Mike Webb, 1955-2007, RIP

With the discovery of Mike Webb’s badly decomposed body today, the mystery surrounding the former 710-KIRO host only deepens. His body was found under a tarp, stuffed in the crawl space of his Seattle home, weeks after being reported missing. The King County Medical Examiner’s office has determined that Webb died of multiple stab wounds. The talk-radio blog Blatherwatch is providing ongoing coverage.

I introduce each hour of my weekend show, proudly announcing that I am “bringing liberal political talk back to Newsradio 710-KIRO.” I always emphasize the word “back,” and in doing so, I’m always referring to Mike Webb, who sat in front of that very same microphone, infuriating local conservatives for nearly a decade.

But while I’m proud to carry on Webb’s legacy of speaking truth to power, I must confess that I rarely listened to his show. So Saturday night during the 8PM hour of my show, I’ll play a few clips of Webb at work, and unable to present a fitting tribute of my own, I’ll ask his friends and fans to call in with their own remembrances of Webb and his radio career.

Mitt Romney’s Torture Problems

It’s not a good week to be Mitt Romney. The story of how he once drove across New England with his dog on the roof of his car is getting some serious attention, but that’s actually pretty minor compared to what two of his close associates have been involved with:

As The Hill noted last week, 133 plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Romney’s Utah finance co-chair, Robert Lichfield, and his various business entities involved in residential treatment programs for adolescents. The umbrella group for his organization is the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS, sometimes known as WWASP) and Lichfield is its founder and is on its board of directors.

The suit alleges that teens were locked in outdoor dog cages, exercised to exhaustion, deprived of food and sleep, exposed to extreme temperatures without adequate clothing or water, severely beaten, emotionally brutalized, and sexually abused and humiliated. Some were even made to eat their own vomit.

But the link to teen abuse goes far higher up in the Romney campaign. Romney’s national finance co-chair is a man named Mel Sembler. A long time friend of the Bushes, Sembler was campaign finance chair for the Republican party during the first election of George W. Bush, and a major fundraiser for his father.

Like Lichfield, Sembler also founded a nationwide network of treatment programs for troubled youth. Known as Straight Inc., from 1976 to 1993, it variously operated nine programs in seven states. At all of Straight’s facilities, state investigators and/or civil lawsuits documented scores of abuses including teens being beaten, deprived of food and sleep for days, restrained by fellow youth for hours, bound, sexually humiliated, abused and spat upon.

According to the L.A. Times, California investigators said that at Straight teens were “subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse… and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.”

You can read more about the history of Mel Sembler’s “rehab” centers here and here. A compendium of links can be found here (a lot of the stories are not for the weak of stomach). When Romney says he wants to double Guantanamo, I believe him. He’ll need the extra room if he thinks we should be sending our kids there too.

Open thread

The site was down, sorta, for I don’t know how long, or exactly why. Apparently, most people could still access the site via Internet Explorer, but not via Safari or Firefox, and nobody could leave comments. Odd.

Anyway, dealing with this has killed my morning. Talk amongst yourselves.

My hosting company claims it made no changes one way or the other, so apparently, HA magically fixed itself… you know… just the way free markets do.

The new real Darcy Burner

Netroots favorite Darcy Burner may yet face a challenger for the Democratic nomination in Washington’s 8th Congressional District, but she’s already reinforced her standing as the primary front runner, hiring Dan Kully of Laguens, Hamburger, Kully, Klose to produce TV and radio spots for her 2008 campaign.

And man does he work fast.

Widely acclaimed for his work on U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s high profile win in Montana — including the memorable hair cut ad — Kully has become one of the hottest properties in the business. And, after an impressive, come-from-nowhere 2006 campaign that brought her within a couple points of the Republican incumbent, Burner found herself aggressively courted by some of the nation’s top media firms.

That Burner and Kully chose each other, says a lot about the kind of campaign we can expect to see in 2008. From this blogger’s perspective, it’s a “you got peanut butter in my chocolate” kinda fit.

Burner is likable, funny, quirky and damn smart — qualities that never fully came across in her well-produced but run-of-the-mill TV spots. Sure she’s young, and a bit of a geek, but those should be pluses in a district that’s home to Microsoft and many of our nation’s high tech leaders.

Kully’s genius is at communicating a candidate’s strengths, even if they’re not quite the strengths the inside the Beltway crowd typically focuses on. He’s creative, aggressive, incisive and not afraid to flout convention. And as a huge bonus, he’s local, heading up LHKK’s Seattle office. Not only does Kully know the region and the state — he did the highly effective media for the No campaigns that helped defeat I-912 (gas tax repeal) and I-933 (takings) — he’s geographically situated to give Burner the attention she needs as the campaign unfolds.

