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Posted by David Postman at 4:15 PM
Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith was the talk of the inside-the-beltway crowd this week after Monday night's 46th annual Congressional Baseball Game. Smith was a standout for leading all comers in errors. MSNBC reported:
The Dems actually had a 1-0 lead, but it all went south for the Donkeys in the third inning. They committed five errrors in the inning — three by shortstop Rep. Adam Smith (WA) — which led to four GOP runs. ... Zach Wamp (R-TN), who was solid at shortstop, was tough to stop at the plate, going 2-for-3.
(I think when NBC misspells "errors" they ought to cut our guy a little slack. And this Wamp guy's performance may explain his interest in this.)
The Washington Post Express coverage also focused on Smith's role in the game sponsored by Roll Call.
What Pelosi didn't know at the time was that by the end of the third inning, a member of her caucus, Washington Rep. Adam Smith, at right, would blow the Democrats' chances to clinch a key win after years of losses to the Republicans.
But really, the harshest cut came from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which reported:
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington was responsible for a Bill Buckner-esque, ball-through-the-legs blunder.
Making this even harder to digest for the hometown fans is that one scout reports Smith was the Democrat's MVP in the 2001 game.
Posted by David Postman at 3:33 PM
When reporters ask long shot political candidates how they think they can win, the answer usually goes something like this: "By putting our children first."
That's one of the different things I noticed about Democrat Steve Novick — though not the first or second, but I'll get to those later. He is running in the Oregon Democratic primary to take on incumbent Republican Sen. Gordon Smith next year. He's not run for office before and likely isn't known widely outside a circle of Oregon political activists, reporters and liberals who have applauded his work opposing conservative ballot measures.
We met at a Belltown coffee shop Thursday and he talked enthusiastically and frankly about the strategy he says he'll follow to defeat Smith. I found out later he had also written much of the same for Willamette Week in January, while still pondering a race. Novick told me:
"What you do with Smith is point out he is a Republican in a period when Republicans are unpopular, and you point to obvious examples of his being extremely Republican."
One example, Novick says, was Smith's vote last year for a minimum wage bill that would have led to lower wages for Oregon waiters and waitresses and others who depend on tips.
"The flip side of that is he has said his greatest accomplishment in the Senate was sponsoring a one-year tax holiday for multi-national corporations that have their money stashed overseas — a tax holiday that gave one drug company, Pfizer, $11 billion, which, as I like to say, is enough to get any company excited with or without Viagara,"
Novick was here for a fundraiser thrown by his co-workers at Pyramid Communications. Novick is the sole employee in the Portland branch of the PR firm. Like Montana's Jon Tester last year, Novick hopes to tap into Seattle's liberal political money machine. I was about 20 minutes into my interview with Novick when I asked him what I guess was an obvious question: How'd he end up with a steel hook instead of a left hand?
"I was just born without it," he said.
"Obviously, politically, it's an advantage. People aren't going to forget the little guy with the left hook. I said in my announcement speech and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: Oregon families need a senator who will fight for them and a fighter needs a hard left hook.
He's three inches shy of five feet tall. I told him that'd make it tough to be president since history shows the tall candidate always win.
"Except for James Madison," he says. "Madison was the man."
He probably knew exactly how tall Madison was and what his winning vote percentage was. Novick prides himself on being, as he said, "the campaign guy who is supposed to know the facts."
Here are some quick Novick facts. He went to college at 14 and entered Harvard Law School when he was 18. He was an environmental prosecutor for the Department of Justice and was lead counsel on the Love Canal case. When he returned to Oregon after his DOJ years, he was chief of staff to state Senate Democrats and headed up the Center for Constructive Citizen Action, which opposed a tax-cutting initiative.
"I occupy this position between policy and politics," he said. Oregon Democrats more firmly on the political side have so far declined to challenge Smith. Someone with better name recognition still has time to get in the race, but Novick is running as if Smith is his only opponent.
To do that he has to combat who he calls "some misguided liberals" who have been known to praise Smith for opposing cuts to Medicaid. Novick says the praise is wrongheaded because Smith doesn't say how he'll pay for escalating costs in the program. "Anything he does about spending on good things is just added to the debt," he said.
Smith has also worked recently to establish himself as more protective of the environment and less supportive of the Iraq war. Novick has an answer for the war stance:
"First of all, he is still supporting McCain for president. And how against the war can you be when you are supporting the one presidential candidate who's committed to staying there forever."
Smith and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden appear together at town hall meetings across the state and, as Novick said, "take advantage of the fact that people like to see politician's seem bipartisan."
"But Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith have voted against each other on virtually every issue of any significance for the past 12 years."
(I will try to talk to Smith soon, too. We don't have a Senate race next year so we might as well spend some time watching to the south.)
Posted by David Postman at 11:11 AM
There's a new bipartisan caucus forming in the U.S. House. Officially it's known as the "Congressional Caucus on Robotics." Calling it "The Robot Caucus" I guess would have made some think it would be filled by the automatons we see on C-SPAN.
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., and Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., say it's time to have a group of lawmakers focus on "recent technological advances that enable robots to perform functions beyond traditional assembly line tasks and to operate in environments beyond the factory floor."
Doyle issued a statement boasting of American robots' prowess:
"Today, they are also being used to defend our nation, perform surgery, fill prescriptions, deliver supplies and materials, and even as tools to educate our children, so it is important that we create a forum by which Congress can familiarize itself with the impact this first great technology of the 21st century is likely to have on the lives of all Americans."
The House members were spurred to action, in part at least, by an article Bill Gates wrote in the January Scientific American, where he said the growth in robotics in the near future could match that of home computers. Gates wrote:
I believe that technologies such as distributed computing, voice and visual recognition, and wireless broadband connectivity will open the door to a new generation of autonomous devices that enable computers to perform tasks in the physical world on our behalf.
Posted by David Postman at 9:16 AM
Clean energy advocates are unhappy with Gov. Christine Gregoire for asking a state agency to reconsider approval of a Kittitas County wind power plant. They say the governor's move flies in the face of her own energy policy, a citizen's initiative and a new state law and could chase away future projects. Gregoire told the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to look again at whether the giant turbines can be pushed back further from local homes "while allowing the project to remain economically viable."
Environmentalists say that has already been asked and answered and the project should move ahead. Marc Krasnowski, communications director of NW Energy Coalition, told me:
"We can't be rejecting properly environmentally-sited projects for frivolous reasons."
The coalition was a force behind the clean-energy portfolio initiative approved by voters last year and has supported Gregoire's environmental policies. But the group is now spearheading an e-mail campaign to pressure the governor to approve the Kittitas project. A form e-mail that people can send to Gregoire from the group's Web site says:
Delaying such an excellent project threatens clean energy development and jeopardizes the goals set in your own executive order on climate change.
The governor, though, wants to be very careful about approving this project because it will set precedent for future development, said communications director Holly Armstrong. She said:
There are a lot more of these projects coming. If we get this wrong — and don't give local communities an opportunity to weigh in — there is a potential to create siting problems in the future. The governor has been asked to pre-empt local regulations and, as such, is setting clear standards to make siting more predictable and give future developers more certainty about what to expect.
Krasnowski believes if the Kittitas project is delayed there may not be many others like it in the future.
"It has a chilling effect. Washington needs to be a leader in this. If developers are going to look at Washington state and say, 'They're putting up a lot of barriers to us,' hell, they'll go to Oregon. That's still good for the region in terms of clean energy. But in terms of economic development, we've lost an opportunity."
Organized labor is also concerned about any delay. Dave Johnson, executive secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, said he shares worries that any lengthy delay could send developers looking elsewhere.
"If we look like we're being too restrictive there's always that potential," he said, though he adds, "I think demand will be the ultimate driver."
Built into I-937 are incentives for companies to hire union apprentices, Johnson said, "to get people up to speed in the local workforce on building these projects." He said the building trades have reached agreements with the contractor of the Kittitas project, Horizon Wind Energy, on local hire and wage issues.
Here's the governor's letter to regulators and reporter Warren Cornwall's story about the project from Monday's paper. Also, see this Andrew Garber story from last fall that looked at some of the difficulties of siting wind power plants and meeting the goals set out in Initiative 937.
MORE: I missed this yesterday, but state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser is on the side of the environmentalists. He put out a release Thursday criticizing Gregoire for the delay. He said:
"Gov. Gregoire is showing exactly the same bureaucratic indecision and lack of leadership that brought Washington the Viaduct debacle," said Washington State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser. "This wind farm has been studied for longer than Gov. Gregoire has been in office, but instead of making a decision she delayed it to ask for even more study. No wonder she's wasting half a million dollars hiring mediators to create a plan for 520."
Posted by David Postman at 7:11 PM
A $100 contribution Sumner resident Angela Berg gave Sen. Barack Obama today was the 250,000th donation collected by the Democratic presidential candidate. An Obama spokeswoman told me that the Illinois senator called Berg tonight to thank her helping to meet the campaign's goal of a quarter million donors by midnight Saturday, the end of second-quarter fundraising for presidential candidates.
Berg teaches high school in the Auburn School District. Before she knew she was No. 250,000, she wrote on Obama's website where the campaign has been tallying donations as the deadline approached:
"I echo many of the same sentiments other donors have posted.
The Obama campaign said it believes the number of donors is a record for six months of fundraising. Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean built a reputation for unprecedented grass-roots support when 70,000 people contributed about $10.5 million in the first two quarters of 2003. Like Dean, much of Obama's money comes in small-dollar donations made over the Internet.
MORE: Berg told me by e-mail tonight that she feels like she won the lottery. It's easy to be cynical about politics, of course. But it is hard not to sense the excitement this woman felt. She says when the campaign called her to say Obama would call her soon, she locked herself in her bedroom, hung up on her dentist when he called and told her husband to use his cell phone to call his mother. She said she was "freaking out" and wrote down some things she wanted to say. She promptly forgot most of them when the candidate called.
He was so cool sounding...easy-going, natural. Of course he thanked me for contributing, and I, in turn, thanked him for giving me the opportunity to be part of his campaign*. He asked me about my job, how long I'd been teaching, what my school was like. I told him that it [Auburn Riverside High School] is pretty socio-economically split: we have both really wealthy and low-income families in our area. He asked how I dealt with that in the classroom... said how important he thought my job was. He asked about my family and joked that I must be pretty busy because I have a three-year-old son. He said that he appreciated my contribution because he knows that Washington teachers aren't paid [extravagantly]. I just told him that I was happy to invest in something I support so whole-heartedly. He said he'd be thinking about me and people like me during tonight's debate... We talked for about five minutes. I feel like I'm the luckiest person in the world because when Senator Obama came to Seattle on June 1st, I was one of the few people asked to go on stage to stand behind him in the Qwest Center. I thought I already cashed in my good karma when I got to shake his hand...but tonight? the phone call?? oh, man!
Posted by David Postman at 5:06 PM
Congressman Jim McDermott released a copy of a speech (not a letter as I originally wrote) he gave on the House floor today saying Vice President Dick Cheney should resign or face impeachment.
McDermott has not been among members of Congress who have already called for impeachment of Cheney and/or President George Bush. He says he will now sign on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 333, Rep. Dennis Kucinich's resolution — introduced in April — calling for impeachment of Cheney:
For months I have believed that impeachment was a dire course of action. Over these same months, I have seen the vice president repeatedly drive our nation into increasingly dire situations, in Iraq, in Iran, and within our own country as he tramples over the Constitution like it is a doormat.
McDermott says he has become convinced that impeachment is necessary because he claims Cheney has repeatedly held himself above the law.
Since the president permits this flagrant disregard for the Constitution, it is up to the Congress to act and defend the American people.
McDermott's had advice for Cheney, too, if the vice president wants to resign:
Call it a medical condition; call it a political condition; call it what it is — the departure of a person who forgot that he works for the American people.
Posted by David Postman at 10:54 AM
"Stevens will sail to re-election." National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher on Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
That's from a Roll Call story (subscription required) that the Anchorage Daily News reprints today. Alaska's widening political corruption scandal could touch both Sen. Ted Stevens and the state's lone congressman, Republican Don Young. As Roll Call says in a likely understatement:
the political terrain in the Last Frontier appears to be shifting.
I don't know if Stevens will be beat next year. But I feel comfortable predicting that if he runs -- and I'm far from convinced of that -- it will be his toughest race ever.
The Roll Call story is of particular interest to me because the name that comes up most when people talk about a likely opponent for either Stevens or Young is Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. His father held the House seat before Young. Rep. Nick Begich died in an Alaska plane crash. When I was a young city hall reporter in Anchorage, Mark Begich was an even younger junior assistant to Mayor Tony Knowles. He was a chauffeur, go-fer and body man who always acted older and looked younger than his years.
Today he's obviously one of the state's leading Democrats, getting hard-sell calls from senators and congressmen hoping he'll run for higher office next year. But I keep thinking of him as the earnest Knowles protege who didn't quite look old enough to be legally driving the mayor. I guess that means I'm getting old.
Posted by David Postman at 3:41 PM
This is the full transcript of the answers from the six minute press availability Attorney General Alberto Gonzales held with reporters in Spokane this afternoon.
Good afternoon everyone. You know, we live in the greatest country in the world and one of the reasons for that is because in this country the hopes and dreams of every child can be realized. But that's impossible if a child lives in fear in a neighborhood that is besieged by gang activity. And so I just got out of a very, I think, informative briefing about the activities of state and local officials working with federal officials here in this area to focus on gangs.
On whether there is anything he can add about the firing of John McKay:
I've testified before the Congress twice on this issue. We've answered hundreds of questions. Other officials within the Department of Justice have responded. So I've got nothing further to add with respect to that particular matter.
On why, given that the Spokane City Council is considering a new gang ordinance, weren't council members invited to his roundtable today:
I don't know anything about the specifics of this gang ordinance and again, this was the meeting that was set up to provide information to me about ongoing efforts. And so that particular matter that you're referring to, I don't know anything about. We reach out to our state and local partners, whomever they are, because we can't be successful in dealing with this issue without reaching out across the board. And so if there are additional partners that we need to reach out to, obviously we'll look at that.
