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Posts published in “Day: June 14, 2006”


We make it a cardinal point not to try to read the minds of people in public affairs - motivation can be an obscure thing, even to ourselves in our daily lives. But every so often you read a quote that makes you choke your coffee: It just doesn't pass the test of common sense - you're either funnin' me or connin' me, but either way the face has no value.

Case in point is the Washington Supreme Court race pitting Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, generally considered a court moderate, against attorney John Groen. New campaign finance laws affecting Supreme Court races in Washington went into effect a week ago, on June 7, which limit fundraising for those races (applying restrictions similar to those for other state offices). Although candidates legally were at liberty to raise more before that effective day, Alexander (according to Public Disclosure Commission reports) played by the spirit of the law and raised a modest $28,000. Groen opted for the letter of the law, and has raised about $130,000 - about $100,000 during the month of May.

That seems a bit curious to begin with, until you learn that (a) Groen has been an attorney for the Building Industry Association of Washington, (b) the BIAW is one of the big spenders in Washington politics, (c) Groen has defended the kind of legal structure the real estate industry (contractors, realtors and others) really like, and (d) practically all of those big bucks Groen has received have come from - surprise! - building developers. Actually, there's nothing very curious here at all: It has a coherent appearance of a building and real estate industry trying to buy itself a seat on the Washington Supreme Court.

Of course, we there get into motivation, which we're loathe to do. But what else to think when the Seattle Times asked one of Groen's most substantial ($25,000) donors, Larry Sundquist, president of Sundquist Homes at Lynnwood, why he contributed the big bucks. His answer:

"I just basically have a philosophy that we need to have the courts upholding the law and not making it."

Right. That's when you know the quest for motivation has to reach beyond the initial offering.