by Darryl, 07/31/2008, 11:34 PM

The discussion opens on the Big Indictment of Alaska’s Senator “for life,” Ted Stevens, and what might happen in the Alaksa senatorial race. Naturally, that raises the question of whether Alaska is in play for Obama. Goldy wonders if Obama will visit Washington state, and why didn’t Obama show up at Netroots Nation, anyway? Is McCain too old, mean, and angry to be President? Or is it his technological ineptitude that should rule him out? In three years, will anyone even remember free plastic bags? Finally, the panel makes their predictions about whether the transit measure will pass in November.

Goldy was joined by Seattle P-I columnist and Strange Bedfellow senior contributor Joel Connelly, Washington state Communications Director for Obama for America Josh Field, Cogitamus contributor Nick Beaudrot, and The Stranger’s and Slog’s Eli Sanders.

The show is 50:59, and is available here as an MP3:

[Recorded live at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. Special thanks to creators Gavin and Richard for hosting the Podcasting Liberally site.]

by Goldy, 07/31/2008, 6:12 PM

by Goldy, 07/31/2008, 10:58 AM

Following up on Darryl’s post, SurveyUSA also came out with polling numbers last night, posting results in the governor’s race, a 49-46 Gregoire lead, right in line with the 47-45 advantage reported by Strategic Vision. Neither pollster sees much movement in this race over recent weeks.

SurveyUSA also polled the 8th CD race, where they find Dave Reichert leading Darcy Burner 50-44, again, virtually unchanged from six weeks ago. I’d be lying if told you I wouldn’t rather see Darcy closing the gap, but she hasn’t yet started advertising, and I honestly doubt if the Reichert camp is taking much comfort in these results. In fact, given the way his campaign has been trying to tamp down expectations for the August primary, I’d sure love to take a gander at Reichert’s internal numbers.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if Darcy took first in the primary,” Reichert spokeswoman Amanda Halligan recently told Roll Call. “Historically, Democrats have had higher turnout in the primaries than Republicans.” This is the same message the Reichert camp pushed yesterday through the Evans-Novak Report, which emphasizes without substantiation that Burner is “heavily favored” in the August primary.

Huh. Really? Well, I suppose… that is, if your idea of “historically” means going back only as far as 2006 ( the only 8th CD race to use the now defunct “pick a party” primary), when Darcy Burner did indeed win the primary 51-49, only to see it flip the other way in November. But I think a more accurate historical perspective would be to look at how the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn fared as an incumbent, under the blanket primary rules our new top-two primary attempts to emulate.

2002 Primary General
Dunn 64.0% 59.8%
Behrens-Benedict 33.5% 37.3%
2000
Dunn 60.7% 62.2%
Behrens-Benedict 37.1% 35.6%
1998
Dunn 65.6% 59.7%
Behrens-Benedict 34.3% 40.2%

Democrats always have higher turnout in primaries than Republicans? As you can see, history tells us no such thing. In fact, history really doesn’t tell us anything useful about primary vs general turnout patterns considering this is the first ever 8th CD primary to occur in August, not to mention our first ever to use the top-two format.

I don’t know if Reichert’s pre-primary spin that Burner is “heavily favored” is based on sheer bullshit, or on some pretty nasty internal polling. But it sure ain’t based on history.

by Goldy, 07/31/2008, 9:39 AM

For the past year the Gregoire camp has been touting Washington’s ascension under the governor’s leadership to the number five spot on Forbes list of “Best States for Business,” an effective counter to Dino Rossi’s promise to improve our state’s business climate.  Well, Forbes just updated the annual ranking, and we’re no longer number five.  Uh-oh.

Uh-oh for Rossi, that is, as Washington has climbed two more rungs to the number three position, just behind the unchanged top-two finishers, Virginia and Utah.  That’s surely good news for both Gregoire and Washington state, but bad news for Rossi, who, out of step with voters on social issues, has damn little to run on except a vague, unsupported claim to being a better executive.