The spot above, the first fruit of the Burner/Kully collaboration, is a good indicator of where this campaign intends to go… and where it should have gone in the final months of the 2006 season. It is a parody of Dave Reichert’s derisively sexist “job interview” ad, and hits back hard at the congressman’s own poor performance in office. If Burner’s biggest perceived weakness is lack of experience in public office, it is also one of her greatest assets, especially with Reichert continuing to carry water for an unpopular President on many of our nation’s most pressing issues. Burner is put forth as an agent of change, a role for which political outsiders are particularly well suited.

The spot also displays a willingness to be as creative as the candidate, and that’s a welcome change from the focus-grouped messaging of the 2006 campaign, and the paint-by-numbers look-and-feel of its media.

Burner is in the process of putting together a team that should strike fear into the heart of Reichert’s handlers, and reason into the minds of potential Democratic challengers. Burner is also on track to come out of the quarter as one of the top candidates nationwide, but she’s still about $20,000 shy of her target. So if you want Burner to be the candidate in 2008, send a message now by sending her some money.

It’s gonna be a helluva a campaign.

While the feds fiddle, Nickels leads

When Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels decided to start signing up US cities in the fight against global warming, I don’t think he ever though he’d be this successful:

Mayor Greg Nickels welcomed 52 more cities to Seattle’s climate protection campaign bringing the total to 592 as an influential organization of mayors unanimously supported a national goal of reducing climate pollution 80 percent by 2050.

Five hundred and ninety-two? To think, this whole thing started a few years ago.

“It’s time for the federal government to follow the lead of mayors across this country and begin taking action to address the growing threat of global warming,” Nickels said. “Everyone has a role to play in saving our planet from the effects of climate change. Cities have rolled up their sleeves and now it is time for the federal government to do the same.”

The 52 cities joining the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement come from just two states, Florida and Iowa. The announcement means 596 cities across America have now joined the Seattle-led effort to cut greenhouse gas pollution.

While conservatives extol the virtues of “local control”, that creed goes out the door when it comes to global warming. Righties mocked Nickels for his DIY approach, saying it wouldn’t add up to much. Hundreds of cities later, their apologies aren’t forthcoming. (I’m sure their congratulatory emails are just stuck in the “tubes”)

Meanwhile, the full U.S. Conference of Mayors today endorsed a resolution sponsored by Nickels that calls on federal leaders to approve aggressive climate pollution reductions as part of an ambitious, five-point climate-protection plan.

Co-sponsored by the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and 24 other cities, Nickels’ resolution calls on the 110th Congress and the White House to set a national greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, a threshold most scientists say is necessary to stabilize the climate. Coupled with the target is a call for a flexible national cap and trade system and incentives to reward energy conservation and development of clean energy technologies.

The conventional wisdom on global warming is that the American people aren’t ready to makes the changes necessary. With so many mayors signing on to needed legislation, why is Congress so gutless? Folks are ready for the kind of inventive free-market solutions to global warming. It’s just the guy in the White House who doesn’t get it.

Separate but equal?

Since dropping its racial tiebreaker in the face of a lawsuit by parents, Seattle’s high schools have grown dramatically less integrated. And now that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a sweeping, 5-4 decision ruling Seattle’s racial tiebreaker unconstitutional, school districts across the nation will swiftly re-segregate.

Indeed, but for some caveats in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion, the Roberts Court has all but overturned the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that led to desegregation throughout the South and the rest of the nation. Writing in dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer warns that this is a decision we will all regret.

Finally, what of the hope and promise of Brown? For much of this Nation’s history, the races remained divided. It was not long ago that people of different races drank from separate fountains, rode on separate buses, and studied in separate schools. In this Court’s finest hour, Brown v. Board of Education challenged this history and helped to change it. For Brown held out a promise. It was a promise embodied in three Amendments designed to make citizens of slaves. It was the promise of true racial equality.not as a matter of fine words on paper, but as a matter of everyday life in the Nation’s cities and schools. It was about the nature of a democracy that must work for all Americans. It sought one law, one Nation, one people, not simply as a matter of legal principle but in terms of how we actually live.

