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Spin Control

Archive for June 2012

Sunday Spin: Appealing to the geeks

Politicians are always looking to expand their base, even when they divide the electorate into different groups. Business owners. Union members. Blue collar workers. Soccer moms. Seniors. College students.

John Waite is offering some political training next week to a segment he believes is generally uninvolved, and as such, often underrepresented in politics.

Geeks. . .

Obviously, Inslee and Baumgartner hadn’t compared notes

There was a wide range of reaction among Washington politicians to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Here’s an example of how wide:

Jay Inslee, who voted for the law as a congressman and now wants to be Washington’s next governor, and insisted he wasn’t surprised by the ruling: “I always believed this was constitutional.”

That would seem to make him significantly more confident than the president, and four justices on the court.

Michael Baumgartner, a state senator who voted against bills to set up and expand a health benefit exchange this year and last – and wants to be Washington’s next U.S. senator – was surprised: “Today, the Supreme Court did something none of us expected – they held that the Affordable Care Act is not in violation of the Constitution.”

Baumgartner apparently never talked with Inslee.

Governor’s race comes down to Hoopfest vs. Bloomsday

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee will be on the court Saturday at Hoopfest in a team that also includes Democratic state House candidate Marcus Riccelli.

Their team, the Evergreen Dream Team, will play its first game at 8 a.m. Saturday on Washington Street between Main and Riverside, according to a news release.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna already participated in a popular Spokane sporting event this year. He ran Bloomsday.

Today’s fun video: The perils of ‘News First-i-ness”


As usual, Jon Stewart properly skewered CNN for botching the announcement of yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.

The perils of jumping to analysis before one knows the facts.

STA wins high-profile fan

We may have found a spokesman for a Spokane Transit Authority ad campaign.

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has been flying to Spokane every couple weeks in the last few months to serve as one of the Spokane's five Use of Force commissioners.

After he disembarks from his plane at Spokane International Airport, he takes a Spokane Transit Authority bus downtown.

“I really enjoy that bus ride,” Alexander said. “It's really a handy way to get in from the Airport.”

(This praise for the bus was unsolicited when I asked him a few questions after Thursday's Use of Force Commission meeting.)

Alexander is reimbursed for his plane trip and often a meal when he's in Spokane. He usually flies in the morning and flies out after the meeting

He does not bother getting reimbursed for the $1.50 bus ride.

Retired state chief justice surprised by health care ruling

Retired state Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander was in Spokane Thursday for the last scheduled meeting of the city's Use of Force Commission.

Afterward, we asked him about his thoughts about this morning's U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld most of the Affordable Care Act.

“I had previously thought that they would strike the mandate down,” said Alexander, outside the Spokane City Council chambers. “It seemed to me that they were taking the Commerce Clause where it hadn't gone before.”

Alexander, who was appointed to the Use of Force Commission by Mayor David Condon, said he followed the case, but hadn't read the ruling Thursday afternoon. The majority of justices agreed with Alexander about the Commerce Clause, but a different majority upheld the law under Congress's taxing authority.

“I felt all along they could pass a tax for this,” Alexander said.

High court may be done with health care act, governor’s race is not

OLYMPIA – When a divided Supreme Court settled the question of whether federal health care reform is constitutional Thursday, it turned up the spotlight on the issue for Washington’s hotly contested governor’s race.
Now the question is, how long before that light dims?
Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, one of the original plaintiffs in the failed multi-state challenge, said he was surprised at the ruling but insisted he was relieved, not disappointed.
Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, Inslee’s likely Democratic opponent for governor this November, was happy: “I always believed this was constitutional. I had no qualms in voting for this bill.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire, who disagreed so strongly with McKenna’s decision to draw Washington into the court battle that she filed as a “friend of the court” on the other side, was both celebratory and caustic.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Cowan: Stop bickering over health care law

As his Republican opponent continues to call for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic congressional candidate Rich Cowan said it's time to “put aside the partisan bickering.”“

Cowan's likely opponent in November, four term Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, was one of the go-to commentators for the House GOP on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today and called for Congress to “repeal and replace the law” in the face of the narrow decision that said the law is constitutional. She also blasted some scatological messages she said that came from national Democrats in the wake of the decision, and sent out a fund-raising appeal for the National Republican Congressional Campaign that asked those who also find the messages crass to donate $3 to “show Democrats what Mom-power looks like.” 

Cowan said the court “did the right thing for our health care today” and cited some popular features that will continue, such as extended coverage for young adults on their parents' insurance and an end to coverage denials for pre-existing conditions. And he played the “I understand these things because I'm in the private sector” card.

“As a business owner I have experienced first hand how important basic, affordable health care is to employees,” he said in a press release. “here are parts of this law that can be improved, like cost containment and access issues, but it is time to put aside the partisan bickering and put America back to work.”         

To read the Cowan press release and the McMorris Rodgers fund-raising e-mails in their entirety, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Stewart nailed it on the media feeding frenzy


If this morning's CNN fiasco on announcing the Affordable Care Act wasn't a good enough reminder about how bad the media frenzy can get over something like a major Supreme Court ruling, this segment from The Daily Show on Wednesday night showed how silly the news network talking heads have been all week.

Inslee: Time to move forward

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee said his GOP opponent was “wrong from the beginning” to join the lawsuit challenging the federal health care reform law.

A couple hours earlier, Inslee's chief Republican rival, Attorney General Rob McKenna had defended his decision to join the lawsuit and said that with the court's 5-4 ruling, at least the state and nation has greater certainty on what Congress can and can't do.

“I always believed this was constitutional,” Inslee said Thursday afternoon at a brief press conference. “I had no qualms in voting for this bill.”

The ruling means the efforts to expand and improve the nation's health care system can move forward, he said. If he wins the race for governor in November “I will lead the effort to expand coverage,” Inslee said.

Whether or not McKenna's participation in the suit influences voters, health care remains a major issue for the state for years to come, Inslee said.


Obama on the Obamacare decision

President Obama looked pretty happy when he took to the microphone earlier this morning to comment on the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

For those who didn't see that, but wonder what he had to say, a transcript is inside the blog.

McKenna: We won on Commerce Clause argument

Attorney General Rob McKenna did his best to count victories this morning after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the lawsuit he joined to overturn the Affordable Care Act. And he said other Republicans should drop talk of a wholesale repeal of the law because “that's not going to happen.”

At a late morning press conference, McKenna insisted the ruling was good for Washington because the court ruled Congress doesn't have the authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause to order people to buy health care insurance. “We achieved our goal” of finding that out, he said.

 But he was surprised by the decision of five members of the court to rule the mandate is allowable under Congress's taxing authority, adding that Chief Justice John Roberts' determination that the tax isn't subject to the restrictions of some other taxes was “a bracket buster.”

The state should move ahead with its work to meet provisions of the law, such as the Health Insurance Exchange which will allow individuals to shop for insurance more easilly, he said, and to look for more ways to reform health care.

But other Republicans should stop talking about repealing the law, and instead focus on specific provisions that prove unworkable, he said.

Democrats passed a massive bill with many controversial provisions by pushing it through Congress. “To completely blow it  up means we're essentially doing the same thing, in reverse,” he said.

