Writings and observations

Two of the region’s significant ballot issues coming up next month – Oregon’s Measure 50 and Washington’s R-67 – ought to be watched closely by marketing professionals. The point: Can sheer weight of money, Niagras of dollars, do the job of winning the public over to the side of two of the least-liked institutions in the country over to their side of an issue?

(Are you watching AMC’s excellent new cable series Mad Men? Have you seen the movie Thank You for Smoking? If not, you should.)

Target point for Measure 50 is tobacco companies, and for R-67 insurance companies – who better if you could choose your opposition in a popularity contest? That doesn’t mean either will necessarily pass; the outcome of both is in some doubt. The biggest reason for that is that these fat-pocketed targets aren’t sitting still. They’re throwing major bucks into these campaigns.

Their strategies are somewhat different, befitting the availability of their targets.

Washington’s Referendum 67 (passed by the Legislature this year, now up for action by voters) is targeted directly at the insurance industry, and is fairly simple. It says that if an insurance company unreasonably denies a claim (and discussion about what “unreasonably” eventually means), the policyholder can sue for triple damages.

(A bit of background: Treble damages are not an unusual concept in the law. From Wikipedia: “The ability to award treble damages is a typical feature in legislation that recognizes the potentially willful nature of the prohibited acts. For example, such damages may be awarded by a court in the United States for willful violation of the antitrust laws, for willful patent infringement, for trademark counterfeiting, and under the RICO statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). The idea behind the creation of such damages, also called exemplary damages, is that they will encourage citizens to sue for violations that are harmful to society in general.”)

There are realistic policy arguments about this. Insurers (and the top funders of the campaign against R-67 include such familiars as State Farm, SafeCo, Allstate, Fireman’s Fund and that cute little gecko company) warn that treble damages could encourage frivolous or fraud-based lawsuits, thereby driving up insurance premiums. Their critics point to cases where insurers slip out of paying in cases where premiums were paid up and compensation was reasonable expected. We find fairly persuasive the take of Insurance Commission Mike Kriedler, who supports R-67. From a KING-TV report:

“Your problem is going to be that you’re going to find it very difficult to find an attorney, because so little money is involved, that will choose to represent you,” said Mike Kreidler, Washington state insurance commissioner.

“If you have a claim and you can’t get an attorney to take your claim, then perhaps your claim doesn’t have merit. The other way to look a that is that if you have a small claim and you don’t want to take the time, money, resources and your energy to go to an attorney, then go to the Insurance Commissioner and use his advocacy services,” said Childress.

As for what the insurance industry says – that this will lead to a lot of frivolous lawsuits, and it’s going to drive up the rates, Kreidler says “Baloney, because, if the company lives up to their own advertising, to deal with you as their policy holder in good faith, and they all advertise that way, then it’s not going to cost them one dime more,” said Kreidler.

The campaign against R-67 (which includes an array of businesses and chambers, but little – its name notwithstanding – by way of consumer advocacy) mentions some of these points, but they aren’t its focus. What is, is trial lawyers. The Reject R-67 web site’s Myths and Facts page starts out with this: “Washington trial lawyers think they have found another way to fatten their wallets at the expense of consumers. Referendum 67 would allow lawyers to demand outrageous settlements—even if the claim isn’t legitimate! The result? Excessive fees for lawyers, soaring insurance premiums for consumers, and higher prices for goods and services. Do you think the personal injury lawyers are looking out for your interests? Think again.” And the phrase “trial lawyers” seems to pop up about once a sentence thereafter. (Trial lawyers are among the players in favor of R-67, but only alongside plenty of others, including an array of labor organizations, senior associations like AARP, and others.)

Strategy: Set this up as one bad guy (trial lawyers) against another (ulp, insurers), and fund a big-money campaign (somewhere around $8.7 million to date, with plenty more coming) against the first bad guy.

For that reason, we’d disagree somewhat with the critics – like the Horse’s Ass blog – of the insurance campaign, who are describing the anti-67 campaign as one of obfuscation. We’d describe it rather as a carefully targeted reframing, a clear attempt to move discussion away from the insurance industry practices the referendum addresses.

South of the river, the Measure 50 opposition campaign, funded to a similarly high level – now around $7 million (overwhelmingly from R.J Reynolds and Philip Morris companies), the highest ever on an Oregon ballot issue – almost entirely by major tobacco companies, has a different approach.