Not everyone welcomed this Court’s decision in Brown. Three years after that decision was handed down, the Governor of Arkansas ordered state militia to block the doors of a white schoolhouse so that black children could not enter. The President of the United States dispatched the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock, Arkansas, and federal troops were needed to enforce a desegregation decree. See Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U. S. 1 (1958). Today, almost 50 years later, attitudes toward race in this Nation have changed dramatically. Many parents, white and black alike, want their children to attend schools with children of different races. Indeed, the very school districts that once spurned integration now strive for it. The long history of their efforts reveals the complexities and difficulties they have faced. And in light of those challenges, they have asked us not to take from their hands the instruments they have used to rid their schools of racial segregation, instruments that they believe are needed to overcome the problems of cities divided by race and poverty. The plurality would decline their modest request.

The plurality is wrong to do so. The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown. To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality’s position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.

Seattle is gradually becoming a segregated school district. Those on the right who cheer this decision, and who cheer their success at establishing a rigidly ideological majority on the bench that has no use for the doctrine of stare decisis and no respect for the wisdom of those justices who came before them, will be held politically accountable for the consequences of their agenda. Unfortunately, politics will come four years too late to save our nation from the Roberts Court.

Republicans should beware. This is a court, that should it live up to its principles, will overturn Roe v. Wade. And that disaster would surely lead to the unraveling of the Republican Party, if not its permanent destruction.

Time for Kerlikowske to Go

The pressure on Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske continues to grow as he’s accused of failing to discipline officers in several troubling incidents. One of the incidents occurred in 2005 in Capitol Hill, when Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes was beaten by police after his friend tossed something on the ground as they left a club. According to witnesses, the altercation began when Alley-Barnes questioned why the officer detained his friend over something so trivial. The Seattle Times reports on the incident:

Barnes and a group of friends were leaving the War Room, a bar on Capitol Hill, shortly after midnight on April 13, 2005. Outside was Seattle Police Sgt. Greg Sackman, who was on patrol there. A bouncer said he seemed “agitated” and had positioned himself directly in front of the door so people would have to walk around him as they left.

The bouncer, Tim Rhodes, later said one of Alley-Barnes’ friends apparently threw a piece of paper or straw into the gutter. When the officer pointed it out to him, the friend picked it up and apologized, Rhodes said in a court deposition.

Sackman decided to detain the man, according to police reports and other court documents. It was then that Alley-Barnes went up to Sackman and complained that he was harassing his friend because the friend was black, according to several witnesses.

The rest of the details are pretty hard to stomach:

In the Alley-Barnes arrest on Capitol Hill, a patrol-car dashboard camera captured audio but not video. The audio revealed inconsistencies in the officers’ accounts, according to court records.

Blows can be heard. A woman can be heard saying, “Oh my God!”

At one point, the 29-year-old Alley-Barnes — an artist with no criminal record — pleads with the officers to “please stop kicking me!”

Another voice can be heard saying, “That’s way too much!”

The charges against Alley-Barnes were dismissed because the city failed to turn over the video to defense attorneys, according to court and police internal-affairs documents.

In dismissing the case, Municipal Court Judge Jean Rietschel found statements on the tape “impeach the officers’ statements” because “there’s nothing on the video about the alleged commands that each of the officers said were said to Mr. Alley-Barnes” — including telling him to put his hands behind his back.

What the tape does reveal, the judge said, are “a number of very inflammatory statements made by police” about “arresting a black” and about Alley-Barnes getting in trouble because of his big mouth.

I understand that the chief can’t be held responsible for every single incident by his officers, but the picture that’s emerging here is one where Kerlikowske feels that he doesn’t have to be responsive to community oversight on these matters.

Another incident that is raising questions is the January arrest of a wheelchair-bound man named George Patterson for drug dealing. Video of the arrest shows officer Greg Neubert putting Patterson (who is paralyzed from the waist down from a car accident five years ago) in a lengthy choke hold and later putting things in his hood. Patterson claims that he didn’t have any drugs on him that evening and certainly did not have crack cocaine in his lap as the officers alleged. Since the incident, Chief Kerlikowske has been very aggressive in shielding the two officers from any scrutiny over the arrest, even though the charges have been dropped and the video reveals inconsistencies in the officers’ stories.

As for Neubert, he already had a long history of complaints of inappropriate behavior. The Stranger wrote about him all the way back in 2001:

While the two dailies relied solely on the Seattle Police Department’s file on Neubert, we compiled our report by looking through court documents arising from Neubert’s arrest cases and by talking with Central District neighbors. (Neubert, 35, has worked the Central District beat for most of his nine-year career.)