To win in November, Rossi’s gonna have to give voters a reason to throw Gregoire out, and our allegedly crappy business climate ain’t it.

by Lee, 07/30/2008, 9:33 PM

Dominic Holden has the latest on the Lifevine case. Last Friday, the DEA, at the direction of U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan, took the stolen medicine from the Seattle Police Department and now plans to destroy it. There are still no plans to charge anyone because, as everyone already knows, the person who possessed the marijuana wasn’t in violation of any laws. Curiously, the amount the DEA claims SPD turned over to them is over 3 times as much as what Martin claims was stolen. I’ll post up a follow-up if I find out more.

UPDATE: More here. The reason for the discrepancy in the amount that was seized by the DEA comes from the fact that they’re also counting the non-medicinal plant materials that were seized.

UDPATE 2: Via e-mail, Geov pointed me to a Seattle Weekly story from back when they were relevant, where U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan was quoted:

Jeff Sullivan, chief of the criminal division of the Western Washington U.S. attorney’s office, says that not one federal case has been brought against a medical marijuana operation since the law’s passage. “With limited resources, we are looking at large-scale trafficking and not medical marijuana,” Sullivan says.

As Dominic had already pointed out, this was not standard procedure for our local U.S. Attorney’s office. They acted on this in response to the attention it was getting from a public that is increasingly upset about how much the Federal government’s archaic and unfounded views on marijuana interfere with sensible local laws.

by Darryl, 07/30/2008, 8:14 PM

Strategic Vision has released a July poll that includes the Washington state gubernatorial contest. The poll shows Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) leading challenger Dino Rossi (GOP-Party) 47% to 45%, with 8% “undecided”. The poll of 800 people was taken from July 25th to July 27th, and has a margin of error of 3.5%

This is the fourth July poll in this race. Here are the results from the four polls:

Poll Start End # Polled MOE % Gregoire % Rossi
Strategic Vision 25-Jul 27-Jul 800 3.5 47.0 45.0
SurveyUSA 13-Jul 15-Jul 666 3.9 49.0 46.0
Moore Information 09-Jul 10-Jul 400 5.0 45.0 45.0
Rasmussen 09-Jul 09-Jul 500 4.5 49.0 43.0

Rossi last led in this race thirteen polls ago, back in late February.

I’ll do two Monte Carlo analyses. First is an analysis of the poll numbers in the new Strategic Vision poll in order to estimate the probability that Gregoire (and Rossi) would win an election held right now. I simulated a million gubernatorial elections of 800 voters each, where each voter had a 47% chance of voting for Gregoire, a 45% chance of voting for Rossi and a 8% chance of voting for neither.

Result 1: Gregoire won 716,473 of the simulated elections and Rossi won 271,349 times. This suggests that, in an election now, Gregoire would have a 72.5% probability of winning and Rossi would have a 27.5% probability of winning. A statistician would point out that Gregoire’s lead in this poll is within the margin of error (i.e. her probability of winning is less than 95%).

Here is a plot showing the distribution of votes in the million elections (blue bars are wins for Gregoire and red bars are Rossi wins):

The second analysis combines the polls from all four polls in the Table, to give a July score for this race.

The combined polls yield a pool of 1127 (47.6%) votes for Gregoire, 1061 (44.9%) votes for Rossi, and 177 (7.5%) who voted for neither. Again, I simulate 1,000,000 elections.

Result 2: Gregoire won 919,335 of the simulated elections and Rossi won 77,493 times. The results suggest that, if a July election were held, Gregoire would have won with an 92.2% probability, and Rossi would have won with a 7.8% probability.

Here is a plot showing the distribution of votes in the million elections for the combined polls:

Strategic Vision also polled for the presidential election in Washington state. Sen. Barack Obama (D) leads Sen. John McCain (R) by a +11% margin, 48% to 37%. Obama’s lead is well outside the margin of error for this poll.

by Goldy, 07/30/2008, 12:30 PM

On Monday, I posted a clip of Rob McKenna from a short video I downloaded from the Washington Association of Realtors’ (WAR) website. It was by any measure of the term, “fair use,” as I couldn’t very well comment on McKenna’s statement for political purposes, without illustrating my commentary with a piece of the video itself. Still, that didn’t stop the chickenshits at WAR from seeking to violate my First Amendment rights by having YouTube pull down my clip.

Why do they hate America?

