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July 31, 2007

Ted Stevens is mad

Posted by David Postman at 5:09 PM

And this time it's not about federal agents converging on his Alaska home. The Politico reports that Stevens doesn't like the new ethics bill the House just passed and has threatened to block it.

The senator told a closed session of fellow Republicans today, including Vice President Dick Cheney, that he was upset that the measure would interfere with his travel to and from Alaska -- and vowed to block it.

Threatening to block an ethics bill when you are under federal investigation wouldn't seem like a natural move, I know. But I suspect Stevens will blaze all sorts of new trails if his troubles keep multiplying.

ALSO: At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza asks, "What's the matter with Alaska?" That's a great question and one I hope to spend some time writing about soon.

Cillizza says that the exploding political scandal could force some change in the state's political environment. But he wisely counsels Democrats not to get too excited.

Before Democrats get to far ahead of themsleves, it's important to remember that despite the upheaval in the state Republican party, Alaska remains a strongly Republican state. It's a certainty that whoever Republicans nominate for president will carry the state and likely carry it handily. That should give Stevens and Young or whoever their replacements are a nice boost.

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Bush coming next month to help Reichert re-election

Posted by David Postman at 5:02 PM

President George Bush is scheduled to be in Bellevue Aug. 27 for a top dollar fundraiser for Congressman Dave Reichert's re-election campaign. An e-mailed invitation says the event at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue includes a VIP reception that will cost $10,000 — given or raised — and a general reception with a $1,000 admission price.

The fundraiser will be the first high-profile event of Reichert's re-election campaign. During the 2006 campaign Democrats made much of Reichert's ties to the president, including a June Bush fundraiser for the congressman.

Any donation that exceeds the $2,300 per election Reichert can collect will go to the state Republican Party.

Democratic candidate Darcy Burner said by an e-mailed statement:

"That George Bush would come yet again to raise big money for Congressman Reichert is not a surprise, given the congressman's unwavering support for the president's disastrous Iraq policies.

"When will it end? The American people know it is past time to end the war. But Congressman Reichert cares more about backing the president than about representing the views of the voters of the 8th District."

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Groups say Stevens should step down from committees

Posted by David Postman at 11:05 AM

The Anchorage Daily News reports this morning on the latest with the federal investigation of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

Both Taxpayers for Common and Sense and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics today asked Republican leaders to request that Stevens at least temporarily step down until the investigation was resolved.

The Daily News was also at the scene yesterday as feds went through Stevens' house.

The agents were obviously cataloging the house and its fixtures, from light switches and electrical outlets to a big stainless steel barbecue grill on a second-floor deck that neighbors said was hoisted there with a crane. At one point, agents climbed on the pitched metal roof to take pictures of heat tape in the gutters.

One agent carried a full large black garbage bag out of the house and put it in the white truck.

A half-dozen federal vehicles, including a white panel truck with a satellite dish on the roof, were parked in front of the house most of the day. At least 10 more federal vehicles were parked at the ski resort's day lodge a couple of blocks away.

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New state political group looks to embolden Dems

Posted by David Postman at 10:37 AM

A new progressive political group is getting ready to launch in Seattle. The group, called Fuse, is backed by wealthy donors, a powerful labor union and the political director of MoveOn.org, perhaps the most successful of the new wave of liberal groups. Fuse will be staffed by experienced political operatives and modeled on a similar group in Colorado.

That's an impressive portfolio. But it begs the question: Does Seattle need another liberal political group? Fuse organizers clearly have thought about that and have some intriguing answers. I talked yesterday with Aaron Ostrom. He will be the group's executive director. Today he has that job at Futurewise. He'll go part-time to Fuse next month and full time for the launch in September.

My best summation of what the group hopes to do is push Washington Democrats beyond their dedicated incrementalism. It'll do that through donations to like-minded candidates, recruiting volunteers to help those candidates and producing issue-oriented advertising campaigns. Fuse will have a non-profit arm as well as a political operation.

Ostrom told me:

"I think the Legislature has done a lot of good stuff and lot of impressive stuff. But when you look at the scale of the problems we're facing, it's going to take more and it's going to take bigger and bolder solutions and we have to both encourage and demand that and we have to support that."

(That has been a goal of SEIU, which will be a part of Fuse. The service worker's union has not been afraid to tick off Democrats, for example when it backed a primary challenge to House Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers, D-Seattle. But SEIU has also backed Republican legislators — a move that seems to be at odds with the goal of emboldening and growing Democratic control of the state.)

Democrats have large majorities in both houses of the Legislature. But Ostrom said there is room and reason for growth. It's not enough, he said, to have strong progressive representation from Seattle and King County. He said there needs to be a strong corps of volunteer activists from other parts of the state to push politicians, too.

I asked him if that was a way to encourage legislators from outside King County to take bolder liberal steps. He said it was, but it would also be a way, he said, to reach the governor. Gov. Christine Gregoire largely adheres to Democratic incrementalism. More progressives in the suburbs and in rural Washington could give the governor increased confidence that a progressive agenda would not mean losing her statewide base.

Ostrom says he doesn't like to think of progressive as a partisan issue. But, that said, Fuse wants to build on the already large Democratic majorities.

"Washington is still in many ways a swing state. We're 113 votes away from a very conservative governor, and there are still 12 races a year in the Legislature that are decided by a couple thousands votes. And we're only a few years removed from Republican majorities, at different times, in the House and Senate."

In addition to Ostrom, the group's staff will include political director Chris McCullough, a former aide to Congressman Jay Inslee. Additional staff will be hired as well.

The idea and seed money for Fuse came from a small group of progressive donors in Seattle known as the Progress Alliance. Its members include Jabe Blumenthal, a Microsoft retiree and a board member of the environmental group Climate Solutions; Valerie Tarico, a psychologist and author, and Paul Abrams, a bio-tech entrepreneur blogs at Huffington Post.

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July 30, 2007

Inslee to push impeach of AG Gonzales

Posted by David Postman at 4:25 PM

Congressman Jay Inslee will introduce tomorrow a resolution calling for impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, according to a statement from his office. Inslee, a former prosecutor in Selah, has lined up other former prosecutors in Congress to join as co-sponsors. As of this afternoon he had five co-sponsors.

The resolution is brief. It says in full:

Directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall
investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the
House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales,
Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

ThinkProgress has MSNBC's "breaking news" report.

The New York Times editorial page this weekend raised the possibility of impeaching Gonzales.

Democratic lawmakers are asking for a special prosecutor to look into Mr. Gonzales's words and deeds. Solicitor General Paul Clement has a last chance to show that the Justice Department is still minimally functional by fulfilling that request.

If that does not happen, Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.

Some local liberals have been unhappy with Inslee for not supporting impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George Bush. But as soon as the news broke today of Inslee's move against Gonzales, he was hailed by the director of Washington For Impeachment. Linda Boyd wrote to supporters:

Dear Friends of Democracy,

Great news today, Rep. Jay Inslee will sponsor legislation that would require the House Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation of Atty. General Alberto Gonzales!

.... Thank you to all who have worked so hard to educate Jay Inslee!

We will impeach to restore the rule of law!

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Feds search Ted Stevens' house

Posted by David Postman at 4:01 PM

AP in Anchorage reports the FBI and IRS searched Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' house today.

The search was still going on 20 minutes ago. The Anchorage Daily News has more.

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The New Yorker on Seattle's "unsolved killing"

Posted by David Postman at 2:39 PM

The New Yorker has a lengthy story in the current issue about the murder of federal prosecutor Tom Wales. The story by Jeffrey Toobin looks at the investigation, a suspect in the shooting, and how the case may have played into the firing of former U.S. Attorney John McKay. (It also gives a well-deserved hat tip to Times reporters Mike Carter and Steve Miletich as being the only two reporters who continued to pursue the story.)

McKay told Toobin that he and the Seattle office had been recused from the Wales investigation — a decision he initially agreed with. But several months later he faced a staff revolt of sorts where his deputies told him "the department was neglecting the investigation of Tom's death."

"My mistake was that I assumed 'recusal' was 'recusal,' " McKay went on. "I had erred in assuming that I was completely recused from even asking questions about the allocation of resources. I assumed it would have the highest priority within the Department of Justice. I once worked at the F.B.I. for a year, and during that time an agent was killed in Las Vegas. They deploy like crazy when an agent is killed. Agents got off the airplane that night from D.C. to investigate. The director of the F.B.I. flew out. That was not the reaction we were getting from the Department of Justice after Tom Wales was killed. Over 2002, I decided that really it should be my job to advocate for appropriate resources to be devoted to the Wales case."

In 2002, at a meeting of U.S. Attorneys at the New York Hilton, McKay approached Larry Thompson, then the Deputy Attorney General, in a corridor and spoke to him about the case. As they were talking, Robert Mueller, the director of the F.B.I., appeared. "It was a little awkward," McKay recalled. "Bob jumped in to kind of defend the F.B.I. I said, 'Bob, we've got to have appropriate agent support for the Wales investigation, and we're not getting it.' He was fairly sharp with me, saying, 'I've done everything I possibly can.' I said, 'I know that's your intention, but it hasn't worked out that way.' Larry was kind of an observer to the whole thing. Bob said he would look into it." (Mueller declined to comment.)

Former FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Mandigo told Toobin that he got no manpower help from headquarters. If it was a priority case for the FBI, he said, there would have been "backfill" of staff to help.

There was some discomfort from DOJ higher-ups about Wales' work with Washington CeaseFire and his high profile position in favor of gun control. His friends wanted to create a UW memorial foundation focusing on another issue close Wales's heart, civic engagement. "We were really concerned that he would be remembered only for his work on gun safety, and that was just one strand of his life," Eric Redman, is quoted as saying. John McKay's brother, Mike, went to D.C. to see if DOJ would contribute to the memorial. fund.

Mike McKay went to see Deborah Daniels, who was the Assistant Attorney General in charge of research and grants. "I told her that in my opinion Tom was probably killed in the line of duty," McKay recalled. "I said that they should help fund the project at the University of Washington. I don't remember exactly what she said, but I do remember it was off-putting." Redman recalls hearing McKay describe the meeting soon after he returned from Washington. "He said that Daniels said she was concerned that Tom had been so involved with gun control," Redman told me. (Daniels confirmed that she met with McKay but said that she does not remember their discussion and didn't know at the time that Wales worked on gun control.) ...

John McKay, by the way, said he admired Wales' commitment to the issue of gun control, but added, "I personally would not be in full agreement with his organization" ... .

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An Idea Bank deposit

Posted by David Postman at 8:38 AM

Lou Guzzo, the man behind Dino Rossi's Idea Bank, continues to think outside the box. Guzzo doesn't like the practice of suspected killers escaping the death penalty by cooperating with investigators. But he's no fan of government-run capital punishment, either.

Instead of consigning them to death by injection or by hanging, why not let the families perform the act and dispose of the killers in whatever fashion they should choose? That would really give them the justice they seek.

Let's brainstorm: If the families were required to "dispose of the killers" in a stadium, the state could sell tickets and the money could pay for law enforcement. It's not just justice, it's smart budgeting. Think about the TV rights! Viewers could send text messages to vote for how the execution should be carried out. For hungry wolves, text 19653. There could be teams, a league, cross-town rivalries, bobble-head night. Don't touch that dial. We'll be right back after this word from our sponsor.