Our reporting ["Court Documents Reveal Officer Greg Neubert's Controversial History," Amy Jenniges, June 28] found an alarming picture of an officer who physically and verbally bullied civilians, gave faulty court testimony, and–similar to Neubert’s current account about being dragged by Aaron Roberts’ car–complained that civilians were attacking him.

“I thought it was absurd to see how much he [Neubert] was praised here,” says Guy Thomas, weekend night manager at Philly’s Best Steaks & Hoagies at 23rd and Union, pointing to the Seattle Times write-up of the SPD’s records. Thomas, a tall 33-year-old black man, adds, “What I’ve heard from customers is not the same picture. It’s not a good picture.”

“I have friends that have been arrested by Neubert,” says Kisha McCraney, an 18-year-old black woman, as she gets into her car in the Philly’s parking lot. “One of my friends got pulled over by Neubert for no reason at all. He wasn’t speeding or anything. This was just a couple of months ago. He was on a back street, and when he saw Neubert he went onto a bigger residential street because he knows how Neubert is. Neubert came over, dragged my friend out of the car, and handcuffed him.”

Of course, this didn’t stop both Neubert and the other officer involved in the arrest of George Patterson, Michael Tietjen, from being given “officers of the year” awards in 2006.

When you consider the massive racial bias in drug arrests, it’s very clear that the SPD under Chief Kerlikowski disproportionately targets African-Americans. Occasionally, there can be justification for targeting certain neighborhoods because there are more complaints or a higher incidence of crime. But the numbers compiled by UW Professor Katherine Beckett are beyond what anyone can imagine as acceptable:

Though they account for less 9 percent of the city’s population, Beckett said yesterday, blacks make up 64 percent of those police arrest for dealing drugs. At the same time, her study found that the vast majority of drug users and dealers are white, not black.

Beckett’s findings also show that Seattle’s disparity is worse than any other similarly-sized American city. The idea of Seattle being a progressive city when it comes to dealing with issues of justice within the African-American community is largely a myth. And the picture of Chief Kerlikowske as someone unafraid to take on the problems within his department’s ranks appears to be mostly a myth as well. He’s had enough chances to deal with problem officers like Greg Neubert and to show that his department isn’t unfairly targeting African-Americans. He hasn’t.

And when you look at a case like Patterson’s, you also have to wonder how Kerlikowske can be aware of the details and not make the connection between how his officers acted that night and why African-Americans in this city are arrested for drugs at such disproportionately higher numbers. We’ll probably never know whether it’s cluelessness, apathy, or worse, but the NAACP is justified in calling for him to resign.

Liberalism kills

Yet another tragic consequence of liberalism’s misguided efforts to gut the Second Amendment….

A three-year-old boy died after shooting himself in the chest with a handgun in Clarkston.

Police say the boy was apparently playing with a 9mm semi-automatic at the home of his mother’s boyfriend on Monday. The name of the child, who is from Lewiston, Idaho, and his mother have not been released.

Police say the boy went inside to use the bathroom, and apparently found the gun in a bedroom drawer.

If only everybody was armed, perhaps another three-year-old could have stopped him.

I’ll just wish Dick Cheney had been killed…

My righty critics sometime email 710-KIRO, accusing me of being a “hate talker,” apparently in the hope that I’ll be fired from my weekend hosting gig. (Tip to righty critics: management sometimes actually listens to my show.)

Well, if I’m a hate talker, what do you call this…?

Over at AMERICAblog, John Aravosis responds, “If you or I said this, we’d be arrested.”

Hmm. Would we? Let’s give it a try:

If I’m going to say anything about Vice President Dick Cheney in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.

There, I said it. Come and get me. It’s Tuesday night, so you know where I’ll be… sharing a beer or two with my fellow terrorists at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally, the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E., Seattle.

Do the work

David Postman quotes Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-Enumclaw), who is thinking about challenging Darcy Burner for the Democratic nomination for the 8th district:

“The reality is there’s no ownership [of the 8th district nomination]. The bottom line is what’s best for the citizens of the district. You can’t say that because someone ran before that’s owed to them. Maybe some of the real hardcore party faithful say that. But I’m sorry, I don’t buy that.

“The bottom line is if you couldn’t win in 2006 you really got to sit down and do some soul searching and do a very careful, realistic analysis. That’s what it’s all about. Nobody owns this.”