Measure 50, sent to voters by the legislature as a constitutional amendment, would raise cigarette taxes by 84.5 cents a pack, to a total of $2.025, exactly matching the rate in Washington state. (Still lower as a purchase price, though, since Oregon has no general sales tax.) The money would go into several funds, most of it aimed at providing health insurance and care for children; about 117,000 Oregon children are not covered by health insurance. The measure has gotten a broad range of support, and the case – “support health care for kids not covered by insurance” – is powerful.

The legislative analysis of the use of the money breaks it down this way: “Healthy Kids [the children health insurance program as such] (72.34% for 07-09), (68.47% for 09-11); Kids Safety Net (3.04% for 07-09), (2.88% for 09-11) [a sort of rainy day fund for the same purpose]; Rural Health (1.16% for 07-09), (1.10% for 09-11) [general rural health care]; TURA (4.918% for 07-09), (10% for 09-11) [the “tobacco use reduction account’]; Oregon Heath Plan (OHP) (18.54% for 07-09), (17.55% for 09-11) [low income adult health care].”

There are several arguments against.

One simply is in imposing a big tax increase, which this is. But it isn’t out of line. The current cigarette tax in Oregon is $1.18, a little above the national average of about $1 a pack, but almost exactly at the non-tobacco state tax level. However, it is far below the rate in Washington state, the most relevant border area. The rates are going up nationally. Tobacco interests dumped $60 million to turn back a big increase in California last year.

Another is a policy argument that cigarette smokers, many of low income, shouldn’t be singled out to pay for larger social needs (we’ll acknowledge a reasonable philosophical argument here) – or, alternatively, that if you’re going to tax cigarettes as being health-harmful, soft drinks and french fries may be next. Hmm . . . well, why not, if links as clear as those in the case of tobacco can be established? For the moment, we’ll note that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention link smoking-related health costs in this country to tobacco at a rate of $10.28 per pack sold.

There’s also the argument, especially on a number of blogs, that not all the money is going to the Healthy Kids program – that significant chunks are going elsewhere. But that’s not really valid either. Three-quarters of the money would go to either that program or its backup fund, and about half the rest would go for a traditional tobacco tax purpose, tobacco use reduction.

Politically, perhaps recognizing that smokers are only about a fifth of the Oregon population and a small minority of the voting base, the tobacco companies have not focused hard on this. They’ve gone after something else we do think is a problem: The inclusion of the tax in the state constitution, something different from past practice.

(Why Measure 50 advocates haven’t yet taken the obvious responsive step to this isn’t clear. The obvious step: Publicly declaring, and pledge with signature, that they will support removal of the provision from the state constitution at the next available election – provided that the tax is by then incorporated in the state code.)

The vagaries of what does and doesn’t belong in the constitution doesn’t seem to be something that gives voters nightmares. (They passed Measure 36, the same-sex marriage amendment, in 2004 despite similar concerns.) So this seems an improbable argument for the tobacco guys to focus on in their mega-million television campaign. That they have suggests they’ve decided to do more closely what the R-67 advocates in Washington have charged of their opposition – to obfuscate, to stir up worry and doubt: “If they’re making such a big deal about this change I don’t fully understand, then maybe there’s some fire behind the smoke . . .”

So we won’t offer any flat predictions on the future of either of these ballot measures. The pro-measure campaigns in each case have only begin to kick in; each have a strong chance of doing their job, even if heavily overfunded, provided their messages do get out.

But it’ll be a fight indeed. And worth watching to see what wads of money can do.

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Oregon Washington

Biggest issue in Portland right now is a proposal to change the name of a street. And it’s not a small thing.

The place is Interstate Boulevard, which doesn’t seem a likely spot for social controversy. It is a road in northeast Portland running (very) roughly parallel to Interstate 5, mainly north of the downtown area. Because of hills and freeway ramps and bridges, we got stuck on it a time or two navigating around the area, and it’s mostly not an especially memorable stretch. Much of it is industrial, and most of the rest fronts a range of businesses. Residential areas are nearby and peek through here and there. It’s not one of the gentrified areas of Portland, but along with the rest of north Portland, it’s moving gradually upscale.