Of course, in response, I just uploaded the clip to another service, and updated my post accordingly. In fact, I’ve uploaded the clip to multiple services, and I’m ready to plug in their embed codes one after another as long as WAR is willing to play these games. Indeed, I’ve got an infinite number of email accounts at my disposal, and could create an infinite number of YouTube accounts if that’s what it takes to wear the other guys out. And finally, I’ve got all the tools at my disposal to host the video myself, with only a modest extra monthly cost to up my alloted bandwidth.

So I’ll tell you what… if you folks at WAR really believe that I’ve violated your copyright, and you’re not just playing lazy legal games attempting to prevent a broader audience from hearing McKenna’s lies and blatant suckupery… then I suggest you sue me. That’s right… prove your case in court, and sue me for everything I’ve got. I’ve only got one significant asset, the equity in my home, so go ahead and try to take that away from me in defense of your handful of crooked members who specialize in doing exactly that. You gotta at least love the irony.

Because if you don’t sue me—and win—I’m gonna continue to post constitutionally protected political commentary using video clips from your website. You know, like this one:

by Jon DeVore, 07/30/2008, 11:01 AM

The story of a Vancouver couple, Frank and Karen Wastradowski, who had racist graffiti keyed into their car after placing a Barack Obama yard sign in their yard, has drawn a full article from The Columbian.

The graffiti has generated an outcry among several community leaders, who set up a fund this week to defray Wastradowski’s cleanup expenses. Several officials, including Tim Probst, a candidate for representative for the 17th District, have pledged monetary support.

“If someone scratches ‘white power’ on a car, it’s important that we send a message as a whole that our community doesn’t accept racism,” Probst said.

Chris Bassett, the former vice chairman of the Clark County Democratic Party, started the fund after reading media reports on the incident. Outraged, he decided to do something. So he sent e-mails to other political activists, including Probst, seeking contributions.

Bassett said the fund isn’t intended to be a partisan statement (although all those involved are Democrats), but a stance against those who threaten freedom of speech and perpetuate racism.

“Obviously, there is an element in Clark County that feels it’s OK to do these things,” Bassett said. “(The Wastradowskis) were just expressing themselves,” and the vandals were trying to intimidate them into silence. “And that’s very troubling.”

It’s easy to be cynical in this day and age, and I’m probably as cynical as one can get, but the response that has been formulated to this cowardly little bit of vandalism is motivated by a sincere desire to show that normal people don’t find this sort of stuff acceptable. Plus there’s no good reason this couple should bear the financial cost of removing hate graffiti from their sedan for supporting the nominee of a major party, or any candidate for that matter.

I don’t want to invade the Wastradowski’s privacy any more than it has been already, but I’ve heard from several people, including a couple of elected officials, that they are well-respected members of the community. (And let’s remember, before anyone starts claiming that the response to this is motivated only by partisanship, that Frank Wastradowski used to be the campaign treasurer for former state Sen. Don Carlson, R-Vancouver.)

Normal people consider it their Constitutional right to pick and choose whom to support, and they really shouldn’t have to worry about costly repairs to their property for simply putting a placard in their yard.

An account called the “Victims of Racial Vandalism Fund” has been set up at IQ Credit Union in Clark County. You can find their locations here. At this writing we are waiting for the Pay Pal account to go live, and I will update as soon as I receive word it’s working.

UPDATE– Click on the Pay Pal button below if you wish to donate to the “Victims of Racial Vandalism Fund.” Be sure to hit “update total” at Pay Pal if you are paying by credit card (rather than logging in) so that you don’t have to keep re-doing it, like I did. The Pay Pal account’s email address is called “ccagainstvandalism” as I guess it had to be a shorter name.

And I know a lot of folks might be kind of tapped out because it’s an election year (not to mention the tough economy) so rest assured small donations very much matter in this case. It will show how many folks want to register their disgust with this kind of petty and hateful action. Wouldn’t it be great if 50 or 100 people threw in five or ten bucks?

Our plan at this point is any funds that might be raised in excess of that needed to help get the Wastradowski’s on the road without a racism-mobile will be kept in the fund until after the election and then donated to a charity agreed to by the Wastradowski’s. This is an ad-hoc group, so it’s not like we’re having board meetings or anything.