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July 27, 2007

Republicans shy away from YouTube debate

Posted by David Postman at 2:06 PM

Republican presidential candidates are not so sure they want to be part of September's CNN/YouTube debate. There are lots of theories floating around about why that is. (Via The Slog) But each day it seems more are questioning whether they may not be able to fit it in their schedule. See the NY Times blog here and TIME here.

The Rudy Giuliani campaign has cited scheduling conflicts in saying it will skip the Republican version of this week's Democratic debate, while Mitt Romney has mocked the seriousness of the questions and also seems likely to withdraw. John McCain, one of two candidates who had agreed to participate (Ron Paul is the other), has also expressed doubts and aides say he's reconsidering his commitment.

I read this one wrong. After Monday night's Democratic debate I thought Republicans would be better prepared for the format and could come back strong and show an affinity for the new technology. I'm still not sure why Republicans don't want to participate. I don't think any of the Democratic candidates were hurt one bit from anything connected to the YouTubey part of the debate. There were exchanges that produced winners and losers of course. But there were no disasters and no big embarrassments.

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The Beltway crowd reassess Murray - again

Posted by David Postman at 8:42 AM

I thought of headlining this post, "The evolution of Patty Murray." But really, it is more about the evolution of the D.C. insiders' perception of Washington's senior senator. D.C. is like Hollywood, or maybe more like high school, in quick, easy typecasting. You know, like "McCain is a maverick," "McCain is buddying up to Bush too much," and "McCain's campaign is faltering." The pack generally follows along until a signal comes that it's time to change storylines. (Gore was a boring dissembler, but now he's been unleashed and really is funny, at ease and pretty smart after all.)

So with that in mind, here are six — not always pleasant — phases to winning a reputation any politician would be proud of.

1: Murray is elected in 1992 and D.C. embraces her self-applied appellation.

Patty Murray's outsider, middle-class image — the famous "mom in tennis shoes" — fit the voters' mood. This was a case of image matching reality: Patty Murray really was a suburban mother who came from a distinctly middle-class background. The message and the messenger were one and the same.

2: Murray shows what a she-cardinal can do in the Senate and learns to play party politics, too.

As chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee overseeing highway dollars, Murray has a more direct say than ever over what projects win federal funds. At the same time, she has become the chief fund-raiser for Democrats in the Senate as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

3. D.C. tires of message and messenger.

On the senatorial side, Patty Murray (D-Wash.) tied for first place with Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) in the "No Rocket Scientist" category ...

4. Suddenly, pork is out of favor and Murray goes from newly minted power player to purveyor of old school politics.

"What is good for the goose is good for the gander," Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who is set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, said last fall in a speech defending an Alaska Republican's allocation of more than $200 million in federal money for a bridge to remote Gravina, Alaska, with a population of 50. It became notorious as the "Bridge to Nowhere."

"I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next," Ms. Murray warned. To anyone who might vote against the bridge, Ms. Murray threatened that her subcommittee would be "taking a long, serious look at their projects."

5. Murray's not just powerful, she controls a scary-powerful political machine.

"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."

6. Murray "has earned a reputation as a bastion of common sense in the Senate." That's from a story in Roll Call (subscription required) yesterday.

The three-term lawmaker has quietly transformed herself from the chamber's lonely everyman willing to use personal stories in the "world's greatest deliberative body" into a key member of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) leadership team and a tough-nosed legislator who leaders and "old bulls" alike have come to lean on.

The story is all good for Murray. I'm sure some senators would prefer to be thought of as master players of the inside game, or the one to be feared, or the intellectual one. But to me, a "bastion of common sense" would be hard to beat. Says Roll Call:

That role also has often come through in public. For instance, during one of the Democratic leadership group's regular "pen-and-pad" sessions with reporters, Schumer, Reid and Durbin took turns railing on Republican "obstructionism" and their inability to pass legislation over GOP roadblocks. A clearly exasperated Murray interrupted her colleagues, saying "this is not about process" and went on to discuss the substance of their proposals.

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Vance's Rx for the GOP, Pt. 2

Posted by David Postman at 7:27 AM

Former state Republican Chairman Chris Vance posted his second piece at Crosscut yesterday. After saying earlier what's wrong with Republicans in the state, here Vance says what to do about it. His formula for success calls for Dino Rossi to run for governor and a dose of luck.

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July 26, 2007

Reaction to today's court decision on felon voting

Posted by David Postman at 3:44 PM

The ACLU of Washington, which helped represents felons in their suit, will now push to get the Legislature to change the law. Spokesman Doug Honig said:

"The reality is people who have served sentences and get back into the community typically don't have a lot of money and don't have an easy time getting high paying jobs.

"To say that a citizen can vote when the pay off all their fines, basically says that if you have more money you'll be able to vote, and that if you don't, you won't, or it will be a long time until you can."

The Right To Vote Project at the Brennan Center at New York University School of Law, filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the felons. The director of the group, Erika Wood, said in a statement:

"Washington is one of only eight states that requires full payment of fees and fines before a person's right to vote can be restored. The system results in the permanent disenfranchisement of many low income individuals and it is now up to the Washington State legislature to fix this injustice.

"Put simply, Washington's law and others like it create a poll tax for people who have served their time and are living, working and paying taxes in their communities. Whatever form they take, wealth qualifications are simply incompatible with democracy.

"The law upheld by the Supreme Court presents two fundamental problems: the unfairness of making wealth a condition of voting, and the enormous practical problems of administering the current system. We will continue to work with local advocates and Washington lawmakers to dismantle this last remnant of the poll tax."

Secretary of State Sam Reed said in a statement:

"Our state Legislature has determined felons should complete all the terms of their sentences before winning back the right to vote. It is the Legislature's place, not the court's, to decide whether or not to change state law."

And Attorney General Rob McKenna:

"The Supreme Court's decision upheld our argument that Washington's disenfranchisement scheme did not violate the privileges and immunities clause of the state constitution or the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution."

Earlier: What happens to felon voters now and Supreme Court says no to felon voters.

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Washington's big bundlers

Posted by David Postman at 1:30 PM

If there are average Americans who know about campaign donation "bundlers," the head's up may have come from this exchange in Monday night's Democratic presidential debate.

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel: And I want to take on Barack Obama for a minute, who said he doesn't take money from lobbyists. Well, he has 134 bundlers. Now, what does he think that is?

And, besides that, he has received money from a Robert Wolf, the head of the USB (sic) bank in the United States, who raised $195,000 -- from this bank -- wait a second -- who has lobbyists in Washington...

CNN host Anderson Cooper: Your time is up.

Gravel: ... and it's a foreign-owned bank.

Cooper: Senator Obama, I'm going to have to let you respond.

Obama: Absolutely.

Well, the fact is I don't take PAC money and I don't take lobbyists' money.
And the bundlers -- the reason you know who is raising money for me, Mike, is because I have pushed through a law this past session to disclose that.

And that's the kind of leadership that I've shown in the Senate. That's the kind of leadership that I showed when I was a state legislator. And that's the kind of leadership that I'll show as president of the United States.

Gravel: Wait a minute...

Bundlers are fundraisers who gather contributions from others and turn them over to a candidate. The law says the names of those bundlers must be disclosed if they had ever taken possession of the checks themselves and turn them over to the campaign. If they instead just ask people to donate, and hold an event, but have the checks go directly to the campaign they can get around that disclosure requirement.

Public Citizen wants more disclosure requirements for what they say are the 1,893 bundlers at work this campaign season. The group had a Web site that went live today, whitehouseforsale.org, that lists all the bundlers disclosed by campaign.

Public Citizen found 19 bundlers in Washington, with a majority of those for Democrat John Edwards. His bundlers include some prominent attorneys, such as Paul Luvera and Yvonne Kinoshita Ward .

The list shows developer Cynthia Stroum as a bundler for Edwards and Obama and says she has already raised at least $50,000 for Obama. But Stroum tells me she is only bundling for Obama. She serves on his national finance committee and has been a committed supporter for months.

But in February she co-hosted a fundraiser for Edwards. She said Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, are "dear friends and I adore them" and she helped out as a friend. The Edwards campaign may be listing her as a bundler from that event, but Stroum is clear that while she was on the fence earlier in the year she is squarely in Obama's camp today.

Arizona Sen. John McCain is the only Republican presidential candidate that is listed as having any Washington state bundlers. There are six, including Chris Fidler, who for the second time is a key McCain organizer here, former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay and former Slade Gorton aide and now lobbyist, Tony Williams.

McCain, Edwards and Obama are the only candidates with bundlers in the state. You can do your own search here.

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Settlement in phony voter registration case

Posted by David Postman at 11:59 AM

A liberal group whose workers submitted fraudulent voter registration forms has agreed to a legal settlement with King County that says if the problem is repeated in the future the group could face criminal prosecution.

Keith Ervin has a story here that says people working for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, admitted to filling out registration forms with names they took out of phone books while sitting in the Seattle Public Library. The phony names were purged this morning by the King County Canvassing Board.

But ACORN has also agreed to a lengthy agreement with King County about how it will work to avoid allowing any fraudulent signatures in any future voter registration drives. ACORN has agreed to a series of safeguards to monitor signature drives and to alert officials to any suspect registrations. The organization will also pay $25,000 to King County by Aug. 10 to reimburse for costs of the investigation.

The agreement governs ACORN's activities until 2013 and covers training, oversight, management issues, quality control, how to handle suspect registrations. The agreement says:

a. ACORN agrees that submission of registrations that have been fraudulently collected by an ACORN employee and not reviewed pursuant to the quality control procedures, or willfully turning in fraudulent cards, may constitute grounds for criminal prosecution of ACORN as a corporate entity unless such cards have been segregated by ACORN pursuant to the requirements of section 7 of this agreement.

b. ACORN agrees that violations of the terms of this agreement may be used as evidence in the State of Washington in future criminal prosecutions against ACORN employees, ACORN management, or ACORN as a corporate entity.


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Court says dentist's prank was "business activity"

Posted by David Postman at 11:28 AM

The state Supreme Court says a dentist who stuck boar tusks into the mouth of an anesthetized employee/patient, pried her eyes open, and took photographs, was conducting a "business practice" and his insurance company must pay his attorney fees and court costs. That means dentist Robert Woo will get more money from his insurance company than his employee did when she sued him for "outrage, battery, invasion of privacy, false light, public disclosure of private acts, nonpayment of overtime wages, retaliation for requesting payment of overtime wages, medical negligence, lack of informed consent, and negligent infliction of emotional distress."

The majority opinion in Woo v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., was written by Justice Mary Fairhurst and signed by Tom Chambers, Susan Owens, Richard Sanders and Bobbe Bridge. Fireman's had refused to defend Woo in the suit brought by Tina Alberts, the employee he was performing a dental procedure on.

Fireman's refused to defend under the professional liability provision on the grounds that the acts alleged in Alberts' complaint did not arise out of the provision of dental services. It refused to defend under the employment practices liability provision on the grounds that the complaint did not allege sexual harassment, discrimination, or wrongful discharge as those terms were defined by the policy. It refused to defend under the general liability provision on the grounds that the alleged practical joke was intentional and was not considered a "business activity."

The Supreme Court ruled that Fireman's "had a duty to defend under the professional liability and general liability provisions but not under the employment practices liability provision."

That brought a sharply worded dissent from Justice James Johnson; also signed by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.

