Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in August 2008

Voter registration scam

Hadn't seen anything about this before. But it should be noted, in part because if it's cropped up in Idaho, it very well could in Oregon and Washington too. Meet the latest phishing scam (alert courtesy of the Idaho Secretary of State's web site):

Fraud Alert: Our office has been alerted that some people have received telephone calls offering to register them to vote over the telephone. The caller requests personal information, including your social security number. Idaho does not allow voter registration by telephone. These are not legitimate phone calls. Do not provide any personal information to these callers.

Sonics: It’s over

At this point it feels almost more like an afterthought than a major development. But it should be noted: former Sonics owner Howard Schultz, who has been battling Clay Bennett over the Sonics basketball team, for months, in court . . . has dropped the lawsuit.

But not without a last shot: "Unfortunately, showing that the Bennett Group lied is not enough to turn back the clock and return the Sonics. As a result, I am withdrawing the lawsuit."

Haugen’s spot in history

Joel Haugen

Joel Haugen

The 1st District congressional candidate Joel Haugen has just done something genuinely unheard of, something apparently without precedent in the United States at least for quite a few decades into the recent past:

He gave up the nomination and ballot line of a major party to take the nomination and ballot line of a minor party. That's just, simply, not done: We can think of no comparable case anywhere at least in a good many years. And Haugen (who comes across as professional, crisp and affable - probably a solid candidate given conventional money and organization) said this morning at his press conference announcing that it'll probably do him more political damage than anything else, which may be right.

But maybe not all that much. Haugen has resigned - is that the right word? - the nomination of the Republican Party, whose leaders have made clear for some time that they're appalled at him, and will run instead under the banner of the Independent Party of Oregon.

He makes clear, though, that he still is a registered Republican. The Republican Party leaders who have blocked him from fair booths and the like have some case, since Haugen has endorsed Democrats in the two top races on the ballot (Barack Obama for president and Jeff Merkley for Senate). But in dismissing him, they have the effect of making themselves look narrow, which sort of makes Haugen's point.

As a side point, there's real question about whether the Republicans, legally or practically, can fill their ballot slot in the 1st district. Odds are it will remain empty - a stunning turnaround in a district that not long ago was thought to be highly contestable.

The Palin pick

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

You can see why, today, Idaho Republican Chair Norm Semanko said (on his new blog) he was of this mood: "Just minutes after hearing the news, I received a call from Dee Sarton with Channel 7 news in Boise. She asked how I was doing and my immediate response was 'ecstatic'. That has been my response all day. I've got an extra hitch in my giddy-up as I head to Minneapolis for the Republican National Convention with my fellow Idaho delegates."

This was on account, of course, of the selection by presumptive (he isn;t quite yet) Republican presidential nominee John McCain of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Idaho reaction was totally logical: Palin is a native of Idaho (of Sandpoint), though she moved away as an infant; and she is a graduate of the University of Idaho, studying journalism. (Your scribe should note that he too is a Vandal - how soon before the media picks up on that college name - and also studied journalism in that same program. Semanko notes that he was attending the UI in the late 80s at the same time Palin was.)

She is the first Idaho native and the first Idaho resident (as opposed to, say, Jimmy Carter, who was briefly assigned to the state in the military) to be nominated for president by a major party. (At least, we're assuming she will be.) She's basically an Alaskan, but it's something of a landmark for the Gem State, too.

Semanko again: "From the national perspective, this is a bold, strategic masterpiece. I'm pretty sure the Obama camp never saw this one coming; certainly not Idaho Democrats." It comes as a surprise, no doubt (not least to a bunch of fellow Republicans). From an Idaho perspective, she will doubtless go over fine - think roughly in terms of a smoother Helen Chenoweth.

From a national perspective, we're a lot more skeptical about how this will play out. Palin's viewpoints generally will please the Republican base, but she's not been in a place (either Willow or Juneau) where her ideas have had to bounce against alternatives, and that way could lie trouble in other parts of the country. Playing politics in small, insular communities is vastly different than it is on the national stage. (A question: How thoroughly was she vetted? We've had occasion to monitor the Alaskan media regularly in the last few months, and got no sense in what we've seen of any serious vetting going on - and how would you keep it a secret in Juneau or Willow?) A whole host of difficulties are easy to imagine, but you can never be sure what ideas will catch fire and which won't.

And so, one way or the other, Idaho and the University of Idaho go to the show.

Smith, Rossi and Obama

Remember all the talk about Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith doing some linkage in one of his ads to Democratic presidential candidate (now nominee) Barack Obama? And none to his own party's nominee (and Smith's good friend) John McCain?

Well, make room for Dino Rossi - the Republican nominee for Washington governor. Check out this spot which cheerfully name-checks Obama, doesn't mention McCain, and happily tries to jump on the change train (in his case, he says, in the western Washington as well as the eastern one).

Can anyone recall this sort of thing happening before? This doesn't just signify being in a tough political spot; this signifies seeing a massive storm coming, and frantically trying to build some shelter against it.

A&T deal “unconscionable”



Washington Supreme Court

Get this from the decision today in Michael McKee v. AT&T Corporation by the Washington Supreme Court: "AT&T's Consumer Services Agreement is substantively unconscionable and therefore unenforceable to the extent that it purports to waive the right to class actions, require confidentiality, shorten the Washington Consumer Protection Act statute of limitations, and limit availability of attorney fees. We emphasize that these provisions have nothing to do with arbitration."

