In what supporters of Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire called a victory on Friday, King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas refused to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges that Republican challenger Dino Rossi illegally coordinated with the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) to raise campaign funds.
Kallas said she will rule on Monday whether Rossi will have to give a deposition before Election Day. If she does, Rossi could be deposed as early as next Wednesday, Oct. 29. If not, he would not have to give testimony until Nov. 5, the day after the election.
Attorneys for the BIAW and Rossi had wanted the case to be dismissed based on claims that the citizen-brought lawsuit wasn't filed properly, but Kallas denied those motions, saying "the government was provided sufficient notice" to act on the improper coordination allegations. Rossi has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers say he is willing to fully cooperate with the Public Disclosure Commission's investigation of the matter.
Kallas also offered a harsh rebuke of a letter sent from the office of the Attorney General on Oct. 10, which had said the court lacked jurisdiction in the case. "I give no weight to that letter," Kallas said, adding that it was "not appropriate."
The case has far-reaching implications for the outcome of the election. Knoll Lowney, the attorney who brought the suit against the BIAW on behalf of two former state Supreme Court justices, said the suit could prove the builders' group "improperly swayed the outcome of the election" by backing Rossi with more than $6 million in campaign funds, which were supposed to be raised and spent independent of his campaign. That scenario, Lowney said, could potentially force a "re-do" election.
But Lowney also wants to give voters an opportunity to hear Rossi's testimony before Nov. 4, in hopes it will aid in the re-election of Gregoire. "The public has a right to any significant information" about whether Rossi and the BIAW violated campaign finance laws, he said. Lawyers for the BIAW dispute Lowney's argument, saying expediting proceedings creates a risk of making mistakes. BIAW lawyer Harry Korrell said Lowney wants to rush the proceedings to make "fodder for a news release" and feed the media unsubstantiated claims, adding that the allegations are "political theater" and are being used by the plaintiffs as a planned "October surprise" to persuade voters not to vote for Rossi.
Kallas initially ruled that the case would not move forward faster than the normal 30-day time between the filing of a suit and "discovery," which would include taking depositions of witnesses, like Rossi. But after a renewed motion from Lowney, she decided the court will hear more arguments about hurry-up proceedings on Monday, when voters will finally know whether Rossi will give Buildergate testimony before election day.