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VanderSloot launches pro-school-reform TV ads showing Romney criticizing teachers union

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Eastern Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot is employing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to criticize unions and promote Tom Luna's education overhaul at the ballot box on Nov. 6. VanderSloot, an overhaul supporter, is paying for TV commercials showing Romney criticizing the teachers union. The National Education Association gave nearly $1.1 million to the campaign against Luna's education changes, which include limiting union bargaining power and requiring online classes. The VanderSloot-backed campaign commercial uses Romney, who is popular in Idaho, to suggest unions oppose the overhaul because it erodes their power. In the 30-second commercial, video footage from Romney taken from C-SPAN shows him describing the union as an organization that's lost its way by opposing changes to the nation's education system. VanderSloot owns Melaleuca, a direct-marketing home health products company.

Arithmetic and the $180 million contract…

I've heard a lot of questions today about the numbers behind the $180 million contract Idaho signed yesterday with Hewlett-Packard and partners to supply laptops to every Idaho high school student and teacher for the next eight years, under the "Students Come First" reform laws - the ones that are up for a possible repeal in the Nov. 6 election. Specifically, the state Department of Education said the contract equates to $249.77 per student or teacher per year for just the laptops, maintenance, security and tech support, or $292.77 if the costs of wireless infrastructure and professional development are added in.

According to the state's RFP for this project, the state estimated that 6,551 teachers and administrators would get laptops the first year, and it estimated the number of students, after a three-year phase-in, at 83,825. That's a total of 90,376 laptops. If you divide $180 million by 90,376, it comes out to $1,992 per laptop, not $250. However, the department specifically said it was paying that amount per laptop PER YEAR of the eight-year contract. So, multiply 90,372 laptops by eight years, and you get 723,008. Divide that number into $180 million, and the result is $249.

These may not be the exact numbers in the contract, as they're from the RFP as issued last spring; I have requested a copy of the contract under the Idaho Public Records Law. When I receive it, I will post it here.

Popkey: ‘Don’t mess with Big Ben’

Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey has a column today entitled "Don't mess with Big Ben," in which he notes that backers of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 are taking on the state's most popular Republican official by defying his call to disclose their donors for a statewide TV ad campaign in favor of the measures, as Secretary of State Ben Ysursa contends is required under Idaho's Sunshine law. Ysursa was the state's top vote-getter in both 2002 and 2010, out-polling every other contested candidate and averaging 76 percent of the vote.

Popkey writes, "In what appears a desperate attempt to keep secret embarrassing information about the contributions," the heads of a group dubbed Education Voters of Idaho, Debbie Field and John Foster, are "linking Ysursa, a life-long Republican, with teachers unions the campaign calls 'thugs.' " In an op-ed piece distributed Monday to Idaho newspapers, Field and Foster wrote, "Although efforts by the Secretary of State, the union and its allies have temporarily chilled our ability to fulfill our mission, we won't back down." Popkey notes that Ysursa is going after the teachers unions for disclosure as well. Late Monday, Ysursa went to court seeking a judge's order that EVI disclose its donors prior to the election. You can read the full column here.

Popkey reports that Ysursa had private talks with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a leading backer of the propositions, to try to get the group to disclose its contributors. "This should have been vetted a lot more than it was," Ysursa told Popkey. "Everybody's antenna should have gone up when they're going to give money anonymously."

Listen to McMorris Rodgers and Cowan make case on pot

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Both candidates for Congress in Spokane's 5th Congressional District oppose the initiative that would legalize marijuana under many circumstances. But they differ on an issue over which they may have some say.

That's the proposed reclassification of the drug to allow it to be prescribed by doctors. That stance is increasingly supported by many in Washington, including the Republican-leaning Spokane City Council which voted unanimously in January in support of a nonbinding resolution requesting classification.

Click on the video above to hear Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Democrat Rich Cowan state their positions.

Inslee ad features Spokane

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee is attempting to make points with Spokane voters with a new television commercial that touts his ties to Eastern Washington, and features several local scenes.

Standing on the Cliff Drive overlook to downtown Spokane, Inslee tells viewers "my wife Trudi and I raised our three boys here in Eastern Washington, and as governor, I won't forget about this side of the state."

Viewers shouldn't assume from thatcombination of comment and background, however, that the Inslees lived in Spokane.

