorney has the trial experience to be a federal judge. In addition, John also has strong political credentials (e.g. he took a year off between college and law school to manage a Republican congressional campaign and served as a fulltime volunteer at the 1996 GOP convention in San Diego). Should John be nominated, it is the understanding from people close to (redacted) that they will support this choice.

I'm not sure what newspaper story the e-mail refers to. The P-I reports today that Bush administration officials were unhappy with McKay about comments he made to the paper in an August 2006 story about budget problems at the U.S. Attorney's office.

In November, The Seattle Times wrote a story that sounds more like what Yang was worried about. The headline was: "Political motives suspected as jobs on bench go unfilled." The story looked at selections for judicial openings in Tacoma and Seattle. As for Seattle, the Times reported:

The delay has raised questions in local legal circles about whether the White House might again reject a merit panel's recommendations, or choose its own nominee.

The questions intensified when rumors surfaced that John McKay, the U.S. attorney for Western Washington, was also interviewed by the White House Counsel's Office. McKay said last summer he applied for the Seattle vacancy, and many local lawyers considered him the front-runner for the job.

The Seattle Times confirmed that McKay traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with White House officials about the vacancy, but sources said it was not clear if it was a formal job interview.

McKay declined to confirm or deny that the meeting took place.

"I'm not in a position to comment on this midprocess," McKay said. "I'm going to wait for the White House to make a decision along with everybody else."

So McKay did get his interview. But not the job. It was announced Monday that Bush nominated King County Superior Court Judge Richard Jones for the position.

Vander Stoep and Richard Derham, another Republican member of the review panel, said that Jones was the first choice of five members of the six-member committee.

More to come.

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March 19, 2007

White House disputes pastor's claim he was "special envoy"

Posted by David Postman at 3:19 PM

If, like me, you're a regular reader of the Stranger's blog, you've no doubt read "Notes on the Prayer Warrior." Those Eli Sanders' posts of pastor Ken Hutcherson's e-mail messages to his supporters and parishioners. They include request that people pray for Hutcherson to fly safe, or get over being sick, or to help him through a media interview.

I see that Sanders and I reacted the same way to the most recent Prayer Warrior missive: We decided it needed to be fact-checked. And at least part of it seems to be untrue. Sanders quotes from a March 16 e-mail from Hutcherson where the pastor claimed:

I was honored to receive a commission by the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives as a Special Envoy in the following areas: Adoptions, Family Values, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief, which allowed me to meet with the Latvian government.

That is untrue according to the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. Sanders talked to the same person I did and he's already posted about it here. Spokeswoman Alyssa McClenning told me by e-mail:

"The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives did not commission Pastor Hutcherson as a Special Envoy to Latvia."

Sanders has response from Hutcherson, too.

I just spoke to Pastor Ken Hutcherson. He tells me that White House spokeswoman Alyssa J. McLenning is wrong, that he does have the title he claimed, and that it comes from a "partnership" he's established with Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

"You need to talk to Jay Hein," Hutcherson told me. "He's the one that I've been talking to and the one that we are partnered with."

Hutcherson claims to have met with Hein at least twice in person about this partnership, once a few months ago in Seattle, and once last month at the White House. I asked Hutcherson what the title and the partnership mean in terms of his work in Latvia. He replied:

"In my meetings, I can represent as being with them [the White House] and having the power I need to get things done."

(UPDATE: Hutcherson just called me back. He is adamant that he has a "commission" and a "partnership" with the White House. He said he will have Hein back him up.

"I told Jay he has to talk to you."

He says he also has a video of his visit to D.C. where it's clear he has some special backing from the White House.

"You're to see that's the proof and I don't appreciate people me out a liar. You'll be able to listen to it and you can decide how much power I had when I went over there.")

Hutcherson initially made the claim March 6. His note that day said:

March 6, 2007

Dear Prayer Warrior,

Thank you for praying. What a blessing in answered prayer!

I just received the Special Commission from Faith Based regarding Family Values, Adoption, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief. The head of Faith Based is contacting people in the State Department to follow up on the Ambassadorship.

Receiving a Special Commission is a HUGE answer to prayer. Thank you for your continued prayers,

Pastor Hutch

The special commission was important to Hutcherson because he has been spending time in Latvia fighting what he says is U.S. funding of pro-gay groups in the Eastern European country. To see how he got connected in Latvia read this Seattle Times story. There are big fights brewing in Latvia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, about gay rights.

Hutcherson's March 9 e-mail gave an update on one trip:

Dear Prayer Warrior,

Praise for 4 extraordinary meetings today! God is doing incredible things through me in Latvia!


Everyone received their luggage but me. They need to find my luggage and return it to me!

I will be having a difficult meeting with Ambassador ... I just found out that our Embassy in Latvia has been supporting gay groups monetarily to come into this country.

Continue to pray for strength and stamina.

Your Pastor, Hutch

During his trips to Latvia, Hutcherson has been the guest of the conservative New Generation Church. The church has reported on Hutcherson's visits, including this on a recent visit:

'I came to you representing the White House', continued Hutcherson. 'In my country, people will know how Latvia responded to antichristian statements. We need to stand for righteousness not only morally, but also physically and financially. It's a great battle for righteousness and no one can stop it. I promise to stand with you'.

Was he representing the White House?

No, McClenning said.

Hutcherson had an interesting travel partner. He was with Scott Lively, president of the California-based Abiding Truth Ministries. He is also the co-author of a pamphlet titled, "The Pink Swastika." Here's the premise, from Lively's introduction: He says homosexual "are the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities."

His co-author wrote that the "authors contend that homosexualism, elevated to a popular ideology and combined with black occult forces, not only gave birth to Nazi imperialism but also led to the Holocaust itself."

And they say America could easily now follow the same path.

McClenning was quite clear that Hutcherson does not represent the White House or the Bush Administration in any way. Hutcherson and his Latvian colleagues did met with Jay Hein, the director of the faith-based office. The New Generation website reported the meeting this way:

That is the very purpose we are here -- to protect democratic freedoms and not to allow religious discrimination, said Jay Hein, FBCI Director at the White House, -- and we will do whatever possible to protect believers' rights in your nation.

The faith activist organization FBCI was founded January 29, 2001, by the US President George Bush for the purpose of protecting general and traditional Christian values in the society. The institution is under the President's direct control.

Concluding the meeting, Mr. Jay Hein allowed the Latvian guests a rare opportunity to have a walk down the Western wing of the White House and even take photographs.

The faith-based initiative is not, of course, just for Christian values. The New Generation report reads like a poor translation of a meeting. Whatever the case,
McClenning downplayed any significance to the fact that Hutcherson had a meeting:

"Members of the office meet with faith community and nonprofit leaders on a regular basis.

"It's the nature of the office."

NOTE: I changed the headline on this post. It was originally headlined "Erroneous notes from the Prayer Warrior." On second thought I found it too snarky.

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Iraqi politicians cautious about a quick U.S. withdrawal

Posted by David Postman at 2:07 PM

Peace activist Dal LaMagna has posted video and transcripts of the teleconference he helped set up among members of Congress and members of the Iraqi Parliament. You can see an edited video here.

I've read interviews LaMagna has done with Iraqi politicians before. And in this transcript, I'm struck again by the concerns expressed about a rapid U.S. exit, even from vocal critics of the U.S. occupation. The Iraqis seem less willing to set a hard date than some anti-war Democrats in Congress. Here's a snippet from the edited transcript with LaMagna's colleague Raed Jarrar moderating:

Congressman Bill Delahunt: ... Would you provide us with an estimate of the opinion in Iraq about whether there should be a withdrawal in terms of a time certain by American military forces. If there were a vote today in the Iraqi Parliament what (do) you estimate the vote to be in favor of a withdrawal by the U.S. Military from Iraq in a specified period of time?

M.P. Osama al-Nujaifi: Definitely the percentage would be very high if the principle and core request for the Iraqis is completely American withdrawal, except for the ones who are benefiting from this odd and abnormal situation, I assure most Iraqis would want quick withdrawal of American forces. However this is not, the request is not for a withdrawal that would leave a security void in Iraq.

M.P. Sheik Khalaf al-Elayyan: We wish for a rapid exit of American forces after it has secured Iraq and to build military and security institutes and organizations and to protect Iraq from Iranian influence and to establish an Iraqi national government that covers all Iraqi people from different cities away from secular and sects that nationalist, patriotism, efficiency is the core of all of this.

M.P. Saleh al-Mutlak: I think the question, or part of it, says if the Parliament would vote tomorrow would they vote for the American presence in Iraq or to leave Iraq. As a parliamentary person as the head of a block in the Parliament I would like to tell you now that the Parliament is not representing the Iraqi people anymore. People who elected us at some point they would not elect us now if the government will continue as it is. Because we failed. We failed to bring to a government that can bring peace and security and services to the people.

Raed Jarrar: (interrupting Saleh) So what is your party's position towards demanding withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

M.P. Saleh al-Mutlak: I will say a timetable for withdrawal and parallel, as I say before with a timetable to correct the mistakes you have done in Iraq and I have mentioned them before and on top of these you have to create a government a secular one to lead Iraq before you leave and do not leave us with a pro Iranian government because it is not for your benefit neither for our benefit.

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PDC says King County Republicans violated campaign laws

Posted by David Postman at 9:18 AM

The staff of the Public Disclosure Commission has found a long list of campaign violations by the King county Republican Central Committee. A staff report says enough problems were found that the commission should forward the case to Attorney General Rob McKenna. The PDC is limited in the total amounts of fines it can levy in the case to $4,200. The PDC's assistant director, Doug Ellis, told me this morning:

"We believe the seriousness of what we found should preclude having a penalty of only that amount."

The King County Republicans filed numerous reports late; in one campaign account 74 percent of contributions and 70 percent of expenditures were filed late in 2006. And some came in 268 days late. Reports that were filed were incomplete. The PDC staff investigation found that the party failed to list employer and occupation information for 91 percent of donors required to submit that information. That information was filed last week.

The investigation was begun after a citizen's complaint from attorney Richard Pope, a frequent commenter on local blogs and a pretty dedicated investigator in his own right. His original complaint to McKenna is a thorough piece of work. (Pope, by the way, was also responsible for last week's find that former Congressman Rick White had his license to practice law suspended -- and is now in inactive status -- for failing to pay bar association dues. I first saw that in a comment Pope posted at

It would have behooved King County Republicans to take his complaint more seriously. The PDC's investigation found:

On August 23, 2006, Richard Pope, the complainant, sent an e-mail to Michael Young, KCRCC Chairman, and Geoffrey Tamman, informing both of the committee's reporting problems. Mr. Tamman responded that same day to Mr. Pope and Mr. Young, saying he was no longer the official treasurer, having resigned in February 2006, but acknowledging that he was assisting in the process of getting the office assistant trained. He also assured Mr. Pope that he and the KRCC were taking this matter very seriously.

But when asked by PDC investigators about the problems, Young "stated that they came aware of the reporting problems during 'the last filing period of the 2006 election cycle.'" When the Pope e-mail was brought up, "KCRCC acknowledged this communication. However, at the time, they believed their treasurer, Geoffrey Tamman, was handling the situation."

Young told investigators the party's reporting problems were due to "difficulty transitioning to ORCA (the PDC's campaign reporting software), office staff turnover, and the treasurer's (Geoffrey Tamman) busy travel schedule."

The commission meets in Olympia Thursday. If a majority of commissioners agree with the staff recommendation, the case will be referred to McKenna. Here's what Ellis says happens next:

"They would look at the investigative report, determine if they need additional information prior to filing with the Superior Court and they could also began negotiations with the Respondent to determine if a settlement could be reached without formal charges being filed. The timing of such activity would be up to the Attorney General's Office."