On whether he will cooperate with Congressional subpoenas issued today about eavesdropping:
Well, it's too early to say whether or not we'll cooperate. I haven't seen the subpoenas or the wording of the subpoenas. Obviously, with respect to any request from Congress, we look at them and we try to reach an accommodation with the Congress where it's appropriate.
On the local case of Otto Zehm, who died in police custody a year ago - a case referred to the Justice Department for investigation.
I'm aware generally about this case. I'm aware that it is ongoing and because it is ongoing I can't comment on it. And I'm sorry, but I can't.
On what he is doing in Alaska to insulate federal investigations of political corruption from any attempted influence by Sen. Ted Stevens, whose name has come up in connection to the investigations.
Well I've been very, very, clear with respect to restoring public trust in terms of our investigations. And that is that I expect our prosecutors to follow the evidence, to make decisions based upon the evidence, not based upon whether or not the targets is a Republican or Democrat, a member of the state House or the White House, but to simply do their job and follow the evidence. And so I have every reason to believe that our prosecutors are going to do that, as they've done so in the past.
On a request from the National Archives wanting White House documents and Dick Cheney's contention that he is not fully a member of the executive branch:
I'm not going to comment on this particular matter because it is something that is being looked at. And I am aware of course of the request from the National Archives and that's something that we're working on at the department to respond to.
On whether he had a timeline for responding:
I don't have a timeline. But we will be responding at the appropriate time.
On the possibility of federal funding to help Spokane fight gang violence:
That is something that we are always looking at. I do have a program. We identified 10 cities recently where we provide $2.5 million to communities that have submitted plans to the Department of Justice, grant proposals to the department, focusing on prevention and education, focusing on law enforcement and focusing on re-entry. And so it's $2.5 million that we are making available to 10 communities around the country and perhaps in the future that is something that we can look at this area as being a possible recipient for.
Posted by David Postman at 12:38 PM
A lazy reporter's trick is to fly into a town, take a cab and quote the cabby as the sage of local politics. So, to be clear, I don't think this represents anything more than an interesting comment and is not posted here as a declaration of the feelings of Spokanites at large.
But, as I was taking a cab in from the airport we passed some signs for mayoral candidate Al French. I said something deep like, "Oh, you've got a mayor's race." And the driver said, "I don't know anything about them. The one decent mayor we had died of cancer or something."
French is one of two council members running against Mayor Dennis Hession, who got the job after Jim West was recalled from office. West later died of cancer. Jim Camden is covering the race for The Spokesman-Review, and it seems Hession is the frontrunner.
Mayor Dennis Hession has raised more than twice as much campaign money as his two main challengers combined and has spent more than council members Mary Verner and Al French put together.
And while I'm in the business of reporting brief snippets of conversation as news, outside Starbucks here is a woman behind a card table collecting signatures for Ref. 67, which would repeal the state's new insurance law. As I walked by, a man was bent over looking at the petition and the printed material and said, "Just tell me which side the lawyers are on and which side the insurance companies are on." I couldn't tell which side he was on, but as complicated as that issue is, the debate may not be hard for people to understand.
Posted by David Postman at 9:07 AM
I'm on my way to Spokane to attend a press conference by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He's in Seattle today, where protesters are on the scene,
Yesterday in Boise, protesters forced Gonzales to move his press conference to quieter quarters.
The controversial attorney general was in town to deliver a specific message — one aimed at bolstering the fight against gangs.
Posted by David Postman at 8:31 AM
You may have commented in the past few weeks and wondered why it was not appearing on the blog. I just figured out that a lot of comments have been held for approval automatically by MovableType, in most cases it appears because of links in the comments. Somehow I was missing the notification that these messages were waiting for my approval and I just now found a backlog. My apologies. And I will be much more vigilant in checking to see if comments are being held.
MORE: Poking around MovableType I figured out that if you put more than three links in a comment it will be held automatically. It looks to the machine as spam.
Posted by David Postman at 4:59 PM
Not me, but public radio's Austin Jenkins. His story about "wealthy, gay political donors who target state-level races" airs on All Things Considered this afternoon. It is an expansion of something he wrote in May for both Crosscut and for a piece on local public radio that I found of note at the time.
In today's piece Jenkins has more on the local connections to the effort from Colorado software mogul Tim Gill. This, from the text version of the story on NPR's site (where you can also listen to an archived version of the story):
Last year, they funneled millions of dollars into dozens of carefully selected campaigns. Their goal: to elect gay-friendly governors and state lawmakers.
Posted by David Postman at 4:38 PM
Democrat Darcy Burner hasn't said much in response to my questions about the chances she'll face a contested primary next year. Today, though, her campaign sent supporters an e-mail detailing some of her recent efforts to be the party's nominee against Rep. Dave Reichert. The message comes after comments by potential Democratic primary opponent Rep. Christopher Hurst, who said Burner doesn't "own" the 8th District nomination.
The e-mail urges donors to give before the June 30 cutoff for second quarter fundraising. The sort of strong fundraising Burner showed in 2004 could help scare off potential opponents. She says in the message that the campaign needs to pay production costs for its first commercial which will air soon. Burner also reports that Democratic congressman Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee have endorsed her again.
Burner's message tries to boost the image of her close race against Reichert in 2004 and explain how next year will be even better for her. She says that last year she was a prime target of White House political chief Karl Rove.
In spite of these efforts, Darcy ran a great '06 campaign. Although the Republicans spent close to $6 million against her, Darcy won 49% of the vote. Her percentage was the best any Democrat has achieved in the 8th, dominating in King County's eastern suburbs and improving the Democratic mark in Pierce County and South King.
Posted by David Postman at 2:51 PM
One of the most prominent Democratic attorneys in Seattle will soon endorse acting prosecutor and Republican Dan Satterberg. Jenny Durkan, at one time Gov. Christine Gregoire's personal attorney, will be one of the hosts of Satterberg's kickoff July 19.
Meanwhile, a Satterberg deputy has ended her political work on behalf of Satterberg's campaign. The P-I reported this week that chief civil prosecutor Sally Bagshaw was recruiting endorsements for Satterberg despite his pledge that his staff would "remain above politics" during the race.
"I will be proud to continue the policy that Norm established to not permit members of the office to either contribute money or a personal endorsement to my campaign."
That seemed worthy of questions. I called Satterberg today to ask him if he had any second thoughts. He still maintains there was nothing wrong with Bagshaw's campaign-related efforts. But she won't be doing it any more. He said that after the story broke — as the P-I's banner — other people offered to do the work instead. Bagshaw's elderly father also recently broke his hip and needs her attention.
"She's not going to be sending out any e-mails for those two reasons," Satterberg told me. Instead, the work will be done by Lisa Marchese, a former county prosecutor now in private practice. Maleng's widow, Judy, will also continue helping as they go through a list prepared for what was expected to be Norm Maleng's re-election campaign.
Some liberals have been criticizing Satterberg as a pretender to the throne, saying he is not a moderate like Maleng. Durkan's endorsement — with her unimpeachable Democratic credentials — seems like a valuable get for Satterberg. He said:
"She's somebody I've known for many years and her endorsement, to me, is really important because it says she trusts this isn't going to be some Republican machine to be a political training ground or spring board."
UPDATE: Democrat Bill Sherman announced some new endorsements today in his race for King County prosecutor. The Washington Conservation Voters and state Rep. Joe McDermott, D-Seattle, announced they were backing Sherman. A press release from the campaign this afternoon says Sherman has also been endorsed by other Democrats, including House Speaker Frank Chopp, Sen. Ed Murray and King County Councilman Larry Phillips and Bob Ferguson.
Posted by David Postman at 11:54 AM
It appears that one of two Democratic legislators considering an 8th District Congressional race may challenge Darcy Burner. But it's unlikely both Rep. Christopher Hurst and Sen. Rodney Tom will get in the Democratic primary. Hurst told me today:
"Rodney and I have had good talks about that. I wouldn't think that a tough primary challenge would be good for winning the race in November, so I think it ought to be one of the two of us."
Hurst said that "collateral damage" from a primary fight between him and Tom would be "almost insurmountable." But he's confident that either of them would beat Burner in the '08 primary and that fall face incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. (I talked to Tom last week.)
Hurst's decision, he said, rests with family issues. His 22-year-old son, Andrew, is in an Army airborne infantry unit and could soon be sent on his second tour in Iraq. Hurst said having his son back on the battlefield would make it difficult for him to give a congressional campaign the attention it needs.
"When he was in Iraq it was hard to even drive home in the evening. You just waited to see an Army car parked out front the house. Nine kids in the unit were killed that year and a ton of them catastrophically wounded. ... I can tell you, it is hard to focus during those times."
If he did run against Reichert, having a son serve in Iraq and Afghanisan and a nephew killed in action in Mosul would shape Hurst's campaign.
"I think I know more about the war certainly than Dave does."
Hurst retired last year from 25 years in law enforcement. As a cop he said he knows Reichert, the former King County sheriff, well and has respect for his work.
"Dave's a good human being. I like Dave. But I have been dissatisfied. He ran as a moderate in that election last fall and some of his votes since the election he has essentially gone pretty much lock-step with the president."
But the first race he'd face would be against Burner, who has already announced she is making her second run at Reichert. Hurst says his law enforcement and legislative experience gives him a better resume than Burner. He says he respects Burner and the hard run she made at Reichert last year. But he says 2006 was as good as it can get for Democrats, and yet Burner couldn't beat Reichert. That, he says, opens her to a legitimate party challenge.
"The reality is there's no ownership there. The bottom line is what's best for the citizens of the district. You can't say that because someone ran before that's owed to them. Maybe some of the real hardcore party faithful say that. But I'm sorry, I don't buy that.
Hurst says he will make a decision by the end of July.
Posted by David Postman at 7:44 AM
Stefan Sharkansky's report last week from the Mitt Romney fundraiser included what turns out to be a little scoop. He reported that former Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn introduced Romney at the event. And today the Romney campaign announced Dunn's endorsement and said she would serve as the national co-chair of "Women for Mitt."
Dunn was an early and ardent supporter of George W. Bush. She was a major fundraiser for Bush's first campaign and there was speculation that could lead to a Bush administration appointment. Dunn left Congress in 2005 and went to work as a lobbyist.
Posted by David Postman at 4:42 PM
The campaign to repeal a new state insurance law is fast becoming an expensive effort. Insurance interests have now raised more than $1.1 million, according to the latest filings at the Public Disclosure Commission. The industry-funded Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates has launched a TV campaign, encouraging people to sign petitions for Referendum 67.
Records from state TV stations collected by the opposition campaign show the repeal effort has bought $692,000 worth of air time through July 20. (Campaign spokeswoman Dana Childers confirmed that was generally the size of the TV buy.) July 21 is the deadline for submitting signatures to the Secretary of State's office.
A 30-second ad began airing last week. You can see it on the campaign's Web site. It plays on the image of greedy trial lawyers with a pretend TV commercial from a firm called "Sooem Settle & Kashin." The ad says trial lawyers pushed through legislation "promoting frivolous lawsuits and jacking up your insurance rates."
The campaign uses the slogan, "Reject R-67," because a negative vote in November would repeal the law. But it's the insurance group that is trying to put R-67 on the ballot. The law it seeks to repeal allows courts to impose triple damages if an insurance company is found to have unreasonably denied coverage or payment.
Campaign spokeswoman Dana Childers told me, "The purpose of the media buy now is to simply inform voters that there is a petition drive out there" for a law that "will increase their insurance rates and they have a chance to reject that law if they want."
Some local insurance companies have said that they hope negotiations with Gov. Christine Gregoire produce changes to the law that would to satisfy the industry and the referendum will not have to go forward. Childers said it would take a "surprising agreement" with "substantive change" to head off the referendum.
"I think at this time it's wise for everybody to have all options on the table. We'll see what comes out of the governor and let's see how the petition drive goes. Then come the third week of July, we'll see whether the interested parties want to go that direction."
The latest donations to the industry group include large checks from State Farm and Allstate. But the total doesn't include another $230,000 that local firm Safeco has pledged to the campaign.
The repeal campaign is funded solely by insurance interests, mostly out of state companies.
The Washington Trial Lawyers have donated $100,000 to the opposition campaign. It is unlikely they will have any paid media to combat the petition drive. The campaign assumes the measure will qualify for the November ballot and is preparing for a fall campaign, said spokeswoman Sue Evans. She told me:
I will be working on educating the press while other members of the campaign will be working to educate progressive allies. We believe they have the money to buy the signatures they need to get it on the ballot. ... We will never match the insurance industry dollar for dollar in this campaign, but the facts and the truth are on our side.
Evans and the trial lawyers dispute that insurance rates would increase under the new law. She said:
Referendum 67 simply requires insurance companies to treat people fairly. If you paid your premium, and have a valid insurance claim, the insurance company must honor its commitment to the policy holder. Without this law, insurance companies suffer no penalties under the law for failing to make good on their promise. They actually earn interest on the money they wrongfully withhold from policyholders.
SIDEBAR: Also today, PEMCO issued a clarification on its stance on Ref. 67. Last week I quoted company spokesman Jon Osterberg saying the referendum was flawed and would be bad for consumers. But he said today that came from a misunderstanding between him and others in the company.
PEMCO is neutral on Ref. 67. It is the legislation in question, which was Senate Bill 5726, which PEMCO believes will be bad for consumers. The company will not donate to the referendum campaign, though, and believes negotiations with the governor and lawmakers are a better way to fix the law than a referendum campaign. Osterberg wrote me today:
Efforts to modify the new law on insurance claims would be seriously hampered by a complicated referendum campaign. The law passed in 2007 would generate massive litigation, leading to higher costs for consumers because of increased business-operations costs. We believe equitable revisions to the law can best be achieved through thoughtful recommendations from the Governor's working group.
Posted by David Postman at 1:34 PM
The state Democratic Party filed a complaint today with the Public Disclosure Commission claiming Dino Rossi's non-profit is "functionally indistinguishable to that of a gubernatorial candidate." The Democrats say Rossi's fundraising and spending should be subject to the same rules as for political donations.