In releasing the commercial, the campaign explained the Inslees raised their sons in Selah, Wash., which is just north of Yakima.

"He represented the region in both the state Legislature and Congress, where he helped open up the Japanese market to Washington apples and worked on the Yakima River Basin Enhancement Act," the campaign said.

Inslee's legislative district for two terms was the 14th, in and around Yakima. He also served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives for Central Washington's 4th District, not Eastern Washington's 5th District.

He promises to support Spokane's growing aerospace industry and the Riverpointe Campus, where the state is building a new biomedical and health science facility, which also appears in the commercial. But campaign spokeswoman Jaime Smith said the shot of Inslee with factory workers is probably from a Seattle factory.

Debates will feature county commission candidates, Biviano

Candidates for Spokane County Commission will face off Wednesday evening in student-led debates hosted by the Central Valley High School’s Government Club.

The club also has invited the candidates in the hotly-contest Spokane Valley race for state House between incumbent Republican Matt Shea and Democrat Amy Biviano. Biviano is scheduled to attend. Shea has not responded to phone calls and emails inviting him to participate, said Central Valley teacher Bill Gilchrist.

Luna on laptops: ‘This train has left the station’

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how today, two weeks before the November election, in which Idaho voters could cancel the whole program, the state of Idaho signed a $180 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard to supply laptop computers to every Idaho high school student. If voters turn thumbs down on Proposition 3 in two weeks, the contract will be canceled.

But Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, author of the law that's being tested in Proposition 3, said, "This train has left the station when it comes to transforming our schools and the 21st century learning opportunity. We'll see what happens on election day, but it's not going to stop the transformation that's happening." Mike Lanza, chairman of the Vote No on Props 1,2,3 campaign, said, "I think that the outcome of the election will determine whether anything goes forward."

Non-scientific surveys in the presidential race

Every four years at this time, businesses of almost every stripe try to piggy back on the presidential race to get a little publicity.

Thus do we have the quadrennial report from the Halloween costume industry announcing which candidate is selling more masks. Right now, it'sBarack Obama over Mitt Romney, almost 2-to-1. Argue among yourselves whether that means the president is more popular than the former governor…or scarier. 

A hamburger chain called Smashburger released the results of a survey on which candidate people would rather have a burger with. That survey came back about 60-40 in favor of Obama, but it's not clear whether some survey subjectsthought the burger came with a trip to the White House, or whether those who don''t eat meat were given the option of a veggie burger.

More on silly surveys, as they develop.

Fact-checking Prez Debate III

President Obama and former Gov. Romney kept the fact-checkers busy last night in their final debate. Here's some of the analysis:

Politifact found quite a few partial truths, but called the Romney claim that Obama went on an apology tour a "pants on fire" lie.

Factcheck.org found some false claims on both sides.

Fox News had Chris Wallace doing instant analysis.   

The Washington Post deployed its Pinocchio logos                       

Think, Drink, talk politics (not necessarily in that order)

Do you think today's political campaigns are more negative than "the good old days"?

Do you recall a really nasty commercial or mailer from a previous election?

Come down to the No-Li Brewery this evening and join the discussion for "Dirty Business: A History of Negative Campaigns" which is being sponsored by Humanities Washington.

Full disclosure: This is a shameless plug, because both main contributors to Spin Control are on the panel. Jim Camden, who has covered politics for some 30 years in Washington state, is a panelist, along with Travis Ridout, a professor of politics, philosophy and public affairs at WSU; Jonathan Brunt, who covers city government, is the moderator.

We'll have some of our favorite examples of negative campaigning, including the classic you may have heard about but never seen, the 1964 LBJ "Daisy" commercial.

It is only partly true we agreed to participate because of the name of this series of discussions, Think and Drink, and were assured that all the thinking doesn't have to happen before any of the drinking.

Think and Drink on negative campaigning starts at 7 p.m. at the No-Li Brewhouse, 1003 E. Trent.

It’s Debates Week in Idaho’s congressional races…

It's debates week in Idaho's congressional races, with two debates scheduled tonight, one on Thursday, and another on Sunday. 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador and his Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris, will face off at 7 tonight on KTVB-TV's 24/7 channel, and again in the Idaho Debates on Thursday on Idaho Public Television.