Does Darcy “own” the 8th District nomination? Of course not. If Rep. Hurst wants it, he had better go and get it, because Darcy Burner is doing all of the hard work winning candidates do. The ’06 cycle saw all sorts of party annointed candidates run hard and lose, while no-name types scored big upsets. Darcy came very, very close in a district that has never elected a Democrat, a district that heavily favors the GOP in PCOs.

What I’ve heard about Hurst makes me like him (retired cop with lots of family members in the military), but he’s going to have to earn the nomination, just like Darcy did. How? By doing the work. So, yeah, we can all talk about how Darcy hasn’t sewn it up, but talking is the least helpful thing a candidate can be doing right now.

Drinking Liberally

Join us at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally for another exciting evening of politics under the influence. Yeah…some call us the the “liberal elite,” but we’re all on equal punditry grounds after a couple of pints. We meet at 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E.

Drinking Liberally’s Seattle hosts are Nick Beaudrot of Electoral Math and Blog Reload and EFFin’ Unsound).

If you find yourself in the Tri-Cities area, check out their Drinking Liberally; Jimmy will have the details.

The Drinking Liberally web site has dates and times for 210 chapters in 44 states (plus DC). And if you don’t find a chapter near you…start one!

The 2004 Election: “the ultimate possible audit”

Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz has sent a letter to King County Council members, urging them to approve Executive Ron Sims proposal to purchase additional ballot tabulating machines, and in it he makes an important point about the integrity of elections in King County and throughout the state:

In 2004 ballots were tabulated by the existing Diebold-based system. Subsequently there was a machine recount, followed by a manual hand re-count – the ultimate possible audit. In each case the accuracy of the present Diebold – based system was confirmed. While the vote did change between the original tally and the machine recount and the hand re-count, changes in the vote totals were always attributed to ballots added or subtracted to the mix, such as the “voter intent” ballots ruled on by the Canvassing Board. In fact, the current system has experienced numerous recounts over the years, with no identified failures by the hardware or the software.

I wouldn’t trust Diebold touch-screen voting machines as far as I could spit, but even the most paranoid election watchdogs must admit that our statewide hand recount was indeed “the ultimate possible audit” of the paper ballot tabulating machines. And the audit found that there was absolutely, positively no tabulating fraud.

Read the full text of Pelz’s letter here. (And check out my nifty new plug-in.)

Can newspaper people read maps?

Seattle Times Staff:

Man fatally shot in Belltown

A 35-year-old man was shot and killed in Belltown Friday night during an argument.

The man was walking with a woman on the sidewalk along Pine Street near 2nd Avenue about 10:45 p.m. when a man standing near a parked car made a comment to the woman that started an argument among the three, said Seattle police Capt. Richard Belshay.

The there’s this from columnist Robert L. Jamieson, Jr:

Take a look at story behind Belltown gun slaying

LET’S GO TO the scene of the crime.

It’s Friday night, just after 10:45. Yellow police tape ribbons a block of Pine Street at Second and Third.

That’s weird. As a Belltown resident, I’ve never thought of Pine Street as being part of my neighborhood. Pine Street is downtown. So I visited www.Belltown.org to clarify this minor border discrepancy. Here’s their quote:

Belltown is the northern neighborhood of downtown Seattle bounded by Denny Way to the north, Elliott Avenue to the west, Sixth Avenue to the east, and Virginia Street to the south (historically and decades ago, the southern border was Stewart Street).

See! I told you so! Virginia Street to the south! Hahahaha!!!

If you want some visual proof, check out my Google map here. (Is there a way to imbed a Google map in a blog post? Help me out, computer nerds.) It may seem stupid to argue over a few blocks difference. Quite the contrary: borders are a big, big deal, be it Kashmir, Ireland, or the American Southwest.

That said, I say to you, Times and P-I:

I got my eye on you and your shoddy map reading skills.

This Week in Bullshit

The I guess I’m still around edition. As long as there’s bullshit and Goldy lets me keep a set of keys, I guess I’ll do this on a weekly basis.

Locally, Representative Bill Hinkle hates children. Or at least thinks that children of non-citizens don’t deserve education and health care.

Gary Randal gives us a review of a show by the Seattle Men’s Chorus that he hasn’t seen.

Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates is an Astroturf organization and they are sponsoring a bullshit referendum to repeal recently passed consumer protection.

Nationally, it’s been mentioned here on HA, but the biggest bullshit artist of them all, Dick Cheney, is not a member of the executive any more. Oddly during the energy task force, he had said that he could claim executive privilege.

James Inhofe has a bit of a truth problem. He overheard a conversation the other day that happened 3 years ago. And the people who supposedly took part in the conversation don’t recall it. And shockingly, he’s the less crazy of the two Oklahoma Senators this week.

