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Originally published Tuesday, March 8, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Editorial

Political sleaze hiding as a survey

Sleazy political tactics are no way to uncover errors in the governor's race. Yet, the Building Industry Association of Washington took...

Sleazy political tactics are no way to uncover errors in the governor's race.

Yet, the Building Industry Association of Washington took the low road and conducted a phony survey in an attempt to trick people into providing their signatures.

The building-industry group, which backs Republican Dino Rossi, sent out a survey to more than 400 people in King County who signed affidavits in support of absentee and provisional ballots in the governor's election.

Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the conservative business group, suspects Democrat volunteers forged signatures that helped put Gov. Christine Gregoire over the top.

He can suspect all he wants. It still won't justify sending out a survey under the false pretense of seeking information about Puget Sound housing trends.

Seattle Times reporter David Postman uncovered the survey and quoted a cover letter introducing it: "Our association is conducting this study to estimate trends in home ownership and demographics relating to home afford-ability in the Puget Sound region."

This was no housing survey. The only participants were those who signed affidavits. It was a sneaky way to collect signatures to be compared with the signatures on the affidavits.

McCabe even offered a $10 check to encourage people to return the survey. Signing the check and survey provided two ways for McCabe to gather signatures.

The business group may have a legitimate interest in learning whether voters fraudulently signed affidavits. But the end does not justify the means.

McCabe is so upset with the election he feels he, with the aid of a forgery expert, should find mismatched signatures and turn them over to federal and local authorities. He effectively makes himself and his assistants arbiters of signature verification.

Not only does he make more than 125 people who returned the checks or surveys feel foolish, he muddies the water for others seeking information about the election.

This is not identity theft, as an irate Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt put it. But let's not mince words. It is political sleaze.

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