Take a point away from Dino Rossi on the Govometer, owing to the continuing saga of the building industry's support of Rossi, and possible campaign fundraising violations.
One detail that has not been reported is that the Attorney General's office, which has agreed to prosecute a charge against the Master Builders Association's program for funneling campaign contributions from local building associations, will be able to look back five years for potential violations. A citizens' complaint initiated the investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), which passed on the complaint to the Attorney General's office (AG), led by Republican Rob McKenna, who decided to press the prosecution.
Citizen complaints, owing to a legislative amendment last year, have a statute of limitations of only two years. But the PDC and the AG can look back five years, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton. The progam in question by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and its Member Services Corporation dates back to the mid-1990s. While the Attorney General's lawsuit won't be settled before the election, the case could bring to light earlier violations and increase the potential penalties for a group strongly supportive of Rossi's campaign.
The more politically charged issue pertains to the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), which is charged with a violation of campaign laws in a 2007 solicitation, rather than for having a program extending back in time. Fuse, a progressive advocacy organization, has charged that Rossi "played an important role in an illegal fundraising campaign orchestrated by" BIAW and powerful developers. Fuse is calling the story Buildergate, hoping to enlarge the investigation to include Rossi's alleged role. The Sierra Club, which has been tracking this story, also chimed in, calling for the Attorney General's investigation to include Rossi's purported role. Here's The P-I's story on the charges.
Rossi gave a quick reply: "This is simply more flailing from a desperate campaign and its allies. Last week it was the silly lawsuit over the use of 'GOP,' and this week it is this frivolous allegation — all in an attempt to distract voters from issues like the $3.2 billion deficit the incumbent has created. I can't wait to see what they will accuse us of next week." Rossi contends that his contacts with the builders' groups predated his decision to run for governor.
Keeping the story alive in the media helps Gregoire's campaign to tie Rossi to developers and the greatly unloved BIAW. In turn, environmentalists and wise-growth advocates will grow more alarmed about a Rossi governorship, and the story will help to give more details to Rossi's relatively unknown activities in the past five years. On the other hand, Rossi's support from builders might not seem such a bad idea as we head into a recession, when construction jobs will be needed to prime the economic pump.
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