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March 15, 2007

Demo chair says no way to primary

Posted by David Postman at 5:36 PM

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz says his party will stick to its caucuses for selecting presidential delegates and will not use the primary even if lawmakers keep it on the calendar.

And that means Gov. Christine Gregoire likely will go along with a plan to cancel the 2008 presidential primary. Gregoire's communications director, Holly Armstrong, told me this afternoon that the governor will not support spending more than $9 million on the primary if the parties refuse to use it for delegate selection.

Republicans have said they will likely use the primary for choosing at least a portion of their delegates, so the only real question has been what Democrats would do. Armstrong said Gregoire would not take a position on whether or not her party should use the primary for delegates.

But Pelz is firm that state Democrats won't support a primary. He told me that news reports today that as many as 26 states may hold primaries on Feb. 5 show that he and state party leaders are right to avoid a spring primary.

"That means only the candidates with huge amounts of money will be competitive. Rather than being a great exercise in democracy it's about who can buy the most television ads."

Pelz said that even though some party members are pushing for a primary, there will be no substantive dissent when the central committee decides next month to stick with the caucus for selecting delegates. At a party Rules Committee meeting two weeks ago, he said, support for a primary was defeated on a vote of 31-5.

The House Appropriations Committee heard a bill this afternoon that would cancel the 2008 primary. The 2004 primary was canceled as a cost-savings measure after Democrats said they would not count the results toward delegate selection.

Pelz called the move of states to set early primary dates "a race to the bottom" that will hurt his party's chances of choosing the best candidate. With compacted primaries in the early days, he said, the nominee "will not have been battle-tested and when they get into a general election with a Republican they stumble badly."

Secretary of State Sam Reed supports the primary and opposes the bill to cancel it next year. Pelz accused Reed of playing party favorites.

"Sam Reed is a Republican, you know, and it's probably in the interest of his party to see the Democratic candidate picked in this ... television orgy on Feb. 5."

Reed just came back from the Appropriations Committee hearing. He said among people who testified, he counted more Democrats than Republicans opposed to the bill. He said there is no advantage to the Republican Party to a front-loaded primary season.

"Absolutely not. I think this is going to be very robust primary season. ... It's the first time since 1952 that we haven't had either an incumbent president or incumbent vice president who is running. That really makes it wide open for both parties."

Reed also disputes Pelz's view that crowded primaries would mean campaigns run only on TV. In 2000, Reed said, even though Democrats didn't count the primary votes, Al Gore and Bill Bradley both made repeated visits to the state.

State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser sent a letter today to the Appropriations Committee saying the Legislature should not rush to kill the primary. He wrote:

As I have indicated in conversations with individual legislators and the Secretary of State, I would strongly encourage the committee to avoid a hurried decision to cancel the presidential primary. The Washington State Republican Party has always allocated at least some of its delegates to the Republican National Convention based on the results of the presidential primary (in those years when the presidential primary has been held). The same option has been available to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, though they have always chosen to not allocate any of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention based on the results of the presidential primary. I cannot yet tell you definitively how our WSRP delegates will be allocated this year, because a final decision has not yet been reached. But whatever delegate allocation process the two major parties use, the same option would be available to the governor and legislature later this year that was utilized four years ago — a brief special session during committee assembly days. This is a far better option than rushing to cancel a presidential primary that came into being as the result of a citizen initiative.

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Widow, senator, Gregoire aide, say KIA is not early retirement

Posted by David Postman at 2:52 PM

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice said the governor talked to her personally about making things right with the retirement benefits due Victoria Johnson, the widow of a Yakima Army reservist killed in Iraq. Prentice held a brief hearing this afternoon on a pension bill that Johnson wants amended to give her the full benefits that would have been due to her husband, Major Alan Johnson, if an improvised explosive device had not blown up his Humvee in January.

"My husband did not voluntarily quit his job," Victoria Johnson told the Ways and Means Committee. She testified along side Sen. Jim Clements, R-Selah, and Marty Brown, Gregoire's chief lobbyist. Brown said the governor is very supportive of the Johnson amendment. And Clements has made it his job to push the amendment through the Senate.

They all testified about the changing nature of the military. There are reservists and National Guard troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan who have jobs back home. Some are civil servants, and part of the state retirement system. If they are killed in battle before they reach retirement age, their survivors can only collect the employee contribution, not what the employer would be required to match.

Today was only a hearing and the committee did not act on Johnson's request. But it seems Prentice can now be counted among her supporters. She said the state needs to recognize that its retirement laws did not foresee so many public employees leaving to fight a war.

"It is true our world has changed dramatically and we have to change with it," Prentice said.

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Fighting to save the presidential primary

Posted by David Postman at 10:12 AM

This afternoon the House Appropriations Committee will hear from grassroots Democrats and a statewide elected Republican hoping to save next year's presidential primary. The committee will hold a hearing at 3:30 on House Bill 2379, which would cancel the state's 2008 presidential primary.

Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, introduced the bill to save the money that would be spent on a primary that many say has little meaning to the nominating process. State Democrats have not counted primary votes toward selection of delegates. Republicans have used the results to apportion at least some of their delegates. I wrote about the bill here last week.

But some Democratic activists want to turn their state party around. Today Kelly Wright will present lawmakers with a resolution passed by the 38th District Democrats on March 6 in support of the primary.

The resolution say the primary would "be the most democratic and inclusive means for Washington State Democrats to elect Democratic National Convention Delegates." It would also "be the most useful way possible to identify Democrats and mobilize them to support the party and its candidates."

Wright's prepared testimony says that other Democratic organizations are lobbying the central committee to support the primary. The central committee will make that decision at its meeting April 28. Wright's testimony says the bill to kill the primary "is a direct assault on democracy." He said:

We are a Democratic party. We have a democratic process.

This legislation would effectively end our campaign — before the public has had a chance to comment. Before we have had a chance to vote.

The Washington State Legislature can not blame the state's major political Parties for the cancellation of the state's Presidential Primary.

If this bill passes millions of Washington's voters will be denied the opportunity to vote on February 5th , when most of the rest of the nation votes in a presidential primary.

The responsibly for this travesty will rest with solely with the legislature.

Secretary of State Sam Reed will also be there to oppose the bill. He'll be joined by leaders of several organizations from around the state. Reed will give committee members a handout of newspaper columns and editorials in favor of keeping the primary.

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An Iraq widow fights for her state benefits

Posted by David Postman at 7:24 AM

Alan Johnson was a Yakima County corrections officer in April 2006 when his reserve Army unit was called up and he went to Iraq. He was killed there January 26.

He was a 44-year old major in the reserves, a husband and step-father. A letter from a fellow soldier read at his funeral described him as a man of Christ, a gentleman, a true warrior and an honorable man.

The Army said he was killed in action; a homemade bomb blew up his Humvee near the border with Iran.

But to the state of Washington, Alan Johnson is a retiree. Technically, officially --whatever you want to call it -- the state considers that Johnson retired early from his government job; too early to have earned full benefits in the state's retirement system to pass on to his family.

An IED retired him of course. As his widow, Victoria, wrote to lawmakers:

My husband died serving his country in Iraq, absent that conflict, he would have been continuing his public service in Yakima as a correction's officer. He loved his job and was committed to being a positive influence at the jail.

The way state law calculates death benefits means that Victoria, will get $26,000 for her husband's 15 years of work for the Yakima County Department of Corrections. If Alan Johnson had lived, if he didn't stay in the reserves and go to fight, if he could have worked until retirement age -- as all who know him are confident he would have -- she would be eligible for $52,000. That's money she'd like to use to become a physical therapist. That's a skill she wants to use in the Army. She's planning to join.

Gov. Chris Gregoire attended Major Johnson's memorial service in Yakima. Victoria Johnson reminded the governor of that in a recent letter and said:

... it is my understanding that Alan's death in Iraq is being treated as though he has chosen an early retirement at age 44. Alan did not choose to retire; he died serving our country, defending our right to freedom, the right to be able to have a retirement system.

Gregoire had not forgotten Victoria Johnson and will support her effort to get the Legislature to change the law, says Press Secretary Lars Erickson. Johnson and her attorney had hoped a bill in the House would be amended to include the provision. But that measure, House Bill 1266, passed the House last week without the amendment.

The underlying bill would provide "a $150,000 death benefit to survivors of state, school district and higher education employees who die as a result of an occupational illness that arises in the course of employment."

Johnson wants to add a section to that bill to increase benefits if an employee in the state retirement system is killed in a war. But it would be less than the $150,000 guaranteed for those who die from an occupational illness.

There will be another attempt to do that this afternoon when the Senate Ways and Means Committee considers the bill. A spokeswoman for the Department of Retirement Systems, which administers the pension system, had no comment on Johnson's efforts.

Erickson said no one from the Administration is scheduled to testify for Johnson today. But the governor's office has made it clear to Ways and Means, he said, that the governor wants Victoria Johnson taken care of.

That's just what she asked Gregoire for in a letter:

In closing I would like to share with you a portion of one of President Bush's speeches given to the troops in Iraq. I found a copy while going through my husband's belongings, which came back this week from Iraq. He had the following underlined;

"I met with the cabinet officials from all walks of life here in Iraq and came away with the distinct impression that they are unified in serving the people of Iraq. They want to succeed. The faith and future of Iraq is in their hands, and our job is to help them succeed â€" and we will."

The families of our military personnel also need a future. Please, I ask that you help them to succeed by providing them with the benefits that our military personnel have worked so hard for; the benefits that they deserve. Thank you.

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March 14, 2007

Pills, PTSD and a soldier's view of Army medical care

Posted by David Postman at 11:18 AM

From inside Walter Reed:

... today, it is about the pills. A pill to keep me focused. A pill to keep me more sociably acceptable. A pill to keep the rage from spilling over into my everyday life. A pill for the pain. A pill to help me sleep. A pill to help the dreams. A pill to make this life seem like less of a dream. And my daily vitamin.

That's from a new blog written by a patient at the hospital. It sure seems real and it is certainly powerful to read the first-hand accounts of what has become a major news story.

I found it at boingboing, which found it on this Wired Magazine blog:

Over the past month, we've heard all kinds of horror stories about the soldiers left to rot in the dark corners of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. We've read newspaper accounts. We've watched congressional testimony. Now, we get to hear from one of the soldiers, directly.

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A conservative for instant run-off voting?

Posted by David Postman at 10:09 AM

Stefan Sharkansky seems to be arguing for ranked voting in this take on the viaduct election. Both alternatives failed. But Sharkansky ranks the losers to find a winner. Doesn't that sound like a form of IRV?

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Republicans work to make Dems' tribal donations the issue

Posted by David Postman at 8:53 AM

House Republicans last night tried to amend two bills to prohibit the governor from accepting campaign contributions from Washington tribes. The bills involve agreements over fuel and timber taxes. But gambling is at the heart of the move. And so is a concerted GOP effort to raise questions about Gov. Christine Gregoire's financial support from Washington tribes.

Republicans are unhappy with agreements Gregoire has negotiated that will expand the number of electronic slot machines tribes can put in their casinos. Two very similar amendments came up last night when the House debated HB 2008, which would authorize the governor to negotiate an agreement with the Quinault Nation on timber excise taxes, and HB 1426 which would authorize the governor to negotiate fuel tax agreements with tribes.

Both amendments were sponsored by Rep. David Buri, R-Colfax. The amendment on the fuel tax bill said:

The governor may not directly or indirectly accept a contribution from a party to an agreement or consent decree that has been negotiated within the prior four years or is currently under negotiation, if the party is authorized to negotiate with the governor pursuant to this act.

In debating the gas tax bill, Buri told the House last night:

"This gives the governor a tremendous amount of power in negotiations with the very people, the very countries I should say, giving him or her campaign contributions."