Besides, the Democratically controlled Senate isn't going to repeal the law, and Obama isn't going to sign a repeal, he said.

Gregoire: A great day… but not for McKenna

Gov. Gregoire discusses health care ruling.

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire “couldn't be more happy and relieved” by the Supreme Court's majority decision that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional.

The decision is good for state residents with pre-existing medical conditions, for young adults who remain on their parent's insurance until they reach 26 and for people who will eventually have coverage through an expansion of Medicaid.

“The real winners are the people of our state,” she said.

She also had harsh words for Attorney General Rob McKenna, her wouldbe replacement, for joining the suit. He was wrong on his insistence that the court could overturn the individual mandate and keep other parts of the law that Washington needs, Gregoire said.

“He was dead wrong on that. You can't have your cake and it it too,” she said.

Health care reform is sure to come up in McKenna's run against former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, she added.

“Inslee went back (to Congress) and fought for health care reform and the attorney general was just wrong.” 

Press conferences coming on Obamacare decision

Gov. Chris Gregoire is holding a press conference at 10:30 a.m. in Olympia on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. She's already released a statement that she's pleased.

Attorney General Rob McKenna is holding a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in Seattle on the ruling. He was part of the group that opposed the law and lost, but he's described it as part of the nation's system of checks and balances.

Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, McKenna's likely opponent for governor in the November election, has a press conference after a campaign luncheon in Seattle at about 1:30 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is part of a House GOP squadron holding a press conference in Washington, D.C. at 10:30 a.m. She's already released a statement saying they'll keep trying to “repeal and replace” it.

McKenna: Part of the checks and balances

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Rob McKenna was among the original plaintiffs challenging the Affordable Care Act and this morning defended the lawsuit, despite the loss, as part of the nation's “series of checks and balances”.

“While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans,” he said in a press release.

Other state officials who are Democrats were critical of McKenna for joining the lawsuit, and turned up the criticism when he said he was only challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate but the suit called for throwing out the entire law. It's a major bone of contention between McKenna and former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, the Democrat challenging McKenna for governor, who voted for the law when it was in Congress. So it's unlikely to be viewed as merely a way of testing the checks and balances by them.

To read the entire press release from McKenna, go inside the blog. 

Gregoire: Perserverance paid off

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire said she believed the Affordable Care Act would withstand the legal challenge but was “extremely pleased” the Supreme Court agreed with some of the points highlighted in a brief she and others in the state submitted in support of the law.

Attorney General Rob McKenna, it may be recalled, signed on on the other side of the argument, as one of the officials from 26 states challenging the law.

With the decision, the state will continue efforts to expand health care, Gregoire said.

To read the full press release, go inside the blog.

McMorris Rodgers: Constitutional but unworkable

Even if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning, it's still unworkable, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers insisted.

The Eastern Washington Republican was sent to the court as one of the GOP spokespersons to address the gathered media hordes. After listening to the decision, she issued a press release that vowed her party will continue trying to repeal the law that she called “an unprecedented expansion of government power.”

To read the full press release, go inside the blog.

Crapo: GOP said all along it was a tax

The Republicans said all along that the individual mandate was a tax, Sen. Mike Crapo said this morning after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on that point. Democrats had insisted it wasn't.

“It's an incredibly big irony,” the Idaho Republican said.

President Obama rejected the GOP arguments that the penalties contained in the law amounted to a tax, and promised the American public he wouldn't raise taxes, Crapo said.. During the Senate debate on the Affordable Care Act, Crapo said he offered an amendment that would have stripped the bill of anything that violated Obama's pledge. It was rejected.

“Now, we're back into that argument,” he said. Although the law is constitutional, “this is still the bad law we said it was.” 

Kreidler: Washington ahead of most states

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler was among the first with instant analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health care reform.

Not surprisingly, Kreidler, who is a big supporter of the Affordable Care Act, was upbeat. His take: That Washington is ahead of most states because of steps it has taken to comply with the law. It's on track to set up a Health Exchange in 2014, as the law requires; some states have been waiting on the court ruling.

The state is also in line for federal subsidies for 477,000 for insurance for poor people, expanded Medicaid for poor children and a ban on insurance companies denying coverage to people who are sick.

The entire press release is inside the blog. 

CNN blows the call on health care ruling

Viewers of CNN may have been justifiably confused this morning when, over a span of four minutes, the Supreme Court ruling was described as a major defeat for President Obama and the Democrats to a “huge, huge victory.”

That's because at about 7:12 a.m. Pacific, CNN said the court struck down the individual mandate, based on the reading of their reporter at the scene. Instant analysis by Wolf Blitzer and company began assessing the damage, and they were quick to call the game against Obama.

Meanwhile, other sources were reporting the Affordable Care Act was essentially being upheld. CNN was missing a key point, that the individual mandate was being upheld as a tax, and within the power of Congress.

By about 7:16 a.m. CNN was reversing course, acknowledging that the mandate was upheld. “This is a huge, huge victory,” Blitzer intoned.

They only touched briefly on the fact that they blew the initial call.

John King: “It's a complicated decision.”

Blitzer: “It's a historic moment.”

Apparently in those historic moments, TV anchors sometimes get a little overanxious..

Hotline puts WA gov race No. 2

Hotline, a national political publication is ranking Washington's gubernatorial race as the second-most likely to switch from one party to another in November.

North Carolina is first.

Here's what the Hotline staff had to say about the Washington race:

WASHINGTON (Open D, Gov. Christine Gregoire retiring) (Last month: 3)
Attorney General Rob McKenna's lead was never going to hold. As Democrats begin to wrap their heads around having ex-Rep. Jay Inslee as their party's standard-bearer, polls show him closing on the popular Republican. According to recent surveys, it's a statistical tie — or close to it. McKenna must overcome Democratic headwinds, but in a state that hasn't voted Republican for governor since 1980, he presents the party with its best possible shot.

To read the entire article, click here

McMorris Rodgers a designated hitter for Health Care ruling

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be one of two House Republicans providing instant comments — they're calling it “messaging” — when the U.S. Supreme Court issues its ruling on the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

Except she's more likely to be calling it by its favored GOP term, Obamacare, particularly if the court throws out all or part of the law.

A press release this morning from McMorris Rodgers's office said she'll be at the Supreme Court building Thursdah morning for the announcement of the opinion with Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who serves on the Ways and Means health subcommittee. They will “lead the House GOP's messaging in response to the ruling,” the announcement said.

Later, she'll lead a group of at least eight House Republican women talking about the decision at a press conference in front of the Capitol.

Caseload forecast: State will spend a bit less

OLYMPIA — The “other shoe” in the state's budget picture dropped lightly today.

The caseload forecast, which along with last week's revenue forecast helps predict whether the state's long-term finances are in the red or black, had some good news in it. Some of the big costs of state government — the number of kids in public schools, the number of inmates in prisons, the number of families receiving temporary assistance or medical assistance, the number children in foster care — were projected to be lower than forecasters thought in February.

Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform and a person who understands these numbers far more than Spin Control ever will, says the changes overall add about $56 million to the state General Fund's bottom line. That's a line that's extremely narrow right now, because the Lege didn't leave much in reserve.

Of course, the savings could be wiped out tomorrow, depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court does on federal health care reform.  “For today at least,  however, good budget news,” Mercier says.

The full report can be found here.

State primary is officially underway

OLYMPIA — Your election calendar might not say Washington State Primary until Aug. 7, but in reality, the election has already begun.

Some 50,000 ballots have been sent to deployed service members and other state residents living overseas. Some went by regular mail, others went by e-mail, depending on what the voter requested.

All of the state's 39 counties sent out some ballots, the state Elections Division said today. Spokane County sent out 3,722, which was the fifth highest in the state.

Ballots to the rest of the state's voters will be mailed out in mid-July, and have to be dropped off or postmarked by Aug. 7.

And just a friendly reminder: If you are eligible to vote, but aren't registered, you have until July 9 to register online. If you aren't registered, you can start the process by clicking here. If you can't remember if you're registered at your current address, that link will help you find that out, too.

Wonder who makes what, working for the state? We can show you

To search the updated database of state employees' salaries, click here.

OLYMPIA – The best-paying state jobs in Washington are still in academia, with the very best in athletics.

The annual listing of salaries for all state employees shows once again that the biggest paychecks in 2011 went to staff at either the University of Washington or Washington State University, with the top five going to coaches of the two schools’ football and basketball teams.

Husky football coach Steve Sarkisian tops the list of state employees with an annual salary topping $2.5 million. He also saw the biggest increase from 2010, with an increase of $546,000.

University officials are always quick to point out, however, that salaries for coaches and the other athletic departments’ staffs don’t come out of state tax dollars. They are covered by a combination of ticket sales and broadcast revenues.

UW basketball coach Lorenzo Romar is second, with a little more than $1.2 million. WSU basketball coach Ken Bone, former WSU football coach Paul Wulff and former UW assistant coach Nick Holt round out the top five before the first non-coach, WSU President Elson Floyd shows up on the list at $625,000.

The list represents all payments made to state employees. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here

Former Spokane mayor offers early praise for Condon

Former Spokane Mayor Sheri Barnard voted for Mary Verner.

But she’s impressed with the first several months of Mayor David Condon's administration.

“So far, I think the moves he’s made are excellent,” Barnard said.

Spokane stays ahead of Tacoma in population

OLYMPIA — The honor of the Avis of Washington population goes once again to Spokane.

The state Office of Financial Management released its annual population estimates today, which show overall population is up slightly, pretty much all around the state.

Seattle, of course, is the largest city. Spokane is No. 2, with an estimated 210,000. Tacoma is third at 199,600. For more numbers, check out this story on the main webpage.

The race to place sometimes sets off a competition between some newspaper columnists in the two cities. Spin Control has not engaged in denigrating Tacoma in the past, and will refrain from doing so now. But we can't speak for some of our ink-stained brethren.

MYVote goes quadra-lingual

OLYMPIA — The state Elections Division has expanded its help to register voters and get them information about the candidates and ballot issues they face on this year's ballot to include three languages besides English.

MyVote now offers links to voter registration and information in Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese on the Secretary of State's website.

A voter who isn't fluent in English but is in one of those languages can enter their first and last name and birthdate (or nombre/apellido.fecha de nacimiento, ten goi/ten ho/ngay sinh, or in traditional Chinese characters that aren't available on the computer that handles this blog) and  see all the details on who's on his or her ballot.

It's the work of the division's minority language coordinator, Cristina Labra, and it's up and running in advance of the deadline for registering online to vote in the Aug. 7 primary, which is coming up on July 9.

Today’s fun link: Modernizing the race of 1864

The dog days of summer are a good time to play the game of What-If, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center  has a fun one at

What if the kind of campaigns we run today were available in the presidential race of 1864?

For those a little hazy on their high school history, that's the year Abraham Lincoln ran for re-election. While we tend to think of Lincoln as the president so great we put his face on the penny, the $5 bill and Mount Rushmore, there were some doubts in the months leading up to that election whether Lincoln would survive a challenge from George McClellan, the one-time commander of the Union Army.

With Could Lincoln be Re-Elected Today? the web site offers some 21st Century style attacks on the candidates, from a SuperPac calling itself Steam Boat Veterans for Truth against McClellan to various attacks on Lincoln as a flip-flopper, a redistributor of wealtlh through the Homestead Act and a “melancholiac.”

Sunday Spin: Asking for money a waste of an e-mail

Last week, like most weeks, among the hundreds of e-mails that made it through the spam filter were some cheery yet urgent missives from politicians.

Among them was one from Patty Murray, Washington’s Democratic senior senator, andanother from Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican. Not surprisingly, they both wanted the same thing. Money.

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

AG asked if audits can be delayed

OLYMPIA — The state attorney general's office will weigh in on a potential fight between the Legislature and the Executive branch over the meaning of three little words: “within available funds.”

Those three words appear twice in a 2005 statute that requires state agencies to develop “quality management systems” to help figure out ways to do their jobs better.  Most agencies have never done such  assessments because the deadlines were delayed and then the recession hit and budgets tightened.

This year, the governor's office asked for another delay. The Legislature said no, but it also didn't set aside any extra money for the assessments. Last month, Marty Brown, director of the Office of Financial Management, told agency leaders not to perform the quality management assessments because after billions of dollars of budget cuts, the funds aren't available.

“The intent was, if you had the money you would do this; if you didn't, you wouldn't,” Brown said Thursday.

In the statute's three paragraphs that call for the development of quality management systems, the first two contain the words “within available funds.” The third paragrah does not add that caveat.

Two legislative Democrats, Rep. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way and Sen. Jim Kastama of Puyallup, who are running respectively for state auditor and secretary of state, are challenging the order to drop the quality assessments. They sent a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire, objecting to Brown's directive to the agencies, and a separate letter to the attorney general's office, asking for an opinion on whether the assessments have to be done.

“They're getting rid of accountability,” Miloscia said in an interview Thursday.

Not so, says Brown. The state has other programs to improve performance, such as the Lean system that private businesses use to look for waste and the Government Management Accountability Project.

But those look at different things, Miloscia said. If a governor can ignore this law that requires state agencies to do something, he or she could ignore other laws requiring other actions. He drafted the legislation in 2005 and contends it says “within available funds” because the Legislature never intended to give the agencies extra money for the assessments. They'd have to find ways to pay for it within the budgets they had.

In the past, the Legislature approved delays requested by Gregoire. This year, it dropped the requested delay from the final budget deal that passed on the last day of the special session. But it didn't come up with any extra money, and it didn't repeal the words “within available funds” from the existing law.

Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even said he would research the question and come up with an informal opinion about the legal meaning of those words. That analysis typically takes about two months, he said, so it should be available by mid August.

Revenue forecast: “The Realm of OK”

The council gets the budget outlook. From left, Marty Brown, Ross Hunter, Ed Orcutt and Steve Lerch.

OLYMPIA — While the map may say this is the state of Washington, a revenue forecast that is essentially no better or worse than February puts us “in the Realm of OK.”