The complaint says:
Mr. Rossi's role is, specifically, to "speak out and take positions on issues affecting state government. These will be issues that are or could be affected by the state legislature, Washington State Governor and/or regulators. . . " See Attachment 1(501(a) Application). The president and executive director are also responsible for meeting regularly with community leaders to discuss state policies. Id. Similarly, the core activities of Forward Washington are akin to those of a campaign for public office. Core activities include, specifically, "speeches, statements to the media, forums, seminars and panel discussions, research into state government issues, . . . communications to state residents, [and] occasional paid media advertising". Id.
You can read the whole complaint here. Democrats say Rossi's "Forward Washington Foundation," a tax-exempt organization, is essentially a disclosure dodge created only after Rossi had formed, and then put on hold, a 2008 campaign committee.
Rossi lost to Gov. Christine Gregoire after a record close election in 2004, several lawsuits, recounts and a two-week Superior Court trial. Rossi says he won't make a decision about another run until the end of this year. But as Sean Cockerham reported in the New Tribune in May, he certainly seems like a candidate.
"I tell you what, if we did do this again, theoretically, we're going to need you and everyone you know," Rossi told a conference of moderate Republican activists. "You and everyone that you know."
Recently Rossi has been on a listening tour asking people for suggestions on how to improve state government. To skeptical reporters at least, that has a campaign-like ring to it. This is from the Columbian after a Vancouver stop:
Republican Dino Rossi brought his "Idea Bank" tour to Vancouver Thursday evening in an event that he insisted was not a warm-up for a rematch against Gov. Chris Gregoire next year. Rossi, the former state senator who lost to Gregoire in 2004 by just 133 votes, is holding idea-gathering forums around the state in June and July — everywhere, he says, except Seattle.
I'll find out what Rossi has to say about the complaint. It is absolutely true that many complaints get filed with the PDC for no reason other than to make political hay and grab a headline. But the commission certainly finds merit in some complaints filed against a candidate by partisan opponents.
MORE: I just talked to Rossi. He said he assumed "Christine" would file a complaint against Forward Washington. He's convinced the governor is behind it. But, he says there's noting wrong with Forward Washington or his work with the foundation.
The Democrats claim Rossi s a declared candidate for governor in 2008. They base that on the fact that Rossi at one time opened a 2008 campaign account, then closed it before creating Forward Washington. Rossi says the '08 campaign committee was formed after advice from the PDC as a way to handle contributions to his legal defense fund for the '04 election contest. He says when the committee was shut down it was done in consultation with PDC staff.
"I never ever said I was running in '08. Those words have never crossed my lips, publicly or privately. ... I just tell people I'll make a decision by the end of the year and their complaint says I'm a declared candidate? Boy, they better check in with my wife."
Rossi said the Idea Bank is not designed to help in a campaign if he decides to run again. He said all the ideas vetted by the group will be posted on its Web site and be available for even Gregoire to use if she wants.
MORE: A spokesman for Gregoire says the governor was not involved with the Democrats' complaint. "We had absolutely nothing to do with the state party's efforts and there was no coordination at all," said Press Secretary Lars Erickson. He said he didn't know anything about it until he read it in the Slog today.
Last week at the Slog, Josh Feit wrote after reading a New York Times story about a questionable non-profit operated by presidential candidate John Edwards: "John Edwards Makes Me Think of Dino Rossi for Some Reason."
Today Feit writes that "Washington State Democrats apparently agreed with me." And of critics who knocked him for highlighting a N.Y. Times story some said was off-base, Feit wrote:
What do you Democratic Party partisan zombies say now? Are the Democrats being unfair to Rossi?
Posted by David Postman at 10:39 AM
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean will be in Seattle tomorrow. Dean will headline a fundraiser at the Westin Seattle.
Pleased with last year's election results?
It'll cost $50 for a "Join the Party" reception and $500 to be considered a "Trailblazer" and get in to a more elite event.
Posted by David Postman at 4:07 PM
A top official of Republican Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign is in Seattle for the weekend hoping to organize what he says has been a surge of support for the candidate here. Lew Moore, national political director of Paul's campaign, was in Detroit today and making his way to the airport earlier when we talked.
Seattle has the fourth largest Ron Paul MeetUp in the country, behind Austin, Manhattan and Chicago. Moore told me:
"We've had a spontaneous groundswell in the Northwest and we're now working to organize this into what we think is going to be a formidable political operation that will be competitive next year."
Moore will meet with Paul supporters Sunday afternoon at Magnuson Park.
Paul is a medical doctor and veteran Texas congressman. He ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988 and maintains serious libertarian leanings. He opposes the Iraq war, which Moore said helps the candidate win support here. He opposes U.S. intervention, but is also a critic of foreign policy spending in general.
His anti-war stance has made him attractive to some anti-war liberals. Will at Horsesass.org wrote yesterday that he's hoping his "liberal friends get off their Ron Paul fixation." Will pointed to Paul's vote against the "Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act." The bill would give the federal government authority to reopen Civil Rights-era cases that remain unsolved.
The frustrated Will wrote:
But he's against the war! Right? Right?
Moore said he didn't know the details of the bill or why Paul voted against it. But he said Paul often votes against legislation because of "either unintended consequences" or because it exceeds what he thinks is the proper limit on the government's reach.
"He's inclined to do things that can be misinterpreted because he is very strong on constraining the role of the federal government and being consistent about it."
Posted by David Postman at 3:12 PM
In a telephone conversation yesterday with a Safeco spokesman, I understood that the company had pledged to stay out of the campaign to repeal a new insurance law. PEMCO had done the same thing — putting the state's two largest insurers on the sidelines of a fight being financed by their out-of-state industry brethren behind Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates.
But Safeco spokesman Paul Hollie called today to clarify the company's position. Safeco is following a different course than Pemco. I'm not sure what caused the confusion, but whatever the case, I now have a clear idea of the company's position.
Safeco has, in fact, committed to donating about $230,000 to the Ref. 67 campaign, adding to what is already a $650,000 campaign account to qualify the measure for the November ballot. But the company is also committed to working with Gov. Christine Gregoire, legislators and trial attorneys, to see if there can be agreement on a package of changes to the law.
The deadline in Safeco's view is July 21 when referendum signatures are due to the Secretary of State, said Gary Strannigan, Safeco's director of government relations. If a satisfactory agreement can be reached before that date, he said, Safeco would end its support for the repeal and not participate in the fall election campaign.
The industry opposed the "Insurance Fair Conduct Act" and urged Gregoire to veto it. Strannigan said:
"It's regrettable that the governor signed the bill but her initiating the work group to fix the flaws in the bill is certainly a good step and we treat it very favorably and have engaged very actively with her staff to try to craft a solution that would make this statute consistent with other state statutes on this matter."
Strannigan said it would take more than a commitment from the governor to fix the problems, though. He said the company also needs assurances from Democratic legislative leaders as well as the trial bar that a new bill would be passed next year.
"Passing a bill is a much more difficult thing than killing a bill. And this is a very high stakes thing. The bill that passes is the most far-reaching — some in my industry would call it outlandish — piece of legislation in the country on the subject."
Strannigan couldn't say whether other insurance interests now backing the referendum would also drop their support if an agreement could be reached. "Some of them are pretty confident that they could win the referendum contest," he said. Some of the differences come from differing perspectives of local and out-of-state companies.
"Their headquarters aren't in the state and don't to live with the consequences of a vigorously contested election campaign. I would say there are some who have not watched Governor Gregoire broker solutions to big ... problems as she has in the past."
Posted by David Postman at 8:18 AM
Once again Sound Politics blogger Stefan Sharkansky was on the inside of a GOP presidential fundraiser while the MSM was kept away. Here's his report on the closed Mitt Romney fundraiser.
I was surprised to read this:
Worth noting that it was former Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn who introduced Romney. That's a good endorsement to have.
Do you think the GOP campaigns are unhappy that Sharkansky shares lengthy reports from closed fundraisers? Or maybe it works out just fine for them to have a friendly blogger on the inside who is providing the only published reports of the exclusive events.
Posted by David Postman at 8:03 AM
Via Eye on Olympia. (Warning: It's loud.)
Posted by David Postman at 3:38 PM
Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announced today that Rep. Jay Inslee has endorsed the New York senator for president. Inslee was also named as co-chair of Clinton's Energy and Environmental Task Force.
Inslee said in a statement released by the campaign:
"We need a candidate who has been through the fire and knows how to lead. ... Hillary Clinton has the vision to lead this country in a clean-energy revolution. She has the toughness, experience, and resolve needed to end the Iraq war and begin rebuilding America's image around the world."
Inslee's political career has been influenced by the Clintons. He lost his Eastern Washington seat in Congress in the anti-Clinton backlash of 1994, with the added trouble of having voted for Clinton's gun control measures. After his defeat, Inslee worked for President Bill Clinton has the regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Inslee was elected again to the House in 1998, in part, after he attacked Republican efforts to impeach President Clinton.
Posted by David Postman at 3:28 PM
The state's two largest insurance companies have decided not to join their industry colleagues in financing a ballot measure to repeal a new insurance law.
The agreement could help keep Referendum 67 off the ballot. Having PEMCO and Safeco on the sidelines could mean less money for the campaign. It also would allow trial lawyers, Democratic lawmakers and others to argue that the referendum is mostly an effort by out-of-state insurance interests to overturn a new Washington law.
So far, eight insurance companies and a PAC have donated $650,000 to the campaign to qualify the referendum for the ballot. Of that, all but $150,000 has come from out-of-state companies.
PEMCO spokesman Jon Osterberg told me today:
"The governor has promised to present changes to the new law to the 2008 Legislature and PEMCO commends her leadership in doing that. We do support her willingness to see this through. And what we trust here is that the governor will identify all these unintended economic impacts of that Senate bill and will, in fact, present revised legislation."
PEMCO has committed to stay out of the already expensive referendum campaign to repeal the law. For now, Safeco has pledged to stay out of the referendum campaign. But that could change if the measure qualifies for the ballot and progress is not made with the governor's working group, said company spokesman Paul Hollie. "We're supportive of the governor's effort," he said.
Under the new law, courts can approve triple damages if an insurance company is found to have violated the Act and unreasonably denied coverage or payment.
During the legislative session, local insurance companies wrote Gregoire a letter asking her to veto the bill. PEMCO and Safeco both then asked for a meeting with the governor. Osterberg said:
"We did meet with her and she said at the time she would sign the bill but acknowledged it, quote, 'went beyond the testimony that supported the bill.'"
On May 11, PEMCO CEO Stan McNaughton wrote her a letter saying he was encouraged by her commitment to work with industry on amendments to the bill next year. But McNaughton wrote:
We are sure you recognize that your leadership pursuing legislation next session clarifying and correcting certain aspects of the bill may not foreclose efforts to limit or eliminate the most damaging aspects of this legislation through the judicial or referendum processes. Nevertheless, we anticipate your recognition of the bill's flaws will send a helpful message to the business community that you are firmly committed to maintaining a vibrant economy and a healthy insurance market.
Gregoire wrote back May 22, suggesting that any talks might have to end if the referendum qualifies for the ballot. She wrote:
Finally, I am aware that an attempt is contemplated to repeal ESSB 5726 through referendum. Should this occur, I would likely need to suspend the efforts outlined here, due to campaign ethics rules surrounding ballot measures, and the fact that the referendum vote would probably be the last word on the issue. There would be little appetite in the Legislature to amend a law on which people had so recently spoken.
Gregoire's efforts did not head off the campaign or the insurance industry's $650,000 campaign bank account. Trial lawyers have donated $100,000 to the other side of the ballot fight.
Gregoire's letter said her goal would be to have new legislation prepared by early fall. She said a working group would look at "exact type of conduct to which extraordinary damages attach," how those damages are calculated and whether they will be capped, and which types of insurance would be subject to the new law.
Osterberg said PEMCO agrees with the other companies that the law is seriously flawed. He said the bill adds more complexity to an already complex claim process and would lead to more litigation and higher insurance rates. But he said Ref. 67 "is not in the consumer's best interest."
"The democratic process is imperfect; sometimes it is flawed. But PEMCO really feels it is not right to dump a complex referendum on consumers that is hard to understand and force them to deal with it.
Posted by David Postman at 11:18 AM
Darcy Burner, the only announced Democratic candidate in the 8th District, is already out doorbelling more than a year before the race. I asked Burner about the news that two Democratic state lawmakers are considering challenging her for the nomination to take on Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. She didn't respond to that directly, but said by e-mail that she has had nothing but encouragement in the early stages of her second campaign.
She said that a few weeks ago she was going door-to-door in Sammamish with her young son, Henry.
At every door we went to, Henry and I were greeted with enthusiasm, and every person we talked to immediately recognized me. Every person we met was eager to talk about the direction they think we should be taking this country.
She said she has noticed a "huge change" in people's feelings about the war, a major theme in her 2006 campaign.
And at every house, I listened as people clearly deeply affected told me that we needed to end the Iraq war and bring our troops home.
Posted by David Postman at 6:30 PM
Two Democratic state legislators are thinking about getting into the 8th District congressional primary where they would challenge fellow Democrat and netroots favorite Darcy Burner. Burner, a former Microsoft manager, has already launched her second run for the nomination to challenge Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.
Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and a recent Democratic convert, confirmed today he is seriously considering a run. He has talked to Burner about it and continues to talk to other Democrats.
Tom has also talked with state Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, who Tom says is also thinking about getting in the Democratic primary. King County Democratic Chairwoman Susan Sheary said people have talked to her about both Tom and/or Hurst getting in the race, but she hadn't heard from either directly.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz would say only:
"Darcy Burner is running hard for Congress and I have heard there are one or more Democrats testing the waters."
Hurst, who represents parts of Pierce and King counties in the rural end of the 8th District, could not be reached. I'm also waiting to hear back from Burner.
Tom was quick to say he likes Burner. He wouldn't say anything about conversations they've had about the possibility he would run against her.
"We did talk. I guess I'd rather keep that private. I have a high regard for Darcy. Again, I keep coming back to, 'Who can best win the 8th?'
There had been an effort to draft state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, into the race and he was seriously considering it. But Hunter has had a recurrence of cancer and told me recently he will be going through a relatively aggressive treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
I'm focusing all my energy on this effort now, and will be for the next several months.
Tom has had a fast rise in the Democratic party. He only became a Democrat last year. After two terms in the state House as a Republican, he switched parties in March 2006. He said at the time "the far right has complete control of the" GOP and the Democratic Party was a better ideological fit for him.
As he would in the 8th, he faced a fellow Democrat in his Senate primary. But after Tom lined up support from many party leaders, Debi Golden dropped out and gave Tom clear sailing to November.
In the general, he beat incumbent Republican Sen. Luke Esser, who now serves as the state Republican Party chairman. Tom would be in the midst of a four-year Senate term next year and could run for Congress without giving up his legislative seat.
Tom said he would make a decision within the next month. He said that he hears two main arguments for and against a primary challenge to Burner: give her a chance, or she's had her chance. The argument for Burner says she ran a strong race last year and proved herself to be a great fundraiser and deserves another shot. The argument against is that 2006 was the best possible year for Democrats and still she fell short and its time for a different candidate to try. Tom said:
"So far the reception has been very, very strong. But I guess what I'm trying to do is come in with very open eyes, trying not to hear what I want to hear. I'm trying to be very judicious about this. ... They key is we need new representation in the 8th and what is the best way of making that happen."
Posted by David Postman at 11:18 AM
The mourning for Norm Maleng hadn't ended when speculation began about what would happen to the $194,315 in his campaign bank account. So goes the cold-hearted world of politics. Maleng would have been bothered by such talk, but not surprised.
Here's the fact, thanks to Neil Modie at the P-I:
"No money will be spent directly or indirectly to help (acting prosecutor) Dan Satterberg," Seattle attorney Mike McKay said Tuesday. Judy Maleng, the late prosecutor's wife, "has made that clear," he said.
Modie obviously did some reporting. Too bad others didn't and instead tried to make partisan gain from the theoretical possibility that the money would go to Satterberg. I don't see any evidence that anyone said that would happen, or until Modie's story, any sign that any of the speculators did any work to find out what would happen to the money.
Josh Feit started the speculation game last week in a footnote to a post about Satterberg:
Maleng left behind quite a campaign war chest of his own. The question is: What's going to become of that war chest. There's talk that it may go to the state GOP — and then get funneled back to Satterberg.
(Bold in original.)
That was seemingly enough for the state Democratic Party to put out a press release raising alarm that some illegal act was about to take place:
Top Democrats today responded to widespread rumors that the Republican Party is planning to funnel the $194,000 remaining in the campaign coffers of late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng into partisan attacks intended to influence the special election this fall to name Maleng's replacement.
Pelz was "responding to rumors" and what "some Satterberg backers have been whispering is likely." Not the most solid foundation for an attack on GOP ethics.
The Democratic press release then prompted David Goldstein to write.
For the past couple weeks I've been hearing rumors of Republican wags bragging that Dan Satterberg has a $180,000 head start in the race to replace the late Norm Maleng as King County Prosecutor. Seemed like an awful lot of money to raise so quickly. But now I understand what they were talking about.
The basis for his understanding was the Democratic press release — which of course was built on rumors itself. (Goldstein did update his post to include Modie's reporting.)
Goldstein, like the Democrats as well, used Maleng's memory and sterling reputation to criticize Satterberg.
Maleng gets a lot of well-deserved credit for having kept politics out of his office, and both Satterberg and Democratic frontrunner Bill Sherman have promised to build on that legacy. But I don't see how Satterberg can fulfill that pledge if he allows his handlers — such as two-time Bush-Cheney WA State chair Mike McKay — to help him win office by sullying Maleng's memory through creative accounting.
Let's review: This has gone from rumors to talk of "partisan attacks," "the sort of illegal and unethical political money laundering that Republicans have become known for" and "creative accounting" that would sully Maleng's memory.
Feit also wrote again to highlight the Democrats' press release.
Last week, I slogged about Norm Maleng's $194K campaign war chest--asking if the GOP would funnel it to GOP candidate Dan Satterberg ....
I suppose that will be the defense: That some shenanigans would have happened if the echo chamber of rumors hadn't been fully exploited. I understand that we all have different standards of reporting, from the newspapers, to the Slog, a partisan blog or the party itself. But I'm confident that the spreading of baseless rumors and allegations from unnamed whisperers isn't the way to honor the memory of Norm Maleng that Democrats seem so intent on protecting.
MORE: Feit now has some response from King County Republican Chairman Michael Young. Young makes Pelz' attack into something directed at Judy Maleng, and says it shows the Democratic chair was a cad and a jerk.
"You know, I was surprised at the tone and the tenor of Dwight's statement. It was tacky and tawdry. Here it is just a few week's after Norm has died and he makes this shot across the bow, a personal attack on Judy Maleng [Norm's wife, who is in charge of the funds now] based on no evidence whatsoever."
Posted by David Postman at 10:32 AM
An elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says the church welcomes attention brought by presidential candidate Mitt Romney. M. Russell Ballard, an elder and church apostle, sat for an interview with NBC's Ron Allen. The interview is posted at MSNBC. About the attention brought on the church by Romney and his faith, Ballard said:
"I would say that we welcome the opportunity at any time to be able to explain to the world who we are and what has happened."
He said young Mormon missionaries are around the world trying to do just that and any added interest is a good thing. But already in the presidential campaign some have criticized the Church and Romney's religion. Here's Ballard on criticism that the LDS Church members are not Christians:
"There is no organization more centered on Christ on the earth than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's in our name. I mean, that's the center of our faith and the center of our belief."
Allen told Ballard there are "some critics of the Church who think that some of your doctrine is cultish, to borrow a phrase." Allen said that most Christians take the New Testament as the "beginning and the ending" whereas the LDS church supplements it with the Book of Mormon.
Allen: It must pain you when people criticize you in that manner and dismisses your church as something that is cultish or out there, if you will. How do you respond to that and how do you explain why you think there is more to that particular part of the faith, to the Bible, than what is there for most Christians?
And that brought the discussion to polygamy. Ballard brought it up himself as an example of something that had been at one time one of those clarifications. It's interesting to watch his discussion about polygamy. He does so in a way that does not criticize the past behavior. Romney on the other hand, says he can't think of anything worse than polygamy. Here's Ballard:
"Why the Lord instructed polygamy to be practiced in a short season in the Church, we don't know all the reasons. We do know this, some of the offspring that came with those polygamist families carried the gospel out into the world and were the ones that were able to walk across the plains and push handcarts and to conquer this desert valley and to settle this part of the world.
Posted by David Postman at 4:42 PM
The insurance industry, calling itself Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates, has raised more than $650,000 to repeal a new state insurance law. A referendum to ask voters if they want to retain the law was filed last month with the Secretary of State's office. The industry wants Ref. 67 on the ballot, then it will campaign against it. If the referendum is defeated, the law would be repealed.
According to the most recent reports at the Public Disclosure Commission, 13 insurance companies — most from outside the state — donated a total of $651,511 since mid May. The campaign has until July 21 to collect 112,4440 signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot.
On the other side, the Washington Trial Lawyers donated $100,000 earlier this month.
I hadn't realized the referendum was going ahead until I saw a press release today from Rep. Steve Kirby, D-Tacoma. Kirby is chairman of the House Insurance, Financial Services and Consumer Protection Committee and was a strong backer of the insurance bill, ESSB 5726.
The bill, among other things, allows a court to approve triple damages if an insurance company is found to have violated the so-called Insurance Fair Conduct Act and unreasonably denied coverage or payment. You can read a good explanation of the bill in the final bill report.
Kirby's release says, "Citizens should beware that signature gatherers for a new referendum are working to overturn a new consumer protection law.":
"The law we passed simply says the insurance industry must treat consumers fairly. If you paid your premium and file a legitimate claim, the insurance company must honor its commitment."
The bill was a hot topic during the legislative session. It was a priority for Democrats and trial attorneys, but was at the top of the list Republicans and the insurance industry wanted to stop. In the House, the tension exploded when Rep. Dan Roach complained the bill was a favor to House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler's husband. Her husband, Keith, is an attorney but had no involvement with the bill and Roach later apologized for his remarks.
Posted by David Postman at 2:27 PM
That's what Mike Seely suggests at The Weekly. He says what looks like an insensitive remark about Indians could be a ploy to win the hearts of "dues-paying Caucasian schmoes who are tired of seeing union jobs exported to workers in other countries, or workers who hail from other countries."
Posted by David Postman at 1:32 PM
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Bellevue tomorrow for a fundraiser. The event is closed to the press so I'm not sure how much coverage Romney will get. But the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints figures if Romney is in town it's more than likely there'll be some inaccurate reporting on the church to follow.
This week, Annette Bowen, Seattle area media relations director for the church, sent reporters an e-mail with background about the church. She wrote:
Because of the controversy regarding Mitt Romey's faith and beliefs as he campaigns for the Republican nomination for US President, it will be helpful for you to have these links to background information to avoid making errors that have been previously made in the press.
The e-mail includes links to a style guide on the proper name of the church:
The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838...
Bowen told me she decided to send out the advisory "after reading so much in the press that is inaccurate."
"I just wanted to say, 'We're here and happy to answer any questions.'"
About politics, Bowen's e-mail says:
Though Romney is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he is not endorsed as a candidate by the Church, which has a policy of strict political neutrality (see link below). The Church does not seek to influence how members vote or officials govern. No tithing or Church funds are supporting the Romney campaign.
His candidacy is popular among church members. The invitation to his fundraiser tomorrow includes 20 people on a list of hosts. At least half are members of the church. That's what I was able to figure out from a quick, simple Web search. The hosts include Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, and former state Rep. Toby Nixon, both LDS members.
Roach told me there is an excitement among LDS members about Romney's campaign. She said the same thing was evident when Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith ran for office, when fellow Mormons showed "he had a great deal of grassroots involvement because of his candidacy."
"It did invigorate LDS people, many of whom are already serving in communities in positions of leadership. It is not a closed society as one might think, because LDS people, by admonition, are involved in their communities."
The LDS Newsroom link also includes information on polygamy to discourage the misperception on the part of some Americans that it still exists as part of the Church. Polygamy comes up in discussions about Romney, in general because of his religion and in specific because his great-grandfather was a polygamist. And it comes up because of a TV show.
This sort of jumped out at me when I was listening the other day to Slate's June 14 podcast, the Political Gabfest: The three Slate journalists were discussing the Republican presidential candidates. Among other topics covered, John Dickerson said that any GOP candidate who supports a pardon for Scooter Libby should have to say whether they would give Libby a job if elected. There was also a discussion about fighting between Rudy Giuliani and Romney, and an assessment of how those candidates were faring.
Emily Bazelon: And Big Love is back on the air. That can't be good for Romney if people watch it this summer. Every time I watch that show I think, 'This is going to be Romney's undoing,' because it makes people think that Mormons are still polygamists, even though really they're mostly not.
Big Love is an HBO series about a Utah polygamist and his family, including relatives in a fundamentalist sect.
Romney spokeswoman Sarah Pompei says the candidate has been a frequent target of attacks because of his religion:
"Governor Romney talks about his faith quite often. He shares the same values that most Americans do and most Americans want a person of faith to lead their country. ... He believes voters will make their decision not based on doctrinal differences, but on issues of leadership and where the candidates stand on the issues."
Monday night, Romney responded: "He said that religious attacks don't have any place in politics and, of course, we agree on that. I told him that was not a big matter to me. If I can't stand the heat, I shouldn't be in the kitchen."
Bowen had no comment on the "Big Love effect." But, she said:
"First of all the fundamentalist LDS church has nothing to do with the Jesus Christ Church of Latter-day Saints. Mormons do not practice polygamy. They have not practiced it in over 100 years."
Romney hasn't always taken the issue seriously. In his exploratory campaign he joked about plural marriage among Mormons. As Slate wrote last year:
"I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman ... and a woman ... and a woman," Romney quipped at the 2005 St. Patrick's Day breakfast in Boston. He made the same joke on Don Imus' 2006 St. Patrick's Day show. Thanks to Romney's perfect delivery and the self-deprecating subtext — the tension between Romney's defense of "traditional" marriage and his own ancestors' history — it's a pretty funny line. But if you're trying to convince evangelicals that you share their values, why make your job more difficult? For that matter, why annoy your fellow faithful, who could be a big help in your presidential campaign but tend to bristle at plural-marriage humor? In addition, when Romney gets all huffy in response to Big Love-inspired questions about polygamy ("Actually, it's not a Mormon family. My church has long ago given up that practice," he lectured Chris Matthews), his own shtick makes it hard to take him seriously.
This year he took a far different tone in an interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes:
"There is part of the history of the church's past that I understand is troubling to people. Look, the polygamy, which was outlawed in our church in the 1800s, that's troubling to me. I have a great-great grandfather. They were trying to build a generation out there in the desert. And so he took additional wives as he was told to do. And I must admit I can't imagine anything more awful than polygamy."
MORE: I just talked to former Rep. Toby Nixon who is active in Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, as well as the Church of Latter-day Saints. Nixon echoed Bowen that there is no connection between his work on Romney's behalf and his LDS membership.
In fact, he said, church members have become very sensitive about maintaining political neutrality.
"The fact is the church is being so meticulously neutral, it's almost like you talk about Romney or anybody at a church event and people try to hush you up."
Nixon is the public affairs director for the church's Kirkland Stake, a group of seven LDS congregations in the area. It, like all church positions, is a volunteer post. Nixon says Romney should not assume fellow Mormons are committed supporters of his candidacy.
"Most of them are keeping an open mind. I guess we've all kind of learned over the years that just because you're Mormon doesn't mean you're perfect. It doesn't automatically mean that's the guy to support."
Posted by David Postman at 8:54 AM
An investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission says the Valley Medical Center in Renton illegally spent taxpayer dollars on campaign expenses.
The PDC staff report says the public hospital misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money on its 2006 annexation campaign. The hospital wanted to annex areas of South King County to put an additional 25,000 households into Public Hospital District No. 1.
Among the allegedly illegal expenditures was the use of taxpayer money for campaign focus groups that asked questions such as what color the hospital should use for its campaign signs.
KING 5's Robert Mak covered the case on his Sunday show. He says:
The state calls it the biggest misuse of taxpayer money in the history of Washington elections.
The PDC has all the documents on its Web site.
The case began with a complaint from Maple Valley Mayor Laure Iddings, an opponent of the annexation. She became alarmed after a telephone pollster called her as part of the hospital campaign. One of the questions was about what her opinion was of Mayor Laure Iddings.
