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WA Judges Wade into Buildergate Controversy

October 7, 2008

Seattle, WA – The political controversy known as "Buildergate" has ramped up another notch, with two former state Supreme Court justices announcing their intention to sue gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) for violating state campaign finance laws. The group has reportedly raised about $3 million for Rossi. Retired justices Faith Ireland and Robert Utter say something is amiss, in a state where the limit for independent contributions is $2,800. Their attorney is Knoll Lowney.

"The justices feel very strongly that we need to enforce our campaign finance laws. We have some of the best laws in the country, but they're meaningless if special interests and candidates can team up to violate them."

Lowney says Ireland and Utter felt compelled to act because they're concerned about the growing number of special-interest groups setting the tone for political campaigns.

"The most vicious ads on TV are the so-called 'independent' ads, because people don't tie them to the candidate. But if the candidate is helping raise the money for those ads, then they might as well be their ads."

The BIAW already has been rapped by the state for running an illegal fundraising campaign. At issue now is whether Rossi knew about it and encouraged it. The lawsuit seeks to probe those details.

Rossi has said he was not officially a candidate at the time he spoke with BIAW leaders, and the group says the money was used to support local, housing-friendly candidates.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA