Rossi: Sore Loser AND Bilking Taxpayers

It’s clear that Dino Rossi, the failed Gubenatorial candiate in Washington State is a sore loser. During the machine recounts (on which the machines can have a 1.5% error rate) he huffed and puffed and told his Democratic challenger to concede. When she didn’t, and she raised the funds for a hand recount, Rossi got nervous. And with a hand recount — the most accurate type of recount — handing the victory to Democrat Gregiore, Rossi began to show his true colors. Rossi has sued all 39 counties in Washington State, and is costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars and resources that it doesn’t have to defend the election.

Rossi didn’t care about anything but winning when the election was going his way. But after it was proven that he LOST, that’s the only time that he’s called out for investigations, alleged fraud, etc. Rossi is a sore loser, and a giant hypocrit at that.

Concede, Rossi. You’re proving what a horrible leader you would have been.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005 · Last updated 10:56 a.m. PT

Taxpayers foot the bill for Rossi’s election challenge

By REBECCA COOK
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Whoever wins the legal challenge to the governor’s election, the citizens of Washington will pay.

In fact, they’re already paying.

The state expects to spend about $200,000 of taxpayer money on private lawyers defending the Secretary of State’s office.

And every county auditor and prosecutor is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars in staff time to respond to the Republicans’ lawsuit challenging the 129-vote victory of Gov. Christine Gregoire. Some say the lawsuit is bleeding resources from other areas of government.

Republicans, convinced the election was irredeemably tainted, say the challenge is worth the cost.

“We don’t know who won, and we can’t just sweep it under the table because it’s a bother,” said Mary Lane, spokeswoman for Republican Dino Rossi, who lost a hand recount to Gregoire after winning the first two counts. “This is essential for our democracy, that we have a fair and clean election.”

Many citizens agree, and believe a revote is the only fair solution – even if it costs them.

Rossi and the state Republican Party filed their election challenge in Chelan County Superior Court, suing the state and all 39 counties. They allege that hundreds of illegal ballots were counted and they’re asking Judge John E. Bridges to nullify the super-close governor’s election. The state Democratic Party intervened in the case, saying the GOP’s challenge is unconstitutional and their evidence is too weak to justify throwing out election results.

The next hearing is scheduled for Friday. The Democrats and five counties will ask the judge to dismiss the case. In the meantime, many counties are struggling to dig out from the blizzard of lawsuit paperwork. The Republicans’ discovery request includes 48 questions and demands for evidence.

In Island County, a mid-sized county of 75,000, county officials estimate they’ve spent at least 162 hours of staff time – costing taxpayers about $4,600 – responding to the GOP’s discovery demands and preparing for hearings.

That doesn’t count the time it took tech support workers to revive the prosecutor’s e-mail system after it crashed under the weight of all the election challenge filings.

“It’s safe to say that the Rossi lawsuit is consuming a significant chunk of our resources, even though we are, in comparison to other parties, a minor player,” said Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks, who is also prosecuting two new murder cases.

Rossi ran as a fiscal conservative, and his supporters say they hate to see taxpayer dollars going down the drain for a lawsuit. But many say Rossi is doing the right thing.

Lee Benysek of Oak Harbor, a Navy veteran of Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War and “everything in between,” calls himself an independent and believes Gregoire will be a fine governor. But he doesn’t trust the results of the hand recount.

“I’m willing to pay my share,” said Benysek, 59. “I really think they should have another election just because of the baloney they’ve uncovered.”

The Secretary of State’s office expects to spend about $90,000 this month on outside lawyers, said Elections Director Nick Handy. Usually state agencies are represented by the Attorney General’s office when sued. But when the Republicans filed their election challenge in December, Gregoire was still attorney general, and her office had an obvious conflict of interest. So the Secretary of State hired a team of four top-notch Seattle lawyers who collectively bill $1,115 an hour.

By the time Republican Rob McKenna was sworn in as the new attorney general this month, Handy said, those attorneys had built up so much expertise on the election challenge that the secretary of state decided to keep them on the case.

Meanwhile county attorneys, who usually don’t bill by the hour, are squeezing in the election challenge around their other duties. Counties small and large report difficulties with the cost of the election challenge.

Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hamilton spent Thursday morning trying to print out court filings from his e-mail, and had only a ream of paper printed with gray X’s to show for it.

Hamilton and another attorney have spent the past two weeks working almost exclusively on the election challenge.

“It’s a major monkey wrench in the machinery of Pierce County,” Hamilton said. “A lot of the county’s business is not being done because of just trying to manage this.”

County officials are dealing not only with the lawsuit, but with dozens of election-related public records requests from the media, lawmakers and others.

In a county that voted 58 percent for Rossi, Ferry County Prosecuting Attorney James von Sauer said he understands why the Republicans challenged the election.

But von Sauer said it seems the Republicans are trying to paper their opponents to death. In one of the poorest counties in the state, Von Sauer said he will probably spend at least 60 hours – nearly eight full days – responding to the GOP’s discovery demands and preparing for the next hearing.

“Had they sat down and really thought what is necessary, they probably would have tailored this thing down to a manageable level,” von Sauer said.

Republicans say they are trying to work with the counties to make the election challenge demands more manageable. Some counties have entered agreements with the GOP attorneys allowing them to truncate their discovery.

The election challenge will eventually be decided by the state Supreme Court. Whatever happens, counties don’t have much hope of getting their money back.

Judges can order the losers in a court case to pay the winner’s costs. But because most county prosecutors don’t bill by the hour as private attorneys do, there’s no way to document exactly how much time they spent on the case – especially on such things as rebooting their computer because legal documents crashed their e-mail for the third time.

Pursuing payback in court would take more effort than it’s worth, Pierce County’s Hamilton said.

“There’s not much you can do about it,” he said. “The county is always on the losing end of things.”

Some of the court filings in the election challenge are posted on the Secretary of State’s Web site: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/recount.aspx#ec

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