The PDC staff has prepared administrative charges against two hospital executives, President and CEO Rich Roodman and Barbara Mitchell, administrator for organizational development.
Mitchell told Mak:
We feel very strongly that we not only communicated appropriately during those times but we really have an oblation to talk to folks in our community. ... Our underlying motivation in everything we did was to learn what the public wanted.
It didn't work. The election failed with a likely record of 94 percent voting no.
"In retrospect, we could have communicated our position better at the forefront," said Joyce Shaw, spokeswoman for the hospital. "There was some miscommunication that led to the issue turning from health care to taxation."
The commission will consider the charges at a future meeting.
Posted by David Postman at 5:02 PM
It turns out Rudy Giuliani was in town Friday. I had heard, though only unofficially, that he was coming for a fundraiser. But there was no media advisory or advance information to local media about Friday's event at a private home.
There was, though, a hastily arranged media availability. I wasn't invited. But I won't take it personally. Maybe signals got crossed. But I would have liked to cover Giuliani. Every other presidential candidate who has come to the Seattle area organized at least brief meetings with local reporters.;
But some people got the message. Stefan Sharkansky apparently did and has what looks to be the most indepth report of Giuliani's comments. The partial transcript Sharkansky provides includes this analysis of the race by the former New York mayor.
The other reason I'm running is I think I have the best chance of any of the Republicans to win. Because Republicans cannot go into the next election like we have the last two or three, giving away New York, California, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois. These are all states which the Republicans haven't won for the last two or three elections and we virtually give them away in a strategy of appealing only to what we think of as our base. So then what happens? It comes down to a single-state election. One state gets to decide who the President is. And if that goes wrong you have Al Gore or Kerry [citing Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, neither of which will necessarily be Republican in 2008.] We need a Republican who can put in play some of the other states that we give away in order to have a chance to win. And I need to convince the Republican Party, particularly those who disagree with me in the Republican Party, that Ronald Reagan is correct - that your 80% friend is not your 20% enemy. And we may not agree on everything but we sure agree on the critical things and I believe the critical things are what I said at the very beginning, are the two big things: what are we going to do against the terrorists. Are we going to get that right or wrong? and what are we going to do about our economy, domestic and foreign. Are we going to get that right or wrong? Because the rest of the things we can kind of work out. But if we get those wrong, we're in really bad shape.
Stefan says he talked to the candidate at the private fundraiser.
CLARIFICATION: No, I was incorrect. Stefan says he listened to the candidate's remarks at the fundraiser.
Posted by David Postman at 1:50 PM
The Pentagon report Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq didn't get a lot of press attention when it was released recently. But in D.C. the Iraq Insider blog gave it a read. NEPOTISM ALERT: My older son, Max, is working at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation this summer. He guest-blogged on the report for regular Iraq Insider Travis Sharp.
Young Postman's bottom line on what he terms "surgism"?
In other words, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq shows that increasing Iraqi troop levels has not improved either, and it is not clear why the Pentagon maintains that a similar increase in US troop levels will prove any more effective.
The Village Voice also blogged on the report and sums it up with a bit of snark:
The War Department tried like hell to put a smiley face on things but just couldn't. That means the situation is really bad.
Meanwhile, if you're tracking the travels of Dal LaMagna, the Democratic presidential candidate is now in Baghdad.
Posted by David Postman at 12:06 PM
The headline on a National Journal profile of Sen. Patty Murray:
Tennis Shoes, Plus Spikes?
The spikes in question are clearly more Ty Cobb than Condi Rice. The story (thanks to National Journal for the non-subscription link) paints Murray as a tough D.C. brawler. Most of the comments are anonymous. That's the D.C. way, of course. But it's also because people there are afraid of Washington's senior senator.
On the one hand, she's the soccer mom in tennis shoes," said a Washington state GOP operative who asked for anonymity. "On the other hand, she's created a political machine that scares the heck out of everybody — including me."
The story, by reporter Peter Cohn, is most interesting in the exploration of the role Murray's staff has played in her success. Cohn writes that some Appropriations Committee staffers credit Murray's success in part to her top appropriations aide, Peter Rogoff.
The aide said that Rogoff's legislative know-how and political acumen complement Murray's roll-up-her-sleeves persona.
Murray gets a positive mention in this recent story by the Associated Press, She's portrayed as a savvy player in the AP's take on the twilight of Robert Byrd.
Earlier this year, Democratic leaders tapped a younger committee member — Patty Murray of Washington — to oversee a contentious floor debate on Iraq war funding that was bound to require nimble responses to Republicans.
Posted by David Postman at 10:43 AM
I saw Michael Moore's new movie, "Sicko," last week and had a chance to ask him a few question and listen to his Q & A with the audience at the Seattle premiere. One of the most remarkable things I heard — and had to check to make sure it was true — is that the movie reviewer for Fox News called the film "brilliant and uplifting." It's true.
Filmmaker Michael Moore's brilliant and uplifting new documentary, "Sicko," deals with the failings of the U.S. healthcare system, both real and perceived. But this time around, the controversial documentarian seems to be letting the subject matter do the talking, and in the process shows a new maturity.
Moore's take on America's health-care system is less about Moore than his previous documentaries about GM, school shootings and the Iraq war. He says he wanted it that way and hopes the movie shows his growth as a filmmaker.
Sicko is Moore's best movie yet. (For the record, I've not been a huge fan.) He has a knack for finding sympathetic protagonists and without the focus on his CEO-bashing antics, the characters in "Sicko" get a chance to emerge more fully. I learned some things about the United States' health-care system. Most interesting was the bit of secret tape the movie includes with Richard Nixon talking about the new health insurance scheme being pushed by one of his influential campaign donors. The next day, Nixon unveiled his plan, which set the course for HMOs and managed care.
The movie builds to a classic Moore prank. He takes a group of patients — 9-11 rescue volunteers — to the prison at Guantanamo Bay after hearing that terror suspects there get first-class medical attention. He then diverts the flotilla to Cuba, where the patients are greeted warmly and given top-notch treatment, and at little cost.
Moore told me that while the movie is no less political than his earlier work, "It's less partisan. It's not Democratic or Republican because illness knows no political stripe." I had to wonder about that in the film's opening scene, which is a full-screen shot of President George W. Bush saying something silly:
"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across the country."
But the politician who Moore hits the hardest is his old crush, Hillary Clinton. He's almost erotic in the telling of Clinton's attempts to push a new health-care bill while her husband was president. He admits in the narration he found Hillary sexy and smart and says, "Some men couldn't handle it."
But later in the film he details how much money Clinton has taken from the health-care industry, which he says "bought off Hillary.'' In his first book he admitted to his "forbidden love for Hillary" and that made it particularly hard to make her a target. He said in the Q & A:
"It was kind of depressing to point out the awful truth about Hillary, because I have actually liked her for a long time. ... But between her votes for the war and taking these contributions from the health-care industry, she's broken my heart. I'm disappointed in her. ...
The movie drifts far afield at times. Moore focuses much of "Sicko" on how poorly the U.S. health-care system compares to the government-run programs in Canada, Britain, France and Cuba. But the France part in particular starts to feel like a promotional film from the French tourism bureau. France is paradise in "Sicko," a place where the government does good, doctors can still live the high life, vacations are long and everyone is beautiful. The government will even do laundry for new mothers.
Moore uses bits of old Soviet propaganda film to make fun of the U.S. view of socialism. (I think that's the point.) But there are moments where his film itself seems a bit propagandistic. It was only in the Q &A afterwards that Moore mentioned France may not be perfect. He brought up the fact that thousands of elderly French died during a summer heat wave. But even there, he said, there is a fundamental difference between the central goodness between the French and us Americans.
"They're human beings just like us, and they went off on their holidays and forgot aout their old people. But the difference is that they felt an immediate sense of shame and then they collectively decided to do something about it. I personally haven't felt much shame about New Orleans in the last 48 hours or 48 days. And let's be honest, my friends, when is the last time you talked about New Orelans to your friends and neighbors.
I kept going back and forth on whether the film was uplifting. It seemed Moore wants it to be. The movie urges people "to be good to each other" and think "We, not me," and predicts, "A better day is coming."
But Moore seems weary. And despite those cheerful aphorisms — and the one where he urges people to eat fruits and vegetables and take walks like he now does — he can't muster much good to say about the long-term effects of his earlier films. He told the audience in Seattle:
"Personally, I'm worn out. It's 18 years since Roger and Me. I made that film in the hopes that people would pay some attention to what corporate America was doing, specifically General Motors. Now General Motors is ready to file for bankruptcy and Flint isn't the only town destroyed.
His optimism now is rooted in the belief that "Sicko" will reach more people, even his former critics. In 2004 Moore was booed out of the Republican National Convention. The reaction to his presence was so virulent he had to be escorted under tight security from Madison Square Garden. But he says that the Weinstein brothers who produced "Sicko" have tested it with Republican audiences and "the scores have been through the roof."
"So I'm actually hopeful and somewhat guardedly optimistic that enough people who were told not to listen to me before, or that remember me as the crazy guy at the Oscars who in the fifth day of the war said that we were being led to war for fictitious reasons, now know that we were led to war for fictitious reasons and will say, 'Well, OK, I don't like the ball cap, but you did seem to hit it on the nose there, so maybe I'll go see this movie or buy a ticket to Spiderman and then sneak into it.'"
No Moore movie is without controversy of course. His trip to Cuba is under investigation by the Treasury Department. There are questions about its accuracy, and from France, complaints that he's soft on socialism. The Cubans, though, apparently like the movie.
"Sicko" opens June 29.
Posted by David Postman at 3:05 PM
Weldon Latham, senior partner of Davis Wright Tremain's D.C. office, was named today national co-chair of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Latham specializies in employment law and diversity. He is chairman of the Corporate Diversity Counseling Group at Davis Wright.
His official bio says Latham
Advises and counsels a number of Fortune 200 CEOs whose companies are confronted with highly publicized charges of race and gender discrimination from prominent plaintiff attorneys and/or civil rights groups, as well as related disputes with federal regulatory agencies (e.g. EEOC, Department of Labor -- OFCCP, local human rights agencies).
Legal Times says his appointment is part of the rush of presidential campaigns to get top-notch legal talent. In 2000 he was named No. 20 on "The Power 30" -- a list of the most influential business voices in D.C. The magazine said:
Weldon Latham, senior partner, law firm Holland & Knight in D.C. Pet issue: government contracts for minority-owned businesses. Latham's influence extends to the highest office in the land. The Democratic Party fundraiser is an informal adviser to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. A longtime advocate of minority-owned businesses, Latham is general counsel for the National Coalition of Minority Business, and he's on the National Advisory Council of the SBA.
Latham has long been a supporter argued in defense of the federal minority business program. He wrote in 1997 that the programs "should be maintained not only because they are good for minorities and women, but because they are great for America." He recently testified at the EEOC in support of corporate-diversity programs.
Latham emphasized the importance of sustained leadership commitment in leveraging diversity for competitive advantage. He acknowledged progressive companies that understand this but pointed out that far more companies do not, citing lacking representation of women and people of color on Fortune 500 boards, for example.
Latham has been active in Democratic politics in Maryland and nationally. In the announcement from the Clinton campaign, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez says:
"Weldon has been a trusted advisor to me and many of my colleagues in Congress, particularly on those issues often critical to the diverse communities we represent. I am confident he will bring insight and judgment to Hillary Clinton's campaign."
(Attorneys at Davis Wright represent The Seattle Times.)
Posted by David Postman at 1:38 PM
The U.S. House today passed a Homeland Security Appropriations bill today that includes a 17-month delay in the government's plan to expand passport requirements for American travelers.
The Bush administration had said it would be ready to implement the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to land and sea travelers to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Caribbean countries beginning Jan. 1 of next year. But huge backlogs in processing passports -- caused at least in part by the WHTI being imposed on air travelers to those countries -- have led congressional critics to move to delay the implementation for land and sea travelers.
The Senate has passed a similar bill that also calls for a delay.
This Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative has created huge problems for U.S. travelers.
The passport delays were so bad that many of those who paid for faster service, at a cost of $60 plus the regular processing fees of $97 for a new passport, did not receive their passports within the expected 14 days. Some who paid extra waited for a month or more.
All of the Democrats in Washington's delegation voted for the bill, as well as Republican Dave Reichert. Eastern Washington Republicans Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted no on final passage.
"The recent passport debacle is proof positive that the Departments of Homeland Security and State don't have their acts together when it comes to implementing WHTI. ... This bill sends a strong message that they need to get this done right."
Posted by David Postman at 10:37 AM
Rudy Giuliani's campaign announced this morning that Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, will be national co-chairman of "Law Enforcement for Rudy" and will be chairman of Giuliani's Washington state campaign.
A statement released by Giuliani's campaign quotes Reichert saying:
"As someone who has been involved in law enforcement and homeland security issues for over 35 years, I know Rudy Giuliani will be a tough, determined, and principled leader. ... He transformed a crime-ridden New York City into the safest large city in the country and has always shown courage in the face of challenges. He'll be a true leader for our country."
As far as I know he is the first Republican in the delegation to endorse a presidential candidate.
Posted by David Postman at 12:51 PM
For the first time I can recall frequent candidate Richard Pope is running as a Democrat. He filed for the King County Council seat held by Republican Jane Hague.
At horsessass.org, Darryl says the council's District 6 "is demonstrably a strong Democratic district."
Considering how blue the 6th is, the King County Republicans ought not ignore Richard Pope. (Besides the taste of shame in losing to Mr. Pope will be all the more bitter because of a $40,000 fine levied on them by the PDC last month for campaign finance reporting violations. Richard Pope filed the complaint that resulted in the fine.)
And he finds, KC Republicansare definitely not ignoring Pope.
Case in point: if you do a WHOIS query on the domain names "RichardPope.Org" and "RichardPope.Net", the names were registered on June 9th, 2007 by Mr. Matthew Lundh of Seattle. A quick web search reveals that Matthew Lundh is both the Political Director and the Secretary for the King County Republicans.
Earlier Darryl wrote about the PI calling Pope a "municipal gadfly."
