WA Secretary of State

Julie Anderson is eminently qualified for the job–Meet her today in Spokane

One of the prime responsibilities of the Washington State Secretary of State (SOS) is oversight of elections that are administered by county auditors. Events in the State of Georgia and elsewhere in the 2020 election highlight this managerial responsibility. The job demands an administrator with experience. In 2022 we will choose among candidates for Washington State Secretary of State to finish out the last two years of Kim Wyman’s (R) four year term. Ms. Wyman resigned last November (2021) to take a position in the Biden administration. Ordinarily, statewide offices only appear on our ballots in this state in presidential election years. This out-of-sync SOS race should get more than the typical attention—as well it should, considering all the concerns around election security.

Kim Wyman served as Washington State Secretary of State for almost nine years. Regardless of her party designation, she was no partisan political hack—she had more than twenty years appropriate experience before she ran for Secretary of State in 2012 to replace the well-respected Sam Reed (R). She came to the office of Secretary of State after serving from January 2001 to 2012 as the Thurston County Auditor—a position to which she was initially appointed only after serving as the elections manager in the Thurston County Auditor’s office for eight years. In 2012, when Kim Wyman first won her seat as WA Secretary of State, she won against a former Democratic WA State Senator with no experience in elections management. Apparently, some voters look beyond “prefers ____ Party” designations—as well they should.

This year we have a similar choice between experience and politics. Julie Anderson has served for twelve years as Pierce County Auditor. Her resume is replete with a multitude of certifications pertinent to both the Auditor and Secretary of State positions. According to our own highly respected Spokane County Auditor, Vicky Dalton:

Julie has been a statewide leader for the County Auditors. She possesses vision and successfully articulates that vision to others. She then brings people together, drawing out each person’s best attributes to contribute to the success of the project.  

She is truly a remarkable person who is absolutely the best person to be our Washington Secretary of State.  

Ms. Anderson is running against a former Democratic Washington State Senator with scant qualifications for the job. He (Mr. Hobbs) was appointed to serve as Secretary of State by Governor Inslee last November, for reasons known only to the governor and about which we can only speculate. His choice was certainly was not based on experience relevant to serving as Secretary of State, based on this article detailing the candidates and published before the governor made his choice.

This evening in Spokane you have a chance to meet Julie Anderson. I encourage you to drop by The Backyard Public House, 1811 W Broadway Ave, Spokane WA 99201, this afternoon, Wednesday, April 27, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Bill Siems and I, as loosely designated representatives of Spokane Indivisible, visited with Ms. Anderson on Zoom recently. We were both impressed—and we think you will be, too. ‘

(If you live in Walla Walla, she’ll be at Big House Brew Pub, 11 S Palouse St, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m., tomorrow, Thursday, April 28.)

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. SOME BACKGROUND: Washington State candidates officially file for election between May 2 and May 20 of the year of the elections. (That’s in contrast to many states, including Idaho, where the candidates who will appear on the November ballot have already been chosen by primary elections held in May [before many voters are even aware that it’s an election year].) Serious candidates for most offices in Washington State who are gathering money for their campaigns file much earlier than May with the WA State Public Disclosure Commission (pdc.wa.gov). One can get an idea of who is running and how seriously by checking out the fund raising for a particular office as reported on the PDC website. 

WASHINGTON STATE SECRETARY OF STATE PDC FILINGS: If you go to pdc.wa.gov and enter 2022 for the “Election year” and “Secretary of State” for the “Office” you can see who has started raising money for this campaign. As of the current date, although six candidates have filed with the PDC, only two have acquired significant contributions: Julie Anderson (O) with $81,257.92 and Steve Hobbs (D) $208,526.01. Hobbs’ campaign coffers demand explanation. 

Hobbs has been in political office for fifteen years as the State Senator from LD44, during much of which time he has served on or chaired the powerful Transportation Committee. More recently he has served on the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, a committee of particular interest to Governor Inslee. Serving on these committees and running for office every four years as a state senator (and sometimes in between for the post of Lieutenant Governor) Mr. Hobbs accumulated a substantial war chest of campaign contributions from corporate donors. 