He said that when he first proposed the amendment he thought it was a simple, common sense idea and was surprised by the opposition.

"I had a lot of push back, a lot of people saying this is a bad idea. And the more and more I heard about it the more I knew this was the right thing to do."

Buri modeled his amendments after the law that prohibits the insurance commissioner from accepting campaign money from insurance companies. That law says:

No insurer or fraternal benefit society doing business in this state shall directly or indirectly pay or use, or offer, consent, or agree to pay or use any money or thing of value for or in aid of any candidate for the office of insurance commissioner; nor for reimbursement or indemnification of any person for money or property so used.

Buri described his amendments as efforts to bring transparency to the process. But House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler pointed out that records of campaign contributions are already public, and that the state system for reporting is heralded as one of the most open in the nation:

"We have to report every single dime we get. We have to report who gave it to us, where they work. There is nothing cloudy about how we receive campaign contributions."

Kessler also said the amendment was an effort to "exclude an entire population from taking part in our democracy, our democratic elections."

Both amendments failed. But they are part of wider efforts by Republicans and their backers at the Building Industry Association of Washington to raise questions about Gregoire's political ties to the tribes. Tribes are generous donors to Gregoire, state Democrats and last year to a Gregoire-endorsed PAC that raised money for Supreme Court incumbents.

Buri said in a press release last night: "No one on our side of the aisle is accusing the governor of misusing her office."

But the suggestion has certainly been made. In a Feb. 26 letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne asking him to stop the gaming agreement, Deputy Republican Leader Doug Ericksen said:

We are also asking for a denial of this gaming compact to allow time to address questions that have arisen regarding the circumstances of the negotiations and the decision-making process that led to the submission of this compact to your office. Recent news reports have tied substantial campaign contributions from the tribes and tribal gaming interests to key decision-makers. It has led us to consider whether the bargaining position of the state has been compromised.

Republicans may be claiming that "recent news reports" raised issues about the contributions. But the BIAW complains the press has ignored the issue. Last week the BIAW issued a press release that quoted Executive Vice President Tom McCabe:

"It's a shame no reporter or newspaper had the nerve to ask the question we've been asking over and over since last year — what deal did Gregoire cut with the tribes in exchange for their contributions to Alexander's campaign?" said McCabe. "Now we finally know the answer."

The BIAW has been trying to draw attention to the tribal donations since last fall. At the time the group suggested that tribal money to the Supreme Court PAC was being given to sway Gregoire's gambling decisions.

There really hasn't been much coverage and very little that I'd characterize the way the Ericksen letter did. The most pointed writing on the issue has come from News Tribune columnist Dan Voelpel. He wrote last month:

Yet no one has given a detailed account of compelling reasons, court cases or legal rules that explain why Democratic leadership has chosen to hand the tribes of Washington a lucrative gambling expansion. Which leaves us to deduce that campaign contributions to Democratic candidates and interests from tribes and tribal gaming organizations influenced this latest gambling giveaway.

In another column he wrote:

Yes, it all looks like payback by Gregoire and the Democratic-appointed Gambling Commission for piles of campaign contributions the tribes have funneled to Democratic candidates and causes. ran an AP story last week that mentioned the contributions.

Gregoire addressed the issue at her press conference Monday. She defended the agreement as good for the state. She said she was glad that the new agreement will cap the number of tribal casinos in the state and require tribes to make new contributions to programs for problem gamblers and anti-smoking efforts aimed at teens.

Gregoire said the tribes weren't happy with the agreement. And the state, she said, is required to deal with them fairly. But she thinks the state drove a hard bargain. She said that the first tribal gaming compact negotiated before she took office would have allowed up to 81,000 machines statewide. The new agreement allows up to 27,300.

It's not exactly an apples and apples comparison, though. The earlier agreement only allowed each tribe to own 675 machines, but they could lease more from other tribes. The new agreement allows each tribe to own up to 975 machines, according to the Washington State Gambling Commission. The commission has several documents on its Web site detailing the new agreement and how it differs from the earlier compact.

In addition, the Muckleshoot, Tulalip and Puyallup tribes will be allowed to lease 3,500 machines when the new agreement goes into effect, and 4,000 in three years. That's up from 3,000 in the earlier agreement.

Statewide, the new agreement will allow 27,300 machines, up from 18,225 under the previous compact, according to the gambling commission.

The agreement also allows maximum bets on the machines to go up from $5 to $20. Bills and coins could be used, as opposed to the pre-paid plastic cards now required. The hours of operations at the casinos can also be expanded.

UPDATE: It was just pointed out to me that Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, sent a letter to Kempthorne on Feb. 5. He did not raise the issue of tribal donations.

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March 13, 2007

Income tax proposal to get Senate hearing

Posted by David Postman at 5:06 PM

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a public hearing Thursday
on a Democrat's proposal for a state income tax. Sen. Rosa Franklin, D-Tacoma, has been pushing for years for an income tax and this year will at least get a hearing on Senate Bill 5150, which she is the lone sponsor of. It is titled, "Relating to Fiscal Reform.''

Also scheduled is a hearing on a companion measure, Senate Joint Resolution 8209 which would place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment to allow an income tax. That is sponsored by Franklin and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

I'm confident these are just courtesy hearings. The Senate is not about to consider these measures. But I'll try to talk to Franklin to see what she would like to accomplish.

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Gonzales explains, updated and footnoted

Posted by David Postman at 11:24 AM

This is a column that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote last week for USA Today that I have updated with footnotes with more recent news about the purge of federal prosecutors around the country.

Opposing view: They lost my confidence Attorneys' dismissals were related to performance, not to politics. 1 The idea of dismissing federal prosecutors originated in the White House more than a year earlier, White House and Justice officials said Monday. The New York Times

By Alberto R. Gonzales

As any employer or manager knows, the handling of personnel matters -- especially the termination of employees -- is one of the most challenging tasks in any business. 2 The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, Washington Post Personnel matters in the federal government are no exception. 3 Less than a month before a Justice Department official told Congress that U.S. Attorney David Igelsias was fired for "performance related" concerns, the Attorney General agreed to be a job reference for the guy. Talking Points Memo

To be clear, it was for reasons related to policy, priorities and management -- what have been referred to broadly as "performance-related" reasons -- that seven U.S. attorneys were asked to resign last December. 4 The e-mails show that Rove was interested in the appointment of a former aide, Tim Griffin, as an Arkansas prosecutor. Sampson wrote in one that "getting him appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc." Washington Post

The Justice Department, out of respect for these individuals, would have preferred not to talk publicly about those reasons, but disclosures in the press and requests for information from Congress altered those best-laid plans. 5 The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress. Washington Post

Although our reasons for their dismissal were appropriate, 6 Bush mentioned complaints about voter-fraud investigations to Gonzales in a conversation in October 2006, Perino said. Gonzales does not recall the conversation, Justice Department officials said. Washington Post
our failure to provide those reasons to these individual U.S. attorneys at the time they were asked to resign has only served to fuel wild and inaccurate speculation about our motives. 7 "We would like to execute this on Thursday, Dec. 7," Mr. Sampson wrote. Because some United States attorneys were still in Washington attending a conference, he planned to postpone telling them they were being fired. He wrote, "We want to wait until they are back home and dispersed to reduce chatter." New York Times
That is very unfortunate because faith and confidence in our justice system are more important than any one individual. 8 On the day of the Dec. 7 firings, Miers's deputy, William Kelley, wrote that Domenici's chief of staff "is happy as a clam" about Iglesias.
A week later, Sampson wrote: "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow (not even waiting for Iglesias's body to cool)." Washington Post

We have never asked a U.S. attorney to resign in an effort to retaliate against him or her 9 The dismissals took place after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud investigations, according to a White House spokeswoman. Washington Post or to inappropriately interfere with a public corruption case (or any other type of case, for that matter). Indeed, during the last six years, the department has established an extremely strong record of rooting out public corruption, including prosecuting a number of very high-profile cases.10 In early 2005, Harriet E. Miers, then the White House legal counsel, asked a Justice Department official whether it would be feasible to replace all United States attorneys when their four-year terms expired, according to the Justice Department. New York Times

Like me, U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and we all serve at the pleasure of the president. If U.S. attorneys are not executing their responsibilities in a manner that furthers the management and policy goals of departmental leadership, it is appropriate that they be replaced. 11 By avoiding Senate confirmation, Sampson added, "we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House." Washington Post

After all, the responsibility of the Department of Justice, and of the Congress, is to serve the people of the United States. While I am grateful for the public service of these seven U.S. attorneys, they simply lost my confidence. 12 After McKay was fired in December, he says he also got a phone call from a "clearly nervous" Elston asking if he intended to go public: "He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won't say anything bad about you." MSNBC
I hope that this episode ultimately will be recognized for what it is: an overblown personnel matter. 13 U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales has so politicized the Justice Department that he should step down for the sake of the nation, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat said Sunday. The Los Angeles Times
Alberto R. Gonzales is attorney general of the United States 14 One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later," Specter said sharply. Washington Post

(Thanks to Times web designer Jon Krauss.)

UPDATE: From footnotes to the credits, Seattlest imagines what comes next.

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March 12, 2007

Happy Sunshine Week

Posted by David Postman at 3:02 PM

This is a redacted page from the 2004 transition report prepared by outgoing Gov. Gary Locke. It has hung on the wall above my colleague Ralph Thomas' desk and I thought it might be a fitting tribute to what the American Society of Newspaper Editors calls Sunshine Week. It's an effort to draw attention to public records laws around the country.

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State Senate passes anti-discrimination bill for vets

Posted by David Postman at 9:43 AM

On Saturday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would give military veterans protection under the state's anti-discrimination law. It was sponsored by freshmen Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who served in Kosovo and Iraq.

Hobbs said employers are unnecessarily wary about hiring veterans, both from concerns about a vet's psychological state and from potential political strife of having a veteran work alongside opponents of the war. Hobbs said it's either misplaced anger about the war, or just ignorance, but in either case it should be against the law.

"I don't want any veteran to be turned away because of their experiences," Hobbs told me this morning. He said he experienced discrimination first-hand when looking for a post-military job. He said that one potential employer asked if he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. At the time, he said, he was suffering from a mild form of PTSD. "All veterans do. I was dealing with it just fine. But I didn't want to tell them that." Instead he said, "Well, I don' think that's a relevant question."

In another instance he was asked if he could fit in with a workplace where most people opposed the Iraq war:

"That was a kind of a shocking question: 'How do you feel about working with people who are against the war?' That's nuts. Why would you even ask a question like that?"

Senate Bill 5123 has a long list of bipartisan co-sponsors. It would amend the state anti-discrimination law that now protects people from discrimination based on religion, gender, race, sexual preference age or disability. It would cover all honorably discharged veterans as well as active duty and reserve National Guard members.

It now goes to the House.

UPDATE: Gov. Christine Gregoire and the head of the state National Guard, Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, say they haven't read the Hobbs bill yet and couldn't say whether they support it. But Lowenberg has long heard complaints about discrimination:

"We have dealt really since the early 1990s with concerns by members of the National Guard and reserve component that they face discrimination, in their opinion, as they apply for positions in the private sector and as they seek to move within their own companies for lateral career progression purposes."

Gregoire said she has no doubt that Vietnam-era veterans face inappropriate questions about their psychological state. Her husband, Mike, is a veteran and the administration's de factor spokesperson on veterans' issues. The governor told reporters this morning:

"Based on Mike's work and himself being a Vietnam veteran, there is no question but that since Vietnam, Vietnam veterans are asked very telling questions."

She said the state Department of Veterans Affairs has worked on hard on improving PTSD care to veterans and to "get that question out of the dialogue with respect to employment of those veterans."