Mayor Tom Potter has gotten behind the plan to rename Interstate Boulevard – a pretty generic name, to be sure – as Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Evidently recognizing that not everyone was going to agree, he noted on his web site, “I urge all Portlanders to learn more about this project and what it means the Latino community. Take the time to listen – and I mean really listen – before making a fearful reaction to the idea of change. More importantly in this debate, let’s respect one another. For when we do this, we are really saying to one another ‘I respect your right to be here.’”

Fair enough, though respect has to run in all directions, and there are quite a few directions on this. So many, in fact, that we’ve gotten e-mail inquiries about the subject from as far away as Idaho.

There is some real push behind the proposal. The Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard Committee has an on-line petition which has pulled 322 signatures so far. The comments there illuminate some of the deeply-felt thoughts and feelings behind it:

“My students need to know that their heroic Hispanic role models are honored and respected in this society so that they can feel that they belong and are respected as well. I am a retired ESL Bilingual and Migrant Teacher, retired from Portland Public Schools. I’m a third generation Portlander.”

“I would love to drive down Chavez Blvd. in Portland, to tell my daughter all that Cesar did for farmworkers, to talk about marching with the farmworkers in 1975 and not eating grapes for years when I was a child. This would be a small honor for a great man.”

“Martin Luther King Jr can be honored but Chavez can not be?” (Note to non-Portlanders: MLK Boulevard is a major north-south through-way on Portland’s east side near the river.)

Opinions will differ about whether King’s and Chavez’ stature are quite in the same category; probably most Americans (and how many Latinos?) would see a difference there. But put that aside for a moment. Most of the namings of streets, holidays and even a county for King have been intended to reflect not so much the man personally as the struggle for civil rights that he stood for. Given that, where’s the necessity of a Chavez bouelvard (in a region not especially strongly associated with him), in communities that already have honored other civil rights leaders, unless the point is simply a nod to the Latino community?

Which, more than anything else, is what it seems to be. And which would be no terrible thing – especially as it continues to grow, some visible acknowledgment of its place and role is warranted – but it would be evidence more of increasing clout than of moral altitude. If you doubt that, consider this comment from the Chavez petition page: “I’m for changing the name to ‘LECH WALESA BOULEVARD’. Big parts of N. Interstate has been built by hard working immigrants from Central Europe, with a majority of immigrants from Poland. There are two historical Polish buildings on N Interstate (Polish Library Building, 3832 N. Interstate, and St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church, 3916 N. Interstate). Why don’t we honor the Polish hard working immigrants with name “Lech Walesa Boulevard”, after the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose heroism helped many people leave Soviet Communism and come to Portland, and helped end the Cold War for Americans and the world.”

Or this: “It sounds like a good idea but who is this really benefiting, the white people in portland so they can proudly show it off to their other white states and say ‘look how diverse we are now! HA!'”

When you rename a road, as opposed to a park or building or monument, especially one that (like Interstate) has a lot of people or businesses on it, you’re asking a lot of people and businesses to make a real sacrifice in the renaming process. A lot of what people go through when they move has to be endured when their road name changes. If the change is going to be made, it had better have a sufficiently clear-cut case that the sacrifice can be fairly asked.

In this case, it turns out, there’s also a little more sacrifice than that.

Bill Mildenberger Jr., owner of the Nite Hawk Cafe & Lounge on Interstate, had a thoughtful piece in the Oregonian today about the history of Interstate, and its meaning for the city. Mildenberger has nothing against Chavez, and would be happy to see something in the city named for him. But Interstate Boulevard, he writes, has a long history in the city, deeply entwined with its development – and the erasure of history is something cities should guard against.

From 1917 to the early 1960s, Interstate Avenue was the only ground-level way to travel between Portland and Vancouver. It was a bustling, energetic arterial with a wide range of businesses that thrived as Americans discovered the automobile.

In the early 1960s, Interstate 5 was built, which, of course, bypassed Interstate Avenue, and the once-thriving community along the street died a slow death. Traffic was diverted. Customers went elsewhere. Businesses closed. Interstate Avenue and its surrounding community went downhill for several years — actually, several decades.

Fast-forward to 2007. North Portland, a neighborhood once associated with crime and gang activity, is experiencing a rebirth. Longtime homeowners, neighbors, businesses and community centers that were neglected for years now find themselves benefiting from their resilience. The city’s investment in the Interstate light-rail line, while controversial during its construction, has been a wonderful development for our North Portland neighborhoods.

