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Eye On Olympia

Archive for October 2008

Rossi deposition — denies any early campaigning, while attorneys clash: “Shut the f– up”…

From the second round of questioning:

Rossi was asked if he’d spent any money “on exploring the possibility of running for governor” prior to the date he says he made the decision, Oct. 11, 2007.

“No,” he said. “That’s an activity of starting a campaign if you were to do that, and I did not do that.” (Note: the unofficial transcript that I link to below says “active,” which I’m assuming is a typo for “activity.”)

Questioner Knoll Lowney expresses skepticism that Rossi, who said he had no fundraising plan, could raise almost half a million dollars in the two weeks after he declared that he was running again.

Rossi said that he immediately went through donor records from 2004 and began working the phones. He said he was also helped by far-better name recognition compared with four years ago. Asked if his campaign fundraiser could have been lining up contributions prior to his decision, Rossi said “I have no reason to believe she was doing that.”

The attorneys continue to feel no love for each other, with Rossi’s attorney, Michael Patterson, noting for the record after an off-the-record break that “Mr. Withey just said shut the f– up.”

Rossi also repeatedly said that neither he nor his campaign coordinates their election activity with independent groups like the BIAW:

“My campaign staff knows that you can’t coordinate with an independent expenditure because that wouldn’t be legal, and which is why we don’t coordinate with people who do independent expenditures, which is also why independent expenditures are dangerous things in a campaign because sometimes your own team can torpedo you with putting up an ad that you probably didn’t want up there and causing a candidate more trouble than it’s worth.”

The final moments of the deposition are devoted to questioning of Rossi by a BIAW attorney. He asked Rossi if Rossi had told any BIAW officer or staffer that he intended to run again in 2008.

“No,” said Rossi.

Lowney releases deposition documents…

Attorney Knoll Lowney has released documentsregarding Rossi’s relationship with the BIAW.

Among them: One showing the BIAW quietly paying off his 2006 campaign legal debts ($235,000) in 2006. (Rossi was asked about this in the afternoon part of the deposition and said that this was the state GOP Party’s legal fees, rather than his campaign’s legal fees.)

But perhaps the most interesting one are the minutes of a Feb. 22, 2006 BIAW board meeting at a hotel in Olympia:

“Mike Nykreim asked if there was a commitment from Dino Rossi to run as Governor in 2008,” the minutes read. “President (Jeff) Hansell stated that for political and/or reporting purposes, Dino was unable to state that at this time.”

The Rossi deposition: excerpts — and a lot of fighting…

Wow, if there’s anything that can make the increasingly sharp-edged race for governor look like puppies playing, it’s lawyers.

I’m about halfway through the first transcript of attorneys questioning Republican candidate Dino Rossi as part of a lawsuit about a building industry group allegedly raising campaign funds illegally. So far, I’ve found no smoking gun saying that Rossi — as one of the opposing lawyers has claimed — illegally conspired with the group over campaign cash months before he was a candidate.

Rossi called that allegation “completely false.”

“I’m not going to speculate what they (the Building Industry Association of Washington) were going to do and not do,” he said later in the deposition. “I’m not involved in their meetings. I’m not part of their organization.”

He also repeatedly blasted the other side for what Rossi and his lawyer described as “a political charade for the press”, “frivolous”, “harassment,” etc.

Interestingly, Rossi suggests that for much of last year he was “75 percent” sure he wouldn’t run again. Why? Because he says he didn’t want to put his family through the stress again. The subpoena in this case, he says, was delivered to his teenage daughter at their home at 9:30 p.m.

The deposition also shows Rossi’s attorney objecting, over and over, to questions, their form, their relevance, compound sentences, etc.

Also, the lawyers — primarily Mike Withey as questioner, and a Mr. Patterson as Rossi’s attorney — clash, again and again: “Will you please stop interrupting me?…This is harassment…You don’t interrupt me…You were staring at me…This is unbelievable…You don’t need to stare me down, Mr. Withey. This is supposed to be an honorable profession…This is a disaster…You don’t need to stare at me in disdain,” etc.

Also: best transcription error: “decorum” was transcribed as “did he cough rum.”

Still reading. Will update soon.

But wait: It gets nastier: stolen elections and allegations of Wiccan sea-turtle dressing…

Both sides in the Gregoire/Rossi rematch also seem to be rolling out the rhetorical siege guns in this final week.

