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Posts published in July 2008

Second readings

Asingle instance of some kind of reading can always be a fluke, an outlier. Get a similar reading the second time, and it starts to look a little more solid. Certainly makes you interested in whatever comes around in reading number three.

In the U.S. Senate race in Oregon, between Republican incumbent Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, we've seen a couple of singular indicators that were interesting, but possibly outliers. Now, today, we have a couple of seconding confirmers.

One is in polling. Most polling this year has given Smith the lead, but on July 16 came a Rasmussen poll putting Merkley up, narrowly, 43%-41%. Interesting, but you have accept a number of caveats: It was the only poll to show such a result, the numbers were well within the margin of error, and so on.

Today, however, comes a Zogby poll putting Merkley ahead 38%-29%. There are some automatic question marks associated with it, notably the presence of Independent John Frohnmayer, recipient of 8%, who dropped out of the race several weeks ago. Against that, however, is news out today that the organization whose banner Frohnmayer represented, the Independent Party, has given Merkley its nomination. So, albeit in some limited ways, the Rasmussen poll finds some support here.

The other is in advertising. A few weeks back Smith ran out a much-touted ad pointing out how he has worked jointly, in the Senate, with Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate. There being no advertising touting his close relationship with Obama's Republican counterpart John McCain, this was widely taken as an effort to distance himself from the national Republican Party, or maybe from Republicans and Republican positions generally. (A bunch of recent votes show Smith breaking from his caucus majority.) But maybe that was just an outlier.

Except that today comes an ad in which Smith talks about his work on helping homeowners deal with the threat of foreclosure - and about his work on that subject with 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. First Obama, now Kerry . . . can Gore be far behind?

Expect to see more interesting advertising in the next few weeks, as Smith's campaign tries to correct what looks like a rough course.

Sali, oil, trees

We're unfamiliar with the basic source (an Idaho blogger named Byron Yankey) but it was related as a first-person account. If it needs to be rebutted, contact here and we'll take note. But this from what Yankey described as a converation with Idaho Representative Bill Sali, if accurate, merits note:

Congressman Sali informed us that a solution to the high price of gasoline was to make petroleum from "all those trees in our forests." Stunned by the comment, I suffered a momentary regret for not taking that high school chemistry class those many years ago. He continued by saying there '"could be up to 40 barrels of oil " in a single tree.

UPDATE (reedited): From Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman, came after the Spokane Spokesman-Review Huckleberries blog also posted the Yankey quote; Hoffman responded a little differently to it but also passed that along here: "I wasn't in the meeting. But I have heard Bill talk about using wood sources for cellulosic ethanol. He has discussed and promoted using Idaho forest products as part of that effort."

FOLLOWUP: The blog Unequivocal Notion points out that Sali made reference to oil/trees in the 2006 campaign. From an October 8, 2006 report in the Spokesman-Review by Betsy Russell (whose track record for accuracy is solid): "Sali said, 'The answer clearly is that we've got to get the value off of the land if we're going to have a sustainable system, and what that means, most people would say that means we've got to engage in logging. I don't think it necessarily stops there.' Sali favors tapping into forest timber for biofuel. 'Forty percent of the mass of every tree in the forest is crude oil,' he said. Going after that, he said, 'could put Idaho in the oil business for the first time'."

OR: Look also at who received

Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith

The implosion of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, now facing seven felony indictments (and increasingly long odds against being sworn into the next Congress) has thrown shrapnel in al manner of directions, including those congressional candidates (mainly incumbents) Stevens supported financially. At least five Republican senators - John Sununu of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Oregon's Gordon Smith - all facing serious election challenges this year, have quickly divested themselves of Stevens-derived money.

More interesting, though, are the contributions from senators to Stevens. Here, the site PolitickerOr.com has found something interesting: A $10,000 contribution (in two equal parts) to Stevens from the political action committee, Impact America, associated with Smith. More of interest: The donation came just three weeks after Stevens publicly acknowledged (in the Washington Post no less) that the FBI was investigating him, for just the sort of activities for which he was later indicted.

