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September 1, 2010 at 11:26 AM

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Democrats attack Rossi's "sleazy" lobbyist ties

Posted by Jim Brunner

When it comes to U.S. Senate candidate Dino Rossi, Democrats aren't content with slamming him as wrong on the issues.

They want people to see Rossi as unethical, with a "sleazy" history of ties to lobbyists.

That's how state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz described Rossi in a conference call with reporters this morning.

State Democrats have spent most of the week sending out nearly identical news releases highlighting what they call a "love story" between Rossi and corporate lobbyists.

They've hit Rossi's old business dealings -- stretching back to when he bought property with two statehouse lobbyists for the Building Industry Association of Washington while serving as a state senator.

Pelz hosted the conference call with reporters this morning to further hammer the message.

Pelz said Rossi "has got a sleazy track record" that voters should keep in mind this year.

If a member of Congress went into business with lobbyists, as Rossi did while a legislator, "we would never hear the end of it," Pelz said. He said Rossi's offense could be worse than the ethics charges currently facing U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York.

Pelz also noted Rossi's fundraisers with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other Wall Street interests, which were followed by Rossi's declaration that he wants to repeal the financial reform bill passed by Congress.

Pelz's attacks come as three-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is finding her own ties to lobbyists under scrutiny.

The Seattle Times reported earlier this year that lobbyists are Murray's biggest donors.

And the website RealClearPolitics noted this week that several of Murray's top staffers over the years have left to become lobbyists, including former chief of staff Rick Desimone.

Asked why Murray's ties with lobbyists are different than Rossi's, Pelz insisted Murray is "beyond reproach" because she has worked to represent Washington state interests.

"Political contributions are part of life in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, but political payola is not," Pelz said.

Asked what he meant by "payola," Pelz referred to Rossi's campaign contributions from Wall Street groups.

When reporters asked how Murray's own campaign contributions from lobbyists are different, Pelz said "she does not allow her donations to affect her voting record."

Expect to see a lot more of this -- likely in campaign ads from Democrats or independent groups -- as the election season hits its traditional hot period following Labor Day.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.