Thursday's debate will air live statewide, starting at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific; the hour-long debate will take place before a live audience in the Capitol Auditorium on the lower level of the state Capitol. The public is invited, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis; the doors will close several minutes before the debate begins. Those interested in attending are advised to arrive early. The Idaho Debates are sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Idaho Press Club and Idaho Public Television, along with an array of other sponsors; they've been a tradition in Idaho election contests for more than three decades.

2nd District GOP Congressman Mike Simpson and his Democratic challenger, Nicole LeFavour, also will debate tonight on KTVB's 24/7 channel, starting at 8 p.m. They'll face off again in the Idaho Debates on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. That matchup also will take place before a live audience in the Capitol Auditorium.

For more information about the KTVB debates, see their website here; for more on the Idaho Debates, see their website here.
  

Big money continues to roll in to campaigns

With just two weeks left for voters to return their general election ballots, large amounts of money are flowing into some Washington campaigns for top offices and measures that propose major changes to state law.

The state Democratic Party reported a $350,000 contribution Monday to its gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, who a local poll suggests is tied with Republican Rob McKenna, and campaign disclosure records show is running behind in the money race. . .

A poll of 500 Washington voters conducted by 360 Strategies said McKenna and Inslee are each supported by 46 percent of those surveyed through the weekend. McKenna has raised about $12.1 million and Inslee about $10.6 milllion, although the Democratic former congressman’s totals don’t yet include Monday’s contribution from the state party, or a $93,000 contribution last week.

At this point in the campaign, state law requires candidates and donors to report any contribution of more than $1,000 as a “last-minute contribution” on a special form.  To see the latest update of the PDC last-minute contribution list, click here.

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

Ysursa goes to court to force disclosure of secret donors

Idaho's Secretary of State went to court today, seeking a court order to make a defiant secret-donations group reveal the source of more than $200,000 spent on statewide campaign commercials backing three controversial school-reform measures. "The voters made it clear, when they passed the Sunshine initiative, that public disclosure is an essential element of Idaho elections," Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said in a statement. "The citizens want to know where the money comes from and how it's spent. That's been the policy and the law of this state for 38 years. My job is to enforce that law."

You can read Ysursa's full statement here, and read the state's 13-page complaint here, filed today in 4th District Court in Ada County; read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

Idaho's Sunshine law, enacted by voter initiative in 1974, says its purpose is "to promote openness in government and avoiding secrecy by those giving financial support to state election campaigns and those promoting or opposing legislation."

WA poll: Gov race tied, ballot measures ahead

Washington's gubernatorial race was tied in a recent poll of state voters, while ballot measures for same-sex marriage, legalized marijuana and charter schools were all leading.

The poll of 500 voters last week as the ballots hit the mail had Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee each with support from 46 percent of those surveyed. Inslee is ahead in King County and North Puget Sound, while McKenna leads in other parts of Western Washington and in Eastern Washington. McKenna's ahead among men, Inslee among women.

In other words, it looks like your typical tight Democrat vs. Republican race.

The pollsters didn't ask a "horse race" question on the U.S. Senate race, but it did ask about voters opinions of incumbent Maria Cantwell and challenger Mike Baumgartner. Good news for Cantwell: While Congress has pretty low approval ratings in the country, 53 percent said they had a favorable opinion of her, slightly better than seatmate Patty Murray's rating of 51 percent.

Bad news for Baumgartner: Relatively few voters surveyed — 22 percent statewide and 29 percent in Eastern Washington — had any opinion , good or bad, of the Spokane legislator. The rest were either unfamiliar with the name or had no opinion of him.

Initiative 502, which would legalize marijuana for adult use, Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage, and Initiative 1240, which would allow public charter schools, all had support from more than half of those surveyed. But with the poll's margin of error of 4.4 percent, all could be close to pulling down a majority in the election.

 

Ysursa: Group welcome to campaign - just needs to disclose donors

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on the developments so far today on the secret-donations group, Education Voters of Idaho, and its vow to step back up its campaign in favor of three Idaho school reform ballot measures without disclosing who's funding it. "We won't back down," Education Voters of Idaho co-founders John Foster and Debbie Field said in a news release.

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said he has no problem with the group conducting whatever campaign activities it wishes - as long as it complies with the state's campaign finance disclosure laws. "I commend them for their involvement," Ysursa said. "All we're after is disclosure of contributors. … We're out to enforce the provisions of the state's Sunshine laws."