Here’s the Pay Pal button:












by Goldy, 07/30/2008, 9:43 AM

The Washington Post headline blares: “Sen. Stevens Indicted On 7 Corruption Counts.” The New York Times is equally direct: “Senator Charged in Scheme to Hide Oil Firm Gifts.” Even the Anchorage Daily News is concise, if perhaps a bit too obvious in stretching to achieve balance: “Alaska Sen. Stevens indicted; ‘I am innocent’.” (Like Stevens is going to claim anything but innocence?)

So how does the Seattle Times, the largest daily in the “Gateway to Alaska” report this story on the 7 count indictment handed down against the US Senate’s longest serving Republican?

Friend’s gifts cold be Stevens’ downfall” …? Jesus, guys… could you soften that headline a little bit? That’s kinda like saying “friend’s war could be Hess’s downfall” (you know… if only he hadn’t hung around so much with that nasty boy, Adolph).

Yeah, we all occasionally get gifts from friends, and few if any of us think to report it as income. Why just the other day, a close personal friend of mine jacked up my house and added a new first floor in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts. That’s just the kinda stuff friends do for each other.

Uncle Ted and Friends

Uncle Ted and Friends

by Lee, 07/30/2008, 9:27 AM

This house for sale in Shoreline is way smaller than it seems (see picture #7).

UPDATE: Looks like they removed the picture…

by Lee, 07/29/2008, 6:30 PM

Joel Connelly has been fairly sensitive about the criticism he’s been receiving over his opposition to I-1000, the Death with Dignity Initiative. I’ve certainly been contributing to his agitation, so I want to take the time to go through his latest column with a little less snark. There are a lot of important life-and-death issues involved here, but I don’t see them being addressed by Connelly. Instead, he gives us contrived ‘gotchas’ that have little relation to why this initiative is happening and why it’s so important.

The overall theme of his column is similar to what he’s tried to claim in the past, that I-1000 is something being foisted upon Washington State by an advocacy group. He writes:

If you read the 2007 report of the Death With Dignity National Center, however, what emerges is that the Evergreen State was carefully chosen, as it were, to revive a movement lately on life support.

It is a tale of behind-thescenes manipulation, candidly laid out by the manipulators:

“We have spent the last year actively researching and collecting data to determine the state which is most likely to adopt a Death with Dignity law,” said the annual report.

“Through these efforts we have identified Washington as the state most likely … We, at the Death with Dignity National Center, are proud to provide our political experience and expertise to these talented and committed people of Washington.”

This is neither unusual nor alarming. Nationally-based advocacy groups with limited funds are always making decisions like this. They rely mostly on donations from individual citizens and don’t have any interest in throwing their limited resources away for a cause they can’t win. Every state in the country has people advocating for laws like this. The Death with Dignity National Center judged (justifiably) that Washington is a state where they are most likely to succeed. If that’s “manipulation,” then so is every political donation in the country.

In our modern political climate, issues like Death with Dignity, which don’t find themselves allied with corporate interests, struggle to influence legislatures directly. Despite its faults, the initiative process is geared towards issues like this, issues that are strictly in the interest of individual citizens who find that government isn’t responsive to them.

Connelly cynically dismisses how the campaign has been putting the local media in touch with signature gatherers with a personal stake in this, as if they are merely puppets of special interests and not individuals with powerful and reasonable interests in changing the law. He couldn’t be more disingenuous. Or more hypocritical. He writes:

I will vote against I-1000. My reasons stem from personal experience, as well as my understanding of an underpinning of our democratic society: Its purpose must be to safeguard and enhance life, especially among the youngest, the weakest and the suffering.

When I first encountered Connelly’s opposition to this initiative, my initial thought was that I had incorrectly assumed that he was pro-choice. I hadn’t. The man who believes that the underpinning of our democratic society is “to safeguard and enhance life, especially among the youngest, the weakest and the suffering,” apparently also believes that the underpinning of our democratic society is something completely different when it comes to abortion.

This is the danger in trying to oversimplify the issue. Trying to come up with these kinds of absolutes about the value of life almost inevitably leads to irreconcilable contradictions. How many millions of people in this country believe that abortion should be illegal, but also believe that the death penalty is just dandy? How many people who fought tooth and nail to keep Terry Schiavo alive barely flinched when we went to war in Iraq?