That was state Budget Director Marty Brown's take on the economic and revenue outlook for the rest of this fiscal biennium and the next, which has a net increase of $156 million out of $30 billion through the end of next June, and up about $197 billion for the two years after that.

After a string of down forecasts, a little blip up might be considered great news if there were less uncertainty in the national and international economies. And if the state wasn't facing a potential spike in education spending of $1 billion in 2013-15, $2.5 billion in 2015-17 and $3 billion in 2017-19.

The two leading gubernatorial candidates say the state can handle that kind of spending, from a Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision, without a tax increase. Members of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council were asked if they agree.

“This isn't a campaign event,” replied Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Maybe not. But Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, the council president, said there was an extra $2.2 billion in revenue projected for the next biennium, so that might be considered “a yes we can meet that goal without a tax increase.”

After the council adjourned, however, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he thinks the need to find money for McCleary will point out the state's long-running “structural problem” with its tax system that will need to be fixed. “In the next several biennia, we're going to need to have that discussion.” So that might be considered a “no, we can't.”

Today’s link: Politically purging Facebook

If you are a true believer in one major political party or the other, you may find it difficult to stay friends with those in the opposite party, at least through the November election.

Not long ago, that may have meant simply avoiding them in social settings, not hanging around the water cooler with them at work or occupying a more distant bar stool during  happy hour. But Facebook changed all that, because  you may have added FB “friends” over the last few years without regard to their partisan leanings. Could that high school classmate whom you “friended” after seeing the list for the reunion turn into a rabid birther? Will that former work colleague bombard you with complicated theories of how the U.S. actually blew up the Twin Towers? Or maybe you're just tired of all the effusive praise of their particular presidential pick.

What's a FB follower to do?

BuzzFeed has developed two links that will help you identify Republicans or Democrats among your friend list, and help you “defriend” them, if you so desire.

Republicans looking identify the Democrats in their lists can start here.

Democrats looking for Republicans in their lists can start here.

But remember, just because you don't agree on politics doesn't mean you can't be friends. Sometimes, anyway.

Campaign complaint filed against Spokane House candidate

A Republican precinct committee officer is challenging the campaign advertising of a GOP candidate for state House.

But the candidate, Ben Oakley, said he cleared his signs and logos with the state Public Disclosure Commission before he started using them.

Oakley, a Republican, is running for the 6th Legislative District Houseseat currently held by Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane. Ahern is retiring. Oakley faces two other Republicans, attorney Jeff Holy and Cheney Public Schools Superintendent Larry Keller, and one Democrat, former state Rep. Dennis Dellwo, in the August primary.

Julian Hale, who is a precinct committee officer in the 7th Legislative District, filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Sunday.

Feds to give N. Spokane Corridor $10 million

The U.S. Department of Transportation will give the state $10 million for the North Spokane Corridor, to be used to help relocate some railroad tracis and extend a bike trail.

A joint announcement from U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the state will get the money from the feds on Friday.

The money is known as a TIGER grant, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. It will be used to relocate 7.5 miles of BNSF rail lines near the Freya Street interchange, and to extend a bike and pedestrian trail for 1 mile into Hillyard.

All three members of Congress described the North Spokane Corridor — also known by some as the North-South Freeway — as a top priority for them and the community.

To read the announcement of the grant, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Council calls for coal study

About 40 people on Monday urged local leaders to find out how vastly increased train traffic could cause health problems in Spokane.

After hearing from them, the Spokane City Council unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution asking state and federal officials to study the environmental effects of significantly increasing the amount of coal traveling by train through Spokane. They also requested that a hearing on the matter be held locally.

“As these trains come through, there’s going to be an impact,” Councilman Mike Allen said. “We just need to know the entire ramification.”

Sunday Spin: Bending things for TV political drama

I’ll be watching the cable TV drama “The Killing” Sunday night to find out who killed Rosie Larson, even though it irks me.
Not just because the main character, Sarah Linden, could get an Emmy for worst TV mother in a drama, or that it is set in Seattle but was mostly shot in Vancouver, B.C. Our northern neighbor offered more tax deals, so producers must have decided one rainy Northwest city looks like any other.
But what irks me most is the fracturing of political facts thrown into the storyline for no good reason. Perhaps more precisely, it irks my wife because I keep saying, “Well, that couldn’t happen because…” until she tells me to pipe down so she can watch the show.
For those who have never watched,

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Last word on gov debate

This came from colleage Erik P. Smith of the Washington Wire, a former Spokesman-Review reporter and Spokane resident, who covered the AWB debates.

How fitting, he said, that candidates for Washington governor and attorney general were debating at The Bing Crosby Theater.

Because, he said, that used to be the State Theater.

It's true only some old time Spokanites would get that connection, since the Bing was the Met after it was the State.

And real old timers, such as  his grandmother, insisted on calling it the Klemmer Theater, Smith said.

New district maps available

OLYMPIA — The Washington Redistricting Commission has put the finishing touches on the new maps for congressional and legislative districts.

True, the lines were set by the Legislature months ago, and the commission got them online fairly quickly. But getting everything in a nice map and get it printed on a large format page takes a bit more time.

You can order a free map by clicking here    

Accusations highlighted AG debate between Dunn, Ferguson

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Dunn v. Ferguson debate AG clip: “I was doing doughnuts…”

For all the attention on this week's debate between the two main gubernatorial hopefuls, it was really the showdown between two of the candidates for attorney general that was more exciting.

And above is the link that highlighted it all, an exchange that started with a question about the death penalty. Democrat Bob Ferguson opposes the death penalty, but pledged to uphold the law. Republican Reagan Dunn supports it. But that really wasn't what made the interaction interesting. What makes it a fun listen is the accusations thrown first from Dunn at Ferguson, then Ferguson at Dunn, and then Dunn's rather successful attempt to diffuse Ferguson's accusation with the line: “That was 25 years ago. I was 17, and I was doing doughnuts in a parking with snow. I'm sorry.”

DCCC needs to check its math

National political groups try to find deep meaning in local elections, so it's not surprising the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wants to spread Tuesday's victory in Arizona over as much of the country as possible.

But they may need a new calculator before they use it as a bellwether for Eastern Washington's 5th Congressional District.

Wednesday afternoon the group dedicated to electing Democrats to the U.S. House sent out a press release with this headline:

Democrats Win Special Election in More Republican District Than Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers

That, not surprisingly, had us at Spin Control scratching our heads. Didn't the district in question, Arizona's  8th Congressional District, have a Democratic congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, for the last five years? Whereas Eastern Washington's 5th hasn't had a Democratic congressperson since 1994.

How do ya figure “more Republican”? Spin Control asked Steve Carter, the DCCC representative for western states.

There's no one way to rate how partisan a district is, Carter said. “That's one way to look at it,” he said when we brought up the 18-year gap for electing a Dem to the House. The DCCC, however, chose to look at it a different way…

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click to go inside the blog.

Post debate: AWB endorses McKenna, Dunn

In a move that may shock no one, the Association of Washington Business endorsed Republicans Rob McKenna for governor and Reagan Dunn for state attorney general.

