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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Senate GOP needs investigator for documents they subpoenaed

OLYMPIA – Senate Republicans trying to delve deep into the early-released inmate scandal may be learning first-hand the truth of the old adage “be careful what you ask for because you may get it.”

Early in the week they muscled subpoenas for Department of Corrections records the committee process, resulting in the issuance of the first legislative subpoenas since the Bangles were singing “Walk Like an Egyptian.” (1987 for those who think that reference is too obscure.)

This was necessary, they insisted, because their public records request to the department after the scandal broke was returned to them after nine days with nothing but a note saying they had sent it to the wrong office.

Nine whole days, they fumed, just to be told to resubmit it to the proper bureaucrat. The fact that the nine-day stretch included the holiday weekends with Christmas and New Years was rarely mentioned, and their peevishness got little sympathy from the Capitol press corps who regularly wait much longer for any sign of public records requested.

One could argue that that someone from the caucus staff could have checked online to see exactly who gets a public records request at the department. But one could also argue that someone in the department should have had the sense to walk the request down the hall to the proper office, even though there appears to be nothing in state public records statutes that says legislators get a special deal.

Subpoenas were issued Tuesday, and by Thursday documents were coming in. Senate Republicans now confronted the bigger problem that public records seekers often have: Someone has to read all this stuff. Thursday evening they had a special meeting to hire their own investigator, Seattle attorney Mark Bartlett, a partner at a major Seattle law firm who had agreed to give them a deal by cutting his regular hourly fee of $615 nearly in half, to $325.

Senate Democrats managed to get a $50,000 spending cap on this, but if the investigation deepens Republicans could ask for more.

GOP leaders also had a return volley for Gov. Jay Inslee, who in questioning the need for subpoenas at this point touted the credentials of his two outside investigators, former federal prosecutors Carl Blackstone and Robert Westinghouse.

Bartlett, Law and Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley said, used to be in the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle, too. At one point, he was even supervisor for Blackstone and Westinghouse. But hey, Bartlett’s got some bipartisan cred, Padden said. He once worked for former U.S. Rep. Tom Foley.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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