This realization lacks the ability to be shrunk to a bumper sticker, but the value of “life” can never be the simple absolute that so many wish it to be, and demanding that government try to define it as such is a genuine mistake. Telling a terminally-ill person with a painful or debilitating illness that their own life is so in need of protection that it overrides their own wishes is not much different from telling a date-rape victim that the fetus she’s carrying is a life in need of protection that overrides her wishes as well. In both cases, difficult moral choices are being made by the government, rather than the individual, and this is what has motivated so many signature gatherers around the state this year.

by Goldy, 07/29/2008, 3:21 PM

It’s a Drinking Liberally double header for me tonight as the Columbia City chapter meets from 6PM to 8PM at the Columbia City Theater, 4916 Rainier AVE S. (next door to Tutta Bella’s), followed by the Seattle chapter which meets tonight (and every Tuesday), 8PM onward at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. Stop on by for some hoppy beer and hopped up conversation.

Not in Seattle? Liberals will also be drinking tonight in the Tri-Cities. A full listing of Washington’s thirteen Drinking Liberally chapters is available here.

by Goldy, 07/29/2008, 11:15 AM

The other day I bemoaned the race for King County Superior Court Position 22, where one well-heeled candidate’s $70,000 personal contribution threatens to swamp the campaigns of her qualified opponents.

But it turns out money isn’t the only the factor that plays a role in local judicial elections. No, sometimes petty spite comes into play too… at least, that seems to be the case with ambulance chaser personal injury attorney Matt Hale, less than four years a practicing attorney, who is challenging two-term incumbent Judge Laura Jean Middaugh for KC Superior Court Position 26.

So where does the spite come into this race? Well, get this… the Hale campaign has turned to Washington’s “Off-Highway Vehicle” community for much of their support, not because of any decision that Judge Middaugh made, but solely because she is married to State Sen. Adam Kline, author of an infamously inflammatory (and somewhat amusing) email in defense of his support of legislation restricting the use of OHVs on public land.

Get that? OHV enthusiasts are working to defeat Middaugh as payback to her husband for writing an email that just plain pissed them off. As one commenter wrote on an OHV forum in response to questions about Hale’s qualifications:

The intent behind supporting this guy is primarily to mess with Senator Kline.

Now is that any way to choose a judge?

No, of course not. With just three years of legal practice under his belt, and possibly zero courtroom experience (we don’t know for sure because he’s refused to provide any biographical information on his Muni League questionnaire or in the Voters’ Guide), the baby faced Hale clearly lacks the wisdom, maturity and legal experience to serve as a Superior Court judge. Yet… you know… if it messes with Sen. Kline, that’s good enough for his supporters.

Sigh.

Yeah, I know… railing against judicial elections is the blogging equivalent of tilting at windmills. But come on… our current system just plain sucks.

by Darryl, 07/29/2008, 10:08 AM

Well…this sure isn’t going to help the godfather of the Corrupt Bastards Club win reelection.

Update: The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury, is for 7 felony counts of false statements (18 USC 1001). Sen. Stevens is accused of accepting gifts from VECO Corporation (whose executives were a big help to Mike! McGavick in his failed Senate race).

Essentially, VECO did extensive remodeling to Steven’s home. The house was raised and a new first floor was built. They finished the basement, added a first-floor deck, re-roofed the upper deck, rewired part of the house, added furniture and a new gas range, and even had some sort of “car exchange” to give Stevens a new vehicle. In total the gifts (or unpaid loans) were worth an estimated $250,000.

The problem for Stevens is that he did not disclose these as either gifts or as loans on his 1999-2006 Senate disclosure forms.

by Goldy, 07/29/2008, 9:21 AM

I received a news release this morning announcing that King County Executive Ron Sims had endorsed Dr. ChangMook Sohn for State Treasurer… which I suppose would be a significant coup for Sohn in this very low profile statewide race, if not for the second paragraph:

“Dr. Sohn has the experience to be State Treasurer: he’s been the state’s top economist for more than two decades; he’s founded a bank; and he’s taught economics at two state universities,” said Sims, who also endorsed Seattle legislator Jim McIntire for the post.

Sims has endorsed both McIntire and Sohn? Isn’t that kinda like buttering your margarine?

by Goldy, 07/29/2008, 8:13 AM

One more sign of the favorable political climate facing Democrats this cycle is the sudden reversal of Republicans’ formerly unassailable fundraising advantage in districts nationwide. And we’re not just seeing the inevitable impact of Democratic incumbency here; according to an analysis released today by CQ, of the best-funded House challengers this cycle (as measured by cash on hand), nine of the ten top spots are held by Democrats.

