Consider this an open letter to the editorialists, columnists and commentators at all our state’s news organizations: if you care about open government, if you care about clean elections, if you care about maintaining the integrity of our state’s campaign finance and disclosure laws… now is the time to weigh in on the emerging Buildergate scandal. Not two weeks from now, not two months from now, not two years from now after this twisted tale has finally finished wending its way through the courts, but now… now while the public still has an opportunity to judge Dino Rossi’s character for themselves, before casting their vote for governor.
No doubt the amen editorialists at the pro-Rossi Seattle Times, whose news pages have curiously remained silent on this scandal (but, you know, there’s a “wall” between news and editorial and all that), will reassure themselves that Rossi remains innocent until proven guilty, and thus a moral pronouncement would be inappropriate until the court has passed a legal judgement of its own. But of course, that’s a load of hooey.
The Times has a long established history of inserting itself into active court cases (for example, here, here, and notoriously here), and of lambasting the court for decisions it disgrees with on issues of principle or policy, sometimes with little regard for the law itself. In these and many other cases, the Times’ editorial board and their colleagues throughout the media have routinely taken it upon themselves to weigh in on the hottest issues of the day, and with the election only weeks away, now is as good a time as any.
No, not all the facts have been revealed, but the facts we know are damning. The BIAW did create “a fund for Rossi” with the sole intent of influencing the 2008 gubernatorial race. The BIAW did ask the Master Builders Association to contribute over half a million dollars to this fund, for that the express purpose. And when the MBA hesitated, Rossi did call three board members to press them to cooperate. The documents are clear. Rossi’s public statements are clear. The context is clear. And the law is very, very clear.
The BIAW is now being prosecuted for numerous “egregious” campaign finance and disclosure violations in relation to this $3.5 million illegal fund… but only after nearly all of the money has been spent attacking Rossi’s opponent. So to wait until this case has wended its way through court before publicly holding Rossi responsible for his actions would only reward him and the BIAW for their perfidy.
To our state’s opinion leaders this should not be an issue of whether or not Rossi successfully skated through a technical loophole in the law, but rather, whether he was morally and ethically right to attempt to do so. We all know Rossi was a candidate for governor back in May of 2007, whether he had officially declared or not, and so any effort by him to aid the BIAW with their “fund for Rossi” would be a flagrant violation of the spirit of the law, regardless of whether he is ever held liable for violating its letter.
Our media’s instinct to dismiss these allegations as mere partisan stunts is an insult to the highly repected former justices who have brought these suits, and a disservice to the voting public. Read the court documents. Read the FAQs. Use your judgement and tell me whether or not the BIAW’s “fund for Rossi” constituted a political campaign of which Rossi was both aware, and an active participant. Or better yet, tell your readers.
Dino Rossi routinely slanders Gov. Gregoire for “laundering” money, while his party is currently being prosecuted for doing exactly that, and yet nobody in our media is willing to seriously question his blanket disclaimers in this Buildergate scandal, or hold him accountable for his actions? I find that hard to believe.