You may have read in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this morning that Republican gubernatorial challenger Dino Rossi could escape legal questioning over the Buildergate scandal, in which he allegedly coordinated with the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) to raise funds that were supposed to be independent of his campaign.
But the P-I reporters got it wrong.
The story's early online headline, "BIAW, Rossi won't face suit, AG's office rules," suggested that state Attorney General Rob McKenna's office somehow threw out the lawsuit. The story stated that McKenna "ruled that the King County Superior Court does not have jurisdiction" in the suit, citing a letter issued Thursday by Linda Dalton, a senior assistant state attorney general.
Janelle Guthrie, the communications director for the attorney general, says the letter wasn't, of course, a ruling. The office doesn't make rulings on cases — judges do. Rather, she said, it was a statement of opinion; it's up to a King County Superior Court judge to decide if the case will proceed.
This morning, Guthrie released a statement to clarify the muddled P-I story:
On Oct. 9, Dalton sent a letter to all parties in the case related to procedural details, including:
- Advising them that to the extent claims in the Oct. 6 citizen action letter were already subject to the suit filed by the Attorney General's Office on Sept. 19, under law, they may not be subject to the citizen action suit filed in King County Superior Court;
- Indicating that to the extent there are new claims in their citizen action letter, the law requires notice and opportunity for the state to investigate before a citizen action suit can be filed; and
- Inviting them to contact her if they believe her conclusions were in error.
The lawsuit commenced in King County Superior Court will continue unless and until the judge in that case dismisses it.
Knoll Lowney, the Seattle attorney who filed the original complaints against Rossi and two builder groups, argues Dalton's letter was also a suggestion from the attorney general's office that the lawsuit "is somehow inappropriate."
The letter is "meaningless," Lowney said, "except that it shows how McKenna wants to help Dino Rossi withhold the facts before the election." He added that the case will likely continue next Wednesday or Thursday. Last week, a King County Superior Court judge issued an order approving the plaintiffs' request to begin taking depositions.
The case has big implications for Rossi, who could be deposed next week. While the Republican's campaign has issued statements calling the suit "frivolous" and "political garbage," Democratic strategists hope the court depositions will further implicate Rossi in the scandal and aid in the re-election of Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Later, the P-I changed the online headline and quoted Guthrie's press release.