May, 3rd 2010

The DSCC's dodgy oppo drop on Dino

– Liz Mair

It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote about the Washington Senate race and the presumed forthcoming matchup between Sen. Patty Murray and Dino Rossi.  But suffice to say, that doesn't mean that there's been no action out there in the political world designed to impact the race.  Quite the opposite, in fact: As the AP notes, last week, Democrats put out a major hit on Rossi. However, what the AP fails to note is the true essence of the hit in question: A major league own-goal, by virtually any rational standards.  It seems that once again, Democrats eager to deter Rossi from entering the race against Murray have dished up some opposition research that does not even remotely pass the smell test, which should earn them a big, fat "F" from any fact-checker willing to objectively assess the quality of their material.  In actual fact, the quality of this hit on Rossi is so bad that if I were a reporter covering this race (and the target of DSCC oppo-shopping), I would put a hold on using any research provided to me by the DSCC indefinitely-- because it's further evidence that their eagerness to pre-emptively take down Rossi is clouding their ability to do pretty basic homework that in my own personal assessment anyone with a year of law school under their belt should be able to manage with ease.

Here's the essence of the hit:

"Dino Rossi's firm has a $20,000 tax problem" (this is per DSCC spokeswoman Deirdre Murphy).

But according to a source intimately familiar with Rossi's business dealings, the DSCC, too, has a big, glaring problem in making that allegation.  Specifically, the $20,000 tax problem that the DSCC says "Dino Rossi's firm has" is in fact one belonging to a totally different entity.  Whereas the $20,000 debt is owed by a firm called Coast Equity Partners I, which owns a property in respect of which a tenant that went bust was supposed to pay these taxes, Dino Rossi is a partner in Coast Equity Partners II.  Get it?  They're two different firms.  And the one that Dino is involved with doesn't own the property.  So they aren't responsible for the back taxes.  So Dino Rossi isn't a big tax cheat with ethics problems, like the DSCC wants you to believe. 

The DSCC says "We look forward to hearing [Dino's] explanation on why he does not think the rules apply to him."  Well, this may not be Dino's explanation, but it's mine: The "rules" don't apply to Dino because under our system of law, people aren't responsible for taxes on things they don't own.  I'm not responsible for my neighbor's property taxes; you're not responsible for your best friend's income taxes; the DSCC isn't responsible for DCCC payroll tax contributions (even though those two committees, kind of like Coast Equity Partners I and Coast Equity Partners II, have similar names, do similar things, and probably have a whole slew of advisers in common)... You get the idea.

This is presumably why Tom Hoban of Coast told reporters of the whole tax-owing "scandal" "It definitely is nothing Dino is involved in."  Really: It's not.

Not that facts like these are likely to deter the DSCC or other Murray friends.  In this potential race, we have matched up on the one hand a pretty well-liked businessman with a demonstrated track record of bipartisanship who many in Washington State believe was unfairly cheated out of the governorship in 2004, and on the other, a three-term incumbent, who is the fourth-ranking member of Senate leadership, strapped with a sub-50 percent approval rating and propped up by lawyers and lobbyists--and who has (by one assessment, anyway) succeeded in having a mere five bills signed into law in nearly 18 years.  It is, to be blunt, a bad equation for Murray, and the polls show it

It's little surprise that Murray is scared of Rossi entering the race; it's little surprise that her buddies at the DSCC would be working 24/7 to try to prevent that from occurring.  But the bottom line is this: If Democrats want to keep Patty Murray around, and Dino Rossi out, they'd better start doing better research and checking their facts more carefully.  Reporters (and I've spoken to two who were contacted about this) don't like getting messed about by political hacks shopping dubious opposition research, and right now, the DSCC is carrying two strikes with just over a month to go until the filing deadline.  That's a C-game, at best, and in 2010, it's unlikely to be good enough. [intro]


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