So why change a good thing now? Renaming Interstate Avenue would mean a significant and historical loss to residents and small businesses, a loss of identity, of name recognition and familiarity that are essential to our brand name. And the change wouldn’t just cost taxpayer dollars for street signs. It would negate the hundreds of millions of dollars invested by the city in the Interstate corridor.

A name change would eliminate a thoroughfare rich in city history. Just ask Jerry Beall. After graduating from both Ockley Green School and Jefferson High School, he built a successful business, Beall Transport, in North Portland. As a child he saw busloads of young American troops heading north on Interstate Avenue to boot camps in Washington. They were on their way to fight in World War II. At the same time, he saw hundreds of workers heading south on the same street. They were on their way to Swan Island to build ships for the war effort. Both groups helped bring victory to our country. Several years later, Beall took a similar bus trip up Interstate Avenue, to report for duty in the Korean War. And Jerry Beall is just one of many Portland citizens and their families who have strong historical ties to Interstate Avenue.

This might be a good candidate for a rethink.

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Oregon

Idaho Senator Larry Craig will be inducted on October 13 into the Idaho Hall of Fame. He apparently is scheduled to attend the ceremony.

The selection, along with others who will be inducted, was made in March, before Craig became so well-known nationally. But there’s certainly less doubt now than there may have been before that the senator is among the most famous of Idahoans.

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Idaho

Washington courts The core sentence in today’s Washington Supreme Court decision in Marilou Rickert v. Washington seems unassailable, and it is: “The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment. Because RCW 42.17.530(1)(a) rests on the validity of this erroneous assumption, it must be struck down.”

Here’s the background:

In 2002, Ms. Rickert challenged incumbent Senator Tim Sheldon in the election for state senator from Washington’s 35th Legislative District. During the campaign, Ms. Rickert sponsored a mailing that included a brochure comparing her positions to those of Senator Sheldon. In part, the brochure stated that Ms. Rickert “[s]upports social services for the most vulnerable of the state’s citizens.” Admin. Record (AR) at 10. By way of comparison, the brochure stated that Senator Sheldon “voted to close a facility for the developmentally challenged in his district.” Id. In response to the latter statement, Senator Sheldon filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), alleging a violation of RCW 42.17.530(1)(a). RCW 42.17.530(1) provides, in relevant part:

It is a violation of this chapter for a person to sponsor with
actual malice:
(a) Political advertising or an electioneering
communication that contains a false statement of material fact
about a candidate for public office. However, this subsection
(1)(a) does not apply to statements made by a candidate or the
candidate’s agent about the candidate himself or herself.

The law put a state agency, the PDC, in the position of deciding which candidates are telling the truth and which aren’t. At best, that might logically be a job for a court; but more logically still, it ought to be a job for informed voters to discern. The strike-down of this law, on conceptual as opposed to technical grounds, is significant.

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Washington

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

We suspected this as an end result, and we weren’t alone; Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance delivered a sound analysis suggesting the same thing. We were wrong to a point, which is that we didn’t think Idaho Senator Larry Craig would say conclusively that he will stay in the Senate until his term ends in January 2009. But now, today, that’s what he’s done.

The prompt for the statement was the decision out of Minnesota on his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea; Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter said Craig’s original plea was made “accurately, voluntarily and intelligently.” In a release from his office, Craig said he was disappointed, did not indicate whether he would appeal (we’re guessing now that he won’t) but added this:

“I will continue to serve Idaho in the United States Senate, and there are several reasons for that. As I continued to work for Idaho over the past three weeks here in the Senate, I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively.

“Over the course of my three terms in the Senate and five terms in the House, I have accumulated seniority and important committee assignments that are valuable to Idaho, not the least of which are my seats on the Appropriations Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. A replacement would be highly unlikely to obtain these posts.

“In addition, I will continue my effort to clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee – something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate.

“When my term has expired, I will retire and not seek reelection. I hope this provides the certainty Idaho needs and deserves.”

Of course, the Senate Republican caucus could always try to take away the committee assignments too. But there’s a real chance (especially since that hasn’t happened yet) they won’t, if only because that would give Democrats some significant leverage against them.