Richard is an eastsider, and his gadflightery isn't limited to any municipality, level of government, or even political party. He is more of a generalized political gadfly (and a perennial candidate).
I recently referred to Chris Clifford as a gadfly. He is the guy who is trying to recall Port Commissioner Pat Davis. He called to tell me he thought gadfly had a negative connotation which he did not appreciate. I imagine any word with "fly" in it has some sort of pest inference to it. But I haven't thought of gadfly as a derogatory term. But we have dictionaries to settle such things. Here's Webster's II New College Dictionary:
1. Any of various flies, esp. of the family Tabanidae, that bite or annoy livestock. 2. One acting as a provocative stimulus. 3. One who habitually criticizes existing institutions.
And Wikipedia has this:
The term "gadfly" was used by Plato to describe Socrates' relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian politician scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse. It was used earlier by the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 46 of his book. The term has been used to describe many politicians and social commentators.
Boy, that Socrates could make anything sound good.
Posted by David Postman at 12:05 PM
If you watched CNN's presidential debates you know that the cable news channel is co-sponsoring a debate with YouTube, the popular Internet video site. CNN promoted it as a political sea change. As Wolf Blitzer said at the close of the Republican debate:
"It promises to be a revolutionary approach to campaign debates, in partnership with YouTube and Google. You're going to want to see this."
I do want to see it. And I hope it's more interesting and telling than the usual presidential debate. But I'm skeptical. I find this, from the NY Times, hard to believe:
"It's one of the biggest innovations we've seen in politics," said Mike Gehrke, director of research for the Democratic National Committee, which has sanctioned the YouTube/CNN event as the first of six official Democratic debates this year (which means the party has coordinated them).
If the debate is one of the biggest political innovations in history that says a lot about the stale nature of political debate in the country.
Here's how it will work: People can submit video questions to YouTube with a chance they will be selected to be shown during the July 23 debate. CNN's Anderson Cooper -- in a "Hey, YouTube" message on the video site -- urges people to be creative, "but keep it clean."
Cooper says he won't be doing much as the moderator of the debate because all questions will come from the citizen video.
The NY Times describes YouTube as "the anything-goes home-video-sharing Web site that puts the power in the hands of the camera holder." But in this debate only a little of the power really will be in the hands of the camera holder. The real power will be in who selects the questions, and of course in who answers them. And that's where it's tough to think of this as any sort of revolution.
For years audience members have asked questions at political debate. TV stations have even sent video crews out to tape people asking their questions. The YouTube questions will be more creative and a little more, as the Times said, "anything goes." But will there be revolutionary questions? Will there be things asked that can knock the candidates from their well-practiced balance of showing just enough emotion to not look like they are pre-programmed?
I don't see how a debate produced by CNN with questions vetted and selected by someone or some ones who have to produce a TV show, can be expected to be revolutionary. Josh Feit writes in passing that the debate is an example of "how DIY digital 2007 is flipping off traditional media and transforming the upcoming Presidential campaign."
Hardly. This do-it-yourself journalism will be filtered by one of the largest media conglomerates in the world -- a bulwark of traditional media. You can get a flavor of what the debate might look like from this YouTube promotional video.
It's certainly more interesting and entertaining than watching Wolf Blitzer ask for a show of hands to see where the candidates stand on the question of genocide in Darfur. But listen to the questions and you'll find they end up a lot like what candidates usually get asked at such events:
"What will you do to end the spread of check centers and stop predatory lending in low income neighborhoods?"
They certainly come with a different character than what we're used to seeing in presidential debates. But at the Republican debate this month, candidates got this question from audience member Doug Hall:
"I know a business owner in northern New Hampshire who was on vacation in Spain last year for about three weeks. While he was there he had to buy refills for prescription drugs -- brand-name drugs. And he discovered in buying those drugs that he could buy his refills there for $600 less than he could by them here in New Hampshire. So since then, he's said he is going to take a trip over to Spain and get his vacation paid for to buy his drugs.
At the Democratic debate, this question came from Carol Kilminster, whose son James is serving in Iraq.
"My question is, why is it that veterans cannot receive medical services at the hospital of their choice?"
Both were important questions, delivered by real people with a real stake in the answer. But at both the Democratic and Republican debates, candidates had to be pushed and prodded to answer questions posed by audience members. Politicians are great at saying what they think serves them best in an answer, even if that means ignoring a question or going on at length to pre-explain a pending answer.
I look forward to what interesting questions the YouTube nation brings to the debate. But good questions have not been in short supply. The answers have been the problem.
Posted by David Postman at 8:49 AM
The U.S. Supreme Court this morning unanimously overturned a state Supreme Court decision on a case involving union's use of worker's fees for political purposes. The AP reports:
In a Washington state case, the U.S. Supreme Court said today that states may force public sector labor unions to get consent from workers before using their fees for political activities.
But the impact of the ruling has been muted by a bill passed by the Democratic Legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The bill eliminated the provision the court upheld today. And the court made clear that states can require union members to opt out of having their fees go to political activity.
The narrow issue before the justices was whether, as the law formerly prescribed, employees must opt in, or affirmatively consent, to having some of their money used in election campaigns.
The Washington Post has the full version of the AP story posted here.
The case was brought by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation which has long battled the Washington Education Association. EFF President Bob Williams said in a statement released this morning:
"We are elated that the U.S. Supreme Court has honored the First Amendment rights of teachers by overturning the state Supreme Court's decision. The Court understood that the constitutional rights of teachers should be protected and are not superseded by the union's statutory rights. This ruling will help protect non-member teachers from having their agency fees used on union politics against their will."
While the ruling's impact in Washington will be lessened by the legislative action, it may effect other similar cases pending in other states, says the Scotus Blog which has been following the case closely. And to credit where it is due, at the Election Law Blog it seems Rick Hasen had this case pegged from the start.
No matter what the law says today about using union dues for political purposes, the violations by the WEA were under the old law. As Justice Scalia writes in the unanimous opinion, "it still matters whether the Supreme Court of Washington was correct to hold that that version was inconsistent with the First Amendment. Our analysis of whether (the law's) affirmative-authorization requirement violates the constitutional rights of respondent is not affected by the amendment."
Steve O'Ban, an attorney who represented non-union teachers in the case, said in a statement released by EFF:
"The union violated the law and will pay a near record fine for violating the state campaign finance laws. It remains to be seen what impact the amendment will have in the future, but we cannot imagine courts would conclude that the permission of nonmembers is no longer required before their money is taken from them by the union, placed in the union's bank account and then spent for the union's politics."
Discussion about the impact being muted by the Legislature misses the point of the ruling, said Patrick Semmens, deputy legal information director at the right to work group, which represented non-union teachers who challenged the WEA. He e-mailed to say:
The problem is that since day one the "paycheck protection" law has done very little to increase the rights of nonunion employees in Washington. In fact, the year after the paycheck protection regulation took effect, WEA spending on politics increased by 60% because union officials simply changed their accounting procedures.
UPDATE: Jon Hiatt, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, says the decision won't change any existing union practices. He said in a statement:
The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that such individual consent by nonmembers was not required by the Supreme Court*s previous agency fee decisions which limit only the expenditure of agency fees paid by objecting nonmembers. But the Court held that an affirmative consent requirement could constitutionally be adopted by a state as a further limitation on the political use of agency fees.
Posted by David Postman at 10:02 AM
Democratic presidential candidate and anti-war activist Dal LaMagna has written on his blog to explain distinctions he and others make among Iraqi insurgents, the Iraqi resistance and terrorists. He does so, in part, following criticism from state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser that LaMagna's meeting with a prominent Iraqi sheik "provided credibility and publicity to a terrorist leader."
In reading LaMagna's post and links he provides -- including this Newsweek commentary -- I don't see much of a distinction between the insurgency and the resistance. He makes a clearer distinction between either of those and terrorism -- terrorists target Iraqi citizens while the insurgency and resistance target U.S. occupation forces. LaMagna writes:
We often celebrate the French Resistance, praising those who had the courage to stand up against those who occupied them, even when that resistance resulted in the death of German soldiers.
LaMagna is in Jordan on a pre-announcement tour for his presidential campaign. His plan is to go to Baghdad to announce his formal entry into the Democratic primary. On his a Monday entry on his blog, LaMagna reveals the identity of the "mystery sheik" he met with but who he said he could not name at the time. He does so now:
PAULINE LUBENS/SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
The man I met with, Sheik Hareth al-Dhari, is possibly the most influential figure in Iraqi society and culture - even when he's out of Iraq. He is seen as a leader of enduring stature, personally and institutionally, and enjoys high popular approval in Iraq's Sunni community.
Al-Dhari is known as someone who can get hostages freed. But, according to this Knight Ridder story The Times ran in 2004, he also "emerged as the closest thing U.S. military officials have to a public face for the shadowy insurgency that controls most of Anbar province, including the flashpoint towns of Ramadi and Fallujah."
He is a Sunni Muslim cleric, founder of the conservative Association of Islamic Studies, and Knight Ridder reported that he carries a gun under his robe and "operates out of an imposing mosque with minarets shaped like rifle barrels." One quote from an al-Dhari sermon seems to raise a question about the distinction that the resistance doesn't target Iraqis.
"Fire on every traitor and everyone who pushed towards occupying this country," al-Dhari said in April, condemning U.S.-appointed Iraqi leaders. "Woe to all of them ... because of what they are doing against their people."
In an interview on Syrian television last year, al-Dhari said that because of the Iraqi resistance, "American's influence and covetous designs in the region were limited."
Therefore, I say that the countries of the region, or of the entire world, are indebted to the resistance, because America was patronizing towards the entire world. Thanks to the Iraqi resistance, it became clear who America is, what its power is, and what the limitations of its hegemony are.
Posted by David Postman at 9:54 AM
Posted by David Postman at 2:42 PM
There's a new effort to pressure a group of state and county lawmakers to approve a financing plan for a new Sonics arena. Form letters are going to legislators and county council members saying that as a "voting taxpayer my expectation is that our government will actively work to retain the cultural amenities of our region."
The letters come from SonicsCentral.com. They are going to members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the House Finance Committee, the House Community Economic Development & Trade Committee and the King County Council. Sonics supporters are told on the automated web mailer, "It helps very much if you can add a personal touch as well." Not everyone does that, though. One lawmaker got this e-mail:
Subject: Your Name wants to keep the Sonics in Washington
Posted by David Postman at 10:31 AM
Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese-American woman who founded the American Congress for Truth to educate Americans about the threat of radical Islam, suggested that citizens monitor the lectures of university professors and report the names of mosque owners to the FBI.
Zarelli and conference organizers were criticized for presenting a one-sided portrayal of the situation in the Middle East and for not inviting Muslims to speak at the event. Zarelli told The Colubmian he didn't consider inviting any Muslims.
"It's not my purpose or goal to understand why somebody wants to kill Americans," he said. "I'm not aware of a whole lot of folks who stand up in the Muslim community and are willing to participate."
ALSO: The Columbian also reports on the video speech delivered by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He told about 300 people that radical Islamists are a threat not just to Israel, but to all Western democracies.
"What they are saying is, they want to roll back the past 500 years," Netanyahu said. "They want to reverse it not through the competition of ideas but by holy wars. This is the goal. Israel is standing in the way. Once they dispose of Israel they want to move on. ... Their ultimate target is to bring down the West, bring down the U.S."
Posted by David Postman at 9:58 AM
This card came in the mail yesterday:
Posted by David Postman at 9:10 AM
Democratic presidential candidate Dal LaMagna e-mails from Amman, Jordan, to say the unnamed sheik he met with the other day is not a leader of the Iraq insurgency or resistance. When I wrote about LaMagna's blog post about a meeting LaMagna had in Amman, I referred to the insurgency and the resistance interchangeably. LaMagna writes.
The Sheik I met IS NOT a leader of the INSURGENCY or the Resistance for that matter. (Note: There is a difference and I will be writing a blog about this later). He is a cleric with influence over the resistence. I am not meeting with resistence leaders nor al-Qaeda members or leaders. I am meeting with Members of Iraq Parliament and tribal sheiks and Iraqis in exile here in Amman.
I'm not sure what the difference is and I look forward to seeing what LaMagna writes. But to re-read his original post, it sure seems like the sheik he met with has ties to what we think of as the insurgency, and even perhaps to al-Qadea.
LaMagna wrote in the original post that he couldn't name the man.
Thus, I will simply call him the Sheik and tell you he has influence over the Resistance.
And LaMagna assumed the Sheik spoke for the "resistance."
The Sheik then said, "We (My note: I assume he was speaking for the Resistance) will have nothing to do with this. We will help by giving advice and putting pressure on people to cooperate," which I took to mean stop shooting at American soldiers.
And LaMagna said that al-Qaeda is a part of the "resistance."
The Sheik said that al-Qaeda does not represent the Iraqi National Resistance. Only 10% of the resistance is al-Qaeda. The Iraqi Resistance is temporary. Its only aim is to liberate Iraq. There is no aim to rule Iraq. As to the Americans, al-Qaeda exists to resist Americans anywhere in the world. If the occupation ends, al-Qaeda will leave. Al-Qaeda is refused by Iraqis.
State Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser issued a statement last night saying LaMagna "has provided credibility and publicity to a terrorist leader directly responsible for killing American soldiers in Iraq."
Esser's point is to tie LaMagna to Sen. Maria Cantwell. LaMagna was co-chairman of Cantwell's re-election campaign. He was brought into the campaign to help shore up support for Cantwell from anti-war Democrats. I've asked Cantwell's office for a comment on LaMagna's activity.
Posted by David Postman at 7:36 AM
After a string of Democratic presidential candidates in recent weeks, the Republicans are coming to Washington. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be in Bellevue June 20. It's a top-dollar fundraiser at the Bellevue Harbor Club. Lunch is $500 per person, lunch and a photo are $2,300.
Romney has already done pretty well raising money here. The most recent reports available at OpenSecrets.org show that he has raised $271,500 from Washington. That's more than any other presidential candidate so far. (Those numbers do not include recent visits by Barack Obama and John Edwards which could put them in the top spot.)
There's talk, too, of a Rudy Giuliani visit this month. But so far it is not on any public schedules and I haven't seen an invitation. Anyone out there have one they can share?