Today's majority decision rewards Dr. Woo's obnoxious behavior and allows him to profit handsomely, receiving a total of $750,000, triple the damages paid to the real victim of his intentional offensive and likely tortious conduct. I would hold that Fireman's Fund Insurance, as his professional practices insurer, does not have a duty to defend Dr. Woo for this intentional tortious behavior. Any reasonable person would not define his actions as a dental procedure or an employment practice covered under Woo's insurance policy and our dental practices statute.

There is also a separate dissent from Justices Charles Johnson and Barbara Madsen:

In her complaint, Tina Alberts alleged that Robert Woo devised a scheme to humiliate her, ordered the boar tusks, placed them in her mouth when she was unconscious, took pictures, had them developed, and told Alberts that she had a trophy to take home.

By these facts, Alberts unambiguously alleges that her injuries were the consequence solely of Woo's intentional conduct, none of which involves providing dental services. Even under the most liberal construction, the complaint's allegations are not conceivably covered.

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What happens now to felon voters?

Posted by David Postman at 10:29 AM

This morning's state Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on felon voters raises the question of what happens to felons who registered to vote in the 16 months since a lower court said the law was unconstitutional.

Will they be grandfathered in and allowed to continue voting? Can those registrations now be cancelled? And is there any way to even know how many felons are covered by the law?

State officials don't yet know the answers. Assistant Secretary of State Steve Excell told me this morning that attorneys are still going through the pile of opinions in the Madison case. But he has already asked for advice on what to do about felons registered to vote.

As of now, the only felons that the state can accurately track -- and keep off the voter rolls -- are those still in custody of the Department of Corrections. Excell said:

"That's the only rock solid list that we know we can implement now in the short term. ... We have no way of finding the felons that are voting today."

The Secretary of State's office was in the process of working with other state agencies last year to find a way to keep better track of those felons who had yet to pay off all their financial obligations. But when King County Judge Michael Spearman ruled the felon law unconstitutional, the effort was put on hold. There's no way to know how many felons with outstanding financial obligations registered to vote since that March 2006 decision.

Excell said Secretary of State Sam Reed will restart efforts to track felons who are once again ineligible to vote.

Here's a statement from Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna.

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State Supreme Court says no to felon voters

Posted by David Postman at 8:28 AM

The state Supreme Court just released its decision upholding the state law that says felons must pay all fines and court fees before having their voting rights restored. The majority opinion was written by Justice Mary Fairhurst:

We hold that Washington's disenfranchisement scheme does not violate the privileges and immunities clause of the Washington Constitution or the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. We also hold that respondents lack standing to bring their cross-appeal, and we deny respondents' request for attorney fees because they are not the prevailing party. We reverse the trial court.

MORE: There are five opinions in the case and I'm still making my way through them. The majority opinion was signed by Fairhurst, Susan Owens and Bobbe J. Bridge.

The case comes from three convicted felons who were trying to get their voting rights restored. But state law says they have to complete all the terms of their sentences, including what's called legal financial obligations, before being able to vote. The plaintiffs argued that violated their state and federal constitutional rights because it denies them the right to vote based on wealth.

The majority wrote:

The privileges and immunities clause does reflect, in part, our framers' concerns with "undue political influence exercised by those with large concentrations of wealth" and "avoiding favoritism toward the wealthy." Grant County II, 150 Wn.2d at 808. However, such concerns are not triggered by Washington's felon disenfranchisement scheme because it grants the "privilege" of restoration of voting rights "upon the same terms . . . equally . . . to all citizens." Const. art. I, ยง 12. The Washington Constitution grants the right to vote to all Washington citizens on equal terms. Additionally, the Washington Constitution disqualifies voters on equal terms -- that is, when individuals have been convicted of committing a felony. Finally, Washington's statutory disenfranchisement scheme provides for the restoration of voting rights to felons on equal terms -- that is, only after individuals have satisfied all of the terms of their sentences.

...

We hold that Washington's disenfranchisement scheme does not violate the privileges and immunities clause of the Washington Constitution or the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution. It is the province of the legislature to determine the best policy approach for re-enfranchising Washington's felons.

Here's the majority opinion, a concurrence by Barbara Madsen, a concurrence by James Johnson, a dissent by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, and a dissent by Tom Chambers.

Alexander's dissent, which was signed by Chambers and Charles Johnson, says the Legislature has already set a policy of trying to get convicted felons to return to the rights of full citizenship.

As a society, we should encourage, rather than discourage, felons to rehabilitate themselves. As members of this society, we all benefit when those who have failed in the past to fully live up to their responsibilities as a citizen become full-fledged citizens who again can exercise the cherished right to vote. We should all rejoice when they achieve that goal. Indeed, the legislature has indicated that it is the policy of this state "to encourage and contribute to the rehabilitation of felons and to assist them in the assumption of the responsibilities of citizenship." RCW 9.96A.010. Having set this laudable goal for felons, we should not prevent them from achieving it simply because they lack ability to pay legal financial obligations (LFOs).

More from Alexander:

The injustice this works is obvious. As respondents point out, "If the state
sentencing guidelines said that judges should sentence wealthy felons to five years incarceration followed by immediate restoration of rights and sentence poor felons to five years incarceration followed by lifetime disenfranchisement, the equal protection problem would be apparent."

Madsen has several disagreements with the case law cited by the majority. She also wrote that she disagrees with Alexander's "unwarranted emphasis on wealth."

The State does not, contrary to the dissent's view, create inequities between the rich and the poor by tying voting to the ability to pay. The plaintiffs were convicted of felony crimes and for this reason were disenfranchised; this is why they cannot vote. Regardless of whether they are rich or poor they will continue to be disenfranchised until they complete their sentences, including their legal financial obligations. They have no constitutionally protected right to vote. The legislature can change the requirements for reinstating a felon's right to vote if it concludes that requiring felons to pay all financial obligations before regaining the vote is too harsh a condition to place on such a precious attribute of citizenship, but it is not constitutionally required to do so.

SOME BACKGROUND: The case stems from a 2004 lawsuit.

The case was filed on behalf of five convicted felons who served their sentences, completed their community supervision and have begun paying off their fines and fees. In 2002, the Department of Correction estimated there were 46,500 Washingtonians who were prohibited from voting based solely on outstanding financial obligations, according to the lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs, Daniel Madison of Seattle, was convicted in 1996 of third-degree assault. He was sentenced to probation and required to pay $583 in restitution and fees. He is disabled and indigent, and said he is on a payment plan of $15 a month. So far, he has paid $260, but, because the court has assessed interest, he doesn't foresee catching up.

In March 2006, a King County Superior Court judge ruled the law unconstitutional.

"It is well recognized that there is simply no rational relationship between the ability to pay and the exercise of constitutional rights," Judge Michael Spearman wrote in a ruling backing the challenge of three indigent felons.

... He said "discrimination on the basis of wealth and property has long been disfavored."

State Attorney General Rob McKenna and Secretary of State Sam Reed announced soon after they would appeal the decision.

"We believe a rational basis does exist for the Legislature to deny felons the right to vote until they have completed their entire court-ordered sentences, including payment of criminal penalties, victim's restitution, and legal fees, rather than separating out various sentencing aspects," they wrote.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in June 2006.

Arguing for the American Civil Liberties Union, attorney Peter Danelo told justices that the group doesn't disagree with Washington's right to disenfranchise convicted felons, or the requirement that they pay court-ordered fines. But the right to vote should not be tied to those fines, he said.

"What this case is about is whether the state, once it decides to restore the vote to former felons, can make the right to vote turn on whether particular felons are wealthy enough to pay financial obligations immediately," he said.


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July 25, 2007

In hindsight, American support grows for Iraq invasion

Posted by David Postman at 4:02 PM

The percentage of Americans who think the initial invasion of Iraq was a good idea is going up. A New York Times/CBS poll found that number "increased modestly compared to two months ago." That doesn't make much sense to me, given the stumbling progress of the surge, recent headlines and congressional debates that have even Republicans thinking it is close to time for U.S. troops to get out.

It didn't make sense to the people who commissioned the poll, either. Janet Elder, the New York Times editor of news surveys and election analysis, wrote today that when those results came back in a poll mostly about Hillary Clinton, another survey was commissioned.

We wanted to make sure we had gotten it right.

They had. At least a follow up poll found similar results. Here's what the question was:

"Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the United States have stayed out?"
Forty-two percent of those polled said the United States did the right thing, and 54 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. The last time the question was asked, in May, 35 percent said taking military action against Iraq was the right thing and 61 percent said the United States should have stayed out.

...

When the second round of results came back, the numbers were nearly identical to the ones found in the poll about Mrs. Clinton. In the poll conducted over the weekend with 889 adults, 42 percent of the respondents said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out.

There was also a drop in the number of people who said the war is going badly. In the latest poll, 66 percent of Americans said things are going badly for the United States in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq. That is down from 76 percent who said the same thing in May.

Thoughts on what would be driving this?

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Ahh, Seattle civility ...

Posted by David Postman at 2:23 PM

The Seattle City Club is being picky about which candidates get invited to its school board debate Aug. 16. No candidates in the West Seattle District Six made the cut, though candidates in districts one and three will appear even though they have no primary.

Only three of five candidates in District two were invited, incumbent Darlene Flynn, Sherry Carr and Lisa Stuebing. Left out were the United Way manager Patrick Kelley and recent high school grad Courtney Hill.

City Club Program Coordinator Jessica Jones told the Times' Emily Heffter that the club has a policy that guides which candidates get invited. Heffter tells me this includes candidates' standing in polls, whether candidates are up to date in their Public Disclosure Commission filings and how much money candidates have raised outside of their own families and workplaces.

That leaves me to wonder how David Blomstrom earned an invitation. He's running for the District 3 seat now held by Brita Butler-Wall. On his Web site Blomstrom calls the incumbent "a lying, conniving whore" and adds, "which pretty much describes everyone else on the Seattle School Board."

Blomstrom tracks what he calls the Seattle Mafia.

The city of Seattle is effectively ruled by a group of shadowy characters who are as rich and powerful as they are corrupt.

...

By extension, the term Seattle Mafia can also include people who work for Bill Gates and his cronies, including an army of media whores, phony activists and other operatives.

Jones said City Club limits the number of candidates because members want "quality interaction — we want to make sure we have a quality discussion." Blomstrom certainly should help get that done.

Even some who made the cut are unhappy with invitation list. Said Flynn:

"Since they're being so discerning about the candidates, I might want to be discerning about the forums I participate in."

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Tracking party identification

Posted by David Postman at 11:02 AM

Are Washington Republicans becoming Democrats? That's the conclusion Darryl Holman comes to at his blog, hominidviews. In addition to his liberal blogging, Holman is an anthropologist, demographer and UW associate professor.

He takes a pretty careful look at available state and national polling data that includes whether respondents consider themselves Democrats or Republicans. You should read all his charts, graphs and talk of "correlation coefficients." But this is the summary:

In other words, at the national level, people abandoning the Republican party tend to identify themselves as either independent or "other." This is largely good news for Democrats, although I am sure they would prefer to see their numbers climb as people abandon the G.O.P. There is not much evidence for that right now.

But he says that is what's been happening in Washington since 2005.

Both Republican and Independent identity have declined since about the time of the election contest. The fraction of people who identify as Democrats is clearly increasing over time.

There are a couple of qualifiers worth mentioning. The state numbers come from SurveyUSA data. The company uses automated telephone calling which has been somewhat controversial in the polling world. SurveyUSA keeps its own scorecard to show the accuracy of its methods.