It's too bad more people don't read appellate court decisions, because a lot of telephone ratepayers would really enjoy this one. Here's the court's description of where the case started:

McKee lives near Wenatchee, Washington, and signed up for AT&T
long distance phone service in November 2002. His monthly bills included a Wenatchee city utility tax surcharge, even though he lives outside the
Wenatchee city limits. When he called AT&T to resolve this issue, at first,
the various operators merely tried to sell him a new long distance package.
Finally, he was told that taxes were assessed by zip code. Unfortunately,
McKee's zip code includes people who live both inside and outside the
Wenatchee city limits. McKee contends that AT&T collects the tax from all
of its customers who live within the zip code, whether the customers owe the
tax or not. A late fee of 1.5 percent applies if the customer does not pay all
charges on time. The charges McKee challenges amount to no more than $2
in any given month, less than $20 total in a year. But McKee notes that after
many years and many customers, small amounts add up to very large sums.
After his individual attempts to resolve his billing issues with AT&T
failed, McKee filed this class action lawsuit, alleging violations of
Washington's Consumer Protection Act, chapter 19.86 RCW, and
Washington's usury statute, chapter 19.52 RCW, as well as negligence and
breach of contract. AT&T removed the action to federal district court,
claiming McKee had raised federal law in his complaint. After the complaint
was amended to omit any reference to federal law, the federal court remanded the case back to Chelan County Superior Court.
AT&T then moved to compel arbitration under its Consumer Services
Agreement. At the time McKee agreed to use AT&T as his long distance
provider, he did not sign any agreement with AT&T and was not informed of
any terms and conditions associated with AT&T service. After he began
using AT&T, it sent him mail, which may have included a contract. He had
not retained any of the mail and did not know the terms of his agreement with AT&T. In support of the motion to compel arbitration, AT&T employees
Howard Spierer and April Morlock filed declarations averring that a specific
agreement was sent to McKee in November as part of his "fulfillment
package" and attached a copy of that agreement to their declarations. We
detail the specifics of the declarations because AT&T later repudiated the
declarations it filed and the agreement it sought to enforce.

Yep, sounds like dealing with a phone company. And that, the court says, essentially is "unconscionable."

Shooting distance

The just-out Greg Smith Associates poll on the Idaho Senate race shows a 23.3% undecided in the contest between Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Larry LaRocco. In that lies a quandary: How undecided and how up for grabs are they?

The topline numbers give Risch 40.8% support, LaRocco 29.5% and independent Rex Rammell 3.2%. If those numbers hold, Risch would need just a sizable chunk of the undecideds to win, while LaRocco would need to sweep them. Although the situation isn't quite that simple, either.

The winner may not need an outright majority, for example. Rammell, who has been a virtual unknown until recently among many Idahoans, is getting better known with his TV ads and debate appearance - we'd not be shocked to see his numbers rise substantially. Not polled in detail are other candidates on the ballot, including "Pro-Life" and a Libertarian; all three of these non-majors are apt to draw from the Republican base, meaning from Risch. If a sizable chunk of these candidates pick up from "undecided," LaRocco's chances may be enhanced.

Another interesting bit from the crosstabs, comments by pollster Smith: "Not surprisingly, years having lived in Idaho has a fairly strong correlation with candidate preference. For instance, those having lived in Idaho for about 15 years of less voice roughly equal levels of support between Risch and LaRocco (with perhaps a slight Risch preference), whereas those who have lived in Idaho from about 16 years to as many as 40 years more heavily favor Risch. This years of residence finding, combined with that of respondent age, suggests to us that there are two particular groups of support that show heavy support for Risch: Natives/long-time residents who are either rather young (18-29) or 'Baby Boomers' (50-64)."

Merkley at the convention

Oregon Senate candidate Jeff Merkley hadn't long to speak Wednesday at the National Democratic Convention, but he did get off a quotable line he may continue to use: "My opponent talks like Barack Obama but votes like George Bush." A neat summation of the general argument his campaign is fueled on (though not one that would fit all Senate campaigns around the country).

Merkley was sandwiched between Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tom Allen of Maine, two other Democratic challengers of Republican Senate incumbents - the Democratic challenger segment.

C-SPAN We haven't had a lot to say about the conventions (though we've been watching, and will again next week). But we will say this, emphatically: if you possibly can, watch it (and every other major political event) on C-SPAN, where you can see the whole unadulterated thing and draw your own conclusions without having your own thoughts driven out by the chattering heads that dominate all the other news channels.

You want the straight stuff on TV? C-SPAN. Accept no substitutes.

ID: Regional splits

We tend not to focus heavily in individual poll results; having said that, Idaho is polled lightly enough that you tend to take them when they come.

The presidential poll released today by Greg Smith Associates (no link available) does put Idaho, in the national perspective, more or less where you'd think: Lagging behind only Utah and Wyoming in support for Republican John McCain over Democrat Barack Obama. Idaho (51.% McCain to 29.2% Obama) would likely be one of the last red states to turn blue.

Some of the cross-tabs are a little unexpected, though. That Obama would do better in southwest Idaho (32.3%, where there's a strong base in Boise) than most of the state would be expected. Comparable levels in the Magic Valley are not. And stronger McCain support among women than men seems off the beaten track, too.