"I can't speak to our most recent returning folks from Iraq and Afghanistan, but I think it goes without question that those who served in the Vietnam war have had those questions asked of them."

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Chopp's Petty comments still resonating

Posted by David Postman at 8:11 AM

At a NASCAR race in Las Vegas over the weekend Richard Petty was asked about House Speaker Frank Chopp's false suggestion that Petty had a drunk driving arrest on his record.

Chopp apologized on Feb. 22 when Petty and others were in Olympia lobbying for funding plan for a Kitsap County NASCAR track.

But it turns out Petty didn't know what Chopp was talking about. From NASCAR Scene Daily:

"When I walked out the door, I said, 'What's he apologizing for?'" Petty said. "Then they started going through all that, the different stuff he said.

"I said, 'I'm glad you didn't tell me what he really said because I might have went on him if I had known what he really said.'

Chopp made the comments Feb. 21 at his weekly meeting with Capitol reporters. At least they were weekly up until then. He hasn't had the press corps back since the Petty comments were published.

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Storm takes down PoP

Posted by David Postman at 7:42 AM

Via Treo: High winds last night have apparently taken down our ISP. They're working on it. I'll go find a place to work, but this explains why the coffee shop with wireless was so crowded this morning.

UPDATE: We're back up.

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March 9, 2007

Burner takes big step toward second race in the 8th

Posted by David Postman at 5:43 PM

Darcy Burner filed paperwork today that she said "allows me to move ahead decisively" with a 2008 run against Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. Burner told me that a formal announcement will come soon.

"A lot of my supporters have asked me to finish the job we started in 2006," she said. Burner lost a close race to Reichert last November. I've been e-mailing with Burner and don't know yet exactly what paperwork she filed. But the first step in a federal campaign is the filing of a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. A would-be candidate has to do that within 15 days of raising $5,000, which then allows a campaign committee to raise more money.

Burner's move came a day after the news of a campaign to draft Democratic state Rep. Ross Hunter into the race.

Burner told me she has only had the briefest of conversations with Hunter and Tony Ventrella, the former radio and TV personality who is said to be considering joining the Democratic primary in the 8th Congressional District. Burner, sounding like a practiced candidate, seemed unconcerned by the interest from other Democrats:

"The level of activity, however, is a result of how well we proved last cycle that Dave Reichert is not a good fit for the 8th District, and that there is a real opportunity to respond to the demands of the voters for a different direction."

UPDATE: Andrew at the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog has the link to Burner's statement of candidacy.

UPDATE: Burner has posted a message to supporters on her website.

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Moderate House Democrats' plan to get out of Iraq

Posted by David Postman at 2:43 PM

Congressman Adam Smith and other moderate House Democrats want to revoke President Bush's authorization for the Iraq war and force the president to get a new battle plan approved by Congress. The Department of Defense would have 60 days to present a plan for "phased deployment" of U.S. troops, and the mission would be restricted to "defeating Al-Qaida and other foreign terrorists," training Iraqi forces and protecting U.S. forces. The bill was introduced this afternoon.

Smith told me today:

"More and more we're recognizing that 150,000 U.S. troops are simply not in a position to stop the violence in Iraq and having them there arguably exacerbates that. It is now time to have a plan to get them out of there."

The bill is sponsored by California Rep. Ellen Tauscher, and co-sponsored by Smith, California Rep. Jane Harman, Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York and Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama. All are considered moderate "New Democrats."

(Note: All the sponsors voted for the initial Iraq war resolution, except Davis who hadn't been elected yet.)

The bill comes just as two other major Iraq moves are being proposed by House Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders, according to The New York Times:

presented legislation to their members on Thursday that would place new conditions on military operations in Iraq as well as call for a troop withdrawal no later than August 2008. The proposals are attached to an emergency spending bill that will be considered next week in the Appropriations Committee and debated on the House floor before the end of the month.

It would require Bush to verify that the Iraqi government was meeting deadlines for military, political and economic progress. If he can't do that, a majority of combat troops would start coming home this summer, with all back by the end of the year. The leadership plan focuses on Bush's request for nearly $100 billion to fund troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Wall Street Journal says it was a move by Pelosi "to broaden the scope of an Iraq war funding bill and buy herself extra room to unite Democrats on the divisive issue and better challenge President Bush's policy."

More than $20 billion in new spending will be added to the administration's request even as the bill will call for withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of August next year. After weeks of pummeling by Republicans on the subject of the war, Democrats hope to regain the offensive less by challenging what is in Mr. Bush's funding request than what's not.

TPM Cafe is following the various House proposals carefully, including what was proposed by liberal members Thursday:

The crux of what the liberals want is this: Any further funding for the war, they say, should be earmarked for funding withdrawal of the troops. The idea is to fund withdrawal, rather than defund the war.

It all has created some infighting and a fair amount of intrigue among the ruling Democrats, which TPM describes here.

The Tauscher-Smith proposal is clearly a more conservative approach. As members of the House Armed Services Committee — and both chairs of subcommittees there — they are more focused on the authorization side of the budget rather than the appropriations where House leadership is concentrating.

Tauscher is an interesting story these days. In fact she got a front page profile in The Washington Post late last month. It focused on criticism about her from California liberals who see her as a sort of left coast version of Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Tauscher rolls her eyes at this kind of talk. She said she doesn't trust anything the Bush administration says, but it's the administration in power. "I want to represent my constituents, so I have to work with this president," she said. "I'm a pragmatic person. I don't have the luxury of saying, 'I'll come back in January 2009 and try to get some work done.' "

The Post says, "The anti-Tauscher backlash illustrates how the Democratic takeover has energized and emboldened the party's liberal base, ratcheting up the pressure on the party's moderates." You can get a taste of that backlash here.

Tauscher's and Smith's bill would provide a more dramatic moment than the leadership bill in that it would require a new vote on the use of force in Iraq. There are also similarities to the leadership proposal. It would include Iraq Study Group recommendations on requiring the Iraqi government to do more for security and reconstruction. Smith said he supports the leadership proposal, though clearly not the more liberal approach. He does not want troops pulled too fast from Iraq.

"A majority of Democrats don't want them rushing out of there. We need a military plan to withdraw responsibly. ... Congress is trying to exercise what I think is its responsibility and authority to force a change in direction of military policy when we think it's wrong."

Smith said that in an ideal world the president would have a greater say on what happens in Iraq.

"But we're not in an ideal world. The president has made enough mistakes in Iraq the last four years from just about anybody's perspective, save Dick Cheney, so can no longer give him that kind of blind trust."

Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, is taking a different approach. Thursday he and five other members of Congress met by teleconference with members of the Iraqi Parliament. The Iraqis were in Amman, Jordan, as part of an effort organized by Dal LaMagna and Raed Jarrar of the Progressive Government Institute. I wrote about LaMagna's anti-war lobbying in January.

According to an e-mail from LaMagna:

All of the Members in the conversation represented the "nationalist" political point of view for Iraq. Their position is they want one Iraq to remain after this crisis; they want the U.S. to set a timeline for withdrawal from their country; they want their natural resources controlled by a central government.
McDermott and Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., had wanted to bring one member of parliament to D.C. last year. But Mohammed al-Dynee of the Iraq National Dialogue Front only learned his visa to the U.S. had been approved Thursday.

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Inslee on new House energy panel

Posted by David Postman at 10:43 AM

Congressman Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, got a seat today on the new House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The House approved the committee yesterday. It doesn't have legislative authority like standing committees. Instead it will make recommendations on legislation to control global warming.

But the committee has been controversial since first proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in January. And as the Boston Globe reports:

Many pro-business Republicans don't want the new committee. Some of the House's most powerful Democratic committee chairmen also fear that establishing the new panel would erode their authority.

Representative John D. Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was particularly angry over the prospect of sharing the issue with another committee. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, has been a champion of Detroit auto interests and has resisted legislation forcing car manufacturers to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Massachusetts Rep .Ed Markey was named the chairman of the group.

Inslee has made energy issues a priority in his time in Congress and is writing a book on clean energy. In 2005 he introduced a sweeping energy bill he calls the "New Apollo Energy Act." He said in a statement this morning:
"This is as much an economic opportunity as it is an environmental imperative. ... If we face it with as much optimism as original Apollo Project, we'll get the job done."

Other Northwest members are Oregon Reps. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, and Greg Walden, a Republican.

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Demo lawmakers want to cancel '08 presidential primary

Posted by David Postman at 8:46 AM

Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, wants the state to skip next year's presidential primary just like we did in 2004 after lawmakers decided it would be expensive and largely meaningless. It would be even more expensive next year — estimated at $9.2 million — and no more meaningful.

Hunt is chairman of the House State Government and Tribal Affairs Committee. He sponsored a bill that would eliminate the primary for next year but keep the presidential preference election law on the books.

Hunt said in a statement:

"The presidential-primary election for our voters doesn't even rise to the level of a political beauty contest — which would be an insignificant enough level, anyway. At least in a beauty contest, the winner gets a crown and a bouquet of flowers."

How much meaning the primary has is largely up to the political parties. Democrats have not appropriated any of their delegates based on the outcome of Washington's primary. Republicans have used the results to determine about a third of their delegates.

Instead, both parties prefer caucuses. The primary was supposed to be a reform to get away from the small number of party regulars who show up for a caucus. But it has had a troubled history. The first primary was 1992 after an initiative to the Legislature sponsored by former chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties. As I wrote in 2003, the move was prompted by the 1988 caucuses:

That year, the Republican Party caucuses selected the Rev. Pat Robertson, a conservative Christian, as the state's choice.

"I think people in our state and many other states were just totally disgusted that a very small minority of right-wingers could manipulate our state into being a Pat Robertson state," said (then Secretary of State Ralph) Munro, a moderate Republican.


It was a hard sell to the voters. Turnout was low in 1992 and 1996 — never exceeding 25 percent in those years. And the primary was held late enough that the nominations were already largely decided.

In '96 and 2000 voters had to choose from among Democratic, Republican or unaffiliated ballots. That ticked off voters who were not used to having to declare a party preference.

When lawmakers voted in 2003 to skip the '04 primary it generated much debate in the Senate, though it passed the House easily.

The late Sen. Jim West argued then that keeping the primary was a defense of democracy itself.

West said canceling the primary made him think about the 1935 book "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis.

According to the Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature, the book is about a presidential candidate who, when he wins, "forcibly gains control of Congress and the Supreme Court, and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, turns the United States into a totalitarian state.

UPDATE: Secretary of State Sam Reed opposes the move to cancel the primary. He said he went along with the 2004 suspension because lawmakers said it would be a one-time only cancellation.

And there could be interesting intra-party battles brewing over the presidential primary. Reed said that he has heard from representatives of presidential campaigns on both sides that want a primary, and want to push the state parties to apportion 100 percent of delegates from the popular election, not a caucus.

Reed, a Republican, said he has heard from the campaigns of Republicans Romney, McCain and Giuliani, all who have said they prefer a primary. On the Democratic side, he said, "Obama would much rather have it go to a public vote and not just have the party functionaries doing it." He said the Edwards campaign is also interested in the more populist approach to a primary than the private party caucus.

State Republicans have told Reed they would continue deciding at least some of their delegates by the primary. Democrats say they will continue to do it all by caucus. Reed said if lawmakers want to consider canceling the primary they should wait until the parties make final decisions this summer on how they will select delegates. Four years ago lawmakers voted to cancel the primary in a special December session in the year prior to the election.

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Unions want negotiating notes kept secret

Posted by David Postman at 7:10 AM

As part of their efforts to stop release of documents relating to labor negotiations, public employee unions have filed statements of workers describing the ills that would come if the process were made public. It's all in response to a lawsuit the unions filed to stop release of documents related to their collective bargaining with the state.

