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Originally published Monday, March 29, 2010 at 4:30 PM

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Guest columnist

PDC's exoneration of Rossi reveals shady Democratic politics

Neither political party has a corner on purity, writes former Dino Rossi campaign manager Afton Swift. When either party abuses the public trust it should be called out. That was the case when the PDC recently threw out the Democrats' complaint that Rossi improperly coordinated campaign activity with the Building Industry Association of Washington in 2008.

Special to the Times

DO you remember when Dino Rossi had his deposition taken during the final days of the 2008 election for governor? Last week, the Washington state Public Disclosure Commission dismissed Rossi's part in the complaint that led to that deposition. The claim was that Rossi had improperly coordinated campaign activity with the Building Industry Association of Washington during the 2008 campaign for governor. After an exhaustive investigation, the PDC staff found "no evidence" to support the allegation.

What was behind all of this? Politics.

In 2004, Rossi surprised the pundits and was declared governor-elect twice. Then, after King County found new ballots and a hand recount, Chris Gregoire was declared the winner by 129 votes.

A lot of voters felt that the election should have gone to Rossi. The Democrats expected a rematch in 2008. So the Democrats made a strategic decision to begin attacking Rossi's character. For four years, the operatives in power used every lever of government and public communications at their disposal to tar Rossi as an unethical, "sleazy" businessman and politician.

You saw it in TV ads, and in headlines made by new allegations to the PDC.

In an unheard-of move, Democratic allies convinced King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas to require Rossi to give a deposition on the case just a few days before the 2008 election. The deposition was a complete farce, but the Democrats accomplished their mission — they sowed enough doubt about Rossi's integrity in the minds of voters to help Gregoire win re-election.

Finally, last week, the PDC filed a 181-page staff report on the BIAW's case, clearing Rossi of any wrongdoing. The report states "PDC staff found no evidence that Mr. Rossi was included in any correspondence discussing the BIAW's campaign plans, or was definitely present during any discussion of such plans."

All told, the Democrats and their allies filed four major ethics complaints with the PDC, and a host of minor complaints. PDC Commissioners, all of whom were appointed by Gov. Gregoire, ordered exhaustive investigations of all the complaints.

The PDC staff spent untold hours and thousands of tax dollars on the investigations, and found no evidence of misconduct on Rossi's part.

Neither political party has a corner on purity. But, when either party abuses the public trust it should be called out. This was a case of the Democrats abusing the legal and regulatory process, not once, but several times.

Mark Twain said that a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on. That's exactly what happened here. The lie was spread far and wide two years ago supported by millions of dollars of advertising while the truth is told only now through a report issued quietly by the PDC in Olympia.

Afton Swift was the Rossi For Governor campaign manager in 2004 and 2008.

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