So, this could be interesting. A few preliminary thoughts:

bullet Attempts on Craig’s political life. There’s already an Idaho-based web site up, as noted in an earlier post, calling for Craig’s impeachment. That’s a highly improbable route, constitutionally suspect and almost certain not to happen. The recall route isn’t feasible either (that idea has come up, and failed, in the case of past senators including Frank Church). The only practical way to oust a senator is by expulsion, which takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate. There’s at least some precedent for this, and even in the Northwest, where a dozen years ago Oregon Senator Robert Packwood resigned not far head of a probable expulsion vote. But in this case, what would be the Democrats’ incentive to oust him? We’re betting there’ll be plenty of expulsion talk, and little effective action on that front.

bullet The ’08 race. This could get real interesting, real fast. It would make sense now for Republican candidates to enter the race and do it soon, since as of today we know this will be an open seat in 2008. Presumably, based on his earlier statements, Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch will jump in soon – we’d figure him to do so quickly, as a pre-emptive strike. Who else might run? We’ll return to that.

bullet Butch’s secret. Some news reports have suggested that Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, whose job it would have been to appoint a replacement for Craig, already had made up his mind who he would appoint. Assuming this latest decision sticks and Craig does not resign, does that mean Otter takes that bit of information to his grave?

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Idaho

And we keep wondering how many affronts to our dignity as citizens we’ll continue to put up with in the interest of fake “security” . . . against, for example, the bra-the-could-be-a-weapon.

The Spokane Spokesman Review is reporting on an incident at the Coeur d’Alene federal courthouse, when a wire in a woman’s bra set off a metal detector at the front door. The Bonners Ferry resident said, “When I walked through, the gentleman said, “‘Do you have an underwire bra on?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You have to remove it.’ ”

So she did, then and there, “while her husband tried to shield her from view of others in the crowded lobby by holding up his coat.”

And we can all feel so much safer now.

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Idaho

Measure 37 Yamhill

Measure 37 claims in Yamhill County

We’ll be getting more into Measure 37/Measure 49 before long, but for the moment thought we’d point out a series of maps on the pro-49 group’s website, part of one of which you can see above. (Oregon’s Measure 37, speaking roughly, allows land owners to develop their property under the state of land use law and rules in effect when they or their family bought it.)

There’s a collection of these maps on the Yes on 49 site, showing where and how large (in terms of land size) the claims are. They should come with an asterisk, in that what the land might prospectively be used for could vary a lot, and many claims would never, even if fully exercised, not reshape the landscape in a big way.

Still, the number of claims and their effect – however you look at it – is substantial.

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Oregon

Ben Westlund at the treasurer announcement

Ben Westlund at the treasurer announcement

Overdue, in a way, since candidates for the other partisan Oregon statewides of ’08 – secretary of state and attorney general – already are in the field. Maybe it’s an argument that Ben Westlund‘s decision to run for state treasurer (expected for a while, announced this afternoon), leaving behind the legislature where he’s been for a decade, really wasn’t automatic.

Treasurer, most of the time in most places, is a relatively ministerial job. Most times, most places, if you don’t hear about what your state treasurer is up to, that’s good news; if you do hear, the news is apt to be bad. For some political people of a technical bent, that’s good enough. It would seem not for Westlund, who has been among the most productive legislators (not only in Oregon, but in the Northwest) in recent years, on subjects as disparate as health care, environmental protection, support for the arts and renewable energy. His energies, skills and dispositions would seem to fit more nearly something like governor or member of Congress – not so much because they’re “bigger” offices but because their scope is larger and more varied, and they’re more involved with creative policymaking.

But sometimes, the scope is what you make it.

State treasurers – generally, and taking in the three in the Northwest – are mainly money managers, the people who oversee the control and investment of massive funds, often including state tax money, retirement funds and more. As long as a treasurer’s office doesn’t screw up (and all three in the Northwest seem to have done respectable or better work in recent decades), you tend not to hear much about their work.

Westlund’s announcement speech contained a few nuggets about a more ambitious way to look at the office: “It’s the job of the state Treasurer to see that the bigger picture…the long-term vision doesn’t get lost in the small details of the day. . . . I will work to expand financial literacy that helps people make sound choices and save for a home purchase or retirement. I will enhance Oregon’s brand by advocating for local and sustainable business models to build a more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable economy. I will look at creative ways we can speed up investments to repair our infrastructure. To help Oregon consumers, I will champion legislation that protects people from unscrupulous lending schemes like payday loans and predatory mortgages that put their financial well-being at risk. As State Treasure I will promote investments in renewable energy to reduce our dependency on foreign and create Oregon jobs. As State Treasurer I will manage the Oregon Health Fund, passed by the 2007 Legislature as part of the Healthy Oregon Act, to help businesses and individuals lower health care costs.”