Posted by David Postman at 6:59 AM
Here's Adam Smith on the Colbert Report last night. Facing Colbert has to be one of the toughest jobs in politics today.
Posted by David Postman at 11:36 AM
Times editorial cartoonist Eric Devericks has a new blog. Or as Devericks writes:
It's a blog ... I think.
There will be more than just cartoons there.
I'll be posting my cartoons here, nothing new, but now I'll post some of the sketches and thoughts that went into them. I'll answer questions, take your critiques, receive your hate mail, bask in the glow of your love letters, and with any luck we may even see a thoughtful comment or two. I'll post everything I can.
I'm always glad to see the Times putting more political material on the web.
Posted by David Postman at 9:09 AM
Posted by David Postman at 4:45 PM
Boeing's veteran lobbyist is leaving the company to head the Washington Research Council. Al Ralston has been a presence in the Capitol for Boeing for 20 years. At the WRC, Ralston will replace Richard Davis who left last year for the Association of Washington Business. (Davis writes a blog for AWB that is worth reading if you care about business and politics.)
The research council is a business-backed think tank that focuses on state and local government issues. Ralston has been serving as chairman of the board of the group.
Before Boeing, Ralston worked for Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska and in the City of Seattle's lobbying office. He starts his new job in August.
Ralston has always been exceedingly polite to me. And he has almost always refused to comment for the record. In 13 years at The Seattle Time I find one story of mine with a quote from Ralston. It was quite the accomplishment. Ralston was an adherent to the Boeing style of lobbying perfected by the company's former chief lobbyist, Bud Coffey. As I wrote in the 2001 story that included a Ralston quote:
When Gov. Gary Locke announced his transportation plan last week, he looked around for Ralston among the people gathered for the news conference.
Now Ralston will be assuming the role of a spokesman for business issues. I look forward to calling him in August and being able to tell you what he says.
Posted by David Postman at 12:21 PM
Gov. Chris Gregoire met in Alaska with Gov. Sarah Palin this week. It was the first visit there by a Washington governor since Dixy Lee Ray. Gregoire said she didn't know that when she arrived in Alaska. But once there, people kept commenting on how good it was to see a Washington governor. Gregoire says she wants to "rekindle that relationship and "build those strong ties as they once were."
So why the Arctic chill all these years? Gregoire says she's not sure. But she made clear that recent history of fights over Alaska oil development didn't help. In 2005, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, stopped a bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That brought a threat of retaliation from Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens who introduced a bill that would have opened up Puget Sound to more oil tanker traffic.
Gregoire said this morning:
"I told them you touched the hearts and minds and souls of Washingtonians when you suggested the idea, or your senator suggested the idea, of bringing some sort of oil containership through Puget Sound. That's just not acceptable to Washington state."
And not drilling in ANWR isn't acceptable to many Alaskans who see it as a potential economic boom for the state. Gregoire said Palin didn't talk to her about drilling in the refuge:
"She did not. Most everybody else did. Candidly, what I said to them was you know there are things about which we're going to disagree, but that doesn't mean because we disagree we can't still be close friends and work together.
Gregoire did tell Alaskans that Washington state would not be imposing a new tax on shipping containers to Alaska. The idea ticked off Alaskans when it came up earlier this year.
There's a major political scandal in Alaska these days. Gregoire said she didn't hear a lot of talk about the scandal, but she could tell is on people's minds. Palin, a Republican, was elected on a reform platform and ran against the GOP establishment. Gregoire said Palin, whose is wildly popular in the state, has the pulse of the people.
"They're kind of banking, it would seem to me, on her cleaning up politics up there and making sure that doesn't happen again. But while people don't talk about, it's raw and right under the edge."
Tomorrow, BC Premier Gordon Campbell crosses the border with his cabinet to meet with Gregoire. One thing on the agenda is global warming. Campbell just signed an agreement with California to work together to reduce greenhouse gases.
Posted by David Postman at 9:46 AM
Peace activist, retired businessman and Democratic candidate for president Dal LaMagna is in Amman, Jordan, where he met Monday with an unnamed leader of the Iraqi insurgents who have been targeting American soliders. LaMagna plans to travel to Baghdad to officially kick off his campaign for president..
LaMagna met with a man he described as a leader of the Iraqi resistance. He says on his blog that the man was "the most important person I will meet during this trip."
This meeting required a suit and very good manners. ... I've been asked to hold off releasing his name until I have finished meeting some other people because they might not want to meet me if they knew. Thus, I will simply call him the Sheik and tell you he has influence over the Resistance.
LaMagna says he was the first American to meet with "the Sheik." He has a long report about this conversation, including this about al-Qaeda's role in Iraq.
The Sheik said that al-Qaeda does not represent the Iraqi National Resistance. Only 10% of the resistance is al-Qaeda. The Iraqi Resistance is temporary. Its only aim is to liberate Iraq. There is no aim to rule Iraq. As to the Americans, al-Qaeda exists to resist Americans anywhere in the world. If the occupation ends, al-Qaeda will leave. Al-Qaeda is refused by Iraqis.
LaMagna says he suggested that the insurgents do something unexpected, like call for a ceasefire against U.S. soldiers. He told the Sheik.
"Have a Gandhi moment for Iraq. The American people will surely notice this."
It's certainly an unusual -- and I'm sure to be controversial -- way to launch a presidential campaign.
Posted by David Postman at 9:03 AM
Immigration is to the Republican presidential field as the Iraq war is to the Democrats. In last night's debate, immigration was the measure of the differences in the candidates, from Rep. Tom Tancredo's call to stop all legal and illegal immigration to Sen. John McCain's bold defense of Hispanic immigrants.
The McCain moment stands out for me as his best moment last night and certainly one of the more striking responses of the entire debate. It set him apart from the field, though maybe not in a way that will help much in attracting votes from the base during the primaries and caucuses.
After taking a beating from most of the other candidates on the stage, McCain said:
My friends, we know what we're talking about is the latest wave of migrants into this country. We have to stop the illegal immigration, but we've had waves throughout our history. Hispanics is what we're talking about, a different culture, a different language, which has enriched my state where Spanish was spoken before English was.
But what also stands out are the candidate's comments about President Bush and their explanations for why Republicans suffered such deep losses in the 2006 elections.
Tommy Thompson, George W. Bush's former secretary of Health and Human Services, was asked how, as president, he'd use Bush.
MR. THOMPSON: I certainly would not send him to the United Nations. (Laughter.)
OK, he was making a joke. But his serious answer was hardly an endorsement of Bush's standing in the country.
would put him out on a lecture series talking to the youth of America about honesty, integrity, perseverance, passion, and serving the public.
Tancredo was the most biting .He recalled Karl Rove telling him once "I should never darken the doorstep of the White House. ... I would have to tell George Bush exactly the same thing Karl Rove told me."
Wolf Blitzer asked Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, what the CNN host said was a "simple question." But in many ways it is the question any Republican candidate will have to figure out in order to win next year. "What's happened to the GOP?"
MR. HUCKABEE: Lost credibility because we didn't do what we were hired to do. When you're elected, you're hired to do a job. You're hired to cut spending, lower taxes, bring more government back to the local people. We did the polar opposite, and the people fired us. And I think in many ways, although there are some good people that got caught up in the tsunami of the 2006 elections, the Republican Party as a whole deserved to get beat. We've lost credibility â€" the way we bungled Katrina, the fact that there was corruption that was unchecked in Washington, and the fact that there was a feeling that there was not a proper handling of the Iraqi war in all of these details, and the indifference to people pouring over our borders.
Fred Thompson was not at the debate. But, says Pew, he "demonstrates broad potential appeal."
Posted by David Postman at 9:03 AM
Here's my story on Al Gore's appearance last night at Town Hall. Organizers said Gore would not be doing any interviews during his Seattle visit. But that often means no interviews other than with Joel Connelly, who has the exclusive one-on-one with the former vice president.
The audience displayed controlled passion. Many of us want Gore to run, but we can communicate that to him without having to yell it.
He went to get his book signed, but resisted asking Gore if he was going to run for president.
Others have already done that, and will continue to do so. I wanted to send a different message. And so, when I got to the front of the line, I simply said:
The Strangers was in full force at the Gore event, with Dan Savage, Annie Wagner and Christopher Frizzelle on the job. Savage live-blogged the event.
They did ask Gore the big question.
A couple of people told me excitedly that Gore is definitely dieting, and we all know what that means. Town Hall's Susie Tennant handed me a book and Frizzelle and I joined the line at the end. Gore signed our books and when we asked him if he was going to run, Gore said...
Wagner doesn't think Gore will run.
There was much pop-culture bashing tonight; and as much as I hate to call a halt to all of the Donna Brazile-inspired fat-pinching prognostics, Gore sounds like a professor, a kindly scold, an elder statesman. He doesn't sound like a man who's running for president. That speech had a lot of red meat, but no A-1, if you know what I mean.
Seattlest editor Dan Gonsiorowski said Gore's lecture almost put him to sleep.
"Sooner or later the truth will come riding to the rescue," he said someone else said.
Gonsiorowski sat with the press last night, which he second-guessed during Gore's media bashing.
At this point I remember glancing around for a nearby exit because it seemed like Gore was going to start pointing at the media seats at any moment. "I'm not with these guys! I just snuck in here! Uh, go La-roOouche!" But he flipped it again and started talking about the importance of protecting the neutrality of the internet.
OOPS: I meant to include this post from the Weekly's Aimee Curl. She writes:
The new Gore may be more professorial than presidential, but his passion resonates. He serves as a salve that reminds us of a time when they weren't out there attacking our freedoms and we weren't attacking other countries. But it's more than just that. He speaks truth in a way that compels, even inspires.
Posted by David Postman at 8:18 AM
O. Casey Corr has the news at Crosscut about the June 23 event.
Tickets are $1,000 for a "Team Member," $2,300 for a "Base Builder," and $4,600 for a "Champion."
One of the organizers is Colby Underwood, Corr's former fundraising consultant.
Posted by David Postman at 10:02 PM
I was at Town Hall tonight to watch Al Gore talk about his new book, "The Assault on Reason." I'm writing a story for tomorrow's paper where you will be able to find more details on the event.
A few things stuck out for me. One of the more interesting moments tonight was when Gore quoted Abraham Lincoln saying, "We must disenthrall ourselves and then we will save ourselves." Gore said:
"Thrall is mental imprisonment by shared illusions. We have some shared illusions: Iraq attacked us. The climate crisis isn't real. It's OK to use the atmosphere as an open sewer. There's no such thing as a serious budget deficit. It's OK for 40 million Americans not to have health care. It's OK to torture people. It's OK for eavesdrop on millions of Americans without warrants. It's OK to lock up American citizens with charges, even for life, if the executive says 'Do it.'"
He got quieter and quieter as he spoke, and then in a near whisper, his voice seeming to catch at points, he went on:
"Candidates gather on a stage, and express their support for torture and the audience applauds and then another candidate is even more enthusiastic in favor of torture and the audience applauds even more enthusiastically.
In case you were wondering, Gore did not talk about the 2008 presidential campaign. And in the few questions the audience asked, none were about whether Gore would get in the race.
He was asked why more wasn't done about climate change during the Clinton-Gore years. Gore said:
"Well, we lost the Congress to Newt Gingrich in 1994. I was vice president, not president and I had no complaints about President Clinton not taking my advice and doing what I suggested on it. But I was not able to define the organizing principle of the Administration and I went into the job understanding that.
I think the crowd was particularly respectful of Gore. For the most part they sat rapt through his lecture on the history of communications. There was little reaction through his speech, but thunderous ovations at the opening and close.
Before the event, I talked to people at Town Hall and did some interviews about Gore's presidential possibilities. Gore's reluctance to say he won't run -- as opposed to his stock answer that he's not currently a candidate -- has created a phenomenon among Democratic voters settling on starter candidates who would be quickly left behind if Gore, the trophy candidate, enters the race.
"I, personally, have one foot in the Obama camp," said Dean Falvy. Falvy is a Seattle attorney who was working the line outside Town Hall with draft Gore petitions.
Chad Shue, Snohomish County Democratic activist and liberal bloger, had a seat up close for Gore's appearance. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is his place-holder candidate. And he'd love to see Richardson run as vice president on a ticket headed by Gore.
Shue is attracted to Gore in part because he says the 2000 election was never really finalized.
"He is the legitimate owner of the throne," he said.
Shue's wife, Debbie, backs former Sen. John Edwards today. But, she, too, would jump to Gore. "If Gore got in we could start the healing, because Chad and I would both support him." And she says it wouldn't just be peace in the Shue household. "I really wish he would get in now," Debbie Shue said. "I don't think it's good to go through" all the infighting a contested primary will bring. "He could really start healing this country."
Congressman Adam Smith, an early and ardent backer of Sen. Barack Obama, said he thinks it's a myth that there are a lot of Democrats waiting to see if Gore will join the race. "Democrats are satisfied with the field," Smith said, citing polls that show 85 percent of Democrats say they are happy with the current crop.
"First of all, Al Gore is not gong to run for president," he says. Smith says Gore is not acting like even a maybe-candidate.
But there are some well-connected Democrats who want to make sure. Smith said that Congressman Norm Dicks, a close friend of Gore's, won't commit to a candidate until Gore says something definitive. Congressman Jim McDermott wants Gore to run and thinks he may still get in the race. He believes that, in part, because "it's the nature of politicians."
"Al Gore has spent the better part of 20 years talking about global warming," he said. "the issue is now center state, in large measure due to his efforts. ... And for Al gore to sit back and say, 'that's as far as I'm going to push this ball, I'm gong to go home and drink lemonade and read books,' that's not a politician. Once you have it in your blood you can understand what can happen, the possibility of making something happen is so overwhelming."
Falvy and his sister, Jane George-Falvy, a UW business school professor, found the crowd Monday outside Town Hall an easy sell on the draft Gore petition. But even there some had questions about how Gore could best continue his environmental and political efforts.
"They say, 'He's more effective as an outsider,'" George-Falvy said.
They've head that before. Gore is not remembered as a brilliant campaigner, even in the light of his current celebrity. The public Gore is more relaxed now, and at the same time he seems more forceful and focused.