State Republican Party chairman Luke Esser, for example, sent out a blistering statement yesterday saying flatly that Gov. Chris Gregoire stole the 2004 election.

“If there’s one thing Christine Gregoire and her allies have learned, it’s that stealing an election after the votes are cast is a messy and uncertain affair,” Esser begins. “When they did it in 2004, they were just barely able to eke out a victory through a series of tainted recounts and questionable King County court rulings.”

(The results that Esser decries, it should be noted, were also certified by Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed. And the election was finally decided not in King County, but after a lengthy trial before a judge in staunchly conservative Wenatchee.)

Esser continues, saying that “This time, their machine is much more well-oiled…They have created a multimillion-dollar network of liberal groups, lobbyists and activist lawyers who can do Gregoire’s dirty work for her.”

He also blasts Seattle attorney Knoll Lowney, who’s suing the conservative Building Industry Association of Washington over its support of Republican candidate Dino Rossi. He paints Lowney as a litigious gadfly, and extends the favor to Lowney’s sister-in-law, citing a 2001 Seattle Times story:

In an attempt to get an initiative passed in Seattle that would have raised water rates, Lowney enlisted the help of his sister-in-law, a self-described “stealth millionaire” and “pagan” who dressed herself and her children up as sea turtles during the WTO riots and, along with Lowney’s brother, “used to participate in small Wiccan rites venerating the four elements — fire, earth, air and, of course, water.”

Wacky? For many, sure. (Although not here in Olympia, where few would bat an eye at Wiccan turtles.) But is a relative’s sea-turtle-dressing seven years ago really relevant to a campaign fundraising lawsuit today?

This can’t be good news…

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities today reported that…

Wait. The title says it all:

“STATE REVENUES PLUMMET, July-September Revenue Numbers Are Worst in Years.”

Of the 15 states for which current data was available, the liberal-learning group reports, nowhere was the drop steeper than in, yup, Washington state. According to a chart prepared by the group, Washington’s sales tax collections dropped by about 4 percent over the last few months.

Why? Because scared consumers haven’t been spending as freely as they used to. No longer are real estate sales shoveling unexpected millions into state coffers. And in states with an income tax (hello, Idaho), worker layoffs and cutbacks in hours have sliced into those revenues as well.

Compared to the same quarter last year, it’s even bleaker. Washington’s July-Sept tax collections compared to the same period last year are down a startling 11.3 percent. This after quarter upon quarter of more-money-than-expected good news for budget writers in 2006 and 2007.

Idaho’s not much better, coming in third worst on the list, down 9.3 percent from last year. (Tennessee’s second, if you’re keeping score.)

None of this bodes well for state services in tough times. Or, as the report put it:

Many of the actions states take to balance their budgets will be harmful to families and to the economy. State taxes pay for state aid to K-12 schools, support for public colleges and universities, health coverage for children, families, seniors and people with disabilities, public safety, and transportation. States are enacting cuts in all these areas already. They are also increasing taxes and fees. Both spending cuts and revenue increases take money out of state economies, deepening the nation’s economic problems.

Or, as a Wall Street Journal article put it today:

The decline in state tax receipts has potentially broad economic significance. The federal government is expected to keep spending relatively steady to prop up the failing economy. But states generally have rules requiring balanced budgets, and so must either cut spending or raise taxes — both the opposite of what many economists, including some deficit hawks, say is needed during the current economic downturn.

In the gubernatorial race, Republican Dino Rossi’s campaign today said the news is evidence that Washington state needs a more business-friendly climate. The campaign scheduled simultaneous press conferences in Spokane, Vancouver and Seattle today, saying that Rossi would set the state on a new course.

Rossi deposition in BIAW fundraising suit slated for Wednesday…

King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas today ruled that Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi will have to give a deposition — before Election Day — in a lawsuit alleging illegal fundraising by a builders’ group.

“The request is granted,” Kallas wrote. “Early discovery allows the parties to confirm — or dispel — the allegations before the election.” Assuring fair campaigning, she said, outweighs the burden of giving the deposition in the middle of the frenzied final days of a campaign.

In a separate ruling rejecting Rossi’s motion to quash the subpoena, Kallas wrote “It is precisely because Mr. Rossi seeks public office that he must bear the burden of the contemplated deposition.”

The deposition comes at the request of Seattle attorney Knoll Lowney, who’s been trying to make the case that the Building Industry Association of Washington “conducted an illegal fundraising campaign” to build a campaign war chest to support Rossi’s run. Lowney suggests that Rossi and the builders were wrongly coordinating their plans months before Rossi was an officially declared candidate.

