Archive for September 2006
Washington’s campaign-finance watchdog is growling about the more than $2 million in independent advertising that poured into the recent primary election.
Independent expenditures – typically attack ads bankrolled by groups on their own, rather than by the candidate – nearly doubled every four years from 1994 to 2002.
Since then, they’ve nearly tripled.
“The only reasonable conclusion you can draw … is that the entities – the corporations, trade associations, unions – have taken control of the election process,” says Public Disclosure Commission member Mike Connelly.
After a long report Thursday detailing “who gave, who got, and how much,” as PDC Executive Director Vicki Rippie puts it, the commission voted unanimously to have staffers come up with suggestions to clamp down on independent advertising.
“The very system that we have is being undermined,” said PDC member Ken Schellberg.
Not true, says Erin Shannon, a spokeswoman for the primary election’s biggest spender: the Building Industry Association of Washington. Despite the BIAW pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into ads touting candidate John Groen and bashing Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, she noted, Groen lost.
“We certainly didn’t have a disproportionate influence,” she said.
Such arguments underestimate voters, she says.
“I don’t think they’re little sheep that need to be herded by the PDC,” Shannon said.
Read our print edition story here.
During a routine news conference with Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday, reporters brought up the subject of a now-moot ethics complaint brought by blogger, attorney and frequent political candidate Richard Pope.
Pope objected to Gregoire’s recent auctioning off — at a political fundraiser — of a dinner with her and First Gentleman Mike Gregoire at the governor’s mansion. Two supporters of 8th Congressional District candidate Darcy Burner, who, like Gregoire, is a Democrat, bid $3,500 each.
Pope cried foul, saying the governor’s mansion is a public facility, not a place for partisan political fundraising. As the story picked up steam, the two winning bidders offered to hold the dinner elsewhere. Gregoire agreed.
But when questioned about it on Monday, an increasingly angry Gregoire said that she considered the matter a private dinner, not a fundraising event: It’s “fundamentally wrong” to expect governors to live under such tight restrictions, she said.
Click here to listen. (All these clips take a few seconds to download; please be patient.)
As reporters pressed the issue, she said that living in the mansion — with its guards and public profile — isn’t easy. “Come live there for a week,” she said twice.
And then, when asked to differentiate this from the Clinton Administration’s scandal over allowing big-ticket donors to stay overnight in the White House’s Lincoln Bedroom, Gregoire said she knew virtually nothing about the flap.
Click here to listen. (1 MB download)
Audio credit: TVW, the state’s public-affairs network.
The Senate’s set up in the plush Davenport hotel, awash in ornate plasterwork, Syracuse china, gilt paint and big crystal chandeliers. Most of the 43 senators and slightly fewer staffers are staying at the Davenport, where the state negotiated a rate of $99 a night. (The normal rates for a standard one- or two-bed room at $165 to $195.)
The hotel gives the lawmakers, staff and lobbyists a chance to spread out in a way that’s tougher in the capitol — on Monday, Sen. Bob McCaslin was holding court at one table with business lobbyists while other lawmakers were sprawled out on nearby couches. Up in the mezzanine — a balcony encircling the vast lobby — Sen. Brad Benson chatted with lawmakers, while election rival Chris Marr talked with other folks at a table below.
The Spokane Chamber of Commerce hosted a lunch for lawmakers Monday, detailing the successes of big players in the local economy (Itron, Hollister Stier Labs, the convention center, Fairchild Air Force Base, and a massive 2,600-apartment/condo development called Kendall Yards, among others). The chamber followed up by laying the groundwork for likely money requests during the coming budget year: more slots at area colleges, more job training, a new program for first-year medical and dental students at WSU’s Riverpoint campus and local rail and road projects.
Spokane School District 81 Superintendent Brian Benzel spoke for many, it seemed, when he wrapped up a presentation with this line: “We need your support.”
The message isn’t lost on lawmakers.
“We look forward to hearing how well we’ve spent our money,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, welcoming yet another tranportation project report late Monday afternoon.
Downtown Spokane’s Fox Theater, an art-deco theater that’s successfully lobbied for hundreds of thousands of dollars in state renovation cash, has a little message for the visiting state Senate.
(Photo by S-R shooter Jed Conklin.)
As ballots continue to trickle in, a rural Eastern Washington legislative race has become a razor-thin contest between Mesa rancher Steve Hailey and Colfax farmer Joe Schmick.
Late Thursday night, Hailey had 3,668 votes to Schmick’s 3,644, a lead of just 24 votes out of more than 11,000 GOP ballots counted so far. The two were the leaders among four Republicans running to replace 9th Legislative District Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax.
Hailey’s polling best in Adams, Franklin and Garfield counties. Schmick’s stronghold is Whitman County.
The numbers will change again this afternoon, when the district’s six counties will tally the next batch of ballots. Washington, unlike many states, counts ballots so long as they’re postmarked by the election day.
The usual signoff: stay tuned…
After a liberal-backed group complained to the state’s campaign finance watchdog that the conservative Building Industry Association of Washington (among others) were breaking campaign laws, the builders say there’s nothing to complain about.
So how’d they get that up-close video of a beaming, sign-holding, earnestly-conversing John Groen for their TV ad, if they didn’t illegally collaborate on the “independent” ad?
Answer: BIAW had a film crew show up unannounced at an Aug. 17 candidate’s forum in Pierce County. “Nothing was staged. Nothing was collaborated,” the group said in a press release.
And why didn’t they list their top five contributors on a video-screen billboard alongside Interstate 5?
Answer: Because under state law, such video screens are considered billboards, not TV.
The group maintains that it “scrupulously follows the letter of the law” in all its campaigning.
