A year and a half is several eternities in politics, but you may remember the accusations that Republican Dino Rossi was illegally colluding with the Building Industry Association of Washington when he ran for governor in 2008.
Afton Swift, who managed the Rossi campaign, has (for obvious reasons) been following the Public Disclosure Commission’s investigation of the charge – which ended this week with Rossi’s exoneration. Below is Swift’s take (a shortened version will run as a letter in tomorrow’s print edition):
Do you remember when Dino Rossi had his deposition taken during the final days of the 2008 election for Governor? This week the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission dismissed Rossi’s part in the complaint that led to that deposition. The claim was that Dino Rossi had improperly coordinated campaign activity with the Building Industry Association of Washington during the 2008 campaign for Governor. After an exhaustive investigation, the PDC staff found “no evidence” to support the allegation.
What was behind all of this? Politics.
In 2004, Dino Rossi surprised the pundits and was declared governor-elect twice. Then, after King County found new ballots and a hand recount, Christine Gregoire was declared the winner by 129 votes. Polls showed that a majority of voters felt that the election should have gone to Rossi and that Gregoire was an illegitimate governor. The Democrats expected a rematch in 2008. So the Democratic Party operation made a strategic decision to begin attacking Dino Rossi’s character. For four years, the operatives in power used every lever of government and public communications at their disposal to tar Rossi as an unethical, “sleazy” businessman and politician.
You saw it in TV ads and in headlines made by new PDC allegations.
In an unheard-of move, Democratic allies convinced King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas to require Rossi to give a deposition on the case just a few days before the 2008 election. The deposition was a complete farce, but the Democrats accomplished their mission – they sowed enough doubt about Rossi’s integrity in the minds of voters to help Gregoire win reelection.
Finally, last week, the PDC filed a 181-page staff report on the builders’ case clearing Rossi of any wrongdoing. The report states “PDC staff found no evidence that Mr. Rossi was included in any correspondence discussing the BIAW’s campaign plans, or was definitely present during any discussion of such plans.”
All told, the Democrats and their allies filed four major ethics complaints with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), and a host of minor complaints. PDC Commissioners, all of whom were appointed by Gov. Gregoire, ordered exhaustive investigations of all the complaints.
PDC staff spent untold hours and thousands of tax dollars on the investigations and found no evidence of misconduct on Rossi’s part.
Neither political party has a corner on purity. But, when either party abuses the public trust, it should be called out. Here Democrats abused the legal and regulatory process, not once, but several times.
Mark Twain said that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. That’s exactly what happened here. The lie was spread far and wide two years ago, supported by millions of dollars of advertising, while the truth is told only now through a report issued quietly by the PDC in Olympia.