Here’s Lowney’s summary of the case.

Here’s what Rossi’s campaign spokeswoman, Jill Strait, said this afternoon in an e-mail:

“Whenever Christine Gregoire gets into political trouble, she sends her friends to court to try to win what she is losing with voters. Now her major donors and partisan operatives are using the legal system to generate headlines and keep Dino off the campaign trail during the last week of this campaign. All this to answer the same basic question that Dino answered under oath with the PDC (Public Disclosure Commission) in 2007, namely, when ‘when did he become a candidate?’ His deposition was taken last year on this subject by the PDC which found that he became a candidate in October 2007. But then, Gregoire and her friends already knew that. They don’t care. They have accomplished their mission.

“Now it appears Dino will have to cancel campaign appearances to answer the same basic questions again. He will of course comply with the Judge’s order.”

Rossi’s everywhere…

Gubernatorial challenger Dino Rossi’s is logging a lot of miles this week in a flurry of “Road to Victory Rallies” across the state:

Saturday: Everett, Mount Vernon, Bellingham, Port Angeles, Chimacum
Wednesday: Seattle
Thursday: Moses Lake, Yakima
Friday: Goldendale
Saturday: Vancouver, Longview, Chehalis, Aberdeen, Shelton.

Gregoire beating the drum for an income tax? Here’s the full video. Judge for yourself…

Here is the video that seems to be at the heart of the latest wave of Gregoire-wants-an-income-tax campaign ads. They cite The Spokesman-Review, especially Gregoire’s comments in an editorial-board meeting last year. The video above is an unedited clip of the income-tax discussion during that meeting.

I posted excerpts below, but I’d encourage you to watch the actual video. Contrary to what the campaign ads suggest, you won’t see Gregoire pounding the table for an income tax. She seems to support the idea, yes, but only as a long-term reform that requires far more political support than it has today. She also seems to want to couple it with decreases in other taxes and an elimination of the state’s business and occupations tax.

Interestingly, when an editorial writer floats the idea that perhaps elected officials need to be beating the drum for an income tax, Gregoire suggests that it would be a waste of time. Gov. Booth Gardner pushed the idea hard, she says, “and it fell flatter than a pancake.”

The route to tax reform — including a state income tax — she suggests, is by gradually convincing voters that the state’s taxes are regressive and that the changes are a good idea.

See for yourself:

The question was “Is there ever a time for an income tax” in Washington.

Gregoire notes how legislation often takes years to get through Olympia, and says there have been some hearings held on the issue.

The concept is being introduced for discussion purposes,” Gregoire says. “We don’t have an electorate out there that will support it right now. Clearly when I go across the state, the support’s not there.”

A key, she suggests, is educating voters about Washington’s regressive tax structure.

“So much of it is how we’re going to educate them to the regressive tax system that we have in the state and how we need to have some sort of conversion over to a partial income tax,” Gregoire said. (This sentence is one of two that was shortened for use in a anti-Gregoire TV ad this week.)

“Now’s not the time, I can tell you, because the electorate isn’t there,” she continues. “The hearings were had. It just isn’t the time. But it’s not as if it’s not a good idea. It’s not as if it’s not one that we should pursue. It’s one that we just have to keep holding hearings and let time pass and eventually I assume we’re going to get there.”

There’s some discussion from one of our editorial writers, Doug Floyd, of other legislation, like a gay-rights law, that took 20 years of attempts before passing.

“It grew its own acceptance in the public at large and that’s why the window occurred, and we took the action once that window seemed to be there,” Gregoire said of the gay-rights bill.

“My point is that the people were pushing for it,” Floyd says, “and I’m wondering if there needs to be somebody to push for tax reform.”

“But you have had that,” Gregoire responds. “I’ll tell you, ‘cause I was in his cabinet: (Gov.) Booth (Gardner) did a dramatic push — and it fell flatter than a pancake.”

“It isn’t as if this isn’t a new idea and it hasn’t been pursued historically,” Gregoire said of the income tax. “Its time will come, but its time has yet to come. It’s one of those issues that we have to continue to constantly have a dialogue about, but right now, that Legislature is in fact a citizen Legislature. And I don’t see the votes…in either the Senate or the House.”