“These ticky tack accusations have no legs, and (Chief Justice Gerry) Alexander’s supporters know it,” said the group’s spokeswoman, Erin Shannon.
Stay tuned. You know there will be more of this back-and-forth. The primary election’s Tuesday.
But wait, there’s more (the ad writer who coined that phrase has died, prompting this brilliant obituary lead) .
Three years ago Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge was arrested for drunken driving and hit-and-run after her Mercedes side-swiped a parked pickup truck in Seattle and she — with a blood-alcohol content of .22 — kept going until boxed in by another motorist. Bridge, a first-time violator, publicly apologized and was reprimanded by the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission.
Now that incident is being used in campaign ads — not against Bridge, who’s not up for re-election this year. Instead, a new TV ad blasts Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. His offense: publicly expressing support for his colleague.
The Building Industry Assocation of Washington-backed “It’s Time for a Change” PAC paid for the ad.
From the ad
:“Alexander backs Bridge, despite her driving drunk with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit,” intones the radio ad’s announcer, over a picture of a repentant-looking chief justice. “…Gerry Alexander: Justice for whom?”
Here’s our story on this and other attack ads in the races, as well as a breakdown on the record-breaking cash flow into the races.
If you’re tracking the state Supreme Court races, keep hitting “refresh” on the state’s campaign-finance website. In what was already a record-setting year for spending on high court races in Washington, nearly $600,000 has been spent by independent groups since Thursday.
The most surprising development so far: that a Virginia-based tort-reform PAC has poured $357,500 into attack ads in this Washington State race.
“It’s ridiculous,” said F. Parks Weaver, Jr., the campaign treasurer for Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, said of this year’s big-money battle. “How do you compete with a million-dollar budget?” (Answer: by enlisting Gov. Chris Gregoire to help fundraise, for one thing.)
And what’s the money bought? Attack ads, most of them in the primary fight between Alexander and challenger John Groen.
“When it’s your time, you know it. You’re tired, you get sloppy, you make mistakes. Take Chief Justice Gerry Alexander…” says one radio ad, bankrolled by a PAC set up by the Building Industry Association of Washington. (Here’s a Quicktime TV version of the ad.)
Today’s response, from the union/tribe/lawyers-backed Citizens to Uphold the Constitution: “Justice for sale? John Groen and far-right extremists are trying to buy our Supreme Court…”
The group is also sending out a mailer playing on Groen’s name — “Groen? Groan!” — featuring people overcome with dismay in front of the Temple of Justice and an unflattering carricature of Groen.
Groen, en route to Yakima this morning, scoffed at the attacks. “It sounds like they’re desperate,” he said.
Speaking of political theater, the Service Employees’ International Union and child care providers from across the state turned up at the governor’s office this morning bearing hundreds of (new, unused) diapers.
“Time for a change” some of the diapers read. “Raise subsidy rates up from the bottom.” (emphasis in original diaper)
The point: The union is representing child care providers negotiating for better rates for state-subsidized children.
“We really want to provide quality care, but we can’t at these rates,” said Spokane’s Nancy Gerber, who runs Little House for Little People, where 70 percent of the 13 kids are state-subsidized. She’s been providing childcare for 30 years.
Currently, the state pays about a third of the market rate, according to Sue Winn, a provider who’s on SEIU’s negotiating team. That works out to $7 to $28 a day for an infant, depending on region, she said.
The unionized childcare providers are seeking a 15 percent increase in that, she said. The state is offering a 3.5 percent increase.
Just months after the highly publicized failure of his Referendum 65 (which could have vetoed a new gay-rights law), Tim Eyman got more bad news Thursday.
His Initiative 917, which would have undone new vehicle-weight fees and other transportation-related taxes, is dead in the water.
“It’s over,” said Mark Funk, spokesman for a coalition of business, labor and environmental groups who were preparing for what they hoped would be a $3 million campaign urging voters to leave the taxes alone. The money — $2.8 billion, according to Funk — is targeted for safety and anti-congestion projects, many of them in crowded Puget Sound.
Eyman, according to “unofficial” figures released Thursday by the Secretary of State’s office, turned in 266,006 signatures. If 41,127 or more of those were rejected (as duplicates, people who aren’t registered to vote, etc.), Eyman would fall short of the 224,880 needed to put his measure on the November ballot.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday, after weeks of checking, workers had rejected 42,772 signatures.
In other words, even if all the remaining 20,000 signatures or so are OK — which is highly unlikely — it’s impossible to have enough signatures get on the ballot.
Eyman, who earlier this year had claimed he turned in more than 300,000 signatures and that someone must have “pilfered” them from the Secretary of State’s office, made no mention of that allegation in a short statement Thursday afternoon.
He said this attempt came “really close and the lesson we’ve learned is to work even harder from now on.” He and his Spokane colleagues, Mike and Jack Fagan, have been inspired to rededicate themselves to working for voters, Eyman said.
“We’re very excited about the future and we are committed to serving as taxpayer advocates,” he said.
“He raised about 400k from contributors to get measures on the ballot and failed to do it. If I was those contributors I’d be taking a long hard look at why these measures failed.”
The list of independent PACs tossing money into races is growing, bringing a new crop of who-could-oppose-that names.
Among the groups:
-“Alliance for Responsible Leadership”
-“Working Families Who Have Had Enough”
-and “Citizens for Judicial Integrity”
We’ll post more as they register.
The Everett Herald’s political reporter, Jerry Cornfield, has obtained the 1993 DUI arrest report for GOP Senate candidate Mike McGavick. McGavick’s campaign had little to say in this morning’s story in The Herald, but here’s the document that it’s based on. .