And who should we find near the top of the list, in position number three?

3. Darcy Burner, Democrat, Washington’s 8th ($1.2 million). Burner, who was formerly employed by Microsoft, is taking on two-term Rep. Reichert ($916,000) in a suburban Seattle district in which she came within three percentage points of unseating the congressman in 2006. Burner’s challenge is one reason why Reichert is among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents; so too is the likelihood that his district will back Barack Obama over John McCain for president. CQ Politics Race Rating: No Clear Favorite.

Burner is also one of the few challengers on the list with a substantial cash on hand advantage over the incumbent… a margin that I expect to substantially widen at the end of this month’s pre-primary reporting period. And as CQ notes, this isn’t the only advantage Burner is likely to have come November:

Some of these Democratic challengers may also benefit from added assistance from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats that has tens of millions of dollars more than its partisan counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, to spend on television ads and other campaign communications.

The DCCC has already booked a million dollars worth of TV ads in WA-08 this fall. No word yet of an NRCC ad buy on Reichert’s behalf.

Obviously, Burner’s hard fought fundraising advantage puts her in a better position to win this November than she was heading into the 2006 election, but it also tells us a bit about the relative support of the two candidates. According to OpenSecrets.org, Burner and Reichert have raised similar amounts in-district and in-state, but the real disparity comes when looking at individual vs PAC contributions. Thus far Burner has raised 84% of her funds from individual contributors, a constituency that provides only 59% of Reichert’s funds. That’s a huge difference, and a disparity that’s likely to grow between now and November.

It’s gonna be a nail-biter, but if I were Reichert I’d be pretty damn worried.

by Goldy, 07/28/2008, 9:26 PM

by Jon DeVore, 07/28/2008, 3:19 PM

Over the weekend we’ve been following a story here in Clark County about a local couple who appear to be the target of racist vandalism simply because they dared to put a Barack Obama yard sign in front of their home. The Columbian ran a small item on Friday night:

Someone scratched the words “White Power” on a car belonging to a Vancouver family who recently posted an “Elect Obama” sign in their front yard.

On Sunday, Frank Wastradowski, who lives northeast of Southwest Washington Medical Center, noticed the vandalism on the side of his wife’s 1993 Plymouth. The letters, likely scratched with a key, were about 8 inches tall.

“It’s a hate crime and it’s time we get past racism,” he said.

Wastradowski said he won’t take the sign down, adding, “That’s my freedom of speech.”

Now KPTV-12 in Portland has a story up about the incident, and we learn that the words “I’m gay” were also scratched into the car. Since the KPTV story features Karen Wastradowski, Frank’s wife, one can only conclude that the vandals were quite intent on displaying their vast stupidity for the world to see.

There are a couple of things worth noting here. Yes, Clark County has its share of unrepentant bigots. Earlier this year the son of a Battle Ground city council member was charged with cyberstalking over virulently racist emails sent to a black council member and other community members. So while vandalism is not exactly an unusual thing during the summer months, it’s also not acceptable to just shrug off racist defacement of private property as “just kids being kids.” They learned it somewhere.

A small ad-hoc group of us here is working on setting up a donation fund for the Wastradowski’s so they don’t have to drive around in a car that says “White Power” on it. My fellow blogger Aneurin at Politics is a Blood Sport has been following the story here and here. Aneurin has talked to Frank Wastradowski, and unsurprisingly the couple did not have full coverage on the car (nothing against 1993 sedans, of course.) We’re working on some details about how to set the fund up and to do it in a way that will aid the Wastradowskis rather than just make a partisan statement.

In a larger sense, if someone can’t place a yard sign for a major party candidate in front of their home without this sort of thing happening, we don’t really have much of a democracy. At this point we are hoping some local Republicans will also come forward and denounce this attack and perhaps throw in a small donation as well.

As things progress I’ll keep HA readers up to date. It might be easy to ignore a relatively small and stupid act of vandalism, but the Wastradowski’s need to know that the community won’t tolerate this sort of thing and will take positive actions to counteract it.

