Opinion

Gregoire has cost us a bundle already

Ask a savvy politician like Dan Evans, for example, which he’d rather be, a U.S. senator or governor, and he’ll say governor before you get the last “r” out of your mouth.

U.S. senators may be the crown princes of politics, like the many sons and daughters of a billionaire Arabian sheik, but a governor is the sheik when it comes to power.

Which is why the most closely watched race in this year’s elections is for governor, between Democrats Attorney General Christine Gregoire and King County Executive Ron Sims on Sept. 14 and the survivor of that one going against wealthy Republican entrepreneur Dino Rossi Nov. 2.

Gregoire became the acknowledged front runner the moment she declared her candidacy, nanoseconds after Gary Locke bowed out. She has the dough to saturate TV with ads intended to show she’s no stuffed-shirt lawyer, she’s one of us, the first in her family to go to college (shades of Maria Cantwell, whose mother got her elected to the Senate in 2000 with that pitch), the daughter of a short-order cook who became attorney general and, frosting on the cake, negotiated a $206 billion settlement in 1998 between 46 states and the big tobacco companies.

But wait. Is she the answer to our prayers? As they used to ask in those old desert movies of the 1940s and ’50s, “Is your cloth so white?”

It was the tobacco settlement “that bothered me from the start,” said Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, her most persistent critic, frequently in the pages of the BIAW’s monthly newsletter. “She has compiled a hopeless tangle of payoffs, illegalities and incompetence.

“When the tobacco case came along,” he said, “a South Carolina law firm contacted her and said, 'This is going to cost your office legal time and staff resources to fight these companies. Let us do it. We’ll pay you (her office) $150,000 a month. In return, we’ll get the attorney fees in the case. You won’t have to do any work.

She did it. When she ran for re-election in 2000, after the lawsuit had finalized, nearly 50 percent of her campaign funds came from South Carolina, all lawyers or secretaries or legal attorneys. Obviously some partner shook everybody down for money. She gets the credit, they did all the work. They paid her off in campaign contributions.”

In 1995, she was fined $1,250 by the state Public Disclosure Commission for violating finance laws during her 1992 campaign for AG, the most serious example of which was her failure to report how her campaign spent $300,000. She blamed it on a rookie staff.

As head of the Department of Ecology (appointed in 1988 by Booth Gardner), said McCabe, “she went in with 779 employees and a $110 million biennial budget. By the time she left in 1992 to run for AG, DOE had grown to 1,629 employees and a $220 million budget.”

Under her reign there, he said, “she set up the water rights system so it now takes eight to 10 years to get a permit. When state workers struck, after she became AG, it was illegal. Everybody said it was illegal. She did nothing. Remember the lady on the boat who was abused by her husband and kept with his dogs? Chris decided not to prosecute and it was two and a half years before anything was done. We ended up paying an $8.8 million settlement. People forget she claimed in that $17.8 million mistake where she missed the deadline (in a Department of Social and Health Service case) that her office never missed a deadline. First, she made excuses, that she didn’t have enough attorneys. That it was not her fault. Her final claim was that this was her first and only mistake, but 20 months earlier, she missed on filing an appeal that cost the state $500,000. There’s a pattern here. Christine Gregoire? As a governor, she would be a disaster.”

So can Rom Sims take her out of the primary? Not with an income tax on his job application. Dino Rossi, however, is something else. Gregoire’s biggest flaw is delegating work then neglecting oversight. That’s cost us a bundle. Rossi made his bundle because he knows how to mind the store.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at

PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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