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Eye On Olympia

Archive for May 2006

The GOP’s “big tent” shows some strains…

The very conservative “Reagan Wing” of the state GOP won’t be setting up its booth at the Republican convention in Yakima this weekend after all.

In a statement posted on his website and similar press release, blogger and Reagan Wing president Doug Parris blasts new state GOP chairwoman Diane Tebelius for leading “a blackout session” of the state executive board, with members allegedly barred from talking about why the Reagan Wing’s vendor table of literature, t-shirts and buttons won’t be allowed.

“The Reagan Wing filled out the necessary paperwork and paid the $150 fee almost 2 weeks ago and has since been taken on a roller-coaster ride with Tebelius’ mood swings,” Parris says. Citing the chairwoman’s description of the state GOP as “a big tent” (during news stories about a state gathering of Republican moderates last week), Parris says the ban caps “a week of almost unbelievable hyposcrisy for Tebelius.”

Tebelius’ response: that the party’s executive board was offended by racist statements made about the party’s vice chair, Fredi Simpson. In a nearly unanimous vote, she said, the board agreed to ban his literature and booth.

“The conservatives said there’s no place for someone who makes racist statements,” Tebelius said. “He (Parris) has used his website as a platform to say lies.”

In recent posts to the blog, Parris questioned the “financial interest in illegal immigration” of Mike Sotelo, president of the state’s Hispanic chamber of commerce and husband of King County GOP platform chair Lori Sotelo. (The two are investors in a bank serving Hispanic community members and run a bilingual management service, according to Parris.) And Parris described the platform committee metings as a long string of broken procedural rules and stifled debate.

In another post, Parris referred to Simpson as “stridently Mexican.”

Asked about that, Parris said “She identifies with the country and we just pointed that out.”

Parris, Tebelius said, remains a delegate to the convention.

“And we’re fine with that,” Tebelius said. “But what we said is you just don’t get to put literature on the table that’s going to say bad things about people.”

Will this dispute set the tone for the convention? No way, she said.

“This is a conference of conservatives,” Tebelius said. “There’s not one person here that doesn’t support the Republican Party.”

ACLU asks for an investigation of phone-records data collection in this Washington…

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday asked the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to look into whether telephone companies here “have regularly shared consumer telephone records with the National Security Agency without legal authority.”

The request was prompted by a May 11th article (“NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls”) in USA Today. The article, citing anonymous sources, states that some phone companies provided information — like what phone numbers called each other — from millions of residential phone customers. (One of the three companies named in the article — BellSouth — flatly denies any such cooperation with the agency.)

“If true, these companies have seriously violated the privacy of their customers by disclosing information that reveals their association, interests and a host of personal details about their lives,” the state ACLU’s Kathleen Taylor and Doug Klunder wrote to the commission members.

Spam, spam, spam, spam…

Two California firms who allegedly “blanketed” computers at the Seattle School District and elsewhere in 2004 with junk e-mails have agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements in the state’s first lawsuit under the federal anti-spam act. A judgement in the case and the settlements — including a $180,000 suspended fine — total more than $4.1 million.

The 2004 lawsuits, brought by Attorney General Rob McKenna, targeted computer seller MD&I and the now-defunct AvTech Direct, both in California.

AvTech’s lawyer bowed out of the case late last year, and with no attorney stepping in to take over, the company was hit with a default judgement of $3 million in fines ($2,000 for each of 1,500 junk e-mail messages) plus $375,000 in restitution to the Seattle School District and nearly $68,000 in attorneys fees. AvTech owner Gary Hunziker was also fined $500,000, according to McKenna.

The settlements include:
-AvTech manager Arlene Sediqzad, who agreed to pay $10,000 in attorney’s costs.
-MD&I owner Min Hui Zhao also agreed to pay $10,000.

McKenna says AvTech used misleading header and subject lines — like “Staff Bulletin” — in spam emails hawking computers.

Moderates, swine or “Decepticons?”

Moderate Republicans, who met near Seattle last weekend, say they can offer two critical things – campaign help and electability – to a GOP bruised in both Washingtons.

“We have a special place in the political spectrum,” said Alex Hays, executive director of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. “When voters get angry, they generally don’t take it out on us and our people.”

The group’s conference at a Seatac hotel this weekend was intended to “re-energize” the GOP. The title of the first presentation: “So Many Crises? So Little Hope?”

In major races, Washington continues to trend Democratic, according to pollster Stuart Elway. When he asks voters if they’ll choose a Democratic or Republican congressional candidate, Democrats now have a 15 percentage point lead.

“If the election were held today, it could be pretty rough on the Republican Party,” concedes Hays.

But moderates, he says, are key to GOP victories in statewide offices and in the suburban neighborhoods that are the battleground for dominance of Olympia.

“Every statewide elected official is a moderate Republican,” Hays said. Among those appearing at the group’s convention: Attorney General Rob McKenna, state Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland and Secretary of State Sam Reed.

Critics on both the right and left say dismiss the Mainstreamers as fakers with little campaign cash or clout.

Kelly Steele, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party called the group’s “mainstream” title “a deceptive marketing gimmick” used by far-right Republicans who would be nothing more than rubber stamps for the Bush administration.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” he said. Repeatedly.

Conservative blogger Doug Parris says that the Mainstreamers are simply Republican liberals who are trying hard not to look liberal.