And internationally, China has surpassed the United States in total carbon emissions. This is mainly because they have 4 times our population and because much of the West has exported manufacturing to them. A normal person would see this as a reason to make sure that our trade agreements have strong environmental components. Crazy people see this as a time to gloat.

Satterberg: “Do as I say, not as I… um… oh, what the hell, don’t even do as I say.”

Just another reminder to those who forgot, that the race to succeed the late Norm Maleng as King County Prosecutor is a partisan race, and that Republican Dan Satterberg is not Norm Maleng.

Dan Satterberg, the acting King County prosecuting attorney, has promised to keep his office out of politics by explicitly barring his 250-lawyer staff from contributing money or endorsements to his election campaign.

But that, in his lawyerly interpretation, doesn’t prevent one of his top deputies from aggressively seeking political endorsements for Satterberg from a long list of the county’s most prominent lawyers and law firms. They include many who do work — some in the millions of dollars — for the prosecutor’s office.

Satterberg said Friday that there is nothing inconsistent between his admonition to his staff “to remain above politics” and the effort of Sally Bagshaw, chief of the prosecutor’s civil division, to ask members of numerous law firms not only to endorse the interim prosecutor but to encourage friends and lawyers in their firms to do likewise.

Nothing inconsistent. I guess that depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

Here is what Bagshaw wrote to about 100 attorneys at the region’s top law firms, some of which get millions of dollars of business directly from the division she runs:

Judy Maleng and I are supporting Dan Satterberg for King County Prosecuting Attorney. [...] Our goal is to get the top lawyers in King County to endorse Dan early, and I would like to place 1000 lawyers’ names onto the website this week. I have two requests: may I add your name to our growing list of supporters, and will you help me garner endorsement support from others in your law firm? We’d like to get as many people from within your firm as well as your lawyer friends outside the office to add their name to our list. I appreciate your taking the lead on this.

And here is what Satterberg wrote to his staff in announcing his candidacy:

I will be proud to continue the policy that Norm established to not permit members of the office to either contribute money or a personal endorsement to my campaign. There are strong historical reasons for this prohibition; it is best for the office for employees to remain above politics.

Apparently, Bagshaw can “remain above politics” while asking attorneys who do business with her to “help me garner endorsement support from others in your law firm.” Apparently, “supporting” and “endorsing” are not the same thing.

A lawyerly interpretation indeed.

Imagine if President Bush had pledged that his administration would remain above politics in 2004, only to have Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld send out an email soliciting support from the nation’s top defense contractors. This is kinda like that.

Nobody is suggesting that Bagshaw’s email violates the law or any ethical code, or that such political solicitations are even unusual. It’s just that Bagshaw’s political efforts, and Satterberg’s lawyerly defense of them, clearly don’t meet his pledge to keep his office above politics.

And while nobody is suggesting a quid pro quo, firms that received over $7.2 million in contract work from Bagshaw and the PAO, certainly know on which side their bread is buttered. As do the junior attorneys. Don’t kid yourself that a lawyer doesn’t know what’s expected of him when his boss asks him to endorse a candidate. It’s not just endorsements that this email is intended to generate, but tens of thousands of dollars in contributions.

And this isn’t just speculation. Democratic hopeful Bill Sherman said that he has been contacted by attorneys at firms all over town, complaining about the pressure they were receiving.

“It made them uncomfortable because of business their firms do with the county,” Sherman said. “They were telling me they feel like they were put in an awkward position by an important client.”

Satterberg can’t have it both ways. He can’t claim to keep his office above politics at the same time he grants approval to a top aide to use the prestige of the office to garner endorsements and contributions. The fact is, this is a political campaign, and Satterberg and his supporters are doing what it takes to win. And regardless of Satterberg’s best intentions, we should never forget that this is also a political office.

If Satterberg is going to run on Maleng’s legacy, it is only fair that he be judged on his actions as well as his words. And while Maleng surely earned the admiration and respect with which he has been memorialized, it is also important to remember that he was a political animal himself. Maleng had unfulfilled aspirations for higher office, and as much as he tried to keep politics out of the PAO, he used his position and prominence to raise money and garner support for his fellow Republicans. No doubt Satterberg would do the same.

By all accounts, Bill Sherman and Dan Satterberg are both professionally qualified, in their own ways, to administer the prosecutor’s office. But to insist that somehow a Satterberg administration would in some way be less political, is just plain silly.