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Campaign watchdog, Apple spar over words

OLYMPIA – When Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple got slapped by the state’s campaign finance watchdog last week, it wasn’t just the $4,200 fine that smarted. It was the spelling lesson.

First, some background: Despite prodding, Apple failed to file several campaign finance reports last year. The law says candidates must file those reports on time, so voters know who’s bankrolling whose campaign.

By phone from Spokane, a clearly frustrated Apple last week told the Public Disclosure Commission that its computerized reports were too daunting. He said he and his volunteer staff were overwhelmed. And he repeatedly criticized PDC staff, saying they lied about his efforts to comply.

In the end, the commission voted unanimously to fine him the maximum: $4,200. But not before a surprising critique by PDC vice-chairman Ken Schellberg, a Bellingham accountant.

In the middle of the hearing, Schellberg recalled for his fellow commissioners a scene from the movie “Amadeus.” In it, Mozart meets court composer Antonio Salieri, whom Schellberg notes “was not a very gifted man.

“And Salieri asks his opinion,” he continued, “and Mozart says, ‘When one hears such music, what can one say? Salieri.’ And we understand the joke and we understand the issue and we understand how that goes.”

We do? In the middle of a PDC compliance hearing? I’m not so sure.

Then Schellberg pointed out to everyone that Apple had written the word “excepted” instead of “accepted” in a letter to the PDC.

“To my mind,” he continued, “there’s a parallel between the movie and an interpretation of that paragraph.”

All-righty then.

As the hearing moved on, Apple was apparently still chafing at the English-class rebuke. He quickly seized on Commissioner Jim Clements’ use of “irregardless.” That, Apple pointed out, isn’t even a word.

“That’s right,” conceded Clements, a former school principal. “And I’ve been corrected on that several times. It’s amazing how you are so astute on grammar, yet, uh … .” His voice trailed off into a chuckle.

“I make mistakes just like you,” said Apple. “Isn’t that amazing?”

And on it went. Apple, who protested that he’s not a wealthy man, has 60 days to pay up and file the forms.

Crouse picks up a Democratic challenger

Spokane Valley Democrat Linda Thompson has filed state campaign papers to run against 14-year state Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane.

It’s the first time since 2004 that Crouse has faced a challenger in the general election. He represents the 4th Legislative District, which includes Spokane Valley and much of eastern Spokane County.

Last fall, school employee and Liberty Lake City Councilwoman Judi Owens filed as a challenger to Crouse, but in January she decided instead to challenge state Sen. Bob McCaslin, another Republican in the same district. Owens is a Democrat, although you’ll have a hard time finding that fact on her campaign Web site.

The last Democratic lawmaker to represent the district in Olympia was Rep. George Orr, who served from 1991 through 1994.

New poll: Narrow lead for Gregoire

SurveyUSA has a new poll out in the governor’s race: Out of 634 likely voters, 50 percent favor Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire, 46 percent favor Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

Interesting data from the poll:

•Rossi leads by 11 points among men; Gregoire by 20 points among women.

•Older (50+) voters prefer Gregoire.

•More Democrats (16 percent) are likely to cross over and vote for Rossi than Republicans (7 percent) for Gregoire.

•As for regional differences, Gregoire leads by 13 points in Seattle; Rossi leads by 12 points in Eastern Washington.

Olympia’s publicist laureate

From a tongue-in-cheek post on Olyblog, a community Web site in the capital city:

“Olympia. Olympia! Olympia is a land of puppies and rainbows and leprechauns where people spontaneously dance in circles in the street. No one ever dies, and there are no unhappy people there. Olympia was created on God’s eighth day, the one where he created cool places that weren’t meant to be known about by too many people. Olympia single-handedly created all music composed since the early ‘90s, for real. And none of that music sucks. … Our parks are second to none, our selection of cool ethnic eats is primo, and we’re working on our lack of nonwhite people. The heavens open up on a weekly basis and angels descend down to Fifth Street singing the praises of God’s special place.”

(The writer, in case the sarcasm isn’t coming through, was apparently unhappy with restrictions on what can be posted on the blog.)

Social conservative groups merge, hoping for political synergy

Given who’s on the board, expect to hear more from the Family Policy Institute of Washington, which recently merged with the Spokane-based Washington Family Foundation.

The group, which will keep the institute’s name, is no stranger to politics. Its board members include:

•Spokane’s Glenn Dobbs, a mining company CEO and former state lawmaker,

•Mead’s Matt Shea, a Republican attorney running for a House seat this year,

•and Joe Fuiten, the politically outspoken pastor of Bothell’s Cedar Park Church.

The group was unhappy with the spotlight on the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Seattle, saying it’s absurd that the Tibetan-born monk should be viewed by “liberal Seattle elites, media, politicians and educrats” as a source of guidance.

Schoesler to head state pension group

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, will be the new chairman of a legislative committee that vets changes and rules for the state’s massive pension plans.

Retirees are living longer, which puts more demand on state pensions. Also, the state for years paid out extra-high investment earnings to employees in a practice called “gain sharing,” which lawmakers eventually concluded was a mistake.

Richard Roesler can be reached at (360)