I also wonder if any of the differences between the state and national trends can be attributed to the fact that voters here don't register by party. I think that makes it easier for people to slide back and forth in how they identify themselves, where in a party registration state one actually has to go change the paperwork to really go from Democrat to Republican.

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The tough job of writing words for the governor

Posted by David Postman at 9:51 AM

Gov. Chris Gregoire hasn't been happy with her speechwriters. Austin Jenkins writes at Crosscut that Gregoire just ran through her third wordsmith in two years.

Adam Vogt, who had worked for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., is out after less than eight months on the job. "It's very difficult to put words in someone else's mouth," says Vogt, explaining his short tenure. "I think most of what I wrote worked well, but again, so much of public speaking is about delivery, it's about emphasis, it's about storytelling ... and that's rarely the same among two people."

Vogt's predecessor, Peter Jackson, lasted in the job six months. "It was sort of a mutual agreement that I no longer fit there and I was not able to capture the governor's voice in a way that she found satisfactory," explains Jackson.

I don't think it's unusual for speechwriters to have short tenures in the governor's office. I know Gov. Gary Locke struggled in that department, too. It's a tough job under the best circumstances. I do think it's particularly tough under Gregoire, as this quote from chief of staff Tom Fitzsimmons shows:

Fitzsimmons acknowledges the governor has been frustrated with the caliber of speeches written for her. "I think sometimes she's feeling that we've not given her all of what could be given to her to be more effective," says Fitzsimmons.

Gregoire is a perfectionist and an attorney. That makes for a tough customer when it comes to having things written for her. I imagine she could question every word, every comma even. She doesn't have a naturally comfortable speaking style. I once wrote: "In a Gregoire speech, even 'my friends' can at times sound like a reprimand."

I'm not sure what Gregoire is looking for in a speechwriter, other than that Fitzsimmons says they want the perfect person -- perfect words for the perfectionist governor. But the problem may not be the words or the delivery. Writes Jenkins:

The lesson, says Jackson, is speechwriters are expendable and sometimes take the fall if the governor is unhappy with how a message is being received.

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July 24, 2007

GOP campaign account not quite as bad as reported

Posted by David Postman at 4:25 PM

I linked yesterday to the Seattle Weekly report on fundraising for House Democratic and Republican campaign committees. That showed Democrats with about $450,000 in the bank and Republicans with just $40,621.

It may not be quite that dire, though a big gap exists. Kevin Carnes Carns, staff director of the House Republican committee, pointed out to me today that House Republicans have three fundraising committees associated with it, the House Republican Organizing Committee, the Speaker's Roundtable — which is being phased out — and the recently formed Reagan Fund. In those three accounts, Republicans show a total of about $70,000 in the bank.

Carnes Carns said Republicans deposited another $17,500 last week and he got another $5,000 check yesterday. With two fundraisers this week, he said:

"By the end of the week we should have over $100,000 in the bank."

Carnes Carns acknowledges the obvious fundraising advantage the Democrats have with their solid majority. Carnes Carns doesn't expect Republicans will be able to match Democrats dollar-for-dollar, but he is confident there will be $200,000 in the bank by the end of the year.

Carnes Carns said one thing that is making it hard to raise money from the Republican base is the uncertain nature of Dino Rossi's run for governor. Rossi hasn't decided yet and says he won't do so until the end of the year. Carnes Carns says that has some of the Republican base — the type that gives $50 to $150 — holding off donating to legislators in the hope that instead they can use their money to help Rossi.

NOTE: Apologies for the bad spelling on that name.

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Former party chair tells what ails the GOP

Posted by David Postman at 11:35 AM

Former state GOP Chairman Chris Vance writes at Crosscut today about what Republicans are doing wrong in Washington state. He has Part II coming, where he says he'll tell them what to do about it.

Vance covers the fairly well-known "structural" problems Republicans face in Washington. But he says that in legislative races, Republicans have done a poor job recruiting the right kind of candidates. He likes the sort of candidate Democrats have been successful with — mayors and local office holders ready to move up.

The Ds are recruiting candidates who are qualified, experienced, and, without fail, portray themselves as fiscally conservative and small-business-friendly. They get elected to the House, and then often move up to the Senate or other offices.

The GOP has fielded a few impressive candidates in recent elections, but far too often Republican candidates have little on their resume other than the fact that they are Republican activists. Running a small business and attending Republican district meetings is not seen by independents — or editorial boards — as sufficient training to serve in Washington's quasi-professional Legislature. When you have an unknown person running against the mayor, it's not really a fair fight. Elections are about candidates, and the Republicans are being outperformed by Speaker Chopp's candidate recruitment machine.

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July 23, 2007

How would you close this gap?

Posted by David Postman at 10:34 AM

At the Seattle Weekly, Aimee Curl looks at the Public Disclosure Commission reports from the state House campaign committees. Yikes. She finds that Democrats have $450,000 in the bank compared to the Republicans $40,621. Yes, the Democrats have more than 10 times what Republicans have.

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For today's card-carrying gay couples

Posted by David Postman at 9:34 AM

Today is the first day that same-sex and older, unmarried heterosexual couples can register their domestic partnership with the state. As I drove in to work I passed a growing line of people outside the Secretary of State's office waiting to sign up under the law that went into effect yesterday. Andrew Garber has a story in this morning's paper with updates from the growing line.

Each partner will get one of these official cards:



UPDATE: So far, 93 couples have registered since 8 a.m. today. The Secretary of State's website lists them all here.

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Tonight's Democratic debate

Posted by David Postman at 8:50 AM

I remain a skeptic that tonight's CNN/YouTube debate of Democratic presidential candidates signals any kind of revolution in political dialogue. Hearing Cokie Roberts, arbiter of all things conventional, on NPR this morning say how new and exciting it'll be didn't help either.

But I have to keep at least a little bit of an open mind because after the debate I will host a call-in show about the big event. It'll air on TVW at 6 p.m. — right after the debate ends — and be webcast right here at seattletimes.com. You can call toll-free during the program at 866-511-1103 or 866-511-1107. You will also be able to submit written questions from the Times homepage beginning at 4 p.m.

Times columnist Danny Westneat will be in the co-host chair. We have two guests lined up: Sandeep Kaushik, a Democratic political consultant, part-time aide to Ron Sims and former Stranger writer and Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine. (Newsvine is a news site that allows readers to pick their favorite stories and discuss the news.) Mike will help us decide how revolutionary the debate really was. I see from his blog he's an Al Gore guy, so I'll have to ask him how long he plans to wait before finding another candidate.

The rest of the hour will be taken up with insightful commentary and probing questions from you. And I see that at least the local Obama crowd is ready for a little post-game action.

Part of what originally had me questioning the importance of tonight's debate is that the real power comes from selecting the questions. And that power remains in the hands of big media, not the masses. Last week the Washington Post talked with CNN's Anderson Cooper about the debate. He said:

These are smart questions, and people are clearly living these topics. It's not just theoretical question, or an academic discussion. These are people that are very passionate about this topic. I want to make sure that this debate honors them, and honors the time they took to make these questions.

What makes YouTube so popular scares CNN a little.

"It's dangerous," says executive producer David Bohrman. "With the anonymity of the Internet, you can cross the line. There's a small, good gatekeeper function we still need to play."

Some 'Tubers are unhappy that they don't get to decide what gets asked tonight.

"Our expectation was that they were really going to use the Web and let the wisdom of the crowd help drive politics in a more democratic way," said David Colarusso, a Massachusetts physics teacher.

So, while on sabbatical in Edinburgh, Scotland, he tweaked his political site to allow anyone, YouTube user or not, to vote on what questions they want to see asked Monday. It can be reached at www.communitycounts.us.

At Colarusso's site he tells people:

Remember you are voting for the questions you want answered, not the viewpoints you agree with.

When I last checked, the top question was about impeaching President Bush.

There has also been criticism that the YouTube submissions are too male.

Women's Vote noted that "of the first 200 [video] submissions, only 34 were from women!" Yuck. I'd love to ask Anderson why he thinks men are rushing to the camcorder...and I must admit, the whole YouTube Debate site does have a very boy feel to it.

My guess is the questions that get asked will have a much more balanced appearance.

I also will keep an open mind about the debate because Jeff Jarvis is a believer. There's no one online — who I've never met or talked to — who has influenced my thinking about media as much as Jarvis. He started PrezVid.com to follow what he terms the YouTube Campaign. And he says tonight's program matters.

My fondest hope is that viewers — and candidates and journalists — leave the debate impressed with at least a few of the questions. I hope they see that handing over control to us — or I should say, back to us — makes for a better discussion and, in the end, a better democracy. I hope they see that we do care, we are smart. I hope they learn to involve us in their process more often. I hope we all feel better about the election and the country as a result. That is putting a lot of pressure on two hours of TV, YouTube videos, and politicians. But the YouTube debates are a crack in the wall of control of elections, politics, and media. Bring your chisels.

You can see what's been submitted here.

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July 20, 2007

Join PoP on TV

Posted by David Postman at 7:48 AM

I hope you'll help me in a little experiment. Following the Democratic presidential debate Monday night, The Seattle Times and TVW will hold a live, call-in program. The show will air on TVW and be webcast at seattletimes.com. The debate is the CNN YouTube debate with questions from YouTube submissions.

The debate airs on CNN from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Then, switch channels or go to seattletimes.com, for the post-game show. I will host the program with Times columnist and all around smart guy Danny Westneat. We have some interesting guests lined up to talk about the candidates' performance as well as to explore whether this really was a revolution in political dialogue.

Here's what you need to do: Watch the debate, then turn to TVW, call me live or send a question from seattletimes.com. (You will be able to submit questions from the site beginning at 4 p.m. Monday. The phones will go live at 6 p.m. and you can reach us at either 866-511-1103 or 866-511-1107.)

I would really like to hear some of our regulars on the air. This is your chance to argue with me and Danny in real time. Just think, we could hear Hinton and Particleman duke it out live.

And we'll do it again in September when Republicans have their YouTube moment.

I wrote last month about my doubts that the debate will signal any sort of revolution, no matter what all the hype says. I'll have more to say on that between now and Monday night.

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July 19, 2007

What Dan Satterberg does for fun

Posted by David Postman at 4:04 PM

Acting King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg had his official kickoff this morning. Music was provided by members of The Approximations, though the classic rock band had to play without its bass player. This is him from a Halloween show:



COURTESY WARREN NORMAN


Republican Dan Satterberg and his puffy sleeves performs with The Approximations.

The full band will play in Normandy Park's Marvista Park Sunday at 5 p.m.

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Doc Hastings on the war

Posted by David Postman at 1:11 PM

With congressional Democrats focusing on Iraq this summer I thought it was a good time to check in with our Republican delegation. We hear more often from Democrats in the delegation, who generally agree with their leadership on questions of war and the surge. But as some Republicans have gone public with new doubts about the president's strategy, it had been too long since I had checked in with GOP members Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings. (I wrote earlier about my interview with Reichert and McMorris Rodgers.) I spoke with Hastings this morning.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, remains hopeful that the war in Iraq — what he calls the central front of the war on terrorism — could still establish a sustainable democracy in an unstable region.

"What we need to understand is that the radical Islamists that are driving this war are in other areas, obviously, of the world and we need to be cognizant of that. But we need to focus especially in Iraq because of the potential to set up a free country right within the Middle East where most of this activity is happening and originating from."

Of the three Republicans in the state congressional delegation, I'd say he remains the most optimistic.