The lawsuit came in a response to a public records request for the documents from the conservative Evergreen Freedom Foundation. The group, which focuses much of its work these days on battling public employee unions, wants to see all the notes and everything else written during closed negotiation sessions.

In the statements from union workers and negotiators there's lots of what you'd expect — claims that public disclosure would create a chilling effect on the process. But I hadn't thought about this potential fall out, as described by Jay Ubelhart, a ferry worker:

If I, in the heat of negotiations, stated I didn't give a damn about those complaining customers and it was written down by a member of the management team, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, or a media outlet would print it on the front page of any communications organ of their choosing. I would be subject to ridicule and confrontations with customers who might take offense.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement from Leslie Liddle, executive director of the Washington Public Employees Association, UFCW Local 365:

People do not want to see what they disclosed in negotiations end up on the front page of the Seattle-P-I newspaper.

There is a substantive fight going on about this. There is a hearing in King County Superior Court scheduled for later this morning. EFF has the court documents on its Web site here.

At the Olympian, Adam Wilson has written about the dispute as well as legislative efforts to prohibit release of collective bargaining documents. That bill is waiting for a vote in the House.

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March 8, 2007

D.C. insiders say '08 nominees will be Clinton, Giuliani

Posted by David Postman at 5:20 PM

The National Journal's "Insiders Poll" on the 2008 presidential election shows that Republicans say Rudy Giuliani is their party's most likely nominee while Democrats say Hillary Clinton is most likely to head the ticket on their side.

You can read the full report here.

Clinton has led the National Journal poll on the Democratic side since April, 2005.

The insiders answer questions and polls anonymously for National Journal. The group includes, according to the magazine, "former national party chairmen, political consultants, lobbyists, party operatives, and state and local political leaders."

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A Democratic primary already shaping up in 8th CD

Posted by David Postman at 2:43 PM

A Draft Ross Hunter campaign kicked off this week to try to get the two-term three-term state representative to run next year against Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.

Hunter, D-Bellevue, is a retired Microsoft program manager. He considered running in the 8th Congressional District last year but cancer intervened. Hunter just told me he's healthy now, and at least open to the possibility of a Congressional campaign. He also said that his illness led him to be interested in a wider range of issues, including health care policy.

He knew the draft effort was in the works, but says he is too busy now as chairman of the House Finance Committee to give it much thought. "I'll think about it when we get to the end of session," he said.

The draft campaign's website includes what sure looks like a swipe at Darcy Burner, the Democratic nominee last year who came close to beating Reichert in November.

Frankly, we have too many democrats who lack new ideas and can only complain about George Bush. But, the democratic party needs to have a bold vision of the future.

That certainly is an echo of Republican criticism of Burner's campaign.

UPDATE: I was on the road most of yesterday and unable to follow up on this, but Stefan Sharkansky did, with the help of commenters here.

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In other news

Posted by David Postman at 10:04 AM

  • At Sound Politics, Eric Earling says he may have been "too glib" in his original post about the difficult search for green Republicans. He responds today to GOP consultant Todd Myers' friendly reprimand. Even on reflection, though, he says it is tiresome that
    Republicans have let themselves as an aggregate body get to a point where Democrats so clearly control the rhetorical debate on an issue that remains in the top tier of concerns for citizens in the Puget Sound region.
  • In the News Tribune Les Blumenthal says liberal-leaning groups are pushing for an ethics investigation into Congressman Doc Hastings' former chief of staff. Ed Cassidy called former U.S. Attorney John McKay to ask about the 2004 governor's election, a call McKay said was inappropriate, but that did not alarm him enough to report to his superiors.
    A leading Democrat also suggested the ethics committee may want to investigate, though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer did not make an official request in fear of touching off an ethics war with Republicans.

    "When issues are raised in the public sphere, I think the committee has a responsibility (to act) on its own, and I would hope they do that," Hoyer said.

    I guess Hoyer's statement can be read in a different way, though. The Associated Press reported that:

    Hoyer, a key architect of the Democrats' takeover of the House, expressed no reluctance to jump on the new Republican dilemma.

    "When issues are raised in the public sphere, I think the committee has a responsibility on its own, and I would hope they would do that," Hoyer told reporters.

  • From the Spokesman's Eye on Olympia blog:

    Things got spun up quickly on the Senate floor Tuesday when Democrats brought up SB 5278, a bill to allow cities — if they want to — to provide public money to political candidates campaigning for city office.

    Chad Shue was also following the ill-fated debate:

    Apparently sensing imminent defeat of what should have been a simple vote to allow cities to assume local control over how they would administer and finance elections within their municipal jurisdictions, Senate Floor Leader Tracey Eide (D 30thLD) abruptly moved to defer the bill for further consideration.
  • Capitol parking spaces were filled yesterday with log trucks, who left the campus with a roar and a blast from their air horns. Don Jenkins at the Longview Daily News says the drivers were here backing a bill that would increase their pay, even though they knew the bill was likely dead for the year.
    "We thought we'd come up here and ask why," said Pacific County log hauler Scott Jerles, a member of the Northwest Log Truckers Cooperative.

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March 7, 2007

What kept McKay off the federal bench?

Posted by David Postman at 7:16 PM

Former U.S. Attorney John McKay was in D.C. Tuesday to talk about his firing as part of a wide purge of federal prosecutors around the country. But away from the official hearings he also talked about how he thinks politics may have killed his change to get a new job just weeks before he was fired.

McKay suggested to reporters, according to The Times, "that bitterness over his refusal to pursue the fraud allegations" in the 2004 governor's election "played a part in his failure to win a federal judgeship."

McKay said that during a White House interview with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, and her deputy, William Kelley, he was asked to explain "criticism that I mishandled the 2004 governor's election."

McKay seemed to blame Congressman Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, for that. Hastings says he had nothing to do with it and that no one from his office tried to stop McKay from getting the judgeship.

But did McKay's approach to allegations of fraud surrounding the 2004 governor's race hurt his chance of getting the federal court nomination? Even before his trip to D.C. last fall, McKay had been sidelined in his efforts when a bipartisan judicial selection panel left his name off a list of three finalists sent to the White House.

I talked to three members of the panel today, two Republicans and a Democrat. (There are three from each party on the committee.) They say the election did not come up in any of their deliberations. To get on the finalists list, a candidate has to get at least four of six votes on the panel. The committee members wouldn't discuss specific votes, but it has been reported that McKay didn't make the list.

Seattle attorney Jenny Durkan, the Democratic co-chair of the selection committee, said that given what is known now about McKay's removal as U.S. Attorney and what he said about his interview with Miers, she's convinced politics sunk his chances for the federal bench:

"Based on what I've read, with the White House almost simultaneously rejecting him for a judgeship and firing him, it's clear to me he was disqualified for political reasons. The White House had political reasons and the Justice Department had some political agenda."


McKay in D.C. this week.

She said that McKay was a victim of a fight raging "over the soul of the Republican Party" and he was seen as too liberal by some party activists.

Durkan said it was strange that McKay didn't make the list of finalists.

"There's not a process I'm aware of, on the Republican side or Democratic side anywhere in the nation, where a sitting U.S. Attorney, appointed by the president, wanted to be considered for a federal judgeship and wouldn't be on the list automatically. It just isn't done. He's a presidential appointment. He's been vetted. He's your law enforcement guy. He's going to panel after panel sticking up for the Patriot Act."

When I told that to Chehalis attorney J. Vander Stoep, the Republican co-chair, he said, "I'll just respectfully say, that's obviously an overstatement."

Vander Stoep and Durkan played major roles in the 2004 election dispute. Durkan was part of the Democrats' legal team and previously was Gov. Christine Gregoire's personal attorney. Vander Stoep was a close advisor to Republican Dino Rossi and his legal team, though he did not argue the case in court.

Vander Stoep said he first met McKay the day the U.S. attorney was interviewed by the selection panel. Durkan has known him since they were both children, considers him a close friend and calls him Johnny.

Vander Stoep said the 2004 election did not come up in McKay's application for a judgeship, during meetings or afterwards:

"Neither on the record or off the record as part of the judicial screening process was anything related to the 2004 governor's election discussed."
Republican committee member Dick Derham says the same. He said in a room of attorneys, all would know it was inappropriate:
"None of us talked about the Rossi election case or John's handling of it or not handling of it. I don't know what he did and I have no reason to think there was a smoking gun that he ignored."

Derham said the committee members had detailed conversations about the candidates after each were interviewed. "And we worked through those until we had three candidates that four of us or more felt were the best candidates for the federal district court," he said.

Derham said he was looking for someone ready today for the job.

"I did not feel my job was to find somebody who would be very good after on the job training if we had someone who was very good right now. You want someone who's got all of the qualifications. Since no one is perfect, you end up with some subjective balancing of which is more important. Personally, I feel very comfortable that we set forward the maybe the three best federal trial judge candidates that were before us.

"John doesn't know what we were all thinking. And nobody outside the process knows what we were going through. I can understand a person feeling that he's very qualified and therefore if he wasn't selected then it must be for some personal reasons.

"John is well respected for the things that he has done. I do not want to take that away. But as we compared him to the others, we ended up saying others are also very good at what they have done, and we think they would be better federal trial judges on day one."

The White House meeting between McKay and Meirs is a curiosity. Durkan, Vander Stoep and Derham said they didn't know about it until reading about it last fall. They didn't know the 2004 election came up in the interview until today.

The judicial selection committee is designed, in part, to be a filter for the White House and to help take politics out of the system. With three Democrats and three Republicans, the requirement for a majority vote would tend to keep out extremes of either party. The White House has rejected all finalists before. But no one could remember a time when an applicant who didn't make the list showed up for an interview with the White House counsel.

"It means that he has friends in the administration,' Vander Stoep said. "There's no other reason that I can think of for how he would have been given the extra review." Derham said it could have just been a courtesy. Or maybe the White House liked McKay a lot and wanted to give him a chance despite what the selection panel thought.

Durkan thinks, as McKay does too, that the call to McKay from Hastings' chief of staff inquiring about any voter fraud allegations in the 2004 election had something to do with Miers mentioning the election dispute.

"I think Hastings could have had more impact than he appreciated. I have no reason to disbelieve his statement that the call was the only call. But clearly whatever was said reverberated in the halls for a long time.

"If in the fall of 2006 John McKay is being asked about the governor's election contest it had a shelf life that none of us could have predicted."

However, McKay says he told only his two closest aides about the call.

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Murray grills Army medical chief on Madigan conditions

Posted by David Postman at 3:45 PM

At a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today Sen. Patty Murray grilled the Army's top medical officer about conditions at Fort Lewis' Madigan Army Medical Center, saying problems with military care is not limited to the well-publicized poor conditions at Walter Reed. In part, quoting Hal Bernton's story in this morning's Seattle Times, Murray said:

From what I'm hearing, Walter Reed is just the tip of the iceberg. ... If these reports are true then the Pentagon is failing our service members at exactly the time they need the most support. That is shameful and unacceptable.

Murray was particularly concerned that wounded soldiers and their families are afraid to speak out. As The Times reported:

Still, soldiers inside the medical hold unit say that pushing too hard — for themselves or others in their unit — can get them branded as malcontents.

Murray told Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley:

We can't get to the bottom of this, and we can't do our job unless we do know exactly what's happening out there, and I want your personal assurance — if you would please give that to me — that no soldier who blows the whistle on substandard care will be retaliated against.

Kiley: Senator, you have my word. There's a law that prevents that also, the whistleblower law, and I share your concern that soldiers either feel they can't talk. ... Certainly we want them to talk to us. But we've never put a prohibition or a threat of retaliation, for example if they talk to the press.

Kiley said that he spoke with Madigan's commander this morning and that she is investigating conditions written about in recent days.

Courtesy Sen. Patty Murray

Murray meets the press after hearing.