And one other thing, which is in the “gee, that’s kind of curious” file, is that Frank Wastradowski used to be the campaign treasurer for former state Senator Don Carlson, R-Vancouver. There’s no way to know if the vandals knew that, unless someone is caught, but it’s still pretty ironic.

by Goldy, 07/28/2008, 2:18 PM

He may not be much of a lawyer, but Attorney General Rob McKenna has a well-earned reputation as one of our state’s most talented politicians… if by “talented politician” you mean a shameless suck up. Rob’s just a guy who can’t say “no” to potential constituencies… you know, the kinda guy who might actually thank you for suing his client, as long as such blatantly inappropriate brown-nosing served his long term political aspirations.

Our AG’s unrivaled talent at political bootlicking was on display once again in a recent article in the Seattle Weekly, in which McKenna—a self-proclaimed crusader against consumer fraud—bizarrely comes out on the wrong side of mortgage foreclosure rescue scams in a seemingly unselfconscious effort to curry favor with the well-heeled Washington Association of Realtors.

McKenna has been less enthusiastic about that foreclosure measure as the state’s realtors have stepped up their criticism of it. The Washington Association of Realtors recently posted a video on its Web site decrying the measure and talking about plans to get it changed. The video features McKenna. In it, he says the foreclosure bill that passed “was far different than what I originally proposed. The state Senate added in a lot of language that we never intended and that we actively opposed with our friends in the realtor community.”

Oh really? Here’s a clip from the Realtor’s video, so you can see McKenna making the case in his own words:

So McKenna and his “friends in the realtor community” actively opposed the Senate amendment, but those sneaky Democrats still managed to ruin his bill? Through a spokesperson McKenna goes on to claim:

But Kristin Alexander, spokesperson for the AG’s office, claims the amendments were dropped into the bill only hours before the legislature passed it. “We had literally moments in which to review the legislation,” she says. She points to the bill’s history as proof: In February and March, the bill morphed through several drafts before the House and Senate agreed on a final version—only a day before it was delivered to Gregoire.

“The [consultant] language was in, and then it was passed and we never had time to react,” Riley says. “If we had known it was in there, we would have pitched a fit, we would have gone to huge lengths to eliminate it. But we didn’t know.”

Uh-huh.

In fact, as the Weekly fails to point out to its readers, the bill’s history actually proves the opposite: the amendment received a public hearing before the Senate Consumer Protection & Housing Committee on February 29, six days before its initial passage in the Senate, and a full twelve days before its unanimous passage in the House. As anybody who knows the workings of Olympia will tell you, that’s an eternity during a legislative session; indeed, far from having no time to react, the Senate bill report clearly shows that Jim Sugarman of the AG’s office not only didn’t utter a word in opposition to the amendment, he testified in favor of the bill, and that nobody from the “realtor community” opposed the bill on the grounds that are now at the heart of the dispute.

So what is it about this bill that has McKenna and the realtor’s undies in a knot? The “distressed property” bill was intended to address an increasingly common scam, in which homeowners facing imminent foreclosure are convinced to sell their houses for nothing, in exchange for a fraudulent promise to let them stay in their homes, and eventually buy the title back. As McKenna suggests, the original House bill, as introduced by Rep. Pat Lantz, was narrowly focused, only sanctioning those parties who fraudulently receive title of these distressed properties. But in reality, many of these scams are facilitated by shady realtors who do not receive title themselves, but are compensated by the crooks who do.

The provision to which McKenna and the realtors now suddenly object—a provision that Rep. Lantz testified made her bill “even better,” and that passed both the House and the Senate by near unanimous margins—merely extends liability to licensed realtors, mandating that they have a fiduciary responsibility to represent the interests of the homeowners, while providing full disclosure of the terms of the agreement. Seems pretty commonsense to me, kinda like requiring ice cream vendors to sell you, you know… ice cream. So the problem is…?

Realtors now claim that this measure would open them up to frivolous lawsuits, a complaint that A) is facially ridiculous; and B) was never raised while the measure was being considered.

As for A), anybody could sue anybody for anything; for example, McKenna could sue me for libelously implying that he’s in cahoots with foreclosure rescue scammers. He wouldn’t win, but he could sue me, and he could cost me an awful lot of time and a pretty penny in the process. But that hasn’t stopped the realtors from playing victim here:

Riley wants to get realtors exempted from the fiduciary duty, as mortgage brokers and nonprofit counseling agencies are, under the law. He says realtors are vulnerable in that if a buyer gets a very good deal on a home, and if later the seller decides the deal was too good, the seller could sue. “What’s happened as a result is that some of our members have elected not to help these people, and let the homes go to foreclosure, because they think it’s safer to do that because of the increased liability,” says Riley.

Such a scenario is not implausible, says Melissa Huelsman, a Seattle-based consumer-advocacy attorney who was involved in crafting the law. However, “they’re, in my opinion, stretching it in a way that no rational judge would ever view it. This law in no way, shape, or form was directed at those kinds of transactions.” No one contacted for this story had heard of a lawsuit yet being filed under the law.

[State Sen. Brian] Weinstein agrees. He says the new law would only impose liability on a realtor who did not put the homeowner’s best interest first, or who failed to comply with the disclosures required in the bill, causing economic harm to the homeowner as a result of the transaction.

I’ve spoken with both Huelsman and Weinstein, and neither would object to inserting language specifying that this provision is not meant to extend liability to such frivolous circumstances… but then, neither think it necessary. And both assure me that this concern had never been raised during the lengthy discussions between realtors, consumer advocates, the AG’s office and legislators during the months that led up to final passage.

In fact, contrary to McKenna’s claim that he “actively opposed” this measure at the time, Huelsman tells me that she never heard a single objection on such grounds until two months after the bill’s final passage.

So what accounts for McKenna’s sudden change of heart (and history)? If he really believes there’s a liability issue here, his office certainly didn’t catch it at the time, so perhaps he’s just trying to cover for his own screw up? Or maybe he once again got caught up in the moment, telling the realtors what they wanted hear, the record be damned, as he often does when speaking to special interest groups?

But whatever his motives the tactics seem clear: a calculated effort to strong arm the legislature into striking a necessary and reasonable consumer protection provision… an effort that ultimately benefits nobody but the handful of crooked real estate agents who are cruelly scamming WA families out of their homes. And an effort on whose behalf he’s even willing to allow himself to be caught in a lie.

Somehow, you’d think we might expect more from an AG who has made fighting consumer fraud a centerpiece of his reelection campaign.

UPDATE:
The fucking cowards at the Washington Association of Realtors had YouTube pull my clip, which was without a doubt fair use. (Why do they hate America?) No bother, I’ll just post it again using another a service.

by Goldy, 07/28/2008, 9:09 AM

Sure, the guy is nuts, but this is what inevitably comes from violent, eliminationist rhetoric:

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he described his feelings and why he committed the shooting, Owen said.

Adkisson said he was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job and how much he hated the liberal movement, Owen said.

Adkisson hated liberals… and so he shot up a Unitarian church. During a children’s play.

Committing suicide by going on a shooting rampage in a Unitarian church is like shooting fish in a barrel and expecting the fish to shoot back. The Unitarians I’ve known are about the most peaceful and harmless folks I’ve ever met; indeed, the only church less likely for Adkisson to find armed resistance would have been a Friends meeting house. (And even then, only maybe.)

So of course this guy was crazy. Sane people don’t go on shooting rampages.

But hatred like his doesn’t grow in a vacuum; it is nurtured, shaped and focused by hate-mongers like Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly, who cheer at the notion of killing a few liberals to keep us in line, or who have made careers out of vilifying the political opposition as terrorists or traitors or worse. No, neither Coulter nor O’Reilly nor any of their cohorts pulled the trigger, but they surely understood that their words might feed the insanity of someone who could. If these are the mullahs of the extremist right, then the liberal-hating homicidal Adkisson is a suicide bomber of their own creation.

Say what you want about the aggressive rhetoric of netroots activists like me, but we don’t advocate violence, because we understand that ultimately, the sole purpose of advocacy is to incite action.

UPDATE:
Sam Smith at Scholars and Rogues weighs in:

Jim Adkisson was an unbalanced man, and perhaps it was only a matter of time before he snapped. But two questions to ponder: first, who created the conditions that hastened the snap? And second, when the train jumped the tracks, who created the bogeyman that the diseased brain latched onto as the cause of all the pain?

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