The Washington Post on Monday, Dec. 12, published an extensive chart laying out how much money disgraced Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff gave to both Republicans and Democrats, collectively and individually. The Post listed the top 20 congressional recipients of Abramoff largesse, and clocking in at No. 9 is none other than Washington's Democratic senior senator, Patty Murray. Murray, on the lucrative Senate Appropriations Committee, is the second-ranked Democrat on the list, trailing only Rhode Island's Patrick Kennedy of the House Appropriations Committee. Patty bagged a cool $49,480 from Abramoff and his clients between 1999 and 2004. From 1994 to 2001, Abramoff worked in the D.C. lobbying office of Seattle-based law firm Preston Gates Ellis. At least four dozen lawmakers from both parties are documented so far as having taken actions favorable to Abramoff clients around the time they received large donations from Abramoff or his clients. GEOV PARRISH
On Thursday, Dec. 8, Washington State Democratic Party Chair Paul Berendt suddenly announced that he would step down. Berendt, whose 11-year tenure makes him the longest serving Democratic party chair in the country, had a year remaining in his term and has been extremely successful. Washington's political offices are dominated by Democrats—both U.S. senators, six of nine U.S. representatives, five of eight partisan state constitutional officers, including governor, and a majority of both chambers of the Legislature—even though voters here pride themselves on independence. Berendt was an unscripted, gut-instinct operator—very refreshing in a political world that has become more and more dominated by spin doctors. Berendt says he wanted to leave last year but couldn't because the party was in the middle of a contested gubernatorial contest and he didn't think the other candidates for the job were qualified. Former King County Chair Greg Rodriguez vigorously challenged Berendt for the post last year, and he's running again this year. The only other declared candidate is King County Council member Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, who spent 15 years as a community organizer before he was elected to public office. On Jan. 27, the 176-member Democratic State Committee will hold an election to choose Berendt's successor. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.
We were floored when we read a Saturday, Dec. 10, Seattle Post-Intelligencer headline: "Sheriff will weed out bad deputies, Sims says." It was a follow-up to the paper's series on misbehaving deputies in the sheriff's office. Sue Rahr is the elected King County sheriff. Ron Sims is the elected county exec, and he has very little say in the affairs of Rahr's department. So why was Sims recounting for P-I reporter Eric Nalder a November chat he had with Rahr, during which the sheriff said she'd get rid of bad deputies? Sims, a Rahr supporter, says it was because Nalder asked about specific King County Sheriff's Office issues—litigation over allegedly bad deputies, for one—over which he would have shared responsibility. He chose to reply in a general way about what the newly elected sheriff had told him she would do with the department. It wouldn't be possible for Nalder to get such information out of Rahr herself. She has largely stopped talking to the P-I, convinced that it is being unfair to her. PHILIP DAWDY