Sort of throws into question how appalled Smith is at the Stevens indictments, when his PAC delivered a big donation to him just after his legal issue went irrefutably public.

The whole Stevens issue aside, a scan through the Impact America paperwork and filings is worth a look too, throwing as it does some light on some otherwise obscure corners.

There is, for example, a long list of Impact America donation recipients; Stevens is just one among many. Most of the recent Republican members of the Senate have been recipients, and so has President George W. Bush, July 2003 for the 2004 campaign, in case anyone was looking for a formal, official expression of personal support. There's also a $5,000 contribution to Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. And $10,000 (in March 2007) to John McCain's presidential campaign. There's $105,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and $20,000 to the Oregon Republican Party. Impact contributed to Republicans across all ohilosophical lines, from former member Lincoln Chaffee to former member Rick Santorum.

Its 188 contributors make a fascinating list too. It is a very national list, dominated by D.C.-area names (with a number from New York and Los Angeles), and relatively few from Oregon (there are 30, but a lot of them are family relations, so the real number is less than you might think; there are five Pamplin family listings, for example, each contributing $5,000).

A look at the Impact America filings gives some idea of just how wired into national politics Gordon Smith is. And there's at least one more way to look at it.

Smith's name doesn't appear on the main filing documents; its treasurer, and the most visible name, is Lisa Lisker. She is a partner in Huckaby Davis Lisker, a Virginia firm which specializes in accounting for political organizations, basically Republican. It has done extensive work for the national Republican Party, even contracting for large work with the party's national conventions. Fellow partner Keith Davis has been treasurer for McCain's presidential campaign, and for former Republican Senate candidate Katherine Harris, among many others. Lisker has been custodian of records for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's House campaign committee, and worked with a number of other PACs as well, including Purdue Pharma Inc PAC.

The ties and connections run almost astoundingly deep. Punch another link, and a whole new world opens up.

Money widgets

Check out this neat little device, made available by way of Maplight.org - updated stats on campaign fundraising by candidates for Congress. (Sorry, Washington's governor's race would be good to add in, but isn't included.)

Here's a quick rundown, with the area's two Senate contests and three major House races included. We may try for a permanent posting if we can figure out how to fit them into our space limitations . . .

Your local SoDo

There is a SoDo (as in South of Downtown) district in Seattle - south of where the Kingdome used to be. (Part of the theory was that the acronym referred to South of the Dome, but that never really seemed right, even when the dome was there.) But by the time the name was used there, it was also used in lots of other places, including some not especially noted for their downtown areas (Orlando, Florida, say). And places much noted for them, such as the most famous of all in New York City.

A few years ago, a substantial commercial development was launched in Boise, also called SoDo (and also, properly, just south of downtown). [UPDATE: A commenter correctly notes that the Boise area is usually known as BoDo, but the other nickname has cropped up occasionally as well.)

Point being, there are SoDos all over the place. So why is the near-downtown area in Spokane, working to build a unique identity, fastening on SoDo to identify itself?

Bagism

You have to wonder if the bags will become a kind of tipping point, one way or the other: Either they tip people in the direction of reuse and recycling, or they tip a revolt.

Its just that this new plan, adopted today in Seattle, of requiring a fee (small, at 20 cents a bag, but still) for each bag obtained at a store, really is a daily-invasive kind of thing. It's inescapably in your face, in a way most recycling-type activities aren't. Attitudes could harden on this one.

It feels like a big thing, too, in whatever direction. Seattle is just part of the wave. San Francisco adopted it a while back, and if statements in the last few days from Portland Mayor-elect Sam Adams are any indicator, the Rose City will be on board before long. Nor is that all. Really notable was a sidebar story in the Oregonian indicating that a bunch of mayors and council members in the suburbs ringing Portland also are interested in launching these fees.