"Listen, it's difficult. I'm not going to minimize how difficult it is. But they did have several elections. In fact, their turnout at the last election ... was higher than ours was in the 2004 presidential election. I believe there is a desire there. But when you haven't governed yourself for so long, for goodness sakes, that's difficult."

As with Washington's other Republicans and many others in the party, Hastings said a September progress report on the Iraq surge will be a key moment in deciding the future course of the war. But so far, he says, there's been good progress. An interim report this month was seen by Democrats as proof of a failed policy. Hastings, though, points out that progress was shown on eight of eighteen benchmarks.

"That's not all that bad considering those benchmarks were in place for a month and half or two months at most. I tend to be optimistic that those things can be done. Obviously we'll have to wait to see. It's pretty hard to govern when you have people sniping at you."

And he's not talking about political sniping. He's talking about what snipers do. He says another sign of progress is that some of that violence has been quieted in Baghdad and moved out to the rural areas.

"That suggests the surge is working in the urban areas," he said. Hastings, the senior Republican in the delegation, says that even with his optimism he wants to see the Iraqis do more and do it more quickly to provide their own security.

"It's pretty hard to say when they will be able to do that. But I will say clearly that they are going to have to step up and demonstrate that ability sooner rather than later."

Hastings isn't worried about any splintering of the mostly unified position of congressional Republicans behind the president's strategy. There have been some well-known Senate Republicans who have recently spoken out against the war. But Hastings points out that they didn't defect when it came time to vote this week on whether to allow Democrats a vote on their latest withdrawal measure.

And in the latest House vote, he says, there were 10 Democrats who voted with Republicans against withdrawal and four Republicans who voted with Democrats.

"So it seems to be there is probably more questioning, at least number-wise, on the Democratic side than the Republican side."

Wavering public support doesn't worry him, either. He says there is a growing awareness about the roots of the conflict and that more Americans every day "are aware of how this is driven by a radical portion of a small part of one of the great religions, the Muslim religion."

There have been news reports about al Qaeda trying to establish a presence in the United States. I asked Hastings that if that were true, doesn't it call into question the strategy that the war in Iraq will keep terrorists there instead of on U.S. soil?

"Let's turn it around. If they are trying to establish footholds here and we were to cut and run, doesn't it follow that it'd be a whole lot easier to intensify the foothold they have here? I think that principle of engaging them in Iraq is still very sound."

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July 18, 2007

Giving credit where it's due

Posted by David Postman at 1:33 PM

I missed the big Gregoire administration bragfest Monday. Rich Roesler of the Spokesman was there posted this, though:

Filling in for a sick Gov. Chris Gregoire at her press conference yesterday were three state officials, including Gregoire's Chief of Staff Tom Fitzsimmons, who managed to use the word "great" a dozen times when describing aspects of Gregoire's leadership and current events.

(A sampling: "...A great website...great success...making great progress...great celebration...great history...great vibe...everything's great.")

The AP's Dave Ammons was there, too. He wrote that the "administration was in full "spin" cycle" as it touted recent good news. Republican state party chairman Luke Esser said that Gregoire should not be taking credit for either a booming economy or decreasing welfare rolls. Maybe Gary Locke should, though.

Maybe Gregoire even called Locke to thank him for doing some of the heavy lifting that at the time may have made him unpopular among some Democratic circles but now helps keep the economy rolling. (That'd be particularly nice — but also unlikely — given how hard Gregoire worked in her campaign to keep a safe distance from Locke.)

Esser said in a statement that welfare reform was a Republican idea. But in Olympia it was driven by Locke. And that put him at odds with some powerful legislative Democrats. He was able to get it through with Republican support.

There are many reasons why the economy is doing well. And there are probably just as many that a governor could take credit for as not. But one of the key successes touted by the Gregoire administration is the new Boeing jet. That was built here only after Locke pushed through a massive package of tax breaks and other incentives for Boeing. That put him at odds with labor and some legislative Democrats.

Locke also wrote a budget with program cuts but no tax increases. That ticked off some Democrats. Republican Dino Rossi was his best ally on that one. (And that may be one reason Locke doesn't get kudos form Democrats today on that subject.)

A smart guy told me this week that governors, like quarterbacks, get too much credit and too much blame. In this case, I think a past governor may not be getting enough credit.

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McMorris Rodgers on the war

Posted by David Postman at 8:39 AM

With Congressional Democrats focusing on Iraq this summer I thought it was a good time to check in with our Republican delegation. We hear more often from Democrats in the delegation, who generally agree with their leadership on questions of war and the surge. But as some Republicans have gone public with new doubts about the president's strategy, it had been too long since I had checked in with GOP members Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings. Here's a summary of my interview with McMorris Rodgers. (I wrote yesterday about my interview with Reichert and will talk with Hastings tomorrow.)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, told me this week she finds it interesting that congressional Democrats are pushing so hard on war votes this summer. Back at home, she said, Eastern Washington residents are far more concerned about immigration policy. McMorris Rodgers had a teleconference town hall meeting Saturday. Half of all the questions were about immigration. Just one person brought up Iraq. She did an instant poll during the call, too, and 73 percent of those listening said they opposed an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

"Having said that, I think people are discouraged and they're not satisfied with the progress in Iraq. And yet they understand that immediate withdrawal will have some impacts, too. And I think we need to be honest with ourselves about that."

I hadn't talked to McMorris Rodgers about the war since her re-election and I wondered how her thinking had changed since then.

"I understand the situation is much more grave since November, and the challenge before us is to figure out the best steps to bring some stability to Iraq. It's important that we figure out how to make that happen. There are a lot of unknowns. This has not gone according to our hopes."

But she is not ready to change course. There are some Republicans in the Senate who have recently spoken out against the Bush administration's surge. But McMorris Rodgers says Republicans remain largely united behind the strategy.

"We made a decision to move forward with the surge. We agreed on funding for the short term, with out a drop-dead date, and we need to give General Petraeus the opportunity to make it happen.

...

"I had hoped for more progress. But ultimately it's really only been three weeks since they received the extra troops and we need to give them some time."

But there is a likely end to that patience. Republicans are more and more focusing on September as a likely time to reassess the course in Iraq. That's when Petraeus is due to give a full progress report on the surge. And McMorris acknowledges, "September is going to be key."

One of the measures McMorris Rodgers will look at won't be in Petraeus' report — rapidly declining domestic support for the war.

"We can't continue to fight a war that we don't have the country's support for."

That prospect has McMorris Rodgers thinking about what to do post-surge.

"Ultimately I believe it is in our best interest to have a plan that is going to provide for stability in Iraq and the Middle East and I'm quite concerned about a drop-dead date. I think we need to be honest with ourselves about what it will take. Just because America may pull out of this region it is not necessarily going to end war in the region. And there's going to be impacts of us reducing our presence. So we need to do it in a way that provides as smooth a transition as possible."

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July 17, 2007

Reichert on the war

Posted by David Postman at 12:42 PM

With Congressional Democrats focusing on Iraq this summer, I thought it was a good time to check in with our Republican delegation. We hear more often from Democrats in the delegation, who generally agree with their leadership on questions of war and the surge. But as some Republicans have gone public with new doubts about the president's strategy, it had been too long since I had checked in with GOP members Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Doc Hastings. Here's what I learned from a long interview with Reichert. (Watch for the others later this week.)

Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, says Democrats are politicizing the Iraq war by repeatedly voting on withdrawal resolution. He thinks Republican senators who have recently called for a change of course — at least those up for re-election next year — are also injecting domestic political considerations into war planning. At this point, the second-term congressman will not abide anything that interrupts Gen. David Petraeus' surge.

"When you try to dismantle a plan that has been put in place before it has the opportunity to come to fruition you are politicizing the effort and you make it difficult."

Reichert still firmly supports President Bush. The congressman is a former sheriff. When he talks about the war he frequently relates it to police work. And in this case he sees parallels between the criticism aimed at Bush and his most famous case, the hunt for the Green River Killer.

"During Green River we were just hammered on by the press and the community and I got hammered by people and criticized and I just feel some of the same pressures are being applied to the president."

What's new about Reichert's view of the war is that he sees a day coming when it could be time to force a change in the course of the war. He wants to wait at least until September when Petraeus is due to give a full progress report on the surge. There are still only a handful of Republicans who would vote to end the surge today. But more and more Republicans are looking to the end of summer to change course. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on TV this week:

I think everybody anticipates that there's going to be a new strategy in the fall. I don't think we'll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now.

So by September there may be an easy consensus that a new direction is needed. But as he looks two months down the line, Reichert has yet to soften his rhetoric about Democratic opposition to the surge.

"To me it feels like very much like General Pelosi wants to run this war. I have my faith in General Patreaus. ... I know this surge has been slowly building and they have been deploying troops but his full surge deployment was not complete until June 15. His first report on progress was July 15. There has been progress. But there has not been enough progress. We all expected more and I'm disappointed in that."

Democratic-sponsored votes on the war — and there may be at least one a week and sometimes two until Congress leaves this summer — look like "meddling" to Reichert. But if come September Iraqis continue to miss benchmarks and evidence of a successful surge is lacking, it'll be time for Republicans, too, to speak up. Again, Reichert uses a police analogy about what would happen if he were the SWAT commander on a troublesome mission.

"At some point, if I'm not making any progress the sheriff will come to me and say, 'Lieutenant, what's going on?' And if I don't have the right answers, the direction is going to change."

Even at that point, though, Reichert will look for middle ground between surging and withdrawing. He says the Iraqi government may never feel it is strong enough to govern the country without the presence of U.S. troops. But, Reichert said, "we're going to have to slowly withdraw, giving them more and more of that responsibility and putting them on the hot seat for maintaining control, peace and order in their country."

He suggested the first moves would be to "retreat a little and move out of the intense center of the battle." Until then, Reichert will keep doing what he's doing and he says:

"It will be unpopular for a while."

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July 16, 2007

It's a father and son thing

Posted by David Postman at 5:16 PM

At The Slog, Josh Feit has answers to some questions about port campaign donations that I bet you never thought to ask.

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McCain visit postponed

Posted by David Postman at 5:07 PM

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain has postponed his Seattle-area fundraising stop. He was originally due in Bellevue tomorrow. Due to Senate business, the trip has been rescheduled for Aug. 2 at the Washington Athletic Club.

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A Demo candidate for lands commissioner

Posted by David Postman at 5:01 PM

Democrat Peter Goldmark says he plans to run for state public lands commissioner. Goldmark, an Okanogan wheat farmer, ran last year against Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He will enter the Democratic primary to take on incumbent Republican Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland.

From a statement Goldmark released today:

Goldmark says that if elected he will focus on ending below cost logging contracts, carefully monitor sale of public land to developers, and end policies that threaten water supply and quality for farms and fish -- such as sale of land to private developers or logging practices close to stream headwaters, increasing erosion and degrading water quality.

He will launch his campaign in late August or early September.

The PI reported last month that along with Goldmark, Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-West Seattle, and King County Councilman Dow Constantine were considering getting in the race.

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Senate to hold all night Iraq debate

Posted by David Postman at 4:37 PM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office released the text of a speech today saying that if Democrats don't get an up or down vote on an amendment to the Iraq spending bill they want, the Senate will stay in session overnight Tuesday to debate the war.

"I would like to inform the Republican leadership and all my colleagues that we have no intention of backing down. If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin-Reed today or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday. The American people deserve an open and honest debate on this war, and they deserve an up-or-down vote on this amendment to end it."