The business group, which functions as the state's Chamber of Commerce, co-hosted debates in Spokane Wednesday for both offices with McKenna facing off against Democrat Jay Inslee for the first time and Dunn against Democrat Bob Ferguson.

The AWB board determined that “McKenna is the best candidate to lead our state to better times” and Dunn is “the best candidate to represent business interests” in the AG's office.

It probably didn't hurt that McKenna discussed his support for charter schools, which Inslee opposes, and the AWB came out in favor of an initiative that is gathering signatures to put a charter school proposal on the November ballot.

The AWB generally endorses Republicans for the state's chief executive. But it didn't just endorse GOP candidates today. It endorsed Democrat Jim McIntire for state treasurer.

McIntire, it should be noted, is running unopposed.

Many distinctions drawn in first Inslee-McKenna debate

The two leading candidates for Washington governor debated for the first time on Tuesday and agreed that new taxes aren’t needed to improve schools.

But they disagreed on most other points, including education in the hour-long debate at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane.

Former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee declined to promise that he would add a billion dollars in the next two-year budget to improve basic education in a way demanded by the state Supreme Court in a ruling made earlier this year. His opponent, Republican Rob McKenna did, noting that $1 billion is just 3 percent of the state budget.

But Inslee accused McKenna of “faulty math” for supporting significant budget increases for education, higher education and Medicaid funding while also supporting to exempt more than 100,000 businesses from the state’s business and occupation tax.

“We do have to realize that we don’t have a printing press,” Inslee said. “My opponent has made promises that we just cannot keep.”

McKenna responded that he would push for business and occupation tax relief only after schools are “fully funded” and the higher education budget is boosted.

“It’s not something we can afford to do right away,” McKenna said. “If it’s not part of your vision, you’ll never attain it.”

Gov debate: Tribal gaming

Inslee: There's a federal process and that process needs to be followed. I have a concern about expansion of tribal gaming that could lead to harm for existing businesses. Each of them needs to be reviewed on the merits. Need to look at land use impacts. There are legitimate concerns about how the Spokane Tribe proposal could affect Fairchild Air Force Base.

McKenna: Does he support revenue sharing with tribes. I do not think it's a good policy. The compacts don't allow it and I don't think we want the state government to become dependent on gaming revenue.

Inslee: Thanks for reminding me. I don't support revenue sharing on gaming

Gov debate: Supermajority for taxes

How will you vote on the initiative?

McKenna: We will go to the Supreme Court and I believe they will overturn the King County ruling the supermajority is unconstitutional. The voters have been clear on taxes. They did so because it provides a higher wall. But it's not insurmountable.

Inslee: Rob supported multiple tax increases while he was on the King County Council and they didn't require a supermajority. When we impose a two-thirds majority it goes against one-person, one-vote. Let democracy rule.

McKenna: He's clearly against a rule 64 percent of the voters approved.

Gov debate: Transportation

When is the right time to ask voters for a tax increase for transportation?

McKenna: The fall of 2013 or fall of 2014. It will depend on the voters' reaction to the list of projects…including the North Spokane Corridor. We need to look for ways to provide more support to local governments to expand transit. We need to pay close attention to freight mobility.

Inslee: Right now we're lacking in trust in the state government. We need to bring lean management to every department of government, including the Department of Transportation.

McKenna: He didn't answer the question. When is the right time. He refuses to take a position on this

Inslee: The right time is when we regain the trust of voters. That's not a calendar date.

Followup: What about public-private partnerships for transporation.

Inslee: We should look at multiple options and find one that works. Need to watch the details, look at all the tools at our disposal. Private enterprise can produce good products for state government. It has to be a partnership between a more efficient government and business. I would would consider those in the right circumstances.

McKenna: I don't believe we should tap our pension system to fund programs, as Inslee proposed at the beginning of his campaign. We need to attract private capital.

Inslee: I listened to people and will not propose changes to our pension system.

Gov debate: McKenna to Inslee

If you could do it over, would you make it possible to make it easier to get mortgagest for people with poor credit?

Inslee: The problem was de-regulation of Wall Street. I stood up to Bill Clinton and my party on the repeal of Glass Stieglitz. I don't blame the homeowners. I blame Wall Street for the financial collapse. Some people were over their heads. But the answer is not to reduce people's access to credit.

McKenna: The question was whether to release standards, making it easier for people with poor credit to obtain loans. It invited speculators in.

Inslee: The McKenna Romney view is the problem is because of homeowners. I believe it's because of Wall Street.

Gov debate: Inslee to McKenna

Inslee: As King County Council president, the council passed a budget that was out of balance in King County, why should voters trust you as governor?

McKenna: I opposed a new tax increase, the council passed it. In my opinion, it was the wrong thing to do. They passed the budget they wanted.

Inslee: Leadership is hard. Given the opportunity to build consensus, my opponet didn't succeed.

Gov debate: Coal exports terminals

Inslee: Look at them through the lens of jobs and job benefits, and the potential downsides for the towns the trains will go through, including Spokane. Right policy and it is the law. This is a moment of truth for the state of Washington: Will we embrace new sources of energy? We need to have policies to make sure new energy companies locate here.

McKenna: Important to business, labor and communities. We're talking about hundreds of high-paying jobs. They have to go through a rigorous EIS process. If they make it through, why should they be discriminated against.

Inslee: I think that's a fair statement if you look at the impact on companies in communites where trains go through.

Gov debate: Jobs

How many jobs can you create if you're elected? How can the state afford tax breaks to business if you're going to spend more for higher education?

McKenna: It's not something we can afford to do right away. The current threshhold doesn't make sense, but after we've fully funded education and restored funding for higher education, we should look at. We need to centralize the collection of the B&O tax, like centralized sales tax would make more sense.

Inslee: Making promises you can't fulfill is not the leadership the state needs. His promises can't be kept. I have proposed a tax credit for research and development for small businesses, credits for hiring new employees.

McKenna: The congressman opposes B&O tax relief at any time.

Why target B&O tax relief to certain industries?

Inslee: We don't have unlimited funds. We have to choose and we should not be waiting to building the industries of the next century.

McKenna: Why not give all businesses a fair chance to be successful.

Inslee: Cutting edge companies are growing in Washington, especially in Eastern Washington, seeds that we need to see sprout. A center for aviation biofuels at WSU. To make sure businesses compete with oil industries, allow R&D from our universities.

MKenna: Innovation occurs in many places, not just in hand-picked industries. Best approach is to be color blind in the kind of industries we're supporting, green, blue collar or pink collar.

Inslee: Our existing industries aren't color blind.

Follow up: What's the balance between environment and job growth. What state restrictions are too strict:

McKenna: Inslee should have addressed federal assistance for those companes when he was in Congress. Shorelines management. We have local, state and federal, we should harmonize those rules and get more cleanup.

Inslee: Harmonizing means reduce our protections for clean air and clean water

McKenna: The Congressman has never seen a regulation he didn't like.

Gov debate: Higher ed

Inslee: I know how difficult it is to see this incredible debt burden on kids. We've got to do things to make higher education more affordable… Expand online learning opportunities…free universities from some of the restrictions…allow colleges to commercialize some of their technologies …If we do these things, use colleges to drive our economy.