Last week, the group offered to refund the $200,000-plus in contributions rather than disclose the donors, but the state today deemed that unacceptable. "The money has been received, and the money has already been spent," Ysursa said. "It's hard to undo that." He said, "We think our law matters. … Pre-election disclosure is crucial."

State to secret-donors group: You must disclose donors, so must IEA, NEA

The state of Idaho has sent a formal response to Christ Troupis, attorney for Education Voters of Idaho, the secret-donations group backing the school reform ballot measures, Propositions 1, 2, and 3, calling the group's position "not acceptable" and reiterating that the state believes the group is "a political committee that must comply with the reporting requirements of Idaho Code 67-6607."

The letter, from Deputy Attorney General Michael Gilmore, says, "EVI's status as a Section 501 (c)(4) corporation has no bearing on the issue of its status as a political committee or not. Any corporation that receives donations that are in turn spent in support of or opposition to ballot measures is a political committee when it exceeds the monetary thresholds of Idaho Code 67-6602(p) without regard to whether promoting or opposing the ballot measures is the corporation's principal mission or only part of a larger mission."

He adds, "You are correct that the IEA and NEA are in many ways similar to the EVI with regard to receiving contributions and in turn forwarding them to other political committees. That is why similar demands are also being directed to them."

The letter also responds to Troupis' contention that the state's demand that the group disclose its donors violates the group's 1st Amendment rights. "In the absence of the most extreme circumstances, e.g., where persons who exercise their First Amendment right might be in danger if their identities became known, there is no First Amendment right to keep one's significant contributions to political speech secret," Gilmore wrote. "The Secretary of State is aware of no such circumstances here." You can read the full letter here.

Defiant secret-donations group to restart its pro-Props 1,2,3 campaign

A shadowy group that raised and spent more than $200,000 in anonymous contributions to fund statewide TV ads in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the school reform referenda, issued a defiant news release today headed, "Founders: 'We won't back down,'" asserting that it'll resume its activities to "talk to voters about education reform and make sure they understand the education issues on Idaho's ballot" in the final two weeks before the election - despite a legal dispute with the Idaho Secretary of State over the legality of the group not disclosing its contributors.

The group also distributed an op-ed piece to Idaho newspapers today, asserting that it was formed because "for too long, Idaho parents have been left on the sidelines of the political debate over education," because organizations represent school administrators, school board members and teachers, but "the most important voices in this process are often lost or outright ignored - there are too few groups advocating for the rights of parents with school-age children." That overlooks the Idaho PTA, a statewide organization with thousands of members.

According to its website, "Idaho PTA is the largest parent organization in the state" and is "an organization dedicated to the welfare of children and youth." At the Idaho PTA's annual convention in April, keynote speakers included state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, discussing the school reform measures, and national PTA President-Elect Otha Thornton. The Idaho PTA's legislative priorities this year were education funding, parent involvement and responsibility, endowment land management for the benefit of schools, and promoting child nutrition, health and safety. That group hasn't taken a position for or against the reform measures, but has been urging its members to research the measures and cast their votes accordingly.

John Foster, co-founder of Education Voters of Idaho, and former longtime Idaho state Rep. Debbie Field, R-Boise, who's also been the longtime campaign manager for Gov. Butch Otter, say in the op-ed that their group suffered "attacks," showing "just how dangerous a powerful group of motivated parents will be to a politicized system in desperate need of improvement and change." Foster said the group's statewide TV commercial wasn't pulled, but completed its two- to three-week run; the group then suspended all its activities, but now will restart all of them, despite the legal dispute with the state. "A decision about further television advertising hasn't been made yet," Foster said. You can read the op-ed piece here.
  

Sunday spin: Times wades into McKenna, Ref. 74 campaigns

OLYMPIA – The biggest news in the state’s political campaigns last week probably was not made by a politician or group working for or against a ballot measure.

It was made by the Seattle Times Co., with a decision to run a full-page ad in support of Republican Rob McKenna’s gubernatorial bid, at no cost to the McKenna campaign.

The newspaper said it is paying out of its own coffers for McKenna ads and for others supporting the same-sex marriage measure, Referendum 74. It’s an effort, the great minds in the Times’ business offices say, to prove how effective newspaper advertising can be for a campaign.