We don't yet know how shoppers are going to react. But we should know before long.

Rossi: The missing years

Here is the Dino Rossi profile story that probably a good many people have been waiting for, for some time: What has he done over the last three and a half years, since he narrowly lost the 2004 governor's race?

Today's Seattle Times piece has no explosive revelations. His activities with the Forward Washington Foundation (which, in an interesting update, seems now to be nearly defunct - more evidence that it really was just a shell for the campaign?) were mostly reported months ago. And his professional, real estate, activities are generally of a piece with his pre-2004 business activities, though in one or two cases on a significantly larger scale.

Mostly, the review is useful as a piece, giving some sense of what occupied Rossi's attention in lieu of the governorship. Recommended.

Pam Roach in China

Pam Roach

Pam Roach

If you're a Washingtonian, your top means of following the Olympics in Beijing is here: State Senator Pam Roach is about to start blogging from China.

No doubt she (and family; fellow legislator and son Dan Roach will also be there) will be simply taking in events, but she's also there on an official mission:

"Representing Gov. Gregoire, on August 7th I will present the leaders of Sichuan Province, our sister state, with the promise of a new, privately-funded school building. Chengdu was largely spared, but the very poor rural area was hard hit. Hundreds of schools will be rebuilt."

If you've followed the senator's many adventures in and around Olympia, you'll know: Must-read for the days ahead.

Independence and external influence

In most places around this country, the political facts as they now line up in Idaho's 1st district would mean highly probable catastrophe for Republican incumbent Bill Sali. Here we have a Republican incumbent massively behind in the campaign finance race, rarely a positive sign. (By one analysis, only three House races in the country put an incumbent at a greater financial disadvantage.) The Democratic nominee, Walt Minnick, has been running an energetic and (from all we've seen) a capable and visible campaign, on top of that ace fundraising. Sali recently has delivered himself of sundry quotes and votes (timber funds and Madicare among others) that offer great material for the opposition. And this is, again, about as strong a year for Democrats as this nation has seen in a generation.

As matters sit, though, we still think Sali has the odds. The reasons have to do not with the candidates or the campaigns, but with the voters.

You can get some of this from a post by Dennis Mansfield, himself (in 2000) a former candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1st district. Writing in part about the announcement of a planned $350,000 ad buy in support of Minnick by national Democrats, Mansfield had some thoughts: (more…)

Where the line is crossed

The Building Industry Association of Washington has no obvious counterpart as a political action organization in Oregon or Idaho. There are, of course, plenty of politically active organizations in those states on left and right, and plenty of others in Washington too, but the organization's size, willingness to throw in serious money and act directly - not through regulated political action committees - make it unique. No other single organization in the region plays such a large, direct role in major races as the BIAW does. Two years ago, the state Supreme Court races stood out; this year, the governor's race.

Its politics are rough and tumble (you can get some feel for that from the web site), and increasingly the opposition is biting back. A group including two former state Supreme Court justices (Faith Ireland and Robert Utter) are demanding regulatory crackdown, or in lieu of that a lawsuit.

From a summary: "Washington's public disclosure law stipulates that any organization soliciting money for the purpose of achieving of influencing electoral goals must register as a political committee with the Public Disclosure Commission, and records such as contributions and expenditures must be made available to the public. The Building Industry Association of Washington and the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County (MBA) are not registered as political committees, nor have they disclosed the sources of their campaign money. The plaintiffs have obtained evidence (including meeting minutes and internal emails) that the BIAW and its affiliates misappropriated trust funds to build a campaign war chest totaling at least $3.5 million, intended to sway this year's gubernatorial race."

They could of course set up a separate political committee, as lots of other organizations do, to create a kind of wall between the core purpose of the BIAW (advocating for and assisting the building industry in the state) and its political activities; right now, there seems to be no such wall, no such division.

The BIAW's Tom McCabe described the new action as "just one more attack ... to try to shut us up." He might not think so, but from here it looks like an attack that might do just that.