McKenna: In the 1990s, over 16 percent of the state budget went to higher education. Now it's 8 percent. Stop cutting higher education in the general fund budget, which is why I called Republicans to reverse their proposed cuts in higher education.

Followup: You're talking about a lot of new state spending. Can you reverse the trend in a first term?

Inslee: Don't dig the hole deeper.

McKenna: The folks running Olympia (Democrats) for the last 20 years are responsible.

Gov debate: Education

Will you ask for a new tax for schools?

Inslee: No. I'm proposing job creation (to increase revenue) and close some of the corporate tax loopholes. We are 5th in high tech jobs, but 46th in the production of students to fullfill those jobs…We have to have changes that can't wait for additional funding. Not allow substandard teachers in the classroom, expand science technology and math education.

McKenna: We can't put more money into an unreformed system. Look for more money on all day kindergarten, close tax loopholes, squeeze the budget, repurpose existing spending on things like administration.

Inslee: This is not a time to take away money (for charter schools)

Followup: Take a new fund source off the table?

Inslee: Yes. Finance our schools through growth.

McKenna: We have a dedicated source, it's called the general fund. That's what paramount duty says.

Inslee: We can't wait for the billion dollars to make the reform.

McKenna: We can find the money in the state budget.

Followup: Do you support a ballot measure for charter schools?

McKenna: This is a too we ought to have in our state. All states with major metropolitan areas have them. They should be part of the mix. There are other models for innovation too. I'll be voting yes.

Inslee: Great innovation going on around the state. I'm going to put $1 billion more into the budget, don't want to have some of it going out for charter schools. Only 1 in 5 succeed. I'll be voting no.

McKenna: These charter schools are public schools

Gov debate: Health care

What steps would you take if the Supreme Court

McKenna: Implement the health insurance exchange, expanded Medicaid program. We also need to look to insurance reform to create more competition. We need a market that is national. We also need liabilitly reform, reduce the cost of defensive medicine. Encourage more Washingtonians to move to consumer directed health care plans. I expect we will continue to be leaders.

Inslee: It is a value in the state of Washington that if you are a breast cancer survivor, you should be able to get health care insurance… You should be able to have your son or daughter on your insurance. I am disappointed our attorney general has tried to take that awaly.

McKenna: Inslee voted for a law advisers warned had an unconstitutional mandate. Medicaid could expand if the bill is overturned.

Inslee: If the bill is oveturned, we can't look to Uncle Sam.

Gov debate: Opening statements

Here's how the gubernatorial debate in Spokane started:

Rob McKenna: We need a new direction for Washington…These dreams are at risks.)ure Streets aren't safe. Our schools leave people behind, our universities are too expensive.

Jay Inslee: Build a working Washington. I have an abiding faith in our ability to move forward

Gov, AG debates today in Spokane

Just a reminder that the two likely finalists for governor and state attorney general will be debating this afternoon in Spokane at the Bing Crosby Theater.

Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn are up first in the debates sponsored by the Association of Washington Business and Greater Spokane Inc. The attorney general candidates debate at 2 p.m.

Democrat Jay Inslee, the former congressman, and Republican Rob McKenna, the current attorney general, are on at 3:30 p.m.

Moderator for both debates is Austin Jenkins of Northwest Public Radio. If you don't have a ticket, both debates will be carried live on TVW, and on NPR stations around Washington. And Spin Control will be live-blogging the governor's race.

The AG's race probably has the less familiar candidates, especially in Eastern Washington…

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog

McKenna touts endorsements on eve of debate

OLYMPIA — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna went to the playbook today to give his campaign a bit of ink the day before the first debate with Democrat Jay Inslee.

McKenna held a press conference at the Space Needle to introduce “Democrats for Rob”, a group of folks from the other party who are supporting him.

Democrats were quick to cast it as a “political stunt” . . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Would feds come down on Batman?


When the U.S. government passed the Equal Pay law in the 1960s, they chose Batgirl to make the point that same work means same pay.

One wonders, though, how hard Batman and Robin worked at getting out of those ropes, that look like they were tied by a five-year-old.

Referendum signatures forged

OLYMPIA — State officials doing the check on petitions submitted for the same-sex marriage referendum say they found what they suspect are about 1,000 forged signatures. . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: Gov campaign heads for Spokane

Spokane will be in the political limelight Tuesday as Washington’s first gubernatorial debate of the season takes the stage at the Bing Crosby Theater.

The Association of Washington Business and Greater Spokane Incorporated are co-hosting the premier head-to-head between Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee at 3:30 p.m., the second debate on a two-event card. Two guys who want McKenna’s current job of state attorney general, Republican Reagan Dunn and Democrat Bob Ferguson, are the warm-up debate at 2 p.m.

Usually the AWB waits until the field is winnowed to two by the primary, but this year they wanted a draw for their quarterly meeting in Spokane. Of the seven other gubernatorial hopefuls, the only person who has a semi-legitimate complaint of being shut out is Shahram Hadian, a Republican from Mill Creek who has a full-fledged if underfunded campaign but the misfortune not to be the person his party thinks can put them back in the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1984.

The two business groups have given away all their tickets for the debates, but the four campaigns each got 100 tickets and might have some left, AWB spokeswoman Jocelyn McCabe said.

The Inslee campaign scheduled a debate watch party at the Saranac Public House, 21 W. Main Ave., and Republicans will likely have one, too, although at press time they hadn’t picked a venue. Check with them early this week at (509) 838-6162.

Or watch from home or other favorite location on TVW, which will carry both forums live, with several political reporters offering insightful comments before and after the debates – and me trying not to say anything too embarrassing.

The debate has been an ongoing source of political fodder for months. .  .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, go inside the blog

National rally draws more than 100 in Spokane

More than 100 protestors gathered Friday at the federal courthouse in Spokane to protest new federal health insurance rules.

Robin Luciani, the local rally captain for the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom, said 110 people came to the Spokane event to protest a federal decision announced earlier this year related to contraception.

The rally and dozens of others across the country were organized by the Coalition to Stop the Heath and Human Services Mandate, which is made up of dozens of religious groups and organizations opposed to abortion rights.

Condon terminates another city administrator

Spokane Mayor David Condon on Wednesday fired another high-ranking administrator.

Ellen Hung, the city’s treasurer, was given notice today that she has been terminated, said Spokane’s Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley.

Since taking office, Condon has fired several department leaders including the public works director, building official, general administration director, risk manager and city attorney.

Cooley said the termination was the result of “reorganization” and that Hung had done nothing wrong leading to the firing. He said Hung will assist the city during a transition period, though he has named Accounting Director Pam Dolan as the interim treasurer.

As the treasurer, Hung’s main function was overseeing the city’s investments and assets. Spokane invests money that it keeps in reserves, an amount that ranges between $300 million and $350 million, Hung said.

Hung, whose last name was Dolan until last year as a result of a divorce, said Wednesday that she was surprised and disappointed by the termination. She started at the city as the assistant retirement director in 2000. She was named the acting treasurer in 2001 and got the job on a permanent basis soon after. Hung and Pam Dolan are not related.