To be clear, this is not merely a reprint, in giant type in case anyone might have missed them, of editorials the Times has already published endorsing McKenna and Referendum 74. These are ads with art and graphics and color that someone, or several someones, in the newspaper’s ad department conceived and labored over.

They go down in the Public Disclosure Commission’s books as independent expenditures: between now and Nov. 6, the company plans to spend $75,750 for McKenna and $75,000 to help get a yes vote on the ballot measure. Although the newspaper endorsed both on its editorial pages, the decision to run the ads was made without consultation or even advance notice to the news side of operation.

Not surprisingly, the Inslee campaign, the state Democratic Party to which he belongs and the group opposing same-sex marriage reacted negatively. So did some journalism organizations. More than 100 Times staff members signed a letter protesting the decision, saying it threatened to compromise the paper’s integrity by making it “part of the campaign machinery.”

Publisher Frank Blethen said the letter just proved that there was a separation between the business and editorial sides.

Maybe for Blethen, but probably not for much of the rest of the political world or the news-consuming public. The fact that newspapers endorse a candidate or an issue on their editorial pages, while common, nonetheless creates a problem for some voters. Even some candidates or campaign workers ask: How can a reporter be fair to us when his or her editors are supporting the opposition?

The quick answer: We don’t care about endorsements, and most of us don’t even read the editorial page during campaign season. I usually know who The Spokesman-Review has endorsed in a race I cover, because for 24 hours afterwards they’re treating me like their new best friend, and the other side isn’t returning my phone calls. After a while, both sides get over it.

If anyone asks about endorsements, I tell them two things: I don’t have input, let alone a vote, in the process, and an endorsement carries as much negative juju as positive juju. Depending on where you’re running in the Spokane area, it can be the kiss of death.

But the Times’ campaign takes this friction to a whole new level and seems bad on a couple levels. First, newspapers are struggling through declining staffs and shrinking news holes, so tossing around more than $150,000 is not chump change.

The other is, McKenna currently is behind in the polls. If he doesn’t win, what, if anything, does that say about the effectiveness of campaign ads in the Times?

Referendum 74 is an even bigger gamble. It’s slightly ahead in the polls, and if it wins there’s no way to measure the impact of the ads. If it goes down, the supporters of same-sex marriage are going to look for someone to blame. They might draw a bull’s-eye on the Times.

A look at Labrador’s record as he seeks re-election to 1st CD seat…

As Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador seeks re-election for a second term in Congress, he’s made a name for himself in Washington, D.C., as a tea party favorite and hard-line conservative. He’s frequently appeared on national TV and has been prominent in helping GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney court Hispanic votes around the country.

Yet his legislative record for his two-year term is light - he's introduced and passed fewer bills than his three first-term predecessors in the 1st Congressional District seat.

Labrador has sponsored seven bills and one amendment; one bill and one amendment passed the House. By comparison, his predecessor, Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, sponsored 27 bills or amendments in his two years in Congress and 10 passed. Before him, GOP Rep. Bill Sali sponsored 16 bills and four amendments in his two years in office; one bill and two amendments passed. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who held the seat for three terms before Sali won it, sponsored 14 bills and one amendment in his first two-year term; four bills and the amendment passed.

"I don't think that your legislative career is measured by how many bills you pass," Labrador said. "In fact, one of the problems in Washington now is that we pass too many bills. We have a bloated government and we need less of it."

His Democratic challenger, former NFL football player and first-time candidate Jimmy Farris, sees it differently. "He's had a lot of harsh rhetoric about Democrats," Farris said. But Farris said if he went to a football team and said he was a good player and the team should sign him, "They'll say, 'That's great - let's look at the numbers.'" He maintains the numbers show Labrador to be a weak player, from his attendance record to his legislative batting average.

Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor of public policy at Boise State University, said, "In a race with an opponent who had resources to make an issue, it could be a potential area of vulnerability for Labrador, with few legislative accomplishments combined with a relatively high absentee record." But, he said, "In this conservative Idaho district, in a presidential election year where Democrats don't do well generally anyway, I can understand why it's hard - against a very conservative congressman who has an engaging personality and who is a pretty effective campaigner."

Though Labrador, who's raised nearly $800,000 in campaign funds, could afford TV ads for his campaign, he's chosen not to bother. "I think we're doing everything we need to do to get re-elected," he said.