UPDATE (Oct. 27, 10:35 a.m.): Rossi spokeswoman Jill Strait says the point is Gregoire’s denials:

“The bigger issue here now is that Christine Gregoire is running TV ads claiming she has NEVER supported a state income tax. This is 100 percent not true…Why is she running TV ads that say the exact opposite? The question at hand is whether or not she supports a state income tax. And the answer is yes, but she is amazingly now trying to deny it.”

“…The incumbent has been caught in a blatant lie when she says she has never supported a state income tax. She clearly does support such a tax, she just won’t say so when it’s campaign season.”

Here are videos of Gregoire saying she doesn’t support such a tax and never has:

And here:

Lastly, here’s how The Associated Press’ Curt Woodward put it in a recent story:

“Gregoire has said an income tax is an idea worth examining, but adds that Washingtonians clearly don’t want to adopt one. Gregoire has not directly pushed a state income tax as a policy matter.”

Elway poll again says Gregoire’s way up over Rossi…

Boy, the November election is turning into something of a referendum on independent pollster Stu Elway’s methodology. Elway’s latest and apparently last poll in the governor’s race shows Gov. Chris Gregoire way ahead of challenger Dino Rossi, 51 percent to 39 percent.

That’s similar to a poll Elway did in July, which showed Gregoire with 52 percent to Rossi’s 36 percent.

Polls like SurveyUSA and Strategic Vision have tended to show the race much closer, with the candidates typically 1-3 points apart for months. Rassmussen’s been more varied, showing Gregoire up 52 to 44 in July and then down, 46 to 52, in September.

If you can’t get enough of all that, here’s Real Clear Politics’ list of polls and results in the race this year.

Elways says his poll questions are more nuanced, with more room for how voters are leaning. And he uses human phone interviewers, rather than automated “robo-calls.”

Lots of other interesting data in the new poll for initiatives, etc. The Tacoma News-Tribune’s Joe Turner’s already written all that for me, however, and here it is.

Republicans continue to campaign against something virtually no candidate is proposing…

On the way in to work this morning, I caught a radio ad from Puget Sound legislative candidate Alex Rion, who suggests that electing his Democratic opponent is a dangerous step down the road to a state income tax.

This mirrors campaign ads in Spokane, where Democratic state Rep. Don Barlow and another Democratic candidate, John Driscoll, have been accused of calling for a state income tax. (Barlow says he’d consider it in the long term but not in this economy; Driscoll says he’d consider it — but only if it reduced other taxes. Here’s this morning’s story on the Driscoll ad by staff writer Jonathan Brunt.)

And Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire’s also been blasted for allegedly supporting a state income tax, over comments she made at a Spokesman-Review editorial board meeting. She essentially said the same thing — that it’s something to eventually consider, but not now.

The thing is, virtually no major politician in Washington in recent memory has publicly called for an income tax. And if they’re calling for it privately, even advocates of such a tax acknowledge that there are some major legal and political hurdles in the way.

The Economic Opportunity Institute , for example, notes that even the few times over the past 7 decades that state lawmakers have managed to muster the necessary 2/3 vote to amend the state constitution to allow an income tax, voters have repeatedly rejected the idea in ensuing statewide votes. And even if a new state Supreme Court decision overruled decades of precedent to say that such a tax requires a constitutional amendment, the group says, Initiative 601 likely would require the same legislative two-thirds and a statewide ratifying vote of the people.

Even in a Legislature that’s overwhelmingly tilted toward one party, as Olympia’s is, it’s very difficult to get a two-thirds vote on any issue of any controversy.

Just as important, look what happened to the last major candidate to campaign on the issue: King County Executive Ron Sims, who ran in the Democratic primary against Gregoire four years ago.

Sims’ plan was part of a broader push for tax reform: it would have reduced or eliminated the state’s slice of the sales tax, lowered property taxes, and eliminated Washington’s highly unusual tax-your-gross B&O tax in favor of a more typical tax on net profits.

“He may be right that a core of Democrat stalwarts are for it, but it’s no winner for a statewide race,” independent pollster Stuart Elway told the Seattle P-I at the time.

And Elway was right. Two months later, Sims lost to Gregoire in a landslide, more than 2 to 1.

Five bills backing an income tax have been introduced in Washington’s statehouse since 2003. None were sponsored by more than 5 of Olympia’s 147 lawmakers. Only one — 2007’s SJR 8209, sponsored by Sens. Rosa Franklin and Jeanne Kohl-Welles — even got a hearing. All died quickly in committee.