The marathon debate is part of the latest push by Senate Democrats to win approval for the spending amendment. The binding vote would reduce U.S. troops in Iraq and move others away from what Reid describes as "policing an Iraqi civil war," and would require a new diplomatic effort in the region.

Also tomorrow night, Senate Democrats will hold a candlelight press conference with veterans on the Capitol grounds. Sen. Patty Muray will speak at the press conference. Reid's speech makes clear that even with little chance of getting the vote he wants, he hopes a message is sent by the day's -- and night's -- activities.

"Let the American people hear the arguments. Let them see their elected representatives engaging in a full, open and honest debate. Let them hear why Republicans are obstructing us on this amendment."

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Clinton campaign co-chair dials for support

Posted by David Postman at 12:33 PM

When Seattle law firm Davis Wright Tremaine hired Weldon Latham its D.C. office in 2004 it got one of the nation's leading experts on corporate diversity issues with deep ties to the minority business community. Latham also brought important Democratic Party connections, including years of involvement with the DNC, serving as re-election co-chairman for President Clinton and as an informal advisor to Vice President Gore.

Last month, Hillary Clinton tapped Latham to be co-chairman of her presidential campaign. That has Latham, an African-American, tapping into all three of what he says are his communities -- CEOs, the minority community, and Democratic officials spread throughout the country. I talked to Latham last week. In part, I was interested to find out what a campaign co-chairman really does.

Is it all about raising money? Not at this point, at least. Latham certainly is a fundraiser. He held a big dollar events for Clinton when she first ran for the Senate. He did that after a personal request from Bill Clinton. And he has spent years as a member and trustee of the DNC -- a well known figure among candidates looking to raise money.

Now Latham spends much of his campaign time -- he jokes that he still has to keep his day job -- telephoning Democratic Party officials and officeholders around the country to see if they're yet on board with Clinton.

"I have a great relationship with a wide cross-section of elected officials and have the ability to reach out to those people and find out what their thinking is. I call a lot of people during the day and find out, 'Yep, they're very strong for Hillary, they've already talked.' Or you might be surprised that someone who you would think has been contacted but they have not."

There is a group of those potential supporters who tell Latham. "I don't know Hillary the way I know Bill Clinton."

"They have a distant view and what I try to do in those instances is to make sure we arrange a call or a meeting -- some sort of interaction where they get to have the privilege I have of speaking with her with some regularity."

Latham says he hears from people who say they are supporting Barack Obama over Clinton. But he doesn't sense that support is deep.

"Even in those communities where they tell me for one reason or another they are supporting Obama, they are sending a message that supporting Obama is a good thing and demonstrating liberal thinking of those ... groups. But even the Obama people I run into -- most, but not everybody -- quickly acknowledge that Hillary will be the nominee of the party and the next president of the United States."

In assessing Clinton's standing, Latham spoke of Obama a fair bit, mentioned John Edwards in passing and said nothing of the others in the field. He says Obama is the only real challenge in the short term.

"I was one of the people who told Senator Kerry that I thought John Edwards would be an excellent running mate. I like John Edwards. But I think John Edwards had a disappointing performance as a vice presidential running mate and I think his run as president this time hasn't been as good."

Latham says the media falsely portrays Clinton as distant and unfriendly. He finds her just the opposite, and says she exudes competence and determination. That's why he thinks the best thing he can do in building support for her among party leaders is to get them to meet Clinton.

"The good news is if someone has met Hillary Clinton the sale has been made."

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Politics, punks and love

Posted by David Postman at 9:16 AM

I was reading the wedding announcements in yesterday's New York Times and came across a featured report on two political figures, Laura Capps and Bill Burton. He is national press secretary for Barack Obama and she the spokeswoman for Sen. Edward Kennedy.

I've dealt with both before in their previous campaign work and they're good at what they do and always pleasant to deal with. The Times story is full of politico-romantic touches: They met while working for rivals in Iowa, later moved in with Capp's mother, Congresswoman Lois Capps, and even the groom and groomsmen made a political statement in their tan summer suits. Burton called that, "The audacity of taupe."

That's the sort of line that makes Burton a favorite quote for reporters. But amidst the tale of their burgeoning relationship and Burton's on-the-knee proposal, this jumped out at me in the Times telling of the Capps/Burton tale:

Their romance necessarily bloomed in private. "Bill was nervous about it," said John Lapp, then Mr. Burton's boss. "As a staffer, you never want to become an issue in a campaign. And there's always some punk looking for any possible advantage."

Ah, scheming punks around every corner set to kill a budding romance -- politics is such a sweet business, isn't it?

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July 13, 2007

Judge says union negotiation documents are public

Posted by David Postman at 2:00 PM

The Spokesman's Rich Roesler has news of the decision that went against the unions:

"These records are of interest to the citizens of the state," wrote King County Superior Court Judge Christopher Washington.

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LaMagna's first media buy

Posted by David Postman at 8:14 AM

Democratic presidential candidate Dal LaMagna will air his first TV commercial of the campaign next week. The spot focuses on LaMagna's recent trip to Iraq and Jordan. In the ad he says:

Most Iraqis told me they want us to leave, there won't be a civil war, they'd like to take care of themselves.
An e-mail to supporters this morning says the ad will run in New Hampshire next Wednesday when LaMagna plans a kickoff announcement. He is also asking for donations to be able to also run the ad nationally.

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July 12, 2007

"Balance" that will make you dizzy

Posted by David Postman at 1:34 PM

Josh Feit writes about Dino Rossi and Forward Washington today. Feit criticizes the group for a decidedly partisan bent on what is supposed to be the non-partisan group reviewing Rossi's Idea Bank. Feit writes:

The only balance is committee member Lou Guzzo, who used to work for former conservative Dem Governor Dixie Lee Ray.

I'm not sure why working for the most conservative Washington governor in my lifetime brings balance. Shouldn't what Guzzo writes today mean more than a party label from so long ago in political history it has to be measured in geological terms?

I assume Feit didn't read what I wrote about the Idea Bank guys the other day. But he apparently also missed this at Horsesass. It includes lots of samples of Guzzo's work and current thoughts. He's a Democrat who thinks FDR was a Socialist, complains that today's Democrats "tried to destroy our role as the world's peacemaker," claims the Vietnam War would have been easy to win except for "the loud-mouthed peaceniks at home" and "that traitorous scamp, Jane Fonda — who is at it again today," and says "the perpetrators of the DDT ban should be put on trial for murder."

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State Supreme Court backs class-action suits

Posted by David Postman at 11:23 AM

The state Supreme Court ruled this morning that Cingular Wireless can't stop unhappy customers from banding together in a class action lawsuit over illegal roaming and hidden charges. The case, Scott v. Cingular Wireless Corp., began when a group filed a class action against the cell phone company. A King County Superior Court judge, though, ruled that the agreement the customers signed with the company prohibited class-action suits.

Cingular wanted to deal with each customer separately and through arbitration. The court, in a 6-3 majority, remanded the case to Judge Joan Allison, who had ordered individual arbitration in the case. The majority opinion is a strong defense of the right for class action. The court, in an opinion written by Justice Tom Chambers, said the class-action waiver in the Cingular contract was "unconscionable and unenforceable."

We took direct review and conclude that the class action waiver is unconscionable because it effectively denies large numbers of consumers the protection of Washington's Consumer Protection Act (CPA), chapter 19.86 RCW, and because it effectively exculpates Cingular from liability for a whole class of wrongful conduct. It is, therefore, unenforceable. Since the arbitration clause itself provides that if any part is found unenforceable, the entire clause shall be void, there is no basis to compel arbitration.

Chambers wrote that courts have seen class actions as an important part of consumer protection law because without it, "many meritorious claims would never be brought." That's particularly true, he wrote when individual claims are for a small amount of money.

As the ever inimitable Judge Posner has aptly noted, "[t]he realistic alternative to a class action is not 17 million individual suits, but zero individual suits, as only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30."

Chambers wrote that being able to join with others in a class action "transforms a merely theoretically possible remedy into a real one." The majority opinion was also signed by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and justices Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Mary Fairhurst and Richard Sanders.

Justice Barbara Madsen, though, wrote a dissent saying the majority is trying to create a new state policy that forbids class-action waivers and "disfavors arbitration."

In essence, the majority creates a public policy that forbids a class-action waiver in consumer actions because it believes that the assistance of an attorney is required to remedy consumer wrongs. It reasons that attorneys will not represent litigants if the amount at stake is too small. Therefore, it declares that class suits are necessary so that attorneys will be attracted by the prospect of sufficient remuneration to justify their representation.

I would reject the argument that plaintiffs will be unable to obtain legal representation and therefore the arbitration agreement's class action waiver is unconscionable.

The dissent was also signed by justices James Johnson and Bobbe Bridge.

For the court watchers out there, this is an interesting division on the court. It's certainly not an ideological or partisan split. It's not what I'd expect in an argument about whether the court is legislating from the bench, as Madsen writes. I'm willing to bet that Bridge is generally a strong proponent of consumer protection law. I'm not sure what it means, but I always find comfort in court rulings that aren't easily labeled by ideology.

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Local netroots ready to boost Burner again

Posted by David Postman at 8:41 AM

The liberal bloggers who worked so hard to promote Darcy Buner in the 8th Congressional District last year are back in the game. News here yesterday that state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, is expected to soon challenge Burner for the Democratic nomination brought quick responses from bloggers for Burner. It's clear there will be plenty of reminders through the primary next year that Tom has only recently become a Democrat.

Here's Andrew at the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog:

We're confident the 8th District is ready for an authentic progressive, and we know we have a stellar candidate in Darcy Burner - a smart, savvy campaigner who will stand up to the attacks from the right wing.

As for Rodney Tom, he is free to run if he wishes. He will discover that running for Congress is not the same as running for state legislature. He won't be able to defeat Darcy, but perhaps he will do her a favor in keeping her on top of her game.

Earlier he wrote about Burner, with a jab at Tom:

She believes, as we do, that politics is a team sport, and she is a team player, not an opportunist looking to advance her career.

And of course, she is a wonderful person - intelligent, caring, good humored, well intentioned.

(Andrew's earlier post about the 8th is a long one that proposes that "there is no such thing as a moderate." He says that's a myth. He quotes from George Lakoff's book, "Thinking Points," and says the book was "a huge inspiration for this post, which I have borrowed phrasing from." It's good that he credits Lakoff. But it'd probably be better to just put Lakoff's stuff in quotes and not "borrow" someone else's words.)

David Goldstein, meanwhile, has a new take on why Burner lost to Congressman Dave Reichert last year. It was all part of a plan.

Burner, like the other second-tier Democratic challengers, was a sacrificial lamb in a grand strategy in which all of the first-tier and most of the third-tier Democrats won. She played an instrumental role in the Democrats taking control of Congress, drawing heavy Republican fire in a district the R's hadn't planned on seriously defending. And yet she came within a few thousand votes, and a couple tactical decisions, of winning.

Goldstein writes that Tom is running for the "Republican Democratic nomination" and he's ready to go after the convert.

As for Tom, the presumed "Democratic" challenger, he's in for a shock. In 2006 my fellow bloggers and I took great joy in launching withering attacks on Tom's opponent, the much-hated state Sen. Luke Esser. Tom didn't ask for our support back then, and he shouldn't this time around either, because he ain't gonna get squat. No doubt, he's a nice enough guy, and a helluva lot better than Esser, but he has a voting record as a Republican legislator that's not going to endear himself to many 8th CD Democratic primary voters. Talk about great blog fodder.