Labrador's legislative record shows he's co-sponsored 138 bills proposed by other House members. Among those, seven were to repeal all or part of the national health care reform law; five to restrict abortion rights, including a bill to grant full constitutional rights at conception; and five to expand gun rights. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

Rep. Barbieri calls on Christians to pull their kids from Idaho’s ‘Godless’ public schools

Rep. Vito Barbieri is defending a statement he posted on his re-election campaign website in which he called on Christians to pull their children out of Idaho's "Godless" public schools. In a debate between Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, and his Democratic challenger Cheryl Stransky, also from Dalton Gardens, on TV Channel 19 that's now posted on the city of Coeur d'Alene's website, Barbieri was asked about this statement he's posted on his website regarding public schools: "One more thing: If you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and God, then pull your kids out of that Godless institution."
    
Barbieri told questioners from the Coeur Group that he stands by the statement. "My words exactly," he said. He said he wants to push legislation to direct state funds to private schools through a new tax credit, to "allow an alternative to this public school system that is certainly serving a purpose, but there are questions about the curriculum, and that's what I'm concerned with." Stransky differed sharply, saying, "Public education is the great equalizer in this country, it has always been, and I think it needs to stay that way."

You can read my full Sunday column here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review. To see the 15-minute debate between the two candidates, along with debates in other Kootenai County legislative and local races, go to the city's website, www.cdaid.org, and click on "TV Channel 19."
  

Attorney for secretive pro-school reform group maintains it doesn’t have to disclose donors

Last week, the state of Idaho sent a letter to Education Voters of Idaho and its attorney, asking the secretive group to disclose the source of more than $200,000 donated to another group, Parents for Education Reform, to fund TV commercials that aired across the state supporting Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on the Idaho ballot - or show why it wasn't required to do so. The two groups share chairs, boards and the same address. Now, attorney Christ Troupis has sent a four-page letter back to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa contending that the newly formed EVI has no more duty to file campaign disclosures as a political committee than the Idaho Education Association or the National Education Association, both of which donated large sums to the No on Props 1, 2, 3 campaign.

In the letter, Troupis offers to have PFER refund the money back to EVI, but says EVI won't disclose its donors. "My client's First Amendment right to Freedom of Association and Freedom of Speech have been chilled and severely infringed by the unwarranted demands and threats of legal action made by your office," Troupis writes; you can read his letter here. Troupis is the same attorney who represented the Idaho Republican Party in its closed-primary lawsuit against the state. The money in question went to pay for a statewide TV ad campaign in favor of the school reform propositions, with the slogan, "Education reform for the 21st century is as simple as 1, 2, 3."

Idaho Code 67-6602 defines a political committee as one that "receives contributions and makes expenditures in an amount exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) in any calendar year for the purpose of supporting or opposing one (1) or more candidates or measures." The Secretary of State's office has contended that EVI is a political committee; the group says it's not. Ysursa is expected to have some response to Troupis' letter Monday; click below for a full report from AP reporter John MIller. "Disclosure of money given by Sept. 30 is the goal," Ysursa told The Associated Press today while meeting with state lawyers in his office.

Today’s fun videos: Obama, Romney trade jokes at charity dinner

Both candidates appeared at the Al Smith dinner, and practiced their comic delivery.

Mitt Romney went first:

 

Followed by Barack Obama:

WA voter rolls hit record, still growing

OLYMPIA — Washington has a record 3.88 million voters registered for the Nov. 6 general election, and the number continues to grow by several hundred a day.  That's up by nearly 150,000 voters just since the state primary in August.

"We've never been in this range before," Katie Blinn, co-director of elections for the Secretary of State's office, said. "It's actually growing as we talk."

In Idaho, voter rolls are down slightly from their peak in 2008, although voters can still register at their county elections office, and can register and vote at their poll site on Election Day.

In Washington, the deadline passed last week to fill out a paper registration form and mail it in, or to register online. But wouldbe voters can still go to their county elections office in person until Oct. 29, fill out a form in person and turn it in. Military and overseas voters can continue to register online.

Between the "walk-in" registrations and the paper forms mailed before the deadline but still being processed in some county elections offices, the voter rolls are still growing by several hundred a day, Blinn said.

Mail-in registration closed Friday in Idaho so the counties can prepare the voter lists for the poll sites, currently has 784,137 registered voters. But residents of that state who aren't yet registered can still sign up by going to their county clerk's office during business hours. They'll receive a ballot at that time.

