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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BREAKING: Dino Rossi was personally involved in the BIAW's illegal activities

A couple weeks ago, we reported that Washington State's Public Disclosure Commission had completed an investigation of the state's most powerful right wing lobby, the Building Industry Association of Washington, finding it guilty of multiple violations of our campaign disclosure laws. The Attorney General's office, acting on the PDC's referral of the complaint, subsequently took the BIAW to court, although the lawsuit will likely and conveniently not be resolved for months.

(Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna is a supporter of the BIAW, and the BIAW is a supporter of his. Reportedly, McKenna told the BIAW back in 2004 that he owed them a big thank you for playing a critical role in helping him get elected).

Today, the law firm representing the complainants in that PDC investigation - Smith & Lowney PLLC - released documents obtained through discovery in an unrelated federal lawsuit that show Republican Dino Rossi was directly involved in the building industry's illegal fundraising activities.

Here is an excerpt from the statement released by Smith & Lowney that explains what we know from the evidence in these documents:
The evidence released today shows that Mr. Rossi was not just a beneficiary of these illegal activities, but was a knowing and active participant. The Attorney General’s lawsuit found that the illegal fundraising campaign involved BIAW senior officers soliciting contributions from 15 local building groups. According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, this fundraising was illegal because BIAW was not registered as a political committee and the proceeds of the fundraising were concealed for over a year. AG Complaint ¶¶ 3.9, 4.3.

The MBA [Master Builders Association] was one of the groups solicited for a donation. On April 30, 2007, BIAW President Daimon Doyle attended the MBA’s Board meeting to solicit a donation to BIAW’s campaign fund, which was considered a “Fund for Rossi,” according to Sam Anderson, the MBA Executive Director. Based upon a formula, MBA was targeted for a donation of over $570,000! The Board decided to table the request until the next meeting three weeks later, expressing concern that most MBA members were democrats and may not appreciate the donation and also about other pressing MBA expenses including building repairs.

When MBA leadership met next on May 21, 2007 at a “Chair Officers Meeting,” the discussion turned to BIAW’s pending request for campaign funds. While discussing the request, all three of the MBA’s top officers reported that they had received calls from Dino Rossi. The one call for which additional detail is provided clearly confirms that Rossi called to support a MBA contribution to the BIAW’s governor’s race war chest. The minutes leave no question that Dino Rossi spoke to this officer about whether and when MBA would give to the BIAW’s governor campaign fund. The officers receiving calls from Rossi were then-MBA President Doug Barnes, First Vice President Joe Schwab, and Second Vice President John Day.

It is clear that Dino Rossi was aware of and participating in the fundraising campaign at issue in the Attorney General’s suit. Rossi knew that a solicitation request was pending before the MBA board during that three week period; he made calls to each of the three top officers during this period; and he talked by phone to at least one of the officers and specifically discussed the pending fundraising solicitation. The officers clearly understood that Rossi was calling about the solicitation, since they reported the calls while discussing the solicitation, and John Day communicated to Rossi the Board’s position on the solicitation.
As the firm says, there are many questions that these documents do not answer. But now that we know Dino Rossi is involved, his campaign can no longer try to wash his hands of this very serious violation of the law.

As mentioned earlier, this evidence was obtained by Smith & Lowney through the formal discovery process in a pending, unrelated federal lawsuit:
The documents being released are not under any protective order and involve violations of law currently being prosecuted by the State Attorney General. As such, we believe their disclosure is appropriate if not ethically required.
Rossi has been unwillingly caught in the middle of this.

He owes the people of Washington State and his opponent, Chris Gregoire, an apology for not disclosing his involvement in this matter. But he owes us more than that. He owes us a full explanation of what happened. The public deserves to know everything. If Dino can't be open about his campaign activities, then we can hardly expect his administration to be transparent either.

We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars here, which is not a small amount of money. Dino and the BIAW were aggressively looking for contributions to put into their massive anti-Gregoire war chest.

As for Rob McKenna, it is clear that his ties to the BIAW create a conflict of interest. McKenna needs to appoint a independent special prosecutor to handle this case so that the public can be confident in our justice system.


Blogger Michael said...

I saw someone post this on some other blog reporting this story. Thought I'd also share.

September 30, 2008 12:34 PM  
Blogger apmedicine said...

How is this different from what the trial attorneys have been doing for the last decade or two?

September 30, 2008 12:48 PM  
Blogger apmedicine said...

An how is this different from the activities of the trial attorneys and their beneficiaries for the past decade or more?

September 30, 2008 12:49 PM  

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