The Seattle Times took 1,500 words in a front-page, above-the-fold story to tell us that Christine Gregoire didn't violate state election laws, but her office really, really did not want the Seattle mayoral election to unhinge the tunnel deal.
E-mails show Christine Gregoire conspired to get the tunnel elected mayor of Seattle.
The story was inspired by a complaint to the Washington State Executive Ethics Board by Elizabeth Campbell, a mayoral candidate in the primary, who claimed that the state broke election rules by using government computers, e-mail services, and employee time to campaign for Mike McGinn's rival Joe Mallahan.Campbell felt that the state's concerted effort to make the tunnel seem like a done deal, including a viaduct snuff film released two weeks before the election, was part of a conspiracy to get Mallahan into the mayor's office.
So the Times submitted a records request that included relevant e-mails. The closest the Times comes to a smoking gun is an e-mail from Ron Judd, one of Gregoire's advisors before the primary.
"The Mayor is in big trouble and I am not sure he can pull it out even if he is in the run off. That brings me to the big issue that will be front and center between now and the election ... our tunnel," he is quoted as saying.
Note, this portion of the e-mail says nothing about protecting Nickels, or even who the state would like to see win the race. The implication is that the state is concerned with protecting the agreement with Seattle, King County and the Port of Seattle to replace the viaduct with a tunnel. Whether or not we should engage in the big dig is certainly debatable, but to the best of my knowledge, the tunnel itself never filed for office.
Even though the tunnel wasn't running for office, Gregoire's office campaigned hard for it.
And it's not like Gregoire's support for Mallahan was a secret--she quite publicly announced it on Oct. 15. Despite casting the story as one raising the possibility that there was illegal, on-the-clock campaigning for Mallahan by the Governor and her staff, all of the e-mails and communications published by the Times relate to that tunnel.
The Times story also fails to note the central irony of this 'scandal': that in pursuing a supposed conspiracy to make the tunnel seem like a "done deal," Gregoire's team actually handed McGinn a victory.
McGinn is quoted in story as saying he was suspicious of the timing when the Seattle city council voted to approve financing for its share of the tunnel plan shortly before the election. Suspicious or not, McGinn took advantage of that move by suddenly declaring himself willing to go along with the tunnel after all. The flip flop is credited in some quarters with winning him the election by attracting the many voters who liked him but couldn't stomach his tunnel opposition.
So the summary of this expose seems to be: The state government worked really hard to protect its plan to build a tunnel during the last election. Oh, and the Times learned that Judd had beers with both candidates.
If politicos and the people they want to see elected tossing a few back together is illegal, Collins Pub, two blocks from the courthouse, is going to go out of business.