Re: Felons and voting…

After yesterday’s post on the fight over the likelihood/near certainty that at least some inegligible felons are included on the state’s voting rolls , here’s the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s point-by-point fisking*of Secretary of State Sam Reed’s defense of the situation.

It quotes extensively from a letter Reed has apparently sent out to supporters, asking them to back him publicly on the issue.

From EFF:

“Secretary Reed has cleaned hundreds of thousands of bad registrations of the voter rolls and we applaud him for that. But now is not the time to rest on his laurels, nor is it appropriate for him to attack the media and EFF when we are simply asking him to follow existing law and better safeguard the integrity of our elections.”

*Bonus explainer: What “fisking” means.

TNT: House appropriations tussle might mean Spokane’s Ormsby doesn’t get Capital chair…

(That’s TNT as in the Tacoma News-Tribune, by the way.)

This post is solely for the hardcore legislative junkies that comprise a slice of this blog’s readership. You know who you are.

On the TNT’s excellent Political Buzz blog, writer Joe Turner speculates that a reported tussle to chair the main House budget-writing committee could end up meaning that local Rep. Timm Ormsby doesn’t move up to chair the House construction-budget committee.

Here’s why: two key committee chairs are leaving: longtime Appropriations chair Helen Sommers and capital budget chair Bill Fromhold. Appropriations writes the main, big state budget; Capital focuses instead on things like buying land, building buildings and doing maintenance on state facilities/colleges/etc.

Reps. Hans Dunshee and Kelli Linville both want the appropriations post, according to Turner. Only one can get the job, obviously. So there’s apparently some speculation that one — Turner says Linville — would be awarded the capital budget top job as a consolation prize.

That would mean that Ormsby — who as capital budget vice chair is nicely positioned to move up to the top job there — wouldn’t.

That would be a blow to Spokane’s clout — lots of lawmakers want the construction projects that Capital Budget doles out, making it a powerful position.

And since most Spokane-area lawmakers are Republicans and Republicans are very much the minority in Olympia, it’s damned unusual for anyone from Spokane to chair anything these days. (Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, being the obvious exception.)

I’ve got a message in to Ormsby, asking about all this. Will update when I hear back from him.

UPDATE: Says Ormsby: It’s too early to say. He says he hasn’t been privvy to those discussions, but says he’s confident that, if re-elected, he’ll get committee assignments that are fair. (Ormsby wouldn’t go this far, but he’s a pretty safe bet for re-election, seeing as how he outpolled challenger Michael Novak more than two to one in the August primary.)
Committee chairman or not, though, Ormsby says he’s less worried about a title than about being a strong and effective advocate for the central-Spokane district and region. And he says he can represent the district’s interests well whether he’s chair or not.
“Leverage comes in all forms and sizes,” he said.

State election officials: A roll is hard to scrub…

Last week, Seattle’s KIRO TV did some data cross matching — the state voters rolls with a database of criminal convictions — and concluded that election officials are wrongly mailing ballots to felons — probably thousands of them.

If so, that’s a potentially big problem. Unless a person has had his or her right to vote restored by a judge or the governor, it’s illegal in Washington for a convicted felon to vote. Even if the crime took place decades ago.

Writing on the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s blog recently, Trent England called for people to urge the Secretary of State’s office to do a better job culling out ineligible felon voters.

“…Every wrongful vote disenfranchises a legal voter who will never even know that his or her vote was illegally canceled out. Even worse, it corrodes the faith of citizens in our democratic process.”

he wrote.

“Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed offers a two-part answer: take the easy road and look the other way. That’s a path to an Election Day disaster. Though he has managed some election improvements, on these issues Reed has chosen to ignore and thus accept illegal voter registrations from felons and minors now their ballots are in the mail.”

But what seems like an easy crossmatch is extraordinarily difficult, says Dave Ammons, spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed. For decades, there was no master list of which felons had gotten their voting rights restored.

(Some states have much less restrictive rules, and Washington lawmakers have repeatedly floated the idea of changing the law so that only people actually in prison are banned from casting a ballot.)

In the wake of 2004’s famously-close governor’s race, Secretary of State Sam Reed and his staff have scrubbed a total of 160,000 invalid registrations from the voter rolls. Among them: voters who’d died, people who’d moved and forgot to cancel their old registration, and felons whose rights hadn’t been restored. The state has been able to crossmatch felony convictions since 2006 with voter rolls using state prison data, Ammons says. That data has allowed election officials to remove more than 11,000 felons from voter lists, he said.