“I’ve always been told by all the managers and all the council people that I have been a valuable asset to the city, and I’ve made the city a lot of money,” she said.

Former City Council President Joe Shogan, who recently finished two terms as a council member, said he was impressed by Hung’s commitment to the city.

“I found her to be very professional, very knowledgeable and very good to work with,” Shogan said. “I always thought that she was very astute.”

Counter protest greets Westboro group

Kittanya Locken and Marly Gilbert share a kiss in front of the anti-gay protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church.

OLYMPIA — A half dozen members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church drew about 200 counter demonstrators to a protest at the entrance to the state Capitol Campus this afternoon.

The Kansas congregation said on its website it was “picketing the legalization of fag marriage” in the state Wednesday and Thursday. They apparently didn't get the memo that the law is on  hold, at least until December, because Preserve Marriage Washington filed more than 225,000 signatures on referendum petitions to put the law on the ballot.

Since Preserve Marriage Washington only needed about 121,000 valid signatures, there's almost no chance that the law won't be before voters in November. The secretary of state's office will go through a streamlined process to check signatures next week.

While the Westboro group sang, waved their signs and, for part of the protest stood on an American flag one protester had dropped on the ground, the counter demonstrators jeered, shouted and waved signs spoofing the standard Westboro “God hates Fags” signs.

“God hates figs,” said one. “Eggs hate Nogg,” said another.

Other counter demonstrators blew bubbles, waved flags or served pieces of a cake decorated with a rainbow.

Washington State troopers kept the two groups separate. But Kittanya Locken and Marly Gilbert, a lesbian couple who live in Olympia, made their way to the front of the counter demonstrators to share a kiss in front of the Westboro group.

Locken said they learned about the protest on Facebook, and decided they had to come to protest the protesters. “It's our home and our duty to support our friends.”

Austin Hedrick, a high school senior from Tumwater, said he came hoping to talk to the Westboro protesters, but the crowd made that unlikely. Hedrick was carrying his Bible and said he plans to attend a seminary in the fall. He wanted to tell the protesters they were wrong about their interpretation of the Scripture.

“The Bible says homosexuality is wrong, but it doesn't say to hate homosexuals,” Hedrick said.

Katrina Akins of Olympia, who was blowing bubbles in the back of the crowd, said she'd recently seen a movie about the Westboro Church, and wanted to see them  in person. “They're about what I expected,” she said.

Why bubbles? They're fun, they make rainbows…and the bubble blower was cheap at the dollar store, she said.

After an hour, the Westboro protesters packed up and left, and the counter demonstrators slowly dispersed.

Roskelley challenge dismissed

A visiting county auditor dismissed the challenge to John Roskelley's voter registration, and the Democratic challenger will appear on the ballot for the Spokane County commissioner in District 1.

That will likely bring to an end the separate challenge in Spokane County Superior Court, which tried to block Roskelley from the ballot on a different tack.

The challenge to his voter registration was filed first, by Spokane County Republican Chairman Matthew Pederson, who argued that Roskelley wasn't properly registered because he used an address where he doesn't currently have a house, or any other building.

Roskelley had moved out of his long-time home in the district witih plans to build a new home on East Heron View Lane, and used that location on his voter registration. But he was living with his son, whose house is outside the district, while completing a building permit for the property.

A commissioner candidate must live and run in that particular district in the primary. Pederson argued that Roskelley didn't; Roskelley said he was acting on information from Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton about where a legal residence is for registering to vote, and said Pederson's complaint was just politics.

In previous court cases, the intention to move to a particular location has been ruled enough to allow a candidate to claim that as a residence for voter registration.

Dalton recused herself from the complaint and asked Chelan County Auditor Skip Moore to hear the case. This afternoon Moore said Roskelley presented enough evidence to prove that his residence is the one on his voter registration.

Roskelley faces Republican County Commissioner Todd Mielke in the primary. Because they are the only two candidates for that office, they'll run countywide in the November general election.

Dalton said she'd begin printing primary ballots, which must be mailed to overseas and military voters by June 22.

Inslee campaign complains about AWB donor

OLYMPIA — The campaign for Jay Inslee said it was concerned about a big donation an oil company gave to the sponsor of next week's gubernatorial debate in Spokane. But the Association of Washington Business said he needn't be.

The $100,000 isn't for use in the governor's race. It's dedicated to an initiative campaign that would try to keep the two-thirds supermajority requirement on all tax votes the Legislature might want to take for at least the first two years of the next governor's term, the AWB says.

AWB got the money from the Tesoro Company, which is the company that operates a refinery in Western Washington as well as gas stations around the state. The refinery was the site of a fire in 2010 that killed seven workers, the Inslee campaign said. The company also gave $1,600 to the campaign of his opponent, Republican Rob McKenna.

“As you can imagine, accepting $100,000 from a major oil company openly supporting Mr. McKenna leaves the impression that the money is intended for eventual use on behalf of Mr. McKenna and against Jay Inslee,” Campaign Manager Joby Shimomura wrote. “This raises serious concerns for us, and we imagine it will raise concerns for many viewers and voters as well.”

To make sure the public considers everything is fair in next Tuesday's debate, which AWB is co-sponsoring with Greater Spokane Inc., the business organization should give the money back.

Not going to happen, AWB says. The money from Tesoro isn't going to candidates. It was a pass-through, coming in to AWB and out to the Initiative 1185 campaign, as Tesoro and several other big money donors requested.

“None of these funds were allocated toward any candidates. Our PDC filings indicate as much,” Don Brunell, president of AWB wrote back. “Moreover, we are not in a position to dictate where our members choose to donate their own political funds. We only control those funds given to us, and in this case, they were received and then transmitted to the I-1185 campaign for the purposes of signature gathering.”

To be fair, the PDC records, some of which were filed by AWB the same day the Inslee campaign sent its letter, aren't crystal clear on this. Tesoro money came in on April 24 and was part of a total of $185,000 reported to the PDC on May 15 as earmarked for I-1185, although nothing was said about signature gathering on that report.

No such amount shows up on the I-1185 campaign reports, and AWB's Tuesday filing doesn't mention the initative, it says it paid the $185,000 to Citizen Solutions, a signature gathering firm, but doesn't say for what. The I-1185 campaign, which does use Citizen Solutions, has yet to report the $185,000 as an in-kind contributions.

But Brunell has a point. AWB couldn't spend that kind of money on McKenna, or any other candidate. The only place where a PAC can dump six figures is in an initative campaign.

Taken a step farther, if some company wants to give AWB $100,000 to pass along to an initiative campaign, who is AWB to say “no way, Jose”? People who don't like this kind of money maneuver should take it up with the Legislature, not the poor PACs.

Brunell added the business group is “pleased to know that Mr. Inslee remains committed to our debate … and look forward to hearing him articulate his ideas about the key issues facing our state.”

Just as Inslee's letter could be seen as lobbing a few shells before the big battle, that line from Brunell could be seen as just the tiniest dig, because AWB and the Inslee campaign had a minor dust up over the debate scheduling earlier this year that almost led to the organization giving the stage to McKenna, solo.