Goldstein must have been surprised to learn that Tom will soon get in the race. He wrote the other day about Burner:

With $185,000 cash on hand, a 16,000-strong contributor list, the unwavering support of the local netroots, and a top-notch campaign team forming around her, I can't imagine why another Democrat would attempt to challenge her for the opportunity to face-off against Sheriff Reichert.

Of course, Goldstein has been surprised before by Tom's ability to attract primary voters. When Tom switched parties last year to run against Esser, he first had to face Democrat Debi Golden, the liberals' choice who was already in the primary. Goldstein wrote then:

Given the choice between a progressive Democrat like Golden or a moderate ex-Republican like Tom, I'm choosing Golden. And I'm guessing that in a closed primary, 48th district Democrats will choose Golden as well.

Golden dropped out of the race two weeks later.

ALSO: A "party unity" study by CQPolitics.com lists Reichert with the 14th lowest party unity score. That means in the first half of this year only 13 Republicans voted against Republican leadership more often that Reichert.

CQ says "there still are a number of House Republicans seeking to strike independent postures — which contrast with the still-strongly conservative demeanor of their overall caucus."

And the analysis shows that these members appear more and more willing to distance themselves from President George W. Bush and other Republican leaders who are suffering from very low public approval ratings
.

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July 11, 2007

Clinton Seattle magic may not be transferable

Posted by David Postman at 4:05 PM

At The Stranger, Eli Sanders writes today about Sen. Hillary Clinton's fundraising in Seattle, which isn't going well. He says that last month's fundraiser headlined by former President Bill Clinton brought in half what organizers had hoped for.

The Seattle fundraiser with Bill Clinton, held at the downtown Westin Hotel, was initially supposed to be a $500-a-plate affair. According to Susan Sheary, who chairs the King County Democrats and volunteered at the event, the price was subsequently dropped to $250 a plate — an indication that even the former president, who won this state by wide margins in both of his campaigns, was having a hard time drawing the desired crowd for Hillary Clinton.

Colby Underwood, the hotshot local Democratic fundraiser who was tapped by the Clinton campaign to pull off the event, said he could not comment on how much was raised. But Blake Zeff, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, told me via e-mail that Bill Clinton's appearance at the Westin raised $100,000 — only half of what organizers hoped.

Congressman Jay Inslee, a Clinton supporter, told Sanders that part of the problem is local Democrats just aren't Hillary Democrats.

"I love Democrats of all stripes," Inslee told me. "But the Democratic constituency of our state is a little different than other Democratic constituencies" — more educated, more white-collar, more affluent. "Hillary does very well with working moms, blue-collar workers, union or nonunion men."

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Hurst won't run, but says Burner will have challenge

Posted by David Postman at 11:33 AM

State Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, tells me that family concerns and heavy lobbying from House Speaker Frank Chopp has convinced him not to join the Democratic primary in the 8th Congressional District. But he says that state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina,
will soon announce he will run against Darcy Burner, the party's '06 nominee who has already begun her second run to take on Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.

Hurst and Tom have been talking publicly about a potential primary run and have had many discussions amongst themselves. Hurst said:

"One of our very big concerns was I didn't want to run in a primary against Rodney and he didn't want a primary with me in it. We're both tenacious campaigners."

But neither was concerned apparently about running against Burner, who is off to a fast fundraising start. Hurst said he is worried his soldier son may soon be deployed to Afghanistan and that would make it hard to concentrate on a congressional campaign. He said that would be particularly hard on his wife, who has always been an integral part of his campaigns.

Was Chopp clear he didn't want Hurst to run?

"Oh good God, I would say that is an understatement. I did have a meeting with Frank. I tried to avoid it as long as I could. Frank is obviously pretty persuasive."

Hurst said that Tom will join the primary "fairly soon." He said he likes Burner but doesn't think she can beat Reichert.

"The objective is to find what serves the citizens best and I think that is to have Dave replaced. I just have to say if you couldn't win in 2006, you've got to take a couple of steps back and take a reality check and see if you can do it in 2008."

Burner has already said she thinks she is better situated to win in her second run.

UPDATE: Burner issued a statement today about Tom's likely announcement. She makes it clear she'll raise the issue of Tom's switch last year from the Republican Party.

Our most recent fundraising quarter gives me confidence that nothing can stop us from defeating Congressman Reichert next November. The energy, enthusiasm and momentum in this race is already with this campaign. It is clear that voters are ready to replace an outspoken advocate of the War in Iraq with someone who has the courage to end the War.

As for the issue of experience that Rodney Tom has raised, what voters really want from their elected leaders is good judgment. Rodney Tom only recently figured out that the policies of George Bush are wrong for our country. And Dave Reichert is still wrong on all of the big issues of the day: the war in Iraq, a woman's right to choose, and the other failed policies of the Bush administration.


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PDC to investigate Rossi's non-profit

Posted by David Postman at 11:20 AM

The staff of the Public Disclosure Commission says it will investigate whether Dino Rossi's non-profit Forward Washington should be registered as a political committee.

The state Democratic Party filed a complaint with the PDC late last month. Democrats said the Rossi group is "functionally indistinguishable" from a campaign effort and that it is clear Rossi is running for governor.

Rossi has denied that, and said he did not create the group or set off on a statewide tour as part of any potential second run against Gov. Christine Gregoire.

PDC Assistant Director Doug Ellis said that Rossi and the Democrats will be officially notified Monday that a formal investigation is beginning. He said the key issue for the PDC is to determine is whether Rossi fits the definition of a candidate under state statute.

Under state campaign finance rules, candidates must disclose their donors and adhere to contribution limits.

The Democrats' complaint said that since Rossi once declared he was a candidate for governor in 2008 he can't now take that back and instead raise money and do campaign-like activities under the guise of a non-profit foundation. The complaint says:

Forward Washington's primary purpose and activity is like that of any campaign committee: to solicit and spend contributions in support of a declared candidate for public office. In devising the artifice of Forward Washington, however, Mr. Rossi improperly evades campaign finance rules applicable to other campaign committees. Because Mr. Rossi's ploy cynically operates to defeat the public's interest in fair elections and in complete disclosure of election campaign finances, it violates RCW 42.17.

That is the state campaign disclosure law.

Rossi is paid $75,000 a year in a part-time salary with Forward Washington. Rossi said when the complaint was filed that Democrats are wrong to claim he's a candidate, and if he's not, there's no substance to the complaint. Rossi said:

"I never ever said I was running in '08. Those words have never crossed my lips, publicly or privately."

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This is just what Mitt Romney has been saying

Posted by David Postman at 9:45 AM

From the New York Times:

Voters say they want the next president to have strong religious convictions regardless of whether or not they share the same set of beliefs.

But candidates need to be mindful about how much they talk about religion on the campaign trail.

In a CBS News poll taken at the end of June, half of all those polled said it was appropriate for candidates to talk about their religion and half said it was not appropriate.


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Forbes says Washington a great place for business

Posted by David Postman at 9:36 AM

Forbes magazine has named Washington state the fifth best place in the country to do business. And the business magazine says that placement is bigger news than even the first-place finisher.

In Forbes.com's second annual Top States for Business, Virginia may be the top-ranked state for the second straight year, but Washington is the big story. The biggest mover (tied with Tennessee), rising from 12th to fifth place, Washington is also the only state to finish in the top five in three main categories (labor, regulatory environment and growth). And Washington's numbers are up across the board when you look both backward and at projections into the future.

The article is downright gushing.

One of Washington's big strengths is reduced red tape. The Office of Regulatory Assistance helps individuals and businesses sort through the many layers of government regulation all in one place. If a number of state agencies need to be contacted for a new business to obtain permits, it can be handled from one source.

That's certainly good news for Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is quoted in the piece. I don't think Dino Rossi's supporters can counter by saying this is more evidence of a liberal press bias. Forbes just doesn't fit the picture.

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One reporter doesn't buy McCain's rosy assessment

Posted by David Postman at 9:09 AM

Sen. John McCain's campaign is clearly in trouble, despite what the candidate said yesterday. According to the New York Times:

"No, no, no, no," Mr. McCain said when asked by reporters on Capitol if his campaign was in trouble. "I'd describe the campaign as going well. I'm very happy with it."

Check out the photograph the Times ran with its front page story. McCain is surrounded by reporters. On the left is a guy with glasses holding a notebook. And if you look at it carefully --- blow it up or check out the version in the paper -- it sure looks like he wrote:

"this isn't straight talk"

A more careful read: The notebook says with a little shorthand, "this certainly is straight talk." Apparently McCain was asked if he was giving straight talk, and he said he certainly was.

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July 10, 2007

Rossi's idea guys borrow work to bash the gov

Posted by David Postman at 12:25 PM

Matt Manweller, a political science professor at Central Washington University and part of Dino Rossi's brain trust, writes at his blog about what he calls "The Governor and Money Laundering."

Most Washingtonians don't know it, but our Governor has found a legal way to money launder tax dollars to pay for her reelection bid.

At Whackynation, Lou Guzzo -- another of Rossi's Idea Bank guys -- wrote on the same subject, saying:

Washington State citizens have just been made aware of a classic example of manipulation and political control of the state by the Democratic Party -- and it's an example that has been going on for decades, dating from the Magnuson-Jackson era through at least the past 50 years.

Guzzo and Manweller serve on the committee Rossi uses to review submissions to his Idea Bank. (Both also write at Whackynation.) Rossi proclaims the group bipartisan and apolitical and says it is unconnected to any potential gubernatorial run. But Guzzo and Manweller both use news of state raises and increased union donations to Democrats to hit Gregoire hard. Manweller tosses around words like conspiracy, money laundering and prostitution. Guzzo calls it an "insidious political gambit" that robbed Rossi of the 2004 election.

It doesn't add any credibility to Rossi's non-profit -- the one he says is apolitical -- when half the crew reviewing submissions to the Idea Bank are so openly and vehemently attacking the governor.

But there's one thing that Guzzo and Manweller left out. Neither bothered to credit Times reporter Ralph Thomas for the weeks of work that went into the story they both rely on. All the facts in both pieces come directly from this July 1 story by Thomas. But there is not even a hint of attribution or credit. Readers could easily have thought Manweller discovered this "conspiracy" and must have wondered how it was, as Guzzo wrote, that Washington citizens had just learned of this news.

I asked Manweller about this. He said by e-mail:

Yes, Ralph's story was the main source for my blog post. I was actually led to the story by reading Sound Politics, and most of the people over here don't read that blog. To be honest, I just didn't think of citing anyone in my blog. I just have never done it before. But, you raise a good point. I'll add a link to his article today.

The Sound Politics post included a link to the Times story. Manweller added a link to the end of his post after our e-mail exchange this morning.

At Whackynation, they just don't like the media over there so I'm not surprised they couldn't credit the dreaded MSM. As they say:

WhackyNation offers the opinions of three editors who often find themselves at odds with Washington's liberal and often incompetent drive-by media.

Who drove by whom here?

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The race for county prosecutor

Posted by David Postman at 8:45 AM

Few people pay as much attention as attorneys do to the race for county prosecutor. With four months until the election, much of the campaign takes place among the local bar. Surrogates for the candidates seek endorsements and money for Republican Dan Satterberg or Democrats Bill Sherman and Keith Scully.