But to go back further to check for felon voting, Ammons says, would likely require a painstaking search through millions of old files in every courthouse across the state. (Everyone who registers signs an oath saying that they’re eligible to vote, and without a master list prior to 2006, someone would have to pull each person’s court file to prove otherwise.)

“We’re doing the best we can with the resources and legal constraints we have,” Ammons said. “We have limited ability to reach back” in time.

Simply yanking the registration of everyone ever convicted of a felony, he said, would almost certainly mean disenfranchising some people who can, in fact, vote.

State elections director Nicky Handy says that the KIRO database stretches back to the 1800s and includes thousands of people convicted only of misdemeanors — which doesn’t affect one’s right to vote.

“We won’t use bad methodology to purge people from their civil rights,” Ammons said. “Voting rights are a precious thing and you don’t just willy-nilly remove them.”

More newspapers — including the S-R — backing Gregoire this time…

As the Gregoire campaign notes this morning, five more newspapers endorsed Gov. Chris Gregoire over Republican challenger Dino Rossi this weekend: The Spokesman-Review, Everett Herald, Bellingham Herald, Kitsap Sun and Skagit Valley Herald.

From the S-R editorial:

“Round 2 of Rossi vs. Gregoire differs from Round 1 in a conspicuous way. This year, one candidate has a gubernatorial record to run on – and defend.”

Despite unhappiness with Gregoire’s spending, the editorial board is more unhappy with Rossi’s transportation plan, which consists largely of simply shifting hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state’s general fund — which pays for things like education, health care and prisons — into road work.

Of Gregoire, the editorial says, “She is a brainy, hands-on governor whose qualities are needed to deal with problems, both foreseen and unforeseeable, that confront any state…In 2004, we weighed the two candidates and concluded that Rossi was the more promising answer. Having now seen Gregoire in action for four years, we think she has made a convincing case for re-election.”

The Spokesman and the Everett paper both endorsed Rossi four years ago, as did the Tacoma News-Tribune and the Vancouver Columbian. All four of those have switched to backing Gregoire this year, as are the Seattle P-I, the Olympian, the Oregonian, the Inlander and The Stranger.

Not joining that chorus: the state’s biggest paper, the Seattle Times.

In it’s editorialsays the Times editorial board says Rossi, rather than Gregoire, “can best be trusted to erase the state’s huge projected deficit without raising taxes.”

Of Gregoire’s (and the Legislature’s) billions of dollars in new spending on education and other state services, the Times says:

“She got lucky. In December 2006, Gregoire proposed a new, two-year budget. It was a happy one, with raises for teachers, home-care workers and state employees. Her suggested increase in spending was 12 percent. The revenue forecast was 8 percent. Again, we thought spending was too big, but there were some savings from the previous year. We warned there could be trouble in 2009.

It is now almost 2009, and Gregoire’s luck has run out: The downturn looks to be worse than anyone suspected.”

The paper, echoing a theme made famous this year by Barack Obama, also suggests that the capital — the state capital — could use a shake-out.

“(Rossi) is the best Republican candidate for governor in a long time. He would bring change to the culture of Olympia — and change is good.”

…Where everybody knows your name…

This summer, a downtown Olympia tavern made international news when an overzealous bouncer barred Gov. Chris Gregoire — who is 61 — at the door because the governor had forgotten her driver’s license.

To make amends, owner Todd Ruzicka asked the governor to return, which she did.

This was front-page banner news (Headline: “Governor allowed back in Hannah’s!”) for a quirky Olympia tabloid, The Sitting Duck. (Front-page slogan of the latest edition: “Featuring the most revolting writers in the West!”) It captured the moment in a photo. It shows Ruzicka frowning theatrically at the governor’s driver’s license as she stands at the door.

“We were happy she came back,” Ruzicka told the paper. “She’s done a lot for business in the state, and she’s a good sport.”

Apparently so. Her campaign bought a half-page ad in the same edition.

Why you can often measure state Supreme Court files by the pound…

From a state Supreme Court ruling this morning by Justice Jim Johnson. (I’ve broken this into paragraphs for readability.)

“In this case we must decide who will pay for fire hydrants in the city of Seattle and its suburbs. Seattle Public Utility (SPU) used to pay for them, passing the cost along to its ratepayers.

