Archive for August, 2008

Aug 31 2008

Voter registration scam

Published by under Idaho

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.

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Aug 30 2008

Sonics: It’s over

Published by under Washington

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.”

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Aug 29 2008

Haugen’s spot in history

Published by under Oregon

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.

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Aug 29 2008

The Palin pick

Published by under Idaho

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.

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Aug 28 2008

Smith, Rossi and Obama

Published by under Washington

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.

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Aug 28 2008

A&T deal “unconscionable”

Published by under Washington

wa courts

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.”

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Aug 28 2008

Shooting distance

Published by under Idaho

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).”

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Aug 27 2008

Merkley at the convention

Published by under Oregon

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.

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Aug 26 2008

ID: Regional splits

Published by under Idaho

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.

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Aug 25 2008

Top 2 legislative lessons

Published by under Washington

There’s a limit to how closely lessons ought to be drawn from the vote numbers in last week’s Top 2 primary election in Washington. Although not a partisan primary in the usual sense, it probably drew a disproportionately partisan electorate – Democrats and Republicans eager to choose among their own, even if only imperfectly. Still, the thing was wide open to all, and it will stand as the best indicator of public attitudes until November.

Looking to the legislative races, there did seem to be some drawable conclusions. A lot of legislative districts behaved in the primary exactly as you’d expect – heavily R or D districts delivered almost all their votes for their partisans, for example. Extending that: We so few indicators of major shifts in voting patterns away from those established in the last few cycles.

Beyond that, here are some odds and ends we noticed.

bullet District 2 (Pierce, Thurston). Reinforcement here, really, of just how split this district is – and no indication that, unlike some suburban-type districts, this one is moving in the Democratic direction. While Democratic Senator Marilyn Rasmussen held on to 50.7%, the two Republican House members in this district took 55.8% and 61.6% against a total of five Democrats. Rasmussen may have her hands full.

bullet District 5 (rural east King County). One of the few still-Republican slices of King County, the question gets raised: Will it stay Republican? The two House races here, each featuring a Republican incumbent, seem to offer different prospects: Jay Rodne pulled a solid 58.8%, but Glenn Anderson only 50.8% – in a possible danger zone. Continue Reading »

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Aug 24 2008

O: Fewer hands, but revised web

Published by under Oregon

This looks to be an improvement of the Oregonian‘s web site, which has taken a lot of flack over the last few years. But we’ll see for sure once installed.

Pre-launch page says: “Our new home page is wider, less cluttered and loaded with links to all of the great content featured on our site. We’ve chosen type-style that’s easy to read, and bright and bold, without overwhelming the page.”

BTW Note the new, revised, site for the McMinnville News-Register.

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Aug 24 2008

“Stadium sticker shock”

Published by under Oregon

This feels as if it has some significance, the piece in the Oregonian sports section on “Sticker Shock at the Stadium,” about the increasingly high price of college football games.

It quotes a price of $75 to get into the Civil War game (aka, University of Oregon v. Oregon State). And at Oregon: “In 2008, the minimum per seat annual contribution ranges from $50 for the cheap seats to $1,750 for box seats — plus another $1,000, at least, if you’d like to park a car.”

The counter argument probably will be that if ticket prices don’t go up, costs will shift around and bite something else in the system. Which may be. But we suspect some subtle yet real changes will happen too as people get priced out of the game . . .

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Aug 23 2008

Tight indicators

Published by under Washington

One of the most interesting of Washington legislative races remains so, after the primary results and concession – by an incumbent – are in.

That is in Clark County’s 17th District, a close-margin district where the state senator is a Republican and the other representative a Democrat. Representative Jim Dunn, who has been a legislator from the area for a long time (since 1996 save for a term out from 2002-04), ran into trouble last and this year over what were called “boorish” statements to women, serious enough that his party’s leaders took away his committee assignments.

In the top-two primary election, Dunn faced fellow Republican Joseph James and Democrat Tim Probst. Voters in the district, notably the Republican voters, must have taken the leaders’ hint about Dunn, giving him just 18.5% of the vote – a real crush for an incumbent. James got 33.2% and Probst 48.2%; considering that the Republican vote generally should consolidate around James in the fall, this provides an early suggestion of a tight general election.

This is another case, though, where the top-two approach to Washington primaries wound up making no difference. In a Republican primary, James clearly would have defeated Dunn – the margins are too wide to allow for any othr interpretation – and James and Probst would have faced off just the same.

One of the top Washington races to watch a couple of months from now.

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Aug 22 2008

The Gilbert measure

Published by under Oregon

Jim Gilbert

Jim Gilbert

The prospects for the Independent Party of Oregon seemed to take a hit a few months back when its lead candidate, its candidate for the U.S. Senate, John Frohnmayer, dropped out. Or maybe that evolved into an opportunity. The Independents (capital I) still are running some candidates of their own this cycle, and they are growing, now the third largest party in the state. But their more significant role could be in their cross-endrosement of major party, Democratic and Republican, candidates.

They have endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Merkley (Democrat), 1st District House candidate Joel Haugen (Republican), and others. In some close races, and in races where the middle of the electorate is at stake, their participate could matter – how much, we have yet to see. But maybe the most interesting measure could come in state House District 18, where the endorsee – just announced today – is a Democrat named Jim Gilbert.

District 18 is a rural region in eastern Marion and Clackamas counties, historically strongly Republican, and by most evidence remains so: End of July voter registration there ran Republican 13,660, Democratic 11,319. The Republican incumbent, Vic Gilliam, has served almost the whole current term, but was appointed to the seat in December 2006, to replace Mac Sumner, who was ill. In the 2006 general election, Sumner defeated Gilbert, a Mollala nursery owner, with 53.9% of the vote. Not a big percentage considering that Sumner was an incumbent, and had beaten Gilbert in 2004 with 56.9%. Put another way, Gilbert improved his track record from 2004 to 2006.

His race now against Gilliam is not much on the radar screen – doesn’t seem to be making the short lists of races to watch most closely, maybe because of the still-Republican tilt of the district and maybe because he’s run unsuccessfully twice before.

But the district, like many other places in Oregon, is less Republican now than it was in November 2006 (there were then 14,114 Republicans to 10,445 Democrats – a larger gap than this summer). Another indicator of change in the district: In the May primary, Gilbert got 5,494 votes and Gilliam 5,141, a sharp reversal from May 2006 (when Gilbert got 3,070 votes and Sumner 4,056 and two other Republicans 1,085 – or, Democrat 3,070 versus Republicans 5,141). Taken together, this suggests a Gilbert win isn’t entirely out of reason.

And, this time, there’s the Independent Party endorsement of Gilbert, which means more money but also, maybe more important, some cover and other backing to suggest that Gilbert is the centrist candidate, in a district with 281 Independent Party members and 6,358 non-affiliated voters.

If Gilbert does win, this race could put the Independent Party on the radar screen right alongside its endorsed candidate. And candidates.

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Aug 22 2008

Downward (inside) numbers at the O

Published by under Oregon

The lousy newspaper news just keeps a coming: Mass layoffs, of 100 full-timers and some undetermined number of part-timers, at the Portland Oregonian.

Full documentation available at, of course, Willamette Week. And maintains that about half, maybe more, of the full-time departures will be coming out of the newsroom.

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JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
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THE IDAHO POLITICAL
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Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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