Or they can go to their local poll site on election day with valid photo identification and proof of residence — a lease, utility bill or other document that shows the address — register and cast a ballot.

Washington votes exclusively by mail. Most of voters should receive their ballots in the next few days as county elections offices have until Friday to get their ballots in the mail. Spokane County finished its mailings today.

Those ballots must be marked, placed in envelopes that are properly signed, and either mailed or deposited in drop boxes located at key locations. Each county chooses the locations for its drop boxes; to find a phone number or website for your county elections office, click here.

To see a list of drop box sites for Spokane County, go inside the blog.

Ad Watch: Latest anti-school reform ad charges measure treats kids like ‘widgets’

The latest TV campaign commercial from opponents of the education reform propositions on Idaho's November ballot focuses on Proposition 2, the teacher merit-pay measure, suggesting that Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna wants to "treat children like widgets," a claim he disputes. The measure sets up a new merit-pay bonus system for Idaho teachers, allowing teachers to earn bonuses if their entire school shows growth in student test scores on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. The law also allows bonuses for other student-achievement measures set by individual school districts, and next year, would cover additional bonuses for teachers who take leadership roles or hold hard-to-fill positions. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Read the ‘Students Come First’ RFP…

Here's a link to the full 79-page RFP, with attachments, for Idaho's "Students Come First" laptop computer contract, obtained by The Spokesman-Review under Idaho's public records law. The eight-year contract to provide and maintain laptop computers for every Idaho high school student and teacher, along with setting up and maintaining wireless networks in every Idaho high school, is worth more than $100 million; it would be renewable for up to 16 years. After the state didn't get competitive bids in response to the Request for Proposals in June, it began negotiating with potential providers; it's now negotiating with up to half a dozen. State Purchasing Director Bill Burns said the RFP still is "the basis for every negotiation." Essentially, companies are being asked indivdually how they can provide what's in it or the closest they can get to what's in it.

The process has dragged out well beyond original timeframes, which envisioned the first batch of laptops in the hands of teachers and principals this month; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Today’s fun video: Debate set to music

Tuesday night's debate, if the questioners, moderator and candidates could sing.

‘Students Come First’ laptop rollout slips behind schedule; no vendor selected yet

The first round of more than 6,000 laptop computers, one for every high school teacher and administrator, was supposed to be out in Idaho's schools this month under the "Students Come First" school reform plan, but holdups in finding a suitable vendor have pushed that way back. After canceling a bidding process in June for lack of competitive bids, the state is now negotiating with up to a half-dozen potential providers of the computers, with hopes of picking one in the coming weeks and getting them out in the second semester.

At stake is an eight-year contract worth more than $100 million, under which the provider would supply and maintain laptops for every Idaho high school student, provide technical support, and set up and maintain wireless networks in the Idaho schools. "It's the whole ball of wax," said Idaho Division of Purchasing Director Bill Burns. "It's a pretty big contract."

The state has budgeted $2.56 million for the first round of laptops this year, an average of $391 apiece. But the bidder will set the price, and it's unclear what will happen if the bid comes in higher than that. Meanwhile, a clause in the contract will state that the whole thing goes away if voters repeal the program on Nov. 6; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Spokane Labor Rally Wednesday

Many of the state's Democratic candidates will be appearing Wednesday afternoon at the Spokane Labor Rally at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds.

The Labor Rally is one of the iconic events on the political calendar in even-numbered years. The speeches rarely reach the level of great oratory, but it gives candidates a chance to "press the flesh" with average folks while the union members and their families eat burgers and sip beer or sodas at rows of tables. Hundreds of people drop by after finishing their shift and picking up the family.

It's about as close to a must-show for an endorsed candidate as there is in Spokane Democratic politics. About the only acceptable excuses for not showing up would be being in jail on a nonbailable offense, or dying. Both U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee are on the list of scheduled speakers.

There was once an axiom among the state's political reporters that a chili dog consumed at the Labor Rally will occupy a spot in one's stomach until Election Day. True or not, labor organizers in recent years have stricken chili dogs from the menu in favor of more  healthy food and perhaps a chance to show the labor movement has moved into the 21st Century.

One other nod to present day: Attendees this year are being asked to bring a donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank.