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A closer look at budget woes facing Spokane Regional Drug Task Force

UPDATE: County officials say the Regional Drug Task Force is "fully funded" through 2015, and any budgetary issues would not rear their heads until next year.

"The County’s portion of the Drug Task Force is fully funded for 2015.  In very general terms it is supported 25% General Fund and 75% seizure/grant money," wrote Marshall Farnell in an email to county commissioners today.

Farnell added that there are "no plans" to disband the task force this year.

Original story follows:

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich put pressure on county leaders yesterday to fund the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force, a multi-agency unit responsible for several recent narcotics busts in the area.

At a news conference, Knezovich said the task force faces possible disbanding by June if $250,000 isn't added to its budget. Knezovich made a similar pitch to county commissioners in November, which was met with some uneasiness. Several area TV news stations ran stories last night as a result of the news conference, including KREM, KXLY and KHQ.

The backdrop of Knezovich's call for more money from county commissioners, who are wary to add money to the Sheriff's Office budget until binding arbitration is completed over back pay for deputies dating back three years, is a call by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to drastically scale back a federal money-sharing program that distributed cash taken from suspected criminals.

The Washington Post launched a six-part investigative series late last year that questioned the methods employed by local law enforcement used in asset seizure. The fourth part of that series dealt specifically with the Equitable Sharing program, the technique targeted by Holder and responsible for much of the Spokane Regional Drug Task Force's bottom line over the past several years.

The Post also published its reports from various law enforcement agencies, listing the amount of federal money they received form the program and what that money was spent on, obtained through a public records request. According to those reports, the drug task force received $807,506.31 between 2008 and 2013 for its operations from the Equitable Sharing program.

The reports also show the task force's expenses have grown considerably in the past several years. The group spent more than $30,000 on buy money for confidential informants in 2013, the same year the task force assisted in the break-up of a major OxyContin ring running out of California.

It remains to be seen whether the county or some other agency will pony up the cash necessary to keep the task force afloat. Knezovich has proposed a 0.2 percent sales tax increase in the county that he says would add $9 million to the kitty, enough to fund the task force and hire enough deputies to make up for belt-tightening that began in earnest in 2008.

Feds won’t pre-empt WA pot law

OLYMPIA — The federal government will not try to stop Washington from setting up a way to allow adults to use legal marijuana.

In what state officials described as a “game changer”, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday the federal government will focus attention on several key areas of illegal marijuana production and sales, but allow Washington to continue setting up systems for legal marijuana to be grown and sold to adults.  .  .


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Holder asked to explain pot policy to Senate

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is being asked to explain to a Senate committee his department's policy toward Washington and other states that have legalized some form of marijuana consumption.  

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants Holder to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 10 to clarify the federal response for Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and for the 20 states and the District of Columbia which have legalized medical marijuana.

Afther Washington and Colorado voters passed state laws legalizing recreational marijuana use last November, Leahy asked the Obama administration what it planned to do about enforcement policies and "what assurances the administration can give to state officials responsible for the licensing of marijuana retailers to ensure they will not face criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws," he said Monday in a prepared statement.

State laws should be respected, Leahy said. "At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government."

Gov. Jay Inslee and State Attorney General Rob Ferguson met with Holder in January, asking what the federal government's response would be to Washington's legalization of marijuana. They have yet to get an answer, and Ferguson said last week he had "no additional knowledge" of what the federal response would be. The state is preparing rules for people who want to obtain licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana legally.

The attorney general's office "continues to prepare for the worst case scenario, which would be litigation" if the federal government tries to stop that, Ferguson said.

Opinion: Sentence reforms serves all

It was big news Monday when Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association in San Francisco, “Certain low-level nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.”

It was big news because the Obama administration finally looked to what it could do about racial disparities under federal jurisdiction – instead of pointing at what others in the criminal justice system are doing wrong.

It was big news because the administration finally has caught up with Republicans such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of UtahPaul and Lee have co-sponsored bills with Dick Durbin of Illinois and Pat Leahy of Vermont to reform mandatory minimum sentences so that nonviolent small-time offenders don’t serve decades in prison while kingpins who can inform on them serve lesser time.

It’s big news that the administration finally is saying that it won’t prosecute cases it never should have touched to begin with. More here.  Debra J. Saunders.

Are you in favor of sentence reform? Why or why not?

Holder Faces Music For IRS, AP Flaps

Amid the ongoing controversies over political discrimination at the IRS and the Justice Department's seizure of two-months-worth of Associated Press (AP) phone records, the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday questioned Attorney General Eric Holder on those and other controversies tied to the Obama administration. At the opening of the committee's hearing to conduct Justice Department oversight, Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., told Holder he is "deeply concerned about a pattern I see emerging at the department under your leadership in which conclusions reached by career attorneys after thorough investigation are overruled by administration appointees for political reasons"/CBS News. More here. (AP photo)

Question: Could these controversies come together to become President Obama's Watergate?

