Political Buzz

Talking WA politics.

NOTICE: Political Buzz has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Political Buzz.
Visit the new section.

Tag: Brian Sonntag


Former state auditor Brian Sonntag to be inducted into hall of fame for open government work

Former state auditor Brian Sonntag will be recognized next month for his contributions to state open government.

He’ll be formally inducted into the Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame May 18.

The honor was created by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition in 2003.

Sonntag, who retired this year after serving five terms as state auditor, is the 13th person selected for the award. He is the second consecutive inductee from Washington, and the third elected official chosen.

Washington Coalition for Open Government president Toby

Read more »


State Auditor Brian Sonntag is chairman of Democrats For McKenna

Washington state Auditor Brian Sonntag with Republican candidate for governor Rob McKenna. (Elaine Thompson-AP)

Brian Sonntag is clearly the marque name among a dozen or so Democrats who stood with Republican Rob McKenna to announce they would support his bid to be Washington’s next governor.

Sonntag, himself mentioned as a possible governor candidate in the past, will lead what is being called Democrats for Rob (or D4R).

Here’s what Sonntag said in a statement released this morning: “After years of effective partnership, mutual respect, and friendship, helping Rob in this capacity was an afterthought. I am confident he is the right person for the job. Olympia has been polluted by special interest or partisan meddling. I’ve seen Rob display the kind of leadership that can get past all of that.

“Each Democrat that arrives at the same realization I have may have their own reason to offer or story to tell. I am here to encourage their involvement and lend my support to a friend that has repeatedly demonstrated that patient, thoughtful leadership can consistently triumph over debilitating partisanship.”

Sonntag is retiring after five terms as state auditor. Before that he served two terms each as Pierce County Auditor and Pierce County Clerk.

The other Democrats who appeared at the announcement were Jim Boldt, Thi Huynh, Paul Carkeek, Marie Mentor, Ron Chow, Tim Sheldon, Mark Doumit, Kirke Sievers, Maggie Fimia, Morrie Trautman, Larry Finegold and Judy Yu.

Few are familiar statewide. Sheldon is a longtime legislator, Boldt, a retired lobbyist, served a single term in the Legislature from the Tri-Cities and now publishes the on-line state news site called Washington Wire. Doumit too was a legislator who now runs the Washington Forest Protection Association. Fimia is a former King County councilwoman.

(UPDATE: Jim Boldt offers this clarification: “I served two terms in the state house from the 8th district, not one. And twice elected to the Federal Way school’s board serving five years, and I have not been Publisher of Washingtonstatewire.com since March. Since March I have been business development director, not responsible for content.” Boldit was elected twice but stepped down 16 months into his second term.)

“Dedicated public servants must put their commitment to the public’s best interests above all else, including party labels,” said McKenna. “As Governor, I intend to listen to voices from across the political spectrum, because no one group or party has a monopoly on good ideas.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz was critical of the move without taking on any of the named Democrats.

“”If Rob McKenna ever comes up with a new idea, it will definitely be news,” Pelz said in a statement. “We’ve been through Democrats for Dino and Democrats for Hutchison,” Pelz said. “We’re looking forward to the pattern of this failed stunt continuing with Jay Inslee winning this election and becoming our next governor.”

But the progressive group FUSE was less reluctant to go after the members of the group.

“Today’s announcement is particularly noteworthy given that Sonntag endorsed McKenna for Attorney General in 2008,” the group stated. “Sonntag’s other previous endorsements include Susan Hutchison for King County Executive, Jim Johnson for Supreme Court, and former Republican legislator Toby Nixon for King County Council.”

Here is the announcement from the McKenna Campaign… Read more »


Audit: $10 million in non-required mail costs

The largest state agencies are sending out more mail than required by law, according to a state audit.

The state sent out 66 million pieces of mail in fiscal 2010 at a cost of more than $30 million, according to Auditor Brian Sonntag’s performance audit.