Murray asked Kiley about Capt. Mary Maddox, 51, who told Bernton:
"The biggest problem with Madigan is that they are understaffed and overworked, and I ended up getting bounced from clinic to clinic."
Murray: Other press reports mention other soldiers who have been in medical hold for years. How can this be happening four years into this war? Is it lack of staff? Is it lack of accountability? Is it a lack of caseworkers? A lack of leadership? What is happening?

Kiley: It's not acceptable to have soldiers languishing and I'll be the first to say that. And clearly we're taking action to make sure we don't. But I have said before that there are some soldiers who feel it has taken a long time for their evaluation.

Murray: What do you think is a long time?

Kiley: This is what I was getting to. It depends on the condition. And the problem that we face across our military systems is these are not simple injuries and diagnoses.

Murray: Is 18 months too long?.

Kiley: It may not be too long, ma'am, if there were a series of operative procedures a soldier needs and then they to fully recover from each one of those. It may not be too long if they have a condition like TBI or PTSD.

You can listen to Murray's questioning of Kiley here.

Military and veteran medical care have long been an issue for Murray. She has said that she hopes the story about care at Walter Reed and elsewhere will help propel changes.

Tuesday on the Senate floor, Murray talked about another military medical issue that has gotten overshadowed of late. The American Psychological Association issued a preliminary report last month titled "The Psychological Needs of U.S. Military Service Members and Their Families."

The report shows that 30 percent of troops have conditions that can be qualified as a "mental disorder." But there are bureaucratic mazes and a culture that makes it difficult for soldiers and their families to talk about the issues. The report says:

There is a strong sense among uniformed military behavioral health professionals that raising concerns about the quality or quantity of care available for military personnel will not be well-received up the chain of command. The hierarchical rank structure within the military often inhibits junior officers from bringing problems to the attention of senior officers, who have significant influence over their careers. The suppression of ideas and opinions is both subtle and overt, and the effect is the reduced likelihood of finding or sharing solutions to pervasive obstacles to health-care delivery. It is also likely that discomfort associated with revealing or discussing problems with the design or delivery of behavioral health care contributes to lower morale among behavioral health-care providers.

A recent report by the General Accounting Office found that only about 22 percent of soldiers found with post traumatic stress disorder got a referral for treatment. The APA report found that only 40 percent of positions for active-duty licensed clinical psychologist are filled. And those on the job have a "low motivation for their work."

Murray said Tuesday:

"The stories from our troops are heartbreaking. My staff spoke recently to one soldier who returned from his second tour in Iraq and is suffering from a serve case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said that at his hospital, if you're not missing a limb you're virtually invisible; virtually invisible."

The American Psychological Association report includes recommendations for change, and says they need to be done immediately:

The urgency with which this should be done cannot be overstated. Never before has our nation been engaged in a conflict requiring redeployment of service members who have already been diagnosed with PTSD to the same combat zone where they were originally traumatized.

I hadn't heard that before. This is the first war where the United States is sending soldiers with PTSD back to where they were traumatized. Bernton is in my office now. He pointed out that the Hartford Courant ran a powerful series about mental health issues in the military, "Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight."

I just started reading it. This is how it opens:

The U.S. military is sending troops with serious psychological problems into Iraq and is keeping soldiers in combat even after superiors have been alerted to suicide warnings and other signs of mental illness, a Courant investigation has found.

Despite a congressional order that the military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than 1 in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out.

Once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring.

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GOP consultant says party can be green and not "anti-freedom"

Posted by David Postman at 10:14 AM

Last week I linked to a post from Eric Earling who offered this challenge:

Off the top of your head, name a prominent Republican in Washington state who talks a good game on the environment. You know, someone who has stood on the proverbial stage with Democrats and offered a compelling case for Republican positions on related issues.

I can't think of one.

The discussion in the comments unfortunately veered into other territory and few focused on the issue. But Todd Myers, who has spent a large chunk of his career working on greenish GOP issues, took Earling's post seriously and questions the underlying assumptions.

Myers worked for Republican Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland. He's a consultant these days, but also is director of the Center for Environmental Policy at the conservative Washington Policy Center.

In an e-mail to Earling • which he cc'd me on • Myers says if Earling was looking for someone to "stand up with Democrats" he offers his former boss. He also names a few Republicans lawmakers.

But Myers is not one who thinks Republicans get their green credentials from thinking like Democrats. "Looking to those across the aisle for approval, however, is a strange standard," he said. To read Myers' thoughts it's clear that he thinks Republicans can care about the environment and still be conservative.

Some Republicans and conservatives fear that addressing the environment means they must support the government-run, anti-freedom agenda of environmental activists. Many conservatives are working on real solutions that address environmental concerns. Many more will do so when we stop looking to liberals as the standard for environmental purity.

Many Republicans who are seen as environmentalists are moderates on other issues as well. You don't hear them calling the mainstream environmental agena "anti-freedom." Myers' counsel is for Republicans to not measure themselves against the conventional wisdom of what constitutes a green credential.

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March 6, 2007

Is it multiple choice?

Posted by David Postman at 5:02 PM

First a consensus builds to postpone the math WASL as a graduation requirement.

And now this:

Babies to skip citizenship test

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No evidence Gregoire knew of felon release as AG

Posted by David Postman at 10:31 AM

State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser needs to check with his former colleagues at the attorney general's office. Based on a story in the P-I last week, , Esser issued a press release Monday that said Gov. Christine Gregoire knew when she was attorney general that the Department of Corrections was giving inmates conditional release to ease overcrowding.

Esser said:

"Gov. Gregoire is either deliberately misleading the public or dangerously ignorant about the longstanding policies of her own administration. How can Governor Gregoire be 'outraged' about a policy she's known about for at least four years? After spending 38 years in state government, she should know better. Gov. Gregoire needs to come clean and tell Washingtonians what she knew about her administration's early felon release policy and when she knew it."

Republican lawmakers have been trying to make hay of it, too.

Gregoire, as I reported below, told reporters Monday she first heard about the policy the day it broke in The Seattle Times.

To follow up, I talked to people at the attorney general's office. That's where Esser worked until he left last month to become party chairman. There is no evidence that Gregoire, as attorney general, knew about the policy, said Janelle Guthrie, spokeswoman for Attorney General Rob McKenna. McKenna didn't know about the policy, either, she said. (UPDATE: Guthrie wants to clarify that she found no evidence that Gregoire knew in talking to people in the AG's office. But there has not been a complete and thorough search to say unequivocally that no evidence exists.)

I also talked to Scott Blonien, head of the AG's criminal division. He served the same role under Gregoire. He earlier worked for Republican AG Ken Eikenberry. Blonien supervises the attorneys who are assigned to the Department of Corrections. He told me that he did not know about the policy and has no reason to believe that Gregoire, or anyone else in the office at the time or since, knew either:

"I was the main conduit of information ... and I have no knowledge of ever having heard before that there was a policy at the Department of Corrections that allowed for wholesale release of offenders because of bed-space issues. ... To be honest, I don't know how she would know that, and I don't know how she'd know that without me knowing that, just by my relationship with the Department of Corrections and my relation to then-Attorney General Gregoire."

Blonien added that there is no reason why the AG should know. The Department of Corrections does not need AG approval for its policy decisions. The attorneys assigned to the department are there to give advice, if asked. "The attorney general's office has no supervisional authority over the Department of Corrections," he said.

Any time there's a controversy like the one over release of inmates, it's important to know who knew what and when they knew it. Gregoire does now oversee corrections and is ultimately responsible for what happens there. But I am yet to find any evidence pointing to Gregoire knowing about the policy while she was attorney general. As I said, it's important to get the answers and it's worth continued questions. But Republicans are not likely to get much traction from an allegation refuted by officials in the office of the state's most powerful elected Republican.

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McKay says he was quizzed about investigating '04 governor's election

Posted by David Postman at 9:45 AM

In D.C, at the Senate Judiciary Committee, former U.S. Attorney John McKay said that Congressman Doc Hasting's chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, called him once to ask if there was any investigation into allegations of fraud in the 2004 governor's election.

"When Mr. Cassidy called me on future action I stopped him and I told him I was sure that he wasn't asking me on behalf" of Congressman Hastings, McKay told the committee, "because we both knew that would be improper. (Cassidy) agreed it would be improper and he ended the conversation in a most expeditious manner."

At Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz calls that a "bombshell." I'm not sure why. At least based on what we know at this point. The New York Times Sunday had a story about the purged prosecutors that quotes former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance casting doubt on the theory that McKay's firing was related to the election case.

Chris Vance, a former chairman of the state Republican Party, said some conservative activists were upset when Mr. McKay did not pursue a voter fraud investigation after a close election for governor was won by a Democrat in 2004, but that none of them had influence with the White House. Mr. Vance said in consulting with national party leaders at the time, Mr. McKay was not mentioned.

"They never said to me, 'Why isn't John McKay doing something?' " he said. "That never came up."

TPM is live-blogging the hearing here. The committee is webcasting the hearing here.

UPDATE: Sen. Arlen Specter just questioned McKay about the call. McKay told him, "I was immediately concerned to be taking a phone call from a chief of staff in the midst of the election brouhaha."

McKay said he called in two deputies after the call to see if they thought what he did was proper, and that he had cut Cassidy short before the call drifted into inappropriate territory. McKay testified:

"I thought the call was significant. I was troubled by the call and I wanted to consult with my two closest advisors on that."

But McKay did not report the contact to the Department of Justice, which would have been policy if he thought the call constituted inappropriate political intereference.

Specter asked: "If you had thought what the caller had done was improper, had gone that far, you would have reported it to the Department of Justice?"

McKay: "I think if I felt it was clearly improper I would have reported that."

UPDATE: Hastings issued a statement about about Cassiday's call. He says there was nothing out of bounds about it:

"Ed Cassidy's call and the conversation that took place were entirely appropriate. It was a simple inquiry and nothing more - and it was the only call to any federal official from my office on this subject either during or after the recount ordeal.

However, if McKay was truly dismayed at the time about Ed Cassidy's call, I simply cannot understand why he didn't just pick up the phone to make me aware of his concern about my aide's call.

Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association of Washington did contact my office in July of 2005 to ask that I urge the White House to replace Mr. McKay and I flat out refused to do so, which Ed Cassidy told him in the bluntest of terms."

UPDATE: At Blatherwatch, Michael Hood digs into his notebooks to share notes from an interview he did with McKay for a 2005 magazine profile. There's some interesting stuff in there about how closely the U.S. attorney's office was following the election trial.

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One senator reconsiders impeachment

Posted by David Postman at 8:56 AM

During last week's hearing on state Senate measures calling for Congress to impeach President Bush and to oppose an Iraq troop build up, I was surprised to see Sen. Erik Poulsen on the committee dais. He's not a member of the Government Operations and Elections Committee. And he's not a name that jumps to mind when you think of the Legislature's more liberal activists.

He's a practical guy, in that West Seattle way. "I've become pragmatic almost to a fault," he concedes. And he also admits he didn't come to the hearing with a completely serious state of mind.

"I asked to sit in on the hearing thinking it'd be an entertaining circus. It was the kind of curiosity people have when they see an accident on the freeway."

But Poulsen was impressed by what he heard from the witnesses. He was moved by some of the testimony, particularly from parents of soldiers killed in Iraq. Poulsen sat through the entire thing. He didn't ask any questions that I recall. He just watched intently.

"By the time I left at the end of the hearing I felt it was the best thing I did for myself all session. More than anything I felt good that these people finally had someone in their government listening to them. I could see that made people feel better."

There were plenty of people, including Democrats in Olympia and D.C., who thought state legislators shouldn't be involving themselves in national and foreign matters, particularly not impeachment.

"We were all getting squeezed not to have anything to do with the hearing," Poulsen said. It was nothing overt. "There was a buzz that it'd be more trouble then it was worth."