Our Washington State campaign finance regulations allow unused campaign funds to be rolled over into another campaign, even for another office (within certain rules). Consequently, a career politician like Mr. Hobbs, after jumping through a few hoops, can start out with substantial campaign coffers that are not necessarily indicative of endorsement for the new office they are seeking. (Twice in the past, 2016 and 2020, has initiated an unsuccessful campaign for Lieutenant Governor based at least in part on accumulated contributions.) 

The moral of this story: Career politicians often have a financial advantage based on prior contributions when they pursue another office —if they follow the rules.

Members’ Representational Allowance

A U.S. Representative’s Dynastic Funding

The following post is a mildly modified version of an article I first sent out April 24, 2018. I have not gone to the trouble of updating to current numbers because I expect there has been little change.

Elected U.S. House members establish an almost dynastic presence in their congressional district (e.g. McMorris Rodgers’ Congressional District 5, eastern Washington). That presence shores up their power and makes challenging them an uphill battle. It is more than name recognition—it is also our taxpayer money they are given to manage for the benefit of their constituents. 

Like other U.S. Representatives, McMorris Rodgers’ personal salary is $174,000. $174,000 might provide a home and support for a husband and three children in Washington, D.C., but that wouldn’t begin to cover the costs of staff, travel, and maintaining district offices in Spokane, Colville, and Walla Walla. The MRA (Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA), covers those expenses. Both the personal salary and the MRA are separate from all that campaign money McMorris Rodgers raises from entities like the National Rifle Association, Omeros Pharmaceuticals, and benefit auctions of AR-15’s(snideness alert). 

The MRA: As explained in a richly referenced article, the Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) is allotted from federal coffers, yours and my tax money. The MRA is a prescribed sum budgeted between 1.2 and 1.4 million per House member (in round figures). The actual amount offered a House member depends on the Congressional District’s distance from Washington, D.C. and the local cost of office space rental. The MRA is to defray the cost of the House member’s “representational duties.” These duties are made up of a personal expenses component; an office expenses component; and a mailing expenses component.

In 2017 McMorris Rodgers’ spent $1,273,844.71 of her MRA. Her actual expenditures are close to the average allowed. As you can see from the tables below, the biggest share of the money, $1,013,209, was paid as staff salaries. Look at the last two tables below, covering the last quarter of 2017. [To figure the annual salary multiply by four (the presented numbers are last quarter of 2017 only)].

Each House Member is allowed to employ up to eighteen full time staffers. I count sixteen staffers with annualized salaries over $30,000, including four with annual salaries between $95,000 and $120,000. (For reference, $30,000 is $15/hour annualized. $11/hour was the minimum wage in WA in 2017, $7.25 in ID.) There are also five “shared employees” on McMorris Rodgers’ roster. I recognize four or five names as employees primarily located in Eastern Washington, and several that are mostly in Washington D.C. (I believe office space in D.C. is not paid for out of the Members Representational Allowance.)

A few observations:

  • $1.3 million annually is quite a large amount of money. Much of it (1/2?) is likely devoted to “constituent services,” i.e. helping Eastern WA people and businesses deal with issues they have with Social Security, the Veterans Administration, and other government programs and services. This is help McMorris Rodgers gets credit for, but it is help every Representative is expected to provide. It’s part of the job.
  • Most of the staff in Eastern WA seems devoted to interfacing with constituents, not discussing legislation. In fact, my experience has been the local staffers are usually less informed regarding legislation than I am. In McMorris Rodgers’ case, policy research and guidance seems to come mostly from the Washington Policy Center locally and the Republican Party apparatus nationally. 
  • Whoever holds this office uses the money to help advance like-minded individuals by offering internships and work opportunities. During McMorris Rodgers years in office she has fostered the careers of several. Toppling an incumbent House member changes the political landscape of the District more broadly than one might appreciate.