One recent e-mail exchange I read gave me a good taste for that. It began with a e-mail sent to a long list of attorneys from Frank Shoichet, a prominent trial attorney and self-described "dyed-in-the-wool Democrat." His e-mail carried the subject line: A Democrat for Satterberg. He didn't mention any names other than Satterberg's in the e-mail. But in praising Satterberg's work, Shoichet
wrote:

Norm's tragic and surprising death leaves King County with the choice of continuing that kind of leadership or of having its prosecutorial offices being led by those whose only claim on this office appears to be ambition, unbolstered by the kind of experience necessary to lead such an important office, and to lead it fairly and competently, with a steady and experienced hand. To my mind, it is simply not a qualification for the office of King County Prosecuting Attorney that someone would very much like to be elected, sometime soon, to some public office.

Sherman read that as an attack on him. And he responded with a longer e-mail outlining his experience. He wrote:

I have no intention of stooping to attacks. I know Dan Satterberg is a decent man and public servant. But I also believe that we have elections for a reason: They are important opportunities to define our collective sense of ourselves. While I believe that Dan and I both share an unbending commitment to evenhanded justice, we do differ when it comes to our values and priorities. I believe the values I embrace, and the priorities I have articulated, are more in line with those of the people of King County.

Read Shoichet's e-mail here, and see Sherman's response here.

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The man who made Willie Horton famous

Posted by David Postman at 7:29 AM

Catching up with the weekend papers, I see The News Tribune's Sean Cockerham had a profile of Floyd Brown who last year moved back to his native Washington after tending the legacy of the Reagan Ranch in California. Cockerham calls Brown, now living in University Place, "among the nation's best-known conservative political knife-throwers."

This is the fellow responsible for the Willie Horton television ad that helped derail the Michael Dukakis presidential campaign in 1988. Brown later wrote a book called "Slick Willie: Why America Cannot Trust Bill Clinton." He also created a 1-900 line in 1992 so callers could hear edited excerpts of telephone conversations between Clinton and Arkansas lounge singer Gennifer Flowers.

George H.W. Bush, the Republican president at the time, repudiated the Flowers phone line "as the kind of sleaze that diminishes the political process." Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry once accused Brown of being "personally responsible for some of the sleaziest politics this country has seen."

Now Brown and the national conservative group he founded, Citizens United, are working on "Hillary: The Movie" to come out this fall.


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July 9, 2007

Dino Rossi may not be a candidate ...

Posted by David Postman at 4:42 PM

But he sure acts like one when his people respond to a problem by claiming Rossi was misquoted by a confused reporter.

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Reichert campaign says fundraising on course

Posted by David Postman at 3:49 PM

Congressman Dave Reichert has raised enough money so far this year to pay off a debt from his 2006 campaign and still have about $160,000 in the bank. I wrote this morning about Democrat Darcy Burner's fast fundraising start. Reichert's chief of staff, Mike Shields, says that Reichert is hitting his fundraising goals. The campaign will file FEC reports that show about $245,000 raised in the second quarter for a total year-to-date of about $444,000. At the same time, Reichert raised money to retire a $130,000 debt from last year's campaign against Burner.

Shields said the possibility of a Democratic challenger for Burner could help spur Republican donors to give to Reichert. He said that a primary on the other side would at least raise the profile of the race earlier in the cycle. Two years ago, some Reichert boosters were happy that other Democrats stepped aside and gave Burner a clear path to the nomination, thinking it would be easy to beat an unknown, political neophyte.

Shields told me:

"You have to be careful what you wish for. She ran a good race and came close to us."

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McCain here next week

Posted by David Postman at 2:57 PM

Arizona Sen. John McCain will bring his struggling campaign for president to Bellevue next week. The state Republican Party event calendar shows McCain will have a reception and dinner July 17. It will cost $500 per person for dinner or $2,300 for dinner and a photo of the candidate.

Pundits in recent days have been particularly pessimistic about McCain's chances of winning the Republican nomination. He is holding in third place in some polls, but there is much talk about whether he can overcome money problems or, what may be even more difficult, overcome the sense among some that he's not living up this reputation circa 2000.

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Libby's career isn't over

Posted by David Postman at 11:17 AM

When President Bush commuted Scooter Libby's sentence he said that even without jail time, Libby would pay a high price for his conviction. Bush said:

The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. ... The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting.

I doubt it. I'm not sure what it takes to have a D.C. career ruined. But history shows a federal conviction isn't enough. Look at the record:

When President George H.W. Bush pardoned a list of Iran-Contra figures in 1992 he wrote that

all five have already paid a price -- in depleted savings, lost careers, anguished families -- grossly disproportionate to any misdeeds or errors of judgment they may have committed.

The most prominent name on the list was former Reagan-era Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who had managed to salvage his career.

In 1989, Weinberger, a self-described "frustrated newspaperman," joined Forbes to become the magazine's fourth publisher. In 1993 he was named chairman of Forbes Inc., filling a position that had been vacant since the 1990 death of Malcolm S. Forbes.
Also on the list was Elliott Abrams, an assistant secretary of state under Reagan who pleaded guilty to withholding evidence from Congress. In February 2005, George W. Bush appointed Abrams to the National Security Council as director of the Office for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations.

Examples from both parties support my theory that indictments, convictions even time served, don't kill a career. (One difference is Democrats haven't yet had the chance to put pardoned felons back into an administration.)

President Bill Clinton pardoned former House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill. Rostenkowski pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud. Forget for a moment that he never lost his federal pension, estimated to be as much as $125,000 a year. Rostenkowski was still able to have a post-conviction career.

He worked as a political commentator -- a favorite refuge of the political criminal class -- earned $15,000 a pop for speeches and worked as a consultant.

He has a healthy client list, including the Chicago Board of Trade. He says he doesn't lobby; he just gives advice on legislative strategy.

Clinton also pardoned Henry Cisneros, his secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Cisneros pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal officials. Today he is chairman of CityView, an investment firm for developers.

That may not be what Cisneros thought his future would hold. But it hardly counts as a career in shambles.

I won't argue here whether or not the Libby commutation was the proper step for Bush to take. But I don't buy the argument that one of the heavy costs he will pay is a ruined career. That may be true for ordinary folks who don't get pardoned or have their sentences commuted. But it's not the case for the well-connected of either party. My bet is we will see Libby again -- if we watch carefully enough.

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Burner hits 200K

Posted by David Postman at 9:58 AM

Democrat Darcy Burner is doing a final check on her second quarter fundraising but looks to be doing better than she did in her first run against 8th District Congressman Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. Burner will file papers with the Federal Elections Committee later today showing she raised $199,768 in the second quarter that ended June 30. That's according to Sandeep Kaushik, who is consulting on the campaign. He says Burner will show $185,263 cash on hand.

Kaushik says that in Burner's '04 run, she didn't hit the $200,000 figure until much later.

"She's nine months ahead. She's got a big, running head start."

And the campaign obviously hopes it is enough to discourage other Democrats from getting in the primary.

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July 3, 2007

A little break

Posted by David Postman at 8:33 AM

I am going to take the rest of the week off. I'll be back Monday, rested and ready to return to the fray.

Have a safe and sane Fourth.

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July 2, 2007

In other news

Posted by David Postman at 9:50 AM

  • Ken Hutcherson gives up his anti-gay rights initiative that no one knew was happening.

    WAIT A MINUTE: The Times had the story first, so I should have linked to this, not the AP version. Sorry. (Scroll down to see the item.)

  • Mossback says:

    Seattle operates under the guise of nice, it tips its hat to nice. But much of the time, we're something the postcard doesn't show: a passive-aggressive, often dysfunctional, conflict-averse town where the sharpest knives often leave their mark in the form of a Happy Face.

  • Into the Breach live blogged this weekend's state Democratic Party meeting in Pasco that few knew was happening. One note: Party will officially stay out of the fight over mail balloting in King County.

    Pelz wants King Cty to have all-mail balloting. (Repubs don't want it since it will increase turnout). The King County system has been a good system for 10 years. The 2004 audit proved the system worked. Pelz says it is inappropriate for the party to weigh in right now. Motion passed to refer to election cmte.

  • To raise money for his annual conclave of liberal bloggers and acolytes,
    Kos is holding an auction, including a Valerie Plame autographed menu from a fundraiser that featured "Plame broiled mini burgers" and "Scooter Pies."

    (Thanks Jonah at NC 17 Slog.


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PoP sports spectacular

Posted by David Postman at 9:03 AM

What do roller derby and vintage car racing have to do with politics? Nothing that I could think of after too much time thinking about how to justify writing about two amazing sporting events I saw this weekend. Believe me, I searched for metaphors. All I can tell you is that even political people have secret weekend lives. Sometimes that entails strapping on roller skates, adopting a nom de derby and banging around a small rink. And sometimes it turns out that even liberals can be gearheads.

Saturday night I watched the first home bout of the Oly Rollers, Olympia's roller derby team. Skateland was packed to see the all-female team take on the Lava City Roller Dolls from Bend. If you've never watched a roller derby bout live, do it at the first chance you get. The best way to describe it is to say it was real. I thought this was what sports were like before broadcasting and mass commercialization. The rink was packed with people sitting on the floor to watch. Those up close had to pay careful attention because they could find a skater in their lap.

The women are tough. They come in all shapes and sizes and they all live up to the billing as roller derby as a full contact sport. And let's cut to the chase. The Oly Rollers dominated. They were hip-checking the Roller Dolls out of the rink like they were swatting flies. The final score: 232-56.

One fan wrote after the bout:

I was very curious to find out if the rumors I had heard about the Oly Rollers were true....that the girls were hard hitters, excellent skaters, and came from strong roller-sports backgrounds. Yes, Hell yes, and yes.

You can watch the action here.

As the Olympian said:

Call 'em dainty if you dare

The paper's Tony Overman has a photo gallery up here.

As for politics, I don't want to leak the secret identities of the Oly Rollers — who go by name such as Surly Sioux, Tiffinator and Tannibal Lector — but if you hang around the Legislature at least one of the women would be familiar to you. So would one of the spectators, whose daughter is on the team.

On Sunday I went to Pacific Raceways in Kent for the Pacific Northwest Vintage Races. Race cars from 1940s to the 1970s race over three days. And like roller derby — but unlike much of politics — it, too is real.

Ah the sweet, sweet sounds of a small block Ford and the even sweeter smell of combusted race gas wafting up through the evergreens.

Some of the cars are true museum pieces. But once on the track these cars — some that cost more than my house — race wheel-to-wheel and sometimes end up crumpled in the corner.

At the track, I met PaleRider, an occasional commenter here and an auto racing aficionado of the first degree. I just missed the chance to take a lap on the track with him and his fellow members of the Northwest Datsun Enthusiasts. Next year.

I also got to watch Jon Shirley race. He is the former president and chief operating officer of Microsoft and one of the best known figures in the vintage racing scene. He was racing a very rare 1949 Ferrari. I'm not sure, but I think I saw the rear end of the car get a little loose in the twisty, downhill turn 3-A. I wonder if Shirley wrecked that perfect 166MM, would it have the equivalent economic impact on him as wrecking my 1989 Volvo would have on me? I also wonder if he ever needs someone to help clean his "garage."

We now return to our regular programming.

UPDATE: In 1998 Times reporter Alex Fryer actually got to see Shirley's garage.

There is only one sport-utility vehicle in the immaculate Bellevue garage that houses most of Shirley's collection, a boxy behemoth that resembles a Hummer.

"Oh, that's not a Hummer. That's a Lamborghini," Shirley pointed out.

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