Poulsen is now obviously glad that Eric Oemig introduced his impeachment measure and Jeanne Kohl-Welles introduced her joint memorial opposing a troop increase. But what now? The sponsors want to have votes on the Senate floor. Is Poulsen ready to back that?

"Ultimately it won't change anything that happens in D.C. I'm not sure about putting my colleagues through a spectacle on the Senate floor. I think people are just focused on more practical things. But what a lively debate it would be."

That is if Republicans showed up. They boycotted the hearings. Poulsen says one option is to have a debate, but after the cut-off for bill action. That could, he said, "vent a lot of internal pressure."

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March 5, 2007

The other white meat

Posted by David Postman at 11:36 AM

From the New York Times:

In New Jersey and New Mexico they are called "Christmas tree" items. New York calls them "pet projects." Other states call the items "WAMs," for walking around money. And in Alabama, in a rare fit of candor, it is called "pass-through pork."

What they all have in common is that they are items in state budgets that were placed there — often at the last possible moment to discourage scrutiny — by a legislator for a particular benefit to his or her district. In some cases there is concern that the money improperly benefits friends or relatives.

The first time I heard the "Christmas tree" description was in Alaska. There it meant not just something with pork in it, but one of those bills — and there were a lot of them up there — that everybody got to hang something on. In D.C. pork projects have become "earmarks." Someone this morning told me that in Connecticut they call them "cats and dogs."

In Olympia they call them "investments." But I think we need something with a Northwest flavor to it. It'd have to be something polite of course. Something less meaty than pork certainly. Maybe this guy can help.

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Gregoire says no one in her office knew of prisoners' early release

Posted by David Postman at 11:14 AM

Gov. Christine Gregoire and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said this morning that the county will take up to 180 state prisoners to ease overcrowding and prevent future early release of offenders. Snohomish County will reopen a minimum security facility known as The Ridge, which will house some offenders from its jail. That will free up jail space that the state will pay up to $4 million a year for.

That may take some of the immediate pressure off of the system that led to the controversial release of scores of felons on Feb. 23.

Gregoire last week stopped the policy of early release of prisoners. She told reporters today that she first learned of it only when Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan broke the news last week. Gregoire said that she also quizzed her senior staff and that no one knew the Department of Corrections routinely let prisoners out early because of over-crowding.

State corrections chief Harold Clarke, also at Gregoire's press conference this morning, said the policy has been in place for five years. That predates Gregoire's term as governor, but she was attorney general when the program apparently began.

Last week the P-I reported:

Yet in 2003, when Gregoire was Washington's attorney general, she was well aware of a new Corrections Department policy to quietly downgrade felons rated highly likely to reoffend — and requiring strict supervision — to a status requiring minimum oversight, if any.

Gregoire told reporters this morning that's untrue. "I don't know where they got that," she said.

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A no vote says domestic partnerships "too much too soon"

Posted by David Postman at 8:54 AM

In the 28-19 Senate vote last week for the domestic partnership bill only one senator's vote was likely in question. Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, had a pro-gay rights record while in the House. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1998. But Thursday he was one of four Democrats who voted against Senate Bill 5336.

"Something I didn't appreciate and understand 12 years ago (as a freshman lawmaker) was that people of faith are very concerned this is going to hurt our society,"

That's Hatfield from Don Jenkins' column in Sunday's Longview Daily News. Jenkins says that nine years ago Hatfield said he thought conservatives were grandstanding on DOMA. Now he thinks conservatives are being hurt by the bill that would give same-sex and elderly couples domestic partnership benefits.

Partly that comes from Hatfield's religious conversation in 2000:

"I've spent the last seven years with a lot of these folks."

Last year, while Hatfield was on a two-year hiatus from the Legislature, lawmakers finally prohibited discrimination against gays — 28 years after the bill was first introduced.

Then this year, Hatfield said, "Boom! Here comes domestic partnership."

"I guess my 'no' vote was a way of standing up and saying, 'Maybe, this is a little too much, too soon,' " he said. "We're taking people of faith and kicking them in the teeth, and I didn't want to be a part of that."

Stilwell picks up on the story at the Northwest Institute Official Blog. He draws a connection to Hatfield's sponsorship of the NASCAR bill:

Surprise, surprise, here's the sponsor of the NASCAR bill worrying about how damaging it will be to "people of faith" if gays aren't treated like dirt. (And you notice how "people of faith" implicitly means a certain thing, i.e. being against the gays, and how all other "faiths" are implicity excluded, right?) It's the NASCAR supporters who have defined themselves as part of the culture war, not us.

It's kind of a shame, because way back in the day Hatfield was an up and coming young star in the party. Now he's just another Tim Sheldon in the making. I'd like to think Hatfield can be pulled back from this horrible fate, since he has always seemed like a decent guy, but obviously he is buying into the kool-aid. Someone get him a video of the Mariners and a real Northwest beverage.

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March 4, 2007

Sonics owners backed by gay OK politician

Posted by David Postman at 12:07 PM

Oklahoma's first openly gay elected official says the owners of the Sonics are not anti-gay and "deserve the best of hospitality that Seattle, King County and the people of Washington have to offer."

Jim Roth, chairman of the of Oklahoma Board of County Commissioners, wrote a letter published in The Seattle Times sports section today responding to news that two of the Sonics owners were the most generous backers of Gary Bauer's anti-gay marriage group. Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward together donated more than $1 million in 2004 and 2005 to Americans United to Preserve Marriage.

Roth was reacting to a column by Steve Kelley that warned "political beliefs that might fly in Oklahoma City can crash and burn in Seattle."

Roth's letter refers to McClendon and Clay Bennett, the principal owner, but not to Ward. Roth became Oklahoma's first openly gay politican when he was elected in 2002. He wrote in his letter:

From the beginning, Clay and Aubrey initiated a genuine kindness and friendship toward my partner and me. They have publicly and consistently supported me, even pushing back when right-wing attacks have occurred. Their support is unconditional and has helped improve the overall climate for expanding tolerance here at home.

Roth also said that support for Gary Bauer's group was not about conservative social values, but about the oil business. In the 2004 elections there were anti-gay marriage ballot measures in 11 states. They were seen as key to driving up Republican turn out. Roth wrote:

While I do not agree with the works of Gary Bauer and others of his ilk who would deny equal benefits to citizens of this great American democracy, I do believe that contributions to his cause were probably more about economic interests, ballot measures swaying Senate control and impact on the energy sector.

UPDATE: At the P-I, columnist Robert Jamieson spoke to Roth for a Saturday column:

"I want you to judge them on the whole," said the voice on the other end of the phone. "And not on one issue."

By "them," the voice was referring to the new Sonics owners from Oklahoma — Clay Bennett, Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward.

Jamieson framed the issue with a question:

Should we, the taxpayers, support owners who seek public subsidies for a new sports arena, particularly if those owners back a cause that clashes with local values held dear to many?

The columnist had answered the question himself two days earlier. He said no one should care what the Sonics owners do outside of running a basketball team.

It could turn inane quickly: Does Mr. or Mrs. Corporate Muckety-muck support transsexual hemp farmers who use chemical-free makeup and orca-safe biofuel? Check.

I haven't seen ballot measures, millions in campaign donations, legislation, Supreme Court cases, protests, debates, anger and divisive civil discord surrounding that issue. But I'm sure it could just be a slippery-slope away.

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March 2, 2007

Virtual political "mud" slinging and vandalism

Posted by David Postman at 11:59 AM

In the on-line world of Second Life someone "vandalized" Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' "headquarters." The real campaign reports on its blog about what happened at Edwards' computer-simulated affiliate:

Shortly before midnight (CST) on Monday, February 26, a group of republican Second Life users, some sporting "Bush '08" tags, vandalized the John Edwards Second Life HQ. They plastered the area with Marxist/Leninist posters and slogans, a feces spewing obscenity, and a photoshopped picture of John in blackface, all the while harrassing visitors with right-wing nonsense and obsenity-laden abuse of Democrats in general and John in particular.

I witnessed this event, taking names and photos, including the owners of the pictures. I also kept and saved a copy of the chat log. I have filed an abuse report with Linden Labs, and am awaiting their investigation.

At his Wired blog, John Brownlee says "I love the shrill, hysteria-laced tone of the post."

This is the modern-day equivalent of hippies freaking out the squares.

Brownlee says it's become standard to hear about "the gray humorless drones of political parties or corporations rushing to establish a presence in Second Life because it's the thing to do" only to be disturbed by what they find in the on-line world.

(Thanks for the tip, Boingboing.)

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Sen. Kline tells off-roaders to buzz off

Posted by David Postman at 11:41 AM

During yesterday's state Senate impeachment hearing Sen. Adam Kline defended Congressional Democrats lack of interest in impeachment by saying, "Restraint sometimes is not just a political calculation, but a real reflection of the national interest."

And sometimes Kline has no interest in restraint. In responding to an e-mail from someone asking Kline why he was backing a bill that would crack down on loud off-road vehicles, the senator sent this e-mail:

Dear Mr. Helgeson,

I signed on because I have been annoyed, endangered, and angered one too many times by people riding motorized dirt-bikes and other off-road vehicles
that have no damn business anywhere. To me, this bill is narrow — it doesn't include those "personal watercraft," seemingly jet-powered little missiles whose only apparent purpose is to risk death and dismemberment for boaters
and swimmers, for the amusement of spoiled drunk teenagers.

Yes, I am sure there is the occasional responsible person who rides one of these machines on land or water. And yes, like every human being I have been pleasantly surprised to find my stereotypes broken. But why, why, why, do folks insist on motorized "sports"? Those two words are an oxymoron.

There is nothing sporting — athletic, physically demanding — about riding any machine anywhere. And it's a damned annoyance to folks who see the outdoors as a place to go for quiet and solitude and self-exploration. I would be happy to ban the use of the internal combustion engine off-road, by anyone without a handicapped sticker, subject to a stiff fine. Maybe we could call this an anti-obesity measure.

Please circulate this to all motorized sports enthusiasts, so they can remember never to vote for me.

Adam Kline

It has been widely circulate and Kline's office is getting lots of calls from off-road enthusiasts. I'm trying to get a copy of what Mr. Hegelson sent Kline. For his part, Kline has no regrets. And let's face it, how many "motorized sports enthusiasts" are there in Kline's liberal Seattle district? Kline told Times reporter Elliott Wilson that snowmobilers have ruined ski trips for him and his daughter, they make noise and pollute.

If you're a handicapped person and that's the only way to get to see the beach, I got that.

Why can't they get onto their own two feet? ... Polluting for recreation. It's polluting. It's noise. It's physical danger.

He said he expects to be called an elitist, even though off-road vehicles cost more than his mountain climbing gear. But Kline clearly doesn't like the activity, or many of the people who do it.

I get the impression that a lot of them are 30 or 40-year-old teenagers.


It's a fuel-drugged rush. Fuel is their drug. I get my rush out of physical exertion.

Here's the e-mail that prompted Kline's response:

Senator Kline,

I am curious to know why you would co-sponsor the most discriminatory, anti-OHV Bill ever proposed?

SB 5544changes would creating maximum sound levels for riding

near any residence, regardless of where that residence is located or how it

is zoned. It would become illegal for my Family to ride our motorcycles and quads

where they are "plainly audible" from in or adjacent to any residence. This would even include residences that are on farm land, forest land or in an industrial area.

One of the few riding areas where it is still legal to ride in Western Washington is Capital State Forest near Olympia. There are a few parcels of private property located within the forest. This law, if passed, would effectively shut this area down. Ditto for the nearby Straddle Line ORV park.

What really strikes me as absurd about this proposal is race tracks like Evergreen Speedway in Monroe could host auto races of all types, but any off road events would be illegal.