"We hope he brings that freedom to the race and he runs a different kind of race," Falvy said. Added his sister, "I think he's found his voice. I think that's always been inside Al."
Posted by David Postman at 1:50 PM
A conference on the Middle East organized in part by Republican state Sen. Joe Zarelli and other conservatives opens this week in Vancouver, Wash. The Columbian's Don Hamilton reports that the advertised headliner, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be appearing only by video link. But that Northwest Convergence is still causing controversy:
Goals of the conference are to discuss conditions in Israel, examine the threat of terrorism and to further Israeli links with local leaders.
I wrote about the conference in April.
A group called Voices for Mideast Justice has formed to oppose the conference. One of the organizers, retired Presbyterian minister Wilbur Wood, said in a statement:
"This conference is presenting only the most extremist and militarist voices in Israel, not the voices of peace in that country. In seeking to shape the opinions of religious leaders and influence our federal government with these extreme views, the conference is contrary to our foreign policy needs in the world today and the desperate need for peace in the Middle East."Organizers of the protests include Craig and Cindy Corrie, parents of Rachel Corrie who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip.
Posted by David Postman at 1:20 PM
Here's what any of the Democratic candidates could have done last night to stand out from the crowd: Answer a question, then explain it. Instead, they all fell trap to the politician's disease of explaining, and then explaining some more, and then maybe answering the question after it was repeated by Wolf Blitzer.
Blitzer tried to get Hillary Clinton to answer a question:
So let me just be precise; that the question was, do you regret not reading the National Intelligence Estimate?
Well, let me get back to the question. Almost all of these 12 million illegal immigrants who are here would qualify for this new Z Visa, which would make them legal residents of the United States, so here's the question: Why isn't this amnesty?
Thank you, Senator. But the question is, what would you do right now to reduce the price of gasoline?
And Dennis Kucinich:
But her question was specifically, what would you do to rebuild the military, which seems to be pretty stretched right now? What -- do you have a plan?
(All quotes taken from the NY Times transcript of the debate.)
But before I heap praise on Blitzer, let me be clear that one technique of his did much to downgrade the debate. With this, for example, he took one of the most vexing problems on the globe and made it simpler than a yes-or-no question:
All right. Raise your hand if you agree with Senator Biden that the United States should use military force to stop the genocide in Darfur.
What Biden said was a bit more dramatic than that. It was a moment of real emotion in the debate when a member of the audience asked what the candidates would do about the genocide in Darfur.
SEN. BIDEN: You know, we have to stop talking about it. A lot of talk goes on about it. The United Nations has already said that they're prepared to put in a 21,000 force, including the African Union. In fact, you have in the capital of Sudan the government saying we're not going to allow that to happen. They have forfeited their sovereignty by engaging in genocide. We should impose a no-fly zone. If the U.N. will not move now, we should impose a no-fly zone, and we should commit 25,000 -- 2,500 NATO troops. You could take out the Janjawid tomorrow.
Earlier in the evening Barack Obama pointed out the foolishness of one of Blitzer's "raise-your-hand" questions. This one about whether the candidates agree that English should be the official language of the United States:
SEN. OBAMA: This is the kind of question that is designed precisely to divide us. You know, you're right, everybody --
At The Fix, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza has a great wrap up of the debate. Scroll through to read his instant analysis that ran throughout the debate.
We're going to go back through this after we have an official transcript in hand, but Bill Richardson is nearing double digits (at least) in mentioning he is the governor of New Mexico in response to almost any question.
He sure was. It was his answer to most questions, including this one about a national health care plan:
As governor of New Mexico, this is what we did: We insured every child under five. My wife, Barbara, who sits here, led an effort in the state to increase immunizations.
Richardson took a similar approach to an answer about immigration when asked if he was supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants.
I'm a border governor. Two years ago, I declared a border emergency because of the tremendous flow of drugs and illegal workers coming into my state. I deal with this issue every day. Here's my position: I would not support legislation that divided families. I would not support legislation that builds a wall, a Berlin-type wall between two countries, the way the bill in the Congress exists today.
This answer jumped out at me a little bit because he said something similar, but different enough to remember it, while he was in Seattle recently. In response to an immigration question during a rally at the Westin Hotel, Richardson said,
"You know, I shut down the border three years ago."
He said he did so with an emergency order because of "illegal workers and criminal elements" and because the state was getting no help from the federal government. I later asked Richardson's governor's office staff if he had ever shut down the border, which didn't seem like something a governor could do. The staff sent me lots of details about the emergency order, but there is no record of him having "shut down" the border.
The Dodd campaign had a great tool to help assess the debate. This "Talk Clock" shows how much time each of the candidates got. It also shows how Blitzer was able to keep up with all but a couple of the candidates.
Posted by David Postman at 6:58 PM
At a meeting in Yakima today, the State Committee of the Republican Party voted to allocate a little more than half its national convention delegates from the 2008 presidential primary election. Democrats won't use the results of the primary at all. That continues a trend that has only the GOP counting primary votes. Democrats results from the party caucuses.
Republican chairman Luke Esser issued a statement saying that the move today means Republicans "saved the presidential primary." That remains to be seen. There was a Democratic proposal in the legislative session that would have cancelled next year's presidential primary â€" a the legislature did in 2004.
The next step is for a bipartisan committee to meet to set a date for the primary. Lawmakers could still vote to cancel the election.
In his statement, Esser said that elections should be as open as possible:
"A number of our State Committee Members are still very concerned about crossover voting, but our party thought it was critical that everyone have the chance to participate in picking our next President. Caucuses are very important, but not everyone is able to participate in a caucus, and we want to make certain that those serving in the military have a full opportunity to join in the process of selecting the next Commander in Chief."
Posted by David Postman at 8:23 PM
The attorney for Port Commissioner Pat Davis says she will file an appeal of last week's Superior Court decision that cleared the way for signatures to be collected on a recall petition. Earlier today attorney Suzanne Thomas told recall sponsor Chris Clifford and the county prosecutor's office that an appeal would be filed early next week.
Posted by David Postman at 5:22 PM
The doors opened at the WaMu Theater and thousands of people rushed the stage. Really. There wasn't anyone on the stage, but everybody wanted to get as close as they could. The pitch for the fundraiser said the more you pay the closer you can get to the stage and it seems areas were roped off. I don't want to be ageist and assume the old folks had the money, but from stage right came the younger crowd, from stage left were the boomers -- and they were in a roped off area that got them closer to the stage.
Congressman Adam Smith and former Mayor Norm Rice will be part of the warmup to Obama. The News Tribune doesn't like the Seattle-centric tone of the event. So says the Nose today:
His campaign has chosen to call it his "Seattle kickoff." Which tells you something about how the rest of the state rates.
This strikes me as a little odd. The first speaker is Christine Chen, who introduced herself as host of KCTS' show, About the Money. She thanked everyone for their support of public television. She's also a marketing consultant and, obviously, an Obama supporter.
Obama hasn't spoken yet, but state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser has already issued his criticism of the candidate. Esser focuses on Obama's recent announcement of his health care plan, which would be funded in part by ending some existing tax breaks. Said Esser in the statement just e-mailed reporters:
"Barack Obama used his first big policy speech to call for a massive tax increase and a brand new tax on small businesses. It's nothing but the same old tax-and-spend politics we've seen from liberal presidential candidates for decades. It's pretty ironic that the candidate whose allies spoofed the famous 1984 Apple ad is reviving his party's 1984 pledge to raise taxes."
MORE: What's really notable about the crowd is that they all had to pay to get in the door ...quot; at least $25. Howard Dean had more people at Westlake Center and Bill Clinton had more at Pike Place. But those crowds didn't have to pay. And this crowd is young.
I just talked to Jarred Lathrop. He's a 25-year-old grad student and social worker. He was a Dean supporter in 2004.
"There was a strong energy around Dean. But there is a different aura around Obama. I'm only 25. But I've never seen anything like this."
It's not all youngsters, though. Pam Tufts, 59, and Don Morgan, 63, are standing nearby. Tufts told me:
"I'm so excited about Barack. History is going to be made here tonight. I want to say I was here tonight."
She's read Obama's book and "I think there is a lot of hope here. And by God we need it."
But she and Morgan aren't committed to voting for Obama. Morgan called himself a supporter, but said he's excited by other Democratic candidates, too, and will be interested to see how the primary campaign plays out.
The crowd has been warmed up by an African dance troupe, a young singer-songwriter from Tacoma with a bit of Lou Reed in his voice, and now some recorded Bob Marley, "Get up, Stand up." You know:
Most people think, Great God will come from the skies, Take away everything And make everybody feel high. But if you know what life is worth, You will look for yours on earth: And now you see the light, You stand up for your rights. jah!
MORE: Obama is speaking after an introduction from Adam Smith. Everyone talks of him having rock star appeal. It's not be accident. He comes in like a rock star, sounds like a rock star as he greets the crowd.
"I have to say that sometimes I have to ask myself, how in the heck did I get here? How did I come to be standing in front of these crowds that are so representative of America, that draw from every walk of life. And I wish I could take credit. But I have to tell you it has to do with more than me. It has to do with this hunger, all across the country, this palpable energy everywhere we go. ... Everyone is clamoring for change."
JOHN LOK/THE SEATTLE TIMES
And with that Obama began listing all the "folks" he said wanted change, including black folks, white folks, Asians, gays, straights, old and young, and he said to a big ovation, "especially young people."
"We want a new America, an America that reflects our values and our ideas."
MORE: Obama said that people have become too cynical about politics. "So many of us understand that politics has become a business instead of a mission."
"As we've become cynical you've seen the void filled by lobbyists and special interests s and narrow agendas. ... And we've had a government that basically has an attitude of can't do, won't do and won't even try."
He said that America needs to remember that "we've got mutual obligations toward each other."
"That idea has to express itself not just in our churches and mosques and synagogues, not, just in our families. It's got to express itself through our government because our government allows us to do things together that we cannot do on our own."
His speech can be summed up in this line he just delivered:
"People are ready to turn that page on that old outdated politics."
He said universal health care could be a reality by the end of his first term.
MORE: Obama outlined what he wants to do with education, health care and the environment. But that brought him to the subject of the war, which brought the loudest ovations yet.
"Some of these things are going to cost money and we cannot do a lot of these things if we keep on spending on $275 million a day on a war that is not making us safer in this world. It is time to bring our troops out of Iraq.
He said that in withdrawing troops "we have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in." He said Democrats needs a veto-proof majority in Congress in order to bring the troops home.
"But I will tell you this Seattle: If Congress doesn't do it before George Bush is out of office I will do it when I am in office. You can take that to the bank."
Posted by David Postman at 5:01 PM
RIGA, May 31, 2007 (UK Gay News) -- Foreign guests, please don't come to Latvia for Riga Friendship Days and Gay Pride. That is the message from the 'No Pride' group, who have not headed their own plea.
They say on their website: "Foreign Guests please don't come. It's our problem. Not yours!"
I wrote about Lively and Hutcherson in March. Hutcherson claimed he was reprsenting the White House, which the White House has denied.
Posted by David Postman at 4:43 PM
There's been a little coverage of the fact that Barack Obama's mother lived in Mercer Island. Stanley Ann Dunham graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1960. Obama was born the next year in Hawaii.
The Chicago Tribune had a good story in March about the Mercer Island days.
"She was not a standard-issue girl of her times. ... She wasn't part of the matched-sweater-set crowd," said Wall, a classmate and retired philosophy teacher who used to make after-school runs to Seattle with Dunham to sit and talk -- for hours and hours -- in coffee shops.
Posted by David Postman at 7:31 AM
Barack Obama appears this evening at a rally at the Qwest Field Events Center as he kicks off his Seattle campaign. I have an advance on the rally in the paper this morning.
Left on the cutting room floor were some comments from state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz. Pelz, a former Howard Dean supporter who is neutral in the presidential primary race, said he thinks as much as 60 percent of '04 Dean backers from the state are now in Obama's camp. But even if Dean and Obama appeal to some of the same people, they're doing it from different positions. Pelz told me:
"Dean had to attract the left from the left. Obama is attracting the left from the middle."
Pelz said that John Edwards delivers more "of your traditional, Democratic, labor/liberal message." For Obama, that means if he wins the nomination he would have to do less of the shifting to the middle that so many candidates do after playing to the base during the primary season.
Here's a look at some of the other Obama coverage of the day.
Yesterday the candidate was in Reno. As the Reno Gazette-Journal reports:
Wearing a white dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves and no tie, Obama spoke in broad terms on a number of topics including the war in Iraq, education, veterans care and his recently introduced universal health care plan.
The Tahoe paper led with Obama's commnents on the Bush Administration's environmental policy.
RENO - After addressing a campaign-friendly crowd of more than 3,000 at Wingfield Park, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama told the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Thursday he would work to reverse environmental laws rolled back from the Bush administration's time in office.
The Detroit News has auto exec Bill Ford, Jr., snapping back at Obama for comments the candidate made critical of the Big Three automakers.
The Illinois Democrat and presidential candidate drew the ire of automakers after a speech to the Detroit Economic Club in March where he said: "Here in Detroit, three giants of American industry are hemorrhaging jobs and profits as foreign competitors answer the rising global demand for fuel-efficient cars."
In TIME, Karen Tumulty says Obama's comments while in Detroit are part of the candidate's "conspicuous candor."
When a questioner at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wanted to know whether he would cut the military budget to make room for other priorities, Obama answered, "Actually, you'll probably see an initial bump in military spending in an Obama Administration" to replace the equipment that has been depleted by the Iraq war and build up the size of the active forces. When a teacher asked him about the No Child Left Behind law that is so unpopular with educators and their unions, Obama agreed that it "left the money behind." But while he endorsed higher pay for teachers, Obama also talked about "the things that were good about No Child Left Behind," including more accountability. By then, his listeners were shifting in their chairs..
The New York Times has a front page story about Obama's basketball playing.
Basketball has little to do with Mr. Obama's presidential bid â€" in fact, he has trouble finding time to shoot baskets anymore â€" but until recently, it was one of the few constants in his life.
And the Hotline blog rounds up some TV mentions of Obama.
And NBC's Shamlian's exclusive one-on-one-interview with Michelle Obama aired on "Nightly News."