“They are the Decepticons,” Parris said, borrowing the name of the villains on The Transformers kids show.

Read our full story here.

Times enters political blogosphere…

Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman, who cut his blogging teeth with real-time dispatches from the Wenatchee election trial that decided the governor’s race last year, has a new blog: Postman on Politics.

Interestingly, Postman has largely unplugged from the print version of the paper in order to blog politics. That’s unique among major papers in the state. Most of the print-media blog spinoffs — including this one — are written by reporters working primarily for print. Postman says he’ll blog almost exclusively — with a weekly print column — at least through the election.

They go well with Dos Equis, we understand…

Oh, the geoduck, snorkeling in the muck with its long, um, snout. A state icon of sorts. The official mascot of The Evergreen State College. (College fight song: “Go, Geoduck, Go!” Really.)

This week, government and company officials from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula arrived in Olympia to discuss the mighty shellfish. Mexico, according to the Washington Department of Natural Resources, is interested in establishing a commercial geoduck fishery there.

Although the clams are most abundant off the coasts of Washington, Alaska and British Columbia, DNR says, their habitat extends as far as Mexico’s Baja California Sur.

“We’re happy to share what we’ve learned,” said DNR Commissioner Doug Sutherland.

Despite the creatures’ silly look, the business of geoducks is dead serious. Washington State earns about $8 million a year from the harvest of the valuable shellfish. The state has come up with techniques to tally the geoducks, figure out what a sustainable level of harvest is, and to deter geoduck poaching.

NASCAR making another lap…

Proponents of the Northwest’s first NASCAR race track faced a decidedly lukewarm reception from the Legislature earlier this year. Even with the prospect of Superbowl-sized tourist draw, statehouse budget writers made it clear that they weren’t inclined to shell out tens of millions of dollars or more toward the proposed Kitsap Peninsula oval.

But hope springs eternal at the International Speedway Corporation. On May 31 at Port of Seattle headquarters, the company will make its pitch to area lawmakers, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen (pictured above).

In a written statement, Owen said the point of the meeting is to “start of serious legislative discussion” of the effects of such a facility.

State trooper romantic liaison in a guardhouse at the governor’s mansion?

The Seattle Weekly pulls that bizarre story — and a few more — from Washington State Patrol disciplinary records.

Click here to read the Weekly’s story, entitled “Cops in Love.”

The cadet involved in the romance denied that anything sexual occurred on duty, the Weekly says: “His trooper-lover, married with children, had always warned him, he told investigators, “The gun belts can never come off. We’ve got to draw a line as far as our … contact on duty.”

Sen. Karen Keiser: We’ve got the refineries — and the high gas prices?

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, is calling for Attorney General Rob McKenna to investigate whether oil companies selling in Washington are price-gouging.

Washingtonians have seen gas prices rise 29 percent in three months, Keiser said, despite what should be minimal transportation, refining and blending costs.

After all, the state is a major receiving point for Alaskan crude oil. Washington has five refineries, capable of processing 576,000 barrels of oil a day.

Yet anyone looking for a disparity in gas prices need only look east, Keiser said. In Idaho — with no facilities to receive crude oil and no refineries to process it — she said gas prices have risen only 17 percent in the same period of time.

And while part of the surge in prices has been blamed nationally on a changeover to blended ethanol fuels, she said, Washington has no ethanol requirement yet. In Montana, which does, gas prices rose only 20 percent in the same period.

Port and biodiesel company to announce big new refinery at Aberdeen…

Imperium Renewables, the parent company of Seattle Biodiesel, is slated to announce later today that it’s inking an agreement with the Port of Grays Harbor to build a 100 million-gallon-a-year biodiesel refinery on port property in the Aberdeen area.

According to a company spokesman, the plant would be one of the largest in the country. (By comparison, Seattle Biodiesel’s existing refinery makes about 5 million gallons a year.)

According to Sen. Maria Cantwell, the $40 million plant would employ about 50 workers.

The move comes at a time when biodiesel — derived from vegetable oil — is in some places cheaper than conventional diesel.

Old Swan gin, opium dens and Tacoma gas…

The Washington State Library has posted copies of an 1880s Spokane newspaper on its growing “Historical Newspapers Online Project” website.

Three years of issues of the Spokane Falls Review, a four-page Saturday weekly which debuted in 1883, can be viewed along with other territorial newspapers at www.secstate.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx.

Like most newspapers at the time, the Review was a mixture of inflated prose — flowery stories, long ruminations on Spokane’s certain destiny as jewel of the Pacific coast — and bare-bones (often one-sentence) news dispatches: An alarming increase of opium smoking in New York, fighting between U.S. troops and Apache Indians in northern Mexico, and the seven-word news story “Tacoma is to be lit by gas.”

Among the local news given extensive treatment: a well-digger dug up an old 6-pound canonball.

Sandwiched around the news are odd bits of filler: a list of all the countries, descriptions of big gold nuggets, and a history of historians, starting with Herodotus.

“Will Spokane celebrate?” one headline asked. The headline below it: “Well, yes, somewhat.”

The frontier-town aspects of early Spokane are obvious in the ads. One shop advertises Old Swan Gin and an inventory of 60,000 cigars. Others tout their horse shoeing skills, wagons for sale, and a Spokane brewery’s brand: California Beer. And a furniture-maker’s ad ends with the startling picture of a hand waving from inside a coffin.

“Undertaking a specialty,” the ad reads.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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