In addition, this law would only apply to my dirt bike or quad. It would not

apply to other, more common sources of residential noise such as lawnmowers,

chainsaws, cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, stereos, playgrounds, ball fields,

etc. It is just plain discrimination against Off Highway Vehicle use and has nothing to do

with keeping neighborhoods quiet.

Off Highway Vehicle recreation is a fun and growing family sport, it would be nice to see sports that support families embraced by Olympia with more open riding areas, instead of discriminated against.

I would hope that you drop your support of this legislation.

UPDATE: Kline wrote back to a man who read a copy of his off-road tirade and wanted to make sure the senator had really written it.

Yes, it was me. I wrote that, and while I should know better than to write while I'm angry, there is no statement of fact I want to take back. Anger aside, it's true.

Kline also told some more in-depth stories about his run-ins with ORVs.

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Ranking Washington's D.C. delegation, left to right

Posted by David Postman at 10:17 AM

National Journal is out with its annual ideological ratings of Congress. The report ranks all members of Congress "on how they vote relative to each other on a conservative-to-liberal scale."

In the Senate, Patty Murray is the 8th most liberal senator, more liberal than 89.3 percent of her colleagues. Maria Cantwell is the 22nd most liberal, more liberal than 79.7 percent of other senators.

In the House, Jim McDermott is the most liberal member of the delegation, 14th overall and more liberal than 94.2 percent of other House members. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the most conservative in the delegation, 26th overall and 88 percent more conservative than her colleagues. more conservative than 88 percent of her colleagues. Dave Reichert comes in right near the middle, with 52.7 percent of the House more conservative than he is.

You can read all Washington state rankings here.

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March 1, 2007

More from impeachment hearing

Posted by David Postman at 4:18 PM

The committee's now taking testimony on the impeachment measure.
Oemig told the committee:

"This memorial is not directly about the war in fact it is not even directly about impeachment. It is about getting answers. It is a petition to Congress asking them to do a serious, real investigation."

MORE: Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, a rising voice in the anti-war movement, was invited to Olympia by Oemig. Anderson said:

"Never before has there been such a compelling case for impeachment and removal from office of the President of the United States for heinous human rights violations, breaches of trust, abuses of power injurious to the nation, war crimes, misleading Congress and the American people about threats to our nation's security and the supposed case for war, and grave violations of treaties, the Constitution, and domestic statutory law.


"To restore some modicum of decency and accountability for our nation, and to protect our nation against those who would rule without regard to established law, we must commit ourselves to the rule of law and call for the impeachment and removal from office of President Bush."

Wright is a former State Department official who resigned in protest over the Iraq war. She told the committee:

"We have a situation now where we have a president of the United States who sent the U.S. military into what I believe was a criminal action -- the invasion and occupation of a country that has done nothing to the United States of America."

Wright said that federal funds were illegally diverted to Iraq and that, as well as torture "are war crimes that have been sponsored in my opinion by the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States. And those are impeachable offenses."

MORE: Salt Lake Tribune reporter Heather May is here covering Anderson. Here's her report. She's also posted a copy of Anderson's testimony here.

MORE: House Democrats Bob Hasegawa and Maralyn Chase testified in favor of the impeachment measure, the only lawmakers other than Oemig to testify. Hasegawa said:

"We have to hold people accountable for such illegal actions. We are a society that lives by rule of law. If we cannot count on that as how we're going to conduct our business in the future, we throw our hands up toward anarchy. If the American people are to have faith in our system of government in the future we have no choice but to ask for impeachment."

Elaine Phelps of Shoreline criticized Sen. Patty Murray and Congressman Jay Inslee for saying the legislative impeachment move was a distraction from what Congress should be doing and a bad idea.

"This is a terrible, terrible position they have taken. It is a position that has nothing to do with the justice that we require that they pursue. Even if it was true, which it's not, that starting impeachment hearings would disturb the agenda that Democrats have, so what? This is more important. ... I wouldn't care if the entire House came to a standstill ... to stop this runaway Bush junta."

She said there needs to be a "counter-revolution" to stop Bush.

MORE: Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt issued a statement on the hearing, saying people need to remember "which Washington we're in." He said that voters "did not send us here to participate in partisan, political displays like the one we saw today."

"Rather than attend today's misguided hearing, Republicans are spending the afternoon meeting with constituents and collaborating with people to solve Washington state's problems."

There appears to be about 280 people watching the hearing in the committee room and in other overflow rooms where it is being televised.

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At the impeachment hearing

Posted by David Postman at 3:21 PM

I won't do a lot live from the hearing, but look for at least a few updates.

At the rally earlier Phil Burk, introduced as an expert on impeachment, said that in other states Republicans do little to oppose impeachment initiatives, and sometimes don't bother to show up at all. Democrats, he said, are more often the vocal opposition.

Republicans in the state Senate have decided to take a low-profile at the hearing. Sen. Darlene Fairley, chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee, had said she'd let Republicans choose speakers for panels in opposition to the impeachment and anti-surge resolutions. They've chosen not to, and will not have witnesses.

The pro-impeachment panel put together by Sen. Eric Oemig will be Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Ret. Col. Ann Wright, Burk and Randy Gordon.

Speaking in favor of Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' measure opposing a troop increase in Iraq will be Ret. Army Capt. Michael Breen, Evergreen professor Steve Niva, local anti-war activist Joe Colgan and former state Sen. King Lyson.

UPDATE: No Republican committee member is in attendance. There are just five Democrats here.

Fairley just opened the hearing with a caution: "Everyone has the right to their opinion but I don't want to hear any clapping, hissing or booing. "

The committee is starting with Kohl-Welles' SJM 8003. No one has signed up to testify against the measure.

MORE: Colgan's son, Benjamin, was a solider killed in Iraq in 2003. He said he's here on behalf of all the men and women in the armed forces. He said:

I have come to the conclusion that our troops were abused and have been abused and are being abused. It was hard to come to this conclusion because then you have to ask yourself, when you lose a son, what did he die for? I really believe my son died as a hero. But as far as protecting our country or our freedom, not at all.


I think all of us citizens were duped into believing and trusting our administration. They came in with a hidden agenda.

MORE: Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs testified with concerns about the memorial. He is an Iraq war veteran. He said he doesn't disagree with anything that Colgan and the others said, but he worries about a section of Kohl-Welles' bill that says Congress should have to approve any new funding for troops in Iraq.

Hobbs said he worries that means soldiers may not have proper gear. He showed the committee slides of explosions from improvised explosive devices in Iraq, and then of a civilian SUV that he says was all he had to patrol the war zone.

"I just don't want to have my fellow brothers and sisters to have to go through what I went through," Hobbs said.

MORE: A woman, whose name I haven't gotten yet, just testified. (Her name is Doris Kent.) Her son was killed in Iraq in the fall of 2004. She read a letter her son sent soon before he was killed by a suicide bomber:

Dear mom, everything is going good here. I just wanted to say hi and tell you I'm doing OK. Tell everyone I send greetings from Iraq. ... Send biscotti. I have milk.


Well I have to get ready to go mom, we have a war to win. Wish me luck. Don't worry, we are doing great things for God and country. Notice I didn't say Bush. Soldiers from top to bottom are not motivated by some political agenda. We love our country, and are willing to die for it. In the name of freedom we will fight any threat. We are doing great things. I don't care who is in office for the next four years as long as they are a patriot and love this country.

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Light turnout at impeachment rally

Posted by David Postman at 2:22 PM

There are a couple of hundred people on the Capitol steps now rallying in support of impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney. That's a lot less than the 800 that activists had hoped for. I only stopped by for a little bit. But one thing struck me. Speakers and demonstrators seem torn between talking about the alleged crimes of the administration and the lack of enthusiasm from most elected Democrats for impeachment.

"When Democrats start being pragmatic it's a bad sign," said Randy Gordon, and Eastside attorney who spoke to the group. He was a candidate last year in the 8th District Democratic congressional primary before dropping out to clear the way for Darcy Burner.

Gordon reminded demonstrators that Article 1 Sec. 1 of the state Constitution begins: "All political power is inherent in the people." He laughed at the idea that legislators are too busy to deal with impeachment, pointing out
the bill to designate the Pacific chorus frog as the state amphibian and the Walla Walla sweet onion as the state vegetable.

"I'm just hoping that somewhere in their busy schedule they can work in Article 1 Sec. 1 of the state Constitution."

Sen. Eric Oemig, sponsor of Senate Joint Memorial 8016 which gets a hearing in about an hour, has said that it is not a call for impeachment, but an investigation by Congress that could lead to impeachment.

His supporters, though, are clear about what they want. They said so on the Capitol steps:

"What do we want? Impeachment.

"When do we want it? Now."

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Gorton backs McCain

Posted by David Postman at 10:34 AM

Former Sen. Slade Gorton has endorsed John McCain for president and will be his campaign chairman in Washington state. The McCain campaign just sent out a press release making the announcement.

In 2000, then still a senator, Gorton backed George W. Bush over McCain in the Republican primary. In his statement today Gorton mentioned McCain's work "trimming down government waste." In 2000 McCain used a Gorton project as an example of that waste.

McCain has been critical of some federal programs to help restore salmon runs. His campaign publicizes a list of pork-barrel projects and included an $80 million appropriation for Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery — a program supported by fellow Republican Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington.

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What really doomed Senate vote on school bill?

Posted by David Postman at 8:06 AM

The Democrats' proposed constitutional amendment to lower the threshold for school district levy elections was voted down in the Senate Wednesday. That's where it's been stopped several times before. But the defeat on a close vote seemed to have little to do with the proposal itself. Instead it was about senators looking for bargaining chips and a way to express unhappiness about other legislation. It was about a protest that not enough money was being spent as well as a protest that too much money was being spent.

Because the vote was to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot it needed 33 votes in the Senate. The measure would reduce the public vote needed to pass a levy from 60 percent to a simple majority. There were some last-minute vote changes in the Senate Wednesday, but it fell two votes short.

Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, voted no. According to The Olympian:

Jacobsen used his vote as a bargaining chip, telling other lawmakers he wanted them to pass a measure giving more than $30 million more to Seattle schools to help with a school population that has a high rate of students getting free and reduced-price lunches.

Most Republicans voted against it, though like Jacobsen, the votes didn't seem to be just about the measure in front of them. Democrats had earlier agreed to Republican demands that the proposal be changed to hold school levy elections in November, not in the spring. Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, had said that would secure some Republican votes. According to The News Tribune:

In fact, Hewitt said as recently as last month if the votes on school levies were moved to November, "we will be there in a heartbeat."

Hewitt said he changed his mind, and Senate Republicans crossed up the Democrats. Hewitt said his caucus doesn't like how majority Democrats are treating Republican-sponsored bills, killing many of them and refusing to hold hearings on others.

The Olympian says Republicans changed their mind because "they had heard from school personnel that a November election would not work."

Or maybe it was a protest about state spending in general. The Spokesman-Review reports:

Hewitt said after the vote that yes, his position on the bill had changed. Many Republican senators are unhappy with the amount of money the governor and Democratic lawmakers are proposing to spend over the next two years, he said. They're also unhappy that a Republican bill to restrict property tax hikes to 1 percent a year is bottled up in committee.

Whatever the case, it ticked off the bill's sponsor, Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, who the Olympian says confronted Hewitt after the vote:

"I am shocked," Eide told him, reminding him of his previous statements. "You said you would vote for it in a heartbeat. I now know what your word is worth, Hewitt."

(The Spokesman's Eye on Olympia blog posted audio of Hewitt's earlier "in a heartbeat" comment here.)

The bill was reconsidered and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said she has not given up hope that it could still pass this year.

UPDATE: Here's the bill Jacobsen says he wants in exchange for his vote on the levy measure.

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