None of this $1.3 million is supposed to be spent on political campaigns, including campaigns to acquire leadership positions in the Congress itself. The Members Representational Allowance (MRA) is meant for just what it says, the Member’s duties as a Representative of the District. By law a Representative is not supposed to benefit personally from the Members Representational Allowance, although a Representative may use personal funds to supplement Representational expenses if the expenses exceed the allowance.

Part of the duty of Member of the U.S. House of Representatives includes managing this $1.3 million “representational” budget of taxpayer money for the benefit of the Member’s constituents

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The basic information presented here comes from a series of fascinating articles from Thoughtco.com, in particular an article available here. I highly recommend further reading if you have time.

P.P.S. The details for 2017:

2017 HON. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS OFFICIAL EXPENSES OF MEMBERS. The first column is the Year-to-date, the second column is Quarterly, from the STATEMENT OF DISBURSEMENTS OF THE HOUSE, October 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017, page 1369. You can click on it and scroll around it here.

2017 McMorris Rodgers Staff Costs:

These numbers are just for the last quarter of 2017, so for annual salaries multiply by four. This is publicly available information, the same pdf referenced above, pages 1369 and 1370. Use COMMAND (CMD) + to magnify the table if it is hard to read.

Republicans and the IRS

Slow strangulation of the IRS feeds the Republican narrative

For me two quotes exemplify Republican attitudes toward government: Ronald Reagan’s “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” and Grover Norquist’s, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” 

Both the quotes came to mind as I read the Monday, April 18, Orion Donovan-Smith’s front page article in the Spokesman, “TAXPAYERS CAN EXPECT MORE DELAYED RETURNS, Watchdog warns IRS ‘is in crisis’ with staffing, funding”¹

The article offers some balance on the issue with discussion of the dysfunction of the IRS by noting that 1) Republican have systematically cut funding for the agency and 2) by blocking Biden’s Build Back Better Act, Congress has stonewalled the badly needed funds for modernization and staffing of the IRS (although Smith points at a few “moderate Democrats” rather than the glaring no-to-everything solid voting block of Republicans).

Years of Norquist-inspired Republican underfunding of the IRS feeds a vicious cycle: outdated computer systems and understaffing render the IRS incapable of interacting with taxpayers in a timely and helpful manner, an incapacity that fuels taxpayer outrage with “the system” and fosters exactly the distrust of government that Reagan famously endorsed. 

Meanwhile, as the average taxpayer slogs through tax season angry with the IRS and government in general, the wealthy backers of the Republican political machine smile all the way to the bank. After all, they managed to push through the 2017 “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that massively cut their tax liability. Furthermore, the more cash-strapped and understaffed the IRS remains, the less the IRS is capable of challenging the convoluted tax dodges in which the wealthy can afford to engage. 

Donovan-Smith’s article points up another quirk of the U.S. tax system (the bold is mine): 

While many other countries provide benefits to their citizens through social service agencies, Holtzblatt said, the U.S. government relies on the IRS, through programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit that provides up to $6,700 for low-income families with children. When Congress approved economic stimulus payments as part of pandemic aid packages in 2020 and 2021, it relied on the IRS to distribute those funds. 

Starving the IRS of operating and capital improvement funds thus gums up even the federal government’s attempts to help low income families, fostering additional frustration and distrust among precisely the folks who most need a break.

Underfunding the IRS thus helps fulfill the Republican narrative in multiple ways. It takes the pressure off the so-called “job creators” to pay their share of taxes under the law while underfunding simultaneously reduces the efficient distribution of funds meant to reach those disdained by Republicans as “living on the dole”/”living on welfare”. The resultant dysfunction is then criticized as a failure of government and held up as a reason to further shrink it. It’s a vicious cycle that will only break by shrinking the number of Republicans in public office.

Keep to the high ground,


Note that the headlines