Feds nearing end of pot legalization review

The U.S. Justice Department reportedly is nearing the end of its review of Washington and Colorado's new laws legalizing marijuana and could be announcing soon how it will respond.

The issue is that while voters in Washington and Colorado have legalized pot under state laws, it remains illegal under federal law.

Attorney General Eric Holder told a meeting of state attorneys general he is examining policy options and international implications of the issue, The Associated Press reported today.

Holder's assessment could result in the federal government suing the states over the new laws, the wire service said. Alternatively, Holder could decide not to mount a court challenge. The Justice Department examination has been under way since shortly after last fall's elections. Washington and Colorado became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

State and local authorities have said they're hoping to get some sense of how the federal government will respond to voters' wishes before spending a lot of time and effort developing regulatory systems to control production and sale of legal pot.

State to feds: We’ll be ready if you sue over legalized pot

OLYMPIA — State officials appear to be hoping for the best while preparing for the worst as Washington and the federal government try to determine how the state will license and regulate marijuana.

After a meeting in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said the nation's chief legal officer was open to learning more about the law voters passed and the state's plans to make it work. There were no firm conclusions from their first meeting, Inslee said.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said they also made it clear to Holder the state has a team of lawyers preparing for any federal lawsuit, should one come.
"We want to avoid a legal fight," Ferguson said. "If it comes to it, we will be prepared."
Inslee characterized their first meeting over the state's voter-approved marijuana law as cordial, with Holder asking questions about some aspects of the law and state officials providing him with a three-page memo on the duties state employees would  have to license and regulate the growth, processing, distribution and sale of marijuana. They will provide more information on how the state plans to contain the sale of legal marijuana within its borders.
"It was a good meeting," Inslee said. "I do feel good that the attorney general will look at this in great detail."
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which under Initiative 502 is in charge of coming up with regulations for licensing producers and sellers, can continue with that process, he said. Under the law, that process must be up and running by Dec. 1, and some of the licenses would be available by August.
"We're moving forward," Ferguson said. "There are some deadlines coming up soon."
There was no indication from Holder whether the federal government will take legal action against the state to prevent the regulation and sale of marijuana, which currently is illegal for all uses under federal law.
Ferguson said his office has already assigned a team that is "mapping out a legal strategy" to pursue if the federal government does go to court to try to block the law. "The legal issues are complex," he added. 

Raul Renews Call For Holder Ouster

First District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador was the first member of Congress to call for Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation in 2011 and says there's a new reason for him to go — his handling of the Petraeus inquiry. "Holder should have resigned a long time ago," Labrador said in a Wednesday Capitol Hill news conference. "Once again, it shows the incompetence or the complete neglect and dereliction of duty in Eric Holder's administration." I blogged yesterday about Labrador's call on his party to press for immigration reform and reach out to Hispanic voters. I left out his comments on Holder and his view of President Obama's handling of immigration/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Do you want President Obama to dump Attorney General Eric Holder?

Read more here: http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2012/11/15/idahopolitics/idaho_rep_labrador_renews_call_holders_resignation_calls_obama_a#storylink=cpy

House Vote Holds Holder In Contempt

The GOP-led House voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder (shown in AP file photo) in contempt of Congress for failing to provide key information pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, making Holder the first sitting Cabinet member to be held in contempt. The vote was 255-67 with one lawmaker voting not present. Seventeen Democrats broke ranks to vote in favor of contempt, while two Republicans voted against the measure. … The GOP-led House took the step over the alleged failure to provide additional information about the failed gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious which was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — a division of the Justice Department led by Holder. Democrats walked out of the chamber ahead of the vote/FoxNews. More here.


Labrador Backs Holder Contempt Vote

Today Idaho First District Congressman Raúl Labrador voted with the majority of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his role in the Department of Justice withholding evidence from the Committee in the botched Fast and Furious scandal.  The gun-running operation resulted in the death of United States Border Patrol agent Brian Terry as well as hundreds of innocent Mexican citizens.  The vote was 23-17. Labrador: “It has been over a year since this committee first requested and then demanded full documentation of DOJ files regarding this terrible operation.  We sought basic answers: who authorized it, when they authorized it and why they continued to authorize it.  Attorney General Holder has evaded questions and provided false information in an attempt to stonewall this committee from discovering the truth, and he must be held accountable for these actions.” Full Labrador news release here. (AP photo of Attorney General Eric Holder answering reporters' questions Tuesday)

Question: Do you agree with Congressman Labrador's vote?