“The ratepayers object and want Seattle to foot the bill. If Seattle has to pay for its hydrants, it wants Lake Forest Park to pay for the hydrants in Lake Forest Park. Lake Forest Park, in turn, wants fire districts in Lake Forest Park to pay. The fire districts want someone, anyone, else to pay.

“On top of all that, the ratepayers want interest on improper past hydrant payments they recover and want Seattle’s new tax on SPU declared illegal. Finally, the fire districts claim they are no longer even parties to the litigation.”

New poll: Sutherland’s up over Goldmark, but Obama factor remains…

Just as we’re publishing my overview of the race for state lands commissioner comes a new poll from SurveyUSA.

The poll suggests that Republican incumbent Doug Sutherland is a bit further ahead of Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark than other recent polls or the August primary would indicate. It puts Sutherland ahead, 47 percent to Goldmark’s 38 percent.

Still, it’s a down-ballot race — meaning few people know much about the job or the candidates — and undecided voters accounted for 15 percent of the responses. Goldmark, like Democratic attorney general candidate John Ladenburg, is presumably hoping for a lift from Democratic Obama voters.

But SurveyUSA says it better:

“…In a state where Democrat Barack Obama is leading Republican John McCain by 16 points, the length of Obama’s coattails may impact this down-ticket race.”

Stay tuned.

11th-hour WA lawsuit seeks to make Obama prove he’s a “natural-born citizen”

A Fall City man is suing Washington State’s top elected official, Secretary of State Sam Reed, saying Reed should have required Barack Obama to show valid proof of citizenship before putting him on the ballot.

Unless Obama can prove he’s a natural-born citizen of the United States, says Steven R. Marquis, Obama should be de-certified as a candidate here.

The state’s proceeding ahead as planned, Reed spokesman David Ammons said.

“The attorney general’s office will handle the matter,” Ammons said. “Obama is included on General Election ballots and Voters’ Pamphlets that have already been printed.”

The case, Steven R. Marquis v. Samuel S. Reed et al, was filed yesterday in King County Superior Court. Case number: 08-2-34955-1SEA. The state has 20 days to respond.

In his 19-page request for an injunction, Marquis says that Obama “has failed to demonstrate that he is a `natural born’ citizen.”

From the paperwork:

“To avert likely civil unrest and a constitutional crisis which would certainly accrue after the election through laborious legal challenges and impeachment process, this complaint seeks to resolve such complaints prior to the election. It was incumbent on the candidates to present such documentation, but to date Mr. Obama has failed to do so.”

“…If the candidate Mr. Obama were to secure the election and later be discovered ineligible, the resulting constitutional and national security crisis that would ensure would generate a severe and genuine likelihood of civil disturbance by virtue of reaction to said disenfranchisement and upset.”

Marquis questions, at length, whether Obama was born in Hawaii or registered there afterward, as well as whether the family’s subsequent move to Indonesia affected the citizenship of Obama and his mother. Click here to read the document

He also calls for evidence that Obama and/or his mother took an oath of allegiance upon returning to the U.S. Here’s a link to Marquis’ web page.

And Marquis questions whether Obama has dual citizenship with Kenya or Indonesia and says Obama “has made no effort to address these public concerns.”

In fact, the Obama campaign has posted a copy of his birth certificate here, saying

“Smears claiming Barack Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate aren’t actually about that piece of paper — they’re about manipulating people into thinking Barack is not an American citizen.

“The truth is, Barack Obama was born in the state of Hawaii in 1961, a native citizen of the United States of America.”

This summer, staff from the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck political website said that:

“ staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as “supporting documents” to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.”

They also listed the number of the birth certificate, which was blacked out on Obama’s site: 151 1961 - 010641. And they cited a birth announcement, published Aug. 13, 1961 in the Honolulu Advertiser.

The folks also added this:

“Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday. We suggest that those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat.”

Builders and friends double down on Rossi…

With the gubernatorial election down to the wire, the Building Industry Association of Washington and its political allies are more than doubling their bet on Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

ChangePAC, a BIAW-led group that also includes farm- and small-business groups, is pouring nearly $4 million in independent expenditures — i.e. spending not coordinated with Rossi — in the campaign’s final weeks. The money “will be spent to support Dino Rossi,” according to the PAC.