But maybe it was just a heartfelt, “see you in Spokane.”

That debate, and a head-to-head for the two main attorney general candidates, occurs Tuesday afternoon at The Bing. They will also be televised live on TVW.

Today’s fun video: Colbert on how dumb is Congress?

The Colbert Report take on last week's report that the level of discourse in Congress has gone down a grade.

Ref. 74 petitions have 200k signatures

OLYMPIA — Supporters of a referendum to overturn the state's same-sex marriage law will turn in some 200,000 signatures on Wednesday morning.

The secretary of state's office said Preserve Marriage Washington is scheduled to turn in signatures at 10 a.m., and the group's website says it has more than 200,000 signatures, which is approaching twice the 120,000 needed to qualify for the November ballot.

State officials recommend petition circulators file at least 150,000 signatures to account for the expected rejection rate of about 18 percent. But Referendum 74 supporters are far beyond that, according to their website.

The state will begin checking a sample of the petitions early next week, and should have it certified by midweek.

Meanwhile, Washington United for Marriage, supporters of the law and opponents of Ref. 74, said they are beginning a phone campaign tonight to ask voters to vote yes on the ballot measure to retain the law.

Today’s fun video: Last week in 100 seconds


Courtesy of Talking Points Memo, this video boils down last week's big political news to 100 seconds.

Romney stopping somewhere in WA today, with McMorris Rodgers

GOP presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney has at least  one thing in common with President Barack Obama: He's treating the Puget Sound like an ATM machine.

Romney will make a stop somewhere in King County today for a fund-raiser. There are no public events and the Romney campaign has been closed mouthed about where the money  even takes place. Even State Chairman Kirby Wilbur said over the weekend he hadn't been told where it would be.

Two days earlier and he could've had a really high-profile venue with a stop in Tacoma on Saturday at the GOP State Convention, fired up his supporters, won over some Ron Paul supporters with a good speech to the 1,500 or so Republicans in attendance. Oh, well.

One of the co-sponsors of today's fund-raiser is U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was given a new campaign job Monday in advance of the event. She's already the state co-chairwoman of the Romney campaign as well as a Romney delegate to the national convention.

The new job: Campaign liaison to the Republican Conference in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The campaign actually announced the new position for early this morning, way in advance of the fund-raiser, via press release with the expected quotes from Romney and McMorris Rodgers about how each is honored to be working with the other. It can be read in full here, for those who want the “full scoop.”

Obama was in Seattle last month, for two campaign fund-raising events and anyone who wanted a glimpse of something other than the motorcade had to buy a ticket. But there was news coverage of both events.

TNT: Demo convention attendance light

Many years, Washington's two political parties have their state conventions in the same place but on different weekends. This year, they had them in different places on the same weekend.

The Spokesman-Review opted for the Republican state convention in Tacoma. To read the Tacoma News Tribune's coverage of the Democratic state convention in Seattle, click here.

Mapping the vote: Partisan strength

This map shows the relative strength of the two parties, based on an analysis of votes in key races in 2008 and 2010:

Obama v. McCain for president
Gregoire v. Rossi for governor (2008)
Murray v. Rossi for Senate (2010)
McMorris Rodgers v. Romeyn (2010)
Mager v. French (2010)

There were several shifts in precincts between the two elections, and results were adjusted to reflect those changes.

For a closer look at the map, click on the PDF file.


Mapping the vote: New Lege districts

Here's a look at the new legislative districts in Spokane County. For a closer look, check out the PDF file. 


Mapping the vote: Old Lege districts in Spokane County

These were how the legislative districts were drawn in Spokane County from 2001-2011.

For more detail, click on the PDF file.


Sunday Spin: A choice at age 1

TACOMA — It could be argued that persons who bring small children to state conventions should be reported to Child Protective Services. But one might also admire a politician who shows up with his own baby to kiss, or to have as a reason for a celebration.

So Spin Control will not drop a dime on Michael Baumgartner, the current state senator from Spokane who would like to be the next U.S. senator from Washington. As is required for someone aspiring to such high office, Baumgartner and his campaign staff had a table in the hall outside the state convention and worked the crowd. Also in attendance were Baumgartner’s wife, Eleanor, and their son Conrad, who had the good or bad fortune to turn 1 on Friday.

Not to let an opportunity go to waste, Baumgartner enlisted former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton to help with a Gorton family ritual. On a child’s first birthday, he or she was presented with three items, a coin, a book or a bottle. The one the child picked up supposedly foreshadowed his or her future.

A coin meant they would be good at business; a book meant a scholar, and a bottle meant they’d be “sociable.” Gorton said he picked the book.

With many Eastern Washington’s convention goers watching, the three choices were placed before Conrad, who quickly chose the coin. Perhaps he’ll grow up to provide the financial support for a politician father, the elder Baumgartner said.

To be fair, it should be noted that young Conrad may have been swayed by something that happened a few minutes earlier, when he grabbed a foil-wrapped chocolate coin, and munched it long enough to break through to the chocolate. The actual quarter he chose seemed a bit of a disappointment before it was quickly removed from his grasp.

A deal at twice the price?

TACOMA — State conventions are always great places for campaign kitsch, from bejeweled elephants to catchy bumper stickers. The Tacoma gathering was no exception. One big seller was the Ron Paul chocolate bar, which featured the visage of the Texas Congressman surrounded by stars stamped on one side, along with the phrases “Champion of the Constitution” and “Dark chocolate standard.”

At $3.95 a bar they were moving well, a woman at the table said.

Romney supporters could get a range of gear, from tie-dyed shirts to a semi-personalized, red, white and blue campaign button, with their name sharing the circle with “MITT” for $3. The supporter’s name, however, was appropriately smaller.

Sunday Spin: Time not on their side

TACOMA – An axiom of academic politics is that they tend to be very nasty because very little is at stake.

The axiom can sometimes be applied to partisan or “real” politics, particularly at a time like this, when one major party is trying to get its president re-elected and the other has a nominee with all the delegates he needs to be the nominee. Why, then, would sensible people give up their weekends, travel scores or hundreds of miles, and argue over seemingly minute changes in obscure rules, like Saturday morning’s debate on  whether would-be delegates to the national convention should speak for 30 seconds or 15 seconds when making the pitch to fellow partisans that they should have the privilege of traveling to Tampa, paying exorbitant rates for meals and hotel rooms?

Such rule changes may sound as esoteric as the old apocryphal debate on . . .

Five months into term, Condon has picked his team

Spokane Mayor David Condon continued his path of big change at City Hall on Friday by announcing several restructuring changes and significant changes in personnel.

Among them, Internal Auditor Rick Romero has been named the city’s utilities and public works director. He replaces interim director Gerry Gemmill who was named the local government and labor relations director, a position that did not previously exist.

Condon held a news conference announcing the changes Friday morning. He said he now considers his team in place.

“I would say that In today’s world that we need to continue to be flexible,” Condon said. “That being said, yes, I need my team together, I’ve got 36 months left, folks. From today I’ve got three years to prove to the citizens that I’ve done what they’ve wanted me to do.”

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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