Auditors looked at the biggest agencies and identified $9.9 million worth of high-volume mail that either didn’t legally have to be sent or could have gone out by a different method, presumably electronically.

For example, more than 1 million driver’s license renewal reminders weren’t required, and 400,000 letters to the unemployed contain instructions on

Read more »


Auditor Brian Sonntag to hang it up after 20 years

Tacoma native Brian Sonntag had already decided he wouldn’t run for governor. Today he said he won’t run for re-election as state auditor, either.

The Democrat and former Pierce County auditor and clerk is in his fifth term as state auditor, a watchdog agency that gained new responsibilities during his time in office. Voters agreed in 2005 to have the auditor do performance audits in addition to scouring government books and looking into whistleblower complaints.

He will fill out his term that ends in 2012.

From his e-mail:

In the past week, I made a difficult decision not to

Read more »


Inspections of weatherized homes get scrutiny

The state’s home-weatherization program has seen its work multiply because of federal stimulus money. A performance audit released today by State Auditor Brian Sonntag‘s office found mixed results.

First, a look at the work that has been done with the help of nearly $60 million in Recovery Act funding for Washington:

The projects — meant to reduce energy use in needy families’ homes through new insulation and furnaces, more energy-efficient windows and the like — got off to a slow start in 2009 but ramped up in 2010, with contractors weatherizing more than 8,049 Washington housing units that year. The average in 2005-2008 had been about 3,300.

Local agencies like Pierce County Community Services and the Metropolitan Development Council of Tacoma contract for the improvements, with oversight from the Department of Commerce which hands out the money.

There were 329 housing units weatherized through the Tacoma nonprofit last year, more than triple any of the previous five years. Another 742 homes were weatherized by Pierce County.

The audit found good and bad in Commerce’s monitoring. For example, the state did plenty of inspections checking over the shoulders of the local agencies, auditors found. But state officials didn’t consistently follow up to make sure agencies fixed problems, according to the audit.

After one inspection, which found the state had paid $7,300 for incomplete work on a project, the local agency went back in. But a re-check last September found the corrective work was itself faulty. The roof was leaking where a bathroom fan had been installed, causing a mold problem. Read more »


Auditor Brian Sonntag won’t run for governor

State Auditor Brian Sonntag won’t run for governor in 2012, he said Monday night.

That leaves U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee with the Democratic field to himself for now. He and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna are seeking to move to the governor’s mansion.

Sonntag said he doesn’t plan to endorse a candidate. The Tacoma Democrat wrote in an email: “I wish all candidates the best and offer whatever help this office can provide to whoever is elected.”

Which sounds like he plans to run for a sixth term as auditor — but he added that he hasn’t yet made those plans. A decision on whether to run for re-election will come later.

Here’s his original email:

I truly appreciate all the encouragement from a variety of people and organizations about a possible candidacy for Governor. This support has caused me to give this serious consideration. However, I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2012.
Read more »


Gregoire declines to veto cut to Sonntag’s performance audits

Gov. Chris Gregoire on Wednesday reluctantly signed into law portions of the state budget that strip money from performance audits of state government to pay for other programs.

The way lawmakers wrote the budget, Gregoire couldn’t veto the cut to Auditor Brian Sonntag‘s office without gutting the unit that investigates welfare fraud. I wrote about the complications in a story Tuesday:

She can veto it but can’t move money around within the budget, leaving no way to pay for investigations into fraud in social programs such as welfare and child support.

Not only would a veto eliminate the money

Read more »


Auditor Brian Sonntag asks Gov. Gregoire to veto performance-audit transfer

Performance audits are supposed to save money for state government. But they’re being targeted by budget cuts that aim to — of course — save money for state government.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is considering a budget plan that would transfer $9 million from the audit fund to help find fraud in social services and to help tax collectors recover more money owed to the state.

Lawmakers wanted to bulk up both areas this year and didn’t have much money elsewhere to do it, so they took it from State Auditor Brian Sonntag‘s budget.

Now Sonntag has written a letter

Read more »