From the group’s emailed statement:

“ChangePAC’s goal in spending money to support Dino Rossi is to level the playing field by providing a voice for small businesses to counter the heavy influence of big corporations, labor unions, environmental groups and tribes. These anti-small business special interest groups spend millions of dollars to support Gregoire, and without ChangePAC there would be a vacuum in the information voters receive. ChangePAC ensures small businesses have as loud a voice as the anti-small business faction—a voice small business has never had before.”

The cash means that the race to be Washington’s next governor has become a $30-million-plus fight. Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, has raised $10.8 million; Rossi’s raised $9.8 million. Evergreen Progress, a Gregoire-backing PAC funded largely by the Democratic Governor’s Association and labor unions, has raised more than $5 million.

Democrats have been trying hard to paint Rossi as a puppet of the conservative builders and have slammed BIAW for allegedly failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions until months after they were collected.

“The BIAW is trying to buy this election for Rossi,” said Aaron Ostrom, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Fuse. The “breathtaking” amount of spending to get Rossi elected, he said, “casts a dark shadow over Rossi and tarnishes the entire election.”

Liberal blogger David Goldstein called the cash infusion “a stunning, disturbing and potentially game changing development that will allow the BIAW to saturate the airwaves with vicious attack ads, quite possibly swinging this election to Rossi.”

Speaking of cash…

As some states nervously eye their dwindling unemployment-insurance coffers, the woman in charge of Washington’s system has this message for workers fearing layoffs: no worries.

Washington unemployment trust fund — a pool of money paid into by employers, then tapped to send checks to newly-jobless workers — “is in good shape,” state employment security commissioner Karen Lee said recently. “In fact, it’s the largest and one of the healthiest in the nation.”

The fund has more than $4 billion in it, which the Employment Security Department says is enough to pay nearly two years of benefits during a severe recession.

More than 200,000 Washingtonians have gotten payments so far this year.

The average check, according to the ESD, is $350 a week. The maximum: $541 a week.

To apply for benefits online: go to this Employment Security Department site

In your mailbox soon…

Look for a fat voters guide to be in your mailbox soon, if it hasn’t already arrived.

That booklet’s no small feat. According to the Secretary of State’s office, there are 43 different versions of the thing, ranging from 80 to 264 pages. Several Central- and Eastern Washington counties get a Spanish/English version. Thousands more copies are printed in Chinese for some King County voters. (Korean and Russian versions are coming soon.) And then there are the braille, audio and large-print versions.

Despite the work and expense (which you’re paying), Secretary of State Sam Reed has championed the booklets, saying they’re a key tool for many of the state’s more than 3.5 million voters. That’s particularly true, he argues, as voting in Washington has changed from the polling place to the kitchen table: 37 of the the state’s 39 counties now vote almost entirely by mail.

Light blogging ahead…

I’ll be away from this blog for much of next week. In the meantime, please check out my colleague Jim Camden’s political blog Spin Control.

Putting the “washing” back in Washington…

Despite what a USA Today headline said earlier this week, state environmental officials say, the state has not banned you from washing your car in the driveway.

The Department of Ecology says it “provided guidance” to cities and counties last week, warning about the problems caused by polluted runoff from streets.

USA Today did a story about the situation, headlined “No driveway carwashes, Wash. state says”, saying that washing one’s car in the driveway would soon be as endangered as some wild salmon. It quoted an irate Vancouver SUV owner vowing to wash his Highlander that very weekend in protest.

Responds the state: “Ecology said it would take a public education approach to proper car washing and it urged local governments to do the same and not issue tickets, fines or other penalties.”

The agency says it’s primarily worried about soapy water pouring into storm drains, which generally empty, untreated, into creeks and streams. It suggests washing the car over grass or any other surface where the water soaks into the ground. Or laying something on the ground to divert the soapy water from pouring into a storm drain.

File this under “When did we lose that right?”

Catching up…

-U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat who represents the Tacoma area, has introduced a bill to ban customs agents from summarily seizing the laptops or other devices of U.S. residents returning from overseas trips. There have been numerous reports of customs agents ordering people to turn over their computers, which are then kept, sometimes for weeks, and in some cases the agency copies data from the drives. With no explanation.

The bill is in response to a Department of Homeland Security policy, released in July, allowing customs agents to “review and analyze” your computer, cell phone, etc. for as long as it sees fit, without any particular “individualized suspicion.”

Smith’s “Travelers Privacy Protection Act” would require reasonable suspicion of illegal activity before such searches. It also requires a warrant or court order to seize the information.
A similar bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

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

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