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Originally published October 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 30, 2008 at 3:10 PM

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Dino Rossi vs. the lawyers

The deposition of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi was a farce.

The deposition of Dino Rossi was a farce. For four hours in Seattle Tuesday, two pro-Democratic lawyers took turns jabbing the Republican candidate for governor with questions mostly irrelevant to the legal matter for which he was required to be there.

The supposed issue was what Rossi had said to certain members of the Master Builders Association in telephone calls in May 2007, five months before he declared himself a candidate. The lawyers might have confined themselves to that and been done in half an hour. Instead, they booked four hours plus an hour for lunch, chewed through all that time to little profit, and called Judge Paris Kallas of the King County Superior Court to ask for more.

Judge Kallas said no. They could forget it. There will be no more depositions of Rossi before the election. It was the right decision. She should have said no to the interrogation in the first place.

There were two real reasons to grill Rossi, both baldly political.

One was to create news stories about the Republican candidate involved in something bad. To be sued, of course, is not proof of badness, and anyway, Rossi hadn't been sued. The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) had been sued. But Rossi had been called to give a deposition in that lawsuit.

The other reason was to waste his time. It is the last week before the election that looks to be very close. Every hour counts.

Rossi was supposed to go to a radio interview, a TV interview and to speak to the Seattle Rotary Club, the largest Rotary Club in the state and the country. The club had previously invited Gov. Christine Gregoire. This was Rossi's turn, and partisan politics made him miss it.

The supposed goal of this lawsuit is to stop the BIAW from making large, independent contributions on behalf of Rossi. One of the lawyers who advanced it, Knoll Lowney, filed a similar suit in 2006 against the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

That candidate, Mike McGavick, had left Safeco Insurance with a multimillion-dollar severance. Lowney sued, asking the court to order McGavick not to spend any of the severance on his campaign. The judge refused to intervene in a political contest in such a gross way, so Lowney lost his lawsuit, but it did get some negative publicity and waste the candidate's time.

None of this is what campaign-finance rules were supposed to do. None of the answers squeezed from Rossi yesterday justifies the judicial interruption of the political process.

Nor is it fair to Rossi, who has made a good effort to follow the rules, and who this page believes would make a fine governor.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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