Labrador Calls For Holder To Quit

House Republicans accused Attorney General Eric Holder of hiding information at a Thursday hearing over the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking investigation. Holder dismissed a call by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, for him to quit, saying he’s not to blame for the scandal. Holder testified for four tense hours to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs about “Fast and Furious.” It was a botched operation in which the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives let illegal weapons flow across the border into Mexico and into hands of criminals as part of a failed sting operation meant to track the guns and nab drug lords. Some Republicans on the committee suggested that Holder was engaged in a cover-up and had been misleading Congress. “Because you have been grossly incompetent in the way that you have prepared before coming to Congress, I think you should resign,” Labrador said/Sean Cockerham, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP photo: Attorney General Eric Holder testifies Thursday)


Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/02/1978566/facing-holder-at-hearing-idahos.html#storylink=twt#storylink=cpy

Richert: Labrador’s A Natural

Thursday was another busy day in the limelight for Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador. After the 1st Congressional District Republican called on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign, the Los Angeles Times and the D.C. bureau of the Associated Press picked up on the angle for their stories on the Operation Fast and Furious fallout. Fox News also came calling for Labrador. Not bad for a freshman lawmaker from Idaho? No. Pretty remarkable for a freshman lawmaker from Idaho. And it shows that Labrador has the keenest political instinct of any elected official in Idaho. I’m not calling Labrador a natural. But he’s close/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (Raul Labrador holds up a "beat Pelosi" button on Election Day 2010)

Question: Funny, I was thinking this week that Labrador gets a heckuva lot of attention for a Tea Party congressman living in a flyover red state. Do you agree that he's a natural when it comes to politics?

Labrador Calls For Holder Resignation

Saying Eric Holder is "either lying or grossly incompetent,' 1st Congressional District Rep. Raul Labrador today called for the attorney general's resignation. Labrador has joined a list of Republicans criticizing Holder's May 3 testimony about Operation Fast and Furious, a gun trafficking network established in an attempt to infiltrate Mexican drug cartels. "It is clear from recently released documents that Mr. Holder did in fact know about Fast and Furious well before he publicly admitted," said Labrador in a news release. "It is clear he has not been honest about the extent of his involvement with the failed Fast and Furious program and should not be entrusted with managing the Department of Justice. He cannot avoid responsibility for his involvement with a government program that directly led to the tragic death of a decorated U.S. Border Patrol agent"/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo: Eric Holder)

Question: Should Eric Holder resign as a result of Operation Fast & Furious?

Tips sought on prosecutor’s ‘01 slaying

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder walks into the Thomas C. Wales Conference Room at the U.S. Federal Courthouse on Wednesday in Seattle. (AP Photo/seattlepi.com, Joshua Trujillo)

SEATTLE (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder sought help from the public on Wednesday in renewed efforts by federal authorities to find the killer of an assistant U.S. attorney who was fatally shot through a window in his Seattle home.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales is believed to be the only federal prosecutor to die in the line of duty, although authorities have not established a motive in the 2001 slaying.

"We will never give up our search for the truth," said Holder, who came to Seattle to reassure friends and family of his former colleague that the investigation remained active, even after 10 years.

He emphasized that new information was coming in on a regular basis. But law enforcement officials believe witnesses who hold the key to solving the crime possibly are too afraid to come forward.

Wales was 49 when he was killed on the night of Oct. 11, 2001, as he sat at his computer in the home in the Queen Anne neighborhood. The shots went through a window from his backyard.

The longtime federal prosecutor mostly handled white-collar crimes and had been active in a gun-control group.

His son, Tom Wales, told The Associated Press that anniversaries, like this 10th one, are for the public. They remember their dad every day, especially at happy times such as his sister's wedding earlier this month, he said.

"We're patient," he said, a reference to the time that has passed since his father's death. "We know this kind of complicated investigation can take a very long time indeed."

"Things have been progressing every year," added Amy Wales, his sister.

In a video created for the case and in their comments to the media, both children said Wales was respected in his community and at his job, but he was primarily a great father.

Amy Wales urged witnesses to be brave and make an effort for justice, just as her father did during his career.

Tom Wales compared his father to the character Jimmy Stewart played in "It's a Wonderful Life," and talked about the ways he affected other people's lives, from planting trees on the top of Queen Anne hill to climbing mountains with his children.

For a time, police and FBI focused on an airline pilot who was bitter over being prosecuted by Wales in a case involving the sale of helicopter parts. His home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue was searched three times, but he was not charged.

A Bellevue gun dealer also was arrested as a material witness in the case because he had purchased parts for a handgun like the one used to kill Wales. A unique gun barrel had been used in the shooting.

The gun dealer was convicted in 2007, but the conviction was overturned in 2009.