We’ve seen campaign announcements and speeches by treasurer candidates before, but none that suggested a sense of the office with quite this kind of scope.

It will make for a useful point of comparison. Westlund is the first to announce for treasurer, and at the moment the only major prospect on the scene. Republicans surely would not like to simply cede the office to someone who so recently flipped from their ranks; but they may have to move soon. Westlund’s campaign is evidently seriously underway.

ENDORSER There weren’t a lot of political people at the Westlund announcement at Salem, mainly media and a smallish group of supporters. (The web site does include a longish list of endorsements.) One major endorser was there, though: Governor Ted Kulongoski. And the immediate question was, of course, how he could endorse a candidate (and he made clear this was an endorsement, regardless who else might run) who barely a year ago was running to unseat him.

As predictable was the soon-after question of whether Westlund was plotting another run for governor, in 2010, when Kulongoski will have to retire.

The immediate answers were of some note. The governor said (paraphrased here) that Westlund had been a good ally, and that if he didn’t let political bygones be, he’d be wallowing in enemies. And Westlund said he has no plans to run for governor.

Leaving, still, a good deal unsaid. As for the point in past, Westlund – after dropping his own gubernatorial candidacy – endorsed Kulongoski for re-election, at a critical point. And for the future, Westlund, while denying any specific plans, did not lock any doors behind him.

Skillful politicians in action.

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Oregon

What with so many people in the Northwest calling for impeachment of President Bush – albeit that most of them are on the west side of the Cascades – there shouldn’t be a surprise at the new web site calling for impeachment of Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

What they want – not that they’re going to get this either – is expulsion. Impeachment, though rarely undertaken at all, generally applies to officers of the executive and judicial branches. No member of Congress ever has been kicked out via impeachment.

Wikipedia does have some useful history on the subject, though, pointing out that there’s some constitutional question of whether members of Congress are impeachable at all. In the nation’s history one senator, William Blount of Tennessee, has been impeached by the U.S. House. But it was a very long time ago, the circumstances were peculiar, and seem to have set a precedent against impeachment of members of Congress. Here’s the background:

In 1797 his land speculations in western lands led him into serious financial difficulties. That same year, he also apparently concocted a plan to incite the Creek and Cherokee Indians to aid the British in conquering the Spanish territory of West Florida. A letter he wrote alluding to the plan fell into the hands of President John Adams, who turned it over to the Senate on July 3, 1797. Five days later, that body voted 25 to 1 to expel Blount. The United States House of Representatives impeached him, but the Senate dropped the charges in 1799 on the grounds that no further action could be taken beyond his dismissal, which set an important precedent for the future with regard to the limitations on actions which could be taken by Congress against its members and former members.

So, these guys can call for expulsion, if they want. But don’t hold your breath on that happening either.

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Idaho

Proceed at risk any time you presume to extrapolate a final ruling from an oral argument and discussion at the U.S. Supreme Court. But today’s oral argument on Washington’s “top two” primary election law, already posted, is well worth the read – particularly if you’re interested in primary election law either in Washington or in Idaho.

One point that jumped out: The justices remain highly concerned about anything that may force people in a political party to associate themselves with someone they’d rather not. (We’d be very interested to learn if there’s actually any practical way to do this.)

Consider this comment from justice Antonin Scalia: “We don’t know the exact phrasing on the ballot, but we do know that a candidate is allowed to associate himself with a party, but a party is not allowed to disociate itself from the candidate. I am less concerned about the fact that the candidate can’t say I’m the — I’m the no-taxes candidate, than I am about the fact that he can associate himself with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party on the ballot and that party has no opportunity on the ballot to say, we have nothing to do with this person. That it seems to me is a great disadvantage to the parties. . . . And what this system creates is a ballot in which an individual can associate himself with the Republican Party, but on the ballot the Republican Party is unable to dissociate itself from that candidate.”

The parties are showing some signs here of trumping the voters.

A quick side note: Judging from the transcript, Attorney General Rob McKenna appeared to show a great deal of grace under pressure. And there was a good deal of pressure.

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Washington