Wales' killing remained a top priority of the FBI, said Gregory Fowler, the head of the bureau's office in Portland. The Justice Department has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to a conviction of the shooter.

"We know there are people out there who haven't come forward," Fowler said. "Even the smallest clue may help."

Holder backing dispensary raids, Gregoire says

OLYMPIA – States that have legalized marijuana for medical uses are pushing the U.S. Justice Department for help in sorting out the conflict between federal drug laws and their own, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he’s aware of the problems and agreed this week to work with her, as the head of the National Governor’s Association and the point person for the 16 states with medical marijuana laws.

But Holder told her a department memo on not using federal resources to pursue patients using medical marijuana is being “misinterpreted” by the states and people setting up dispensaries to sell the drug to patients. That lack of prosecution was intended only for “those that are really quite ill” she said. “It’s expanded beyond anything anticipated in the Ogden Memo.” Holder told her he fully supports federal prosecutors who are shutting down dispensaries, and they are in Eastern Washington and Montana.

Gregoire believes the federal government should reclassify marijuana so it can be used for some medicinal purposes. Right now it’s classified as illegal for all uses. But reclassification usually takes time for drug tests, and the states don’t have that luxury. “I said, ‘The states need your help, the sooner the better.”

Holder vows to clarify medical marijuana

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, right, tours the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence in Providence, R.I., Thursday, June 2, 2011. With Holder are Teny Gross, left, executive director of the institute, Ajay Benton, second from left, and Juan Carter, third from left. Holder promised Thursday to clarify the Justice Department's position on state medical marijuana laws after federal prosecutors warned they might prosecute everyone from licensed growers to regulators. (AP Photo/Bob Thayer, Pool)

LAURA CRIMALDI, Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised Thursday to clarify the Justice Department's position on state medical marijuana laws after federal prosecutors warned they might prosecute everyone from licensed growers to regulators.

"We're going to bring clarity so that people understand what this policy means and how this policy will be implemented," Holder said during a visit to a Providence, R.I., institute that specializes in nonviolence.

Holder didn't go into detail about plans for clarification. But he said the department was wary of medical marijuana dispensaries being seen as a form of de facto marijuana legalization.

Several U.S. states have started reassessing their medical marijuana laws after U.S. attorneys recently sent stern warnings that everyone from licensed medical marijuana growers to regulators could be subjected to prosecution. The cautions were sent to officials in California, Colorado, Montana and Rhode Island. Federal authorities also recently conducted a series of raids at grow operations in Montana and at dispensaries in Washington.

More than a dozen states have approved the medical use of marijuana, which is not legal under federal law. About half of those states regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

In Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee suspended plans last month to license three such dispensaries after U.S Attorney Peter Neronha sent him a letter warning that they could lead to prosecutions.

Chafee does not believe Holder's comments imply a change in the Justice Department's underlying position and dispensary plans will remain on hold, his spokesman Michael F. Trainor said.

"He will await whatever resolution that Attorney General Holder indicated would be forthcoming," Trainor said of the governor. "He will take that under advisement. At that point, he'll make a decision concerning whether or not he feels it's prudent to move forward with issuing certificates to the three applicant dispensaries."

Obama Drops Defense Of DOMA

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 banned federal recognition of same-sex unions. The announcement was made in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to congressional leaders in relation to two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, which challenge a section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman. Obama "has made the determination," Holder wrote, that Section 3 "as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment"/ABC News. More here.

Question: Do you support the decision by the Obama administration to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which bans the recognition of same-sex unions?

Holder: US Avoids Sticky Race Issues

Attorney General Eric Holder, in a speech to Justice Department employees, said the United States is a nation of cowards on matters of race and that most Americans avoid discussing awkward racial issues. That begs me to question if such is the reason Roland Burris is still a member of the United States Senate. A spotlight seeking egomaniac with questionable abilities, he has been controversial from the start as Obama’s replacement. He convinced everyone, at the outset, that he was squeaky clean when it came to his appointment by “Pay to Play” Blogojevich. Well, as squeaky clean as one is when involved in Illinois politics. Which would seem to be not very/Dogwalk Musings. More here.

Question: Is the United States a “nation of cowards” on matters of race?

Crapo, Risch Oppose AG Nominee

“There must be strong reasons to reject a new President’s nominee but my ‘nay’ vote today is justified regarding Eric Holder’s nomination to become Attorney General of the United States,” said Crapo.  “Holder’s track record is one that many Idahoans take issue with.  He is on record supporting a number of steps that would push back our Second Amendment rights and increase regulation to legally own firearms/U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. Statements from Crapo, Jim Risch (pdf) here.

Question: Do you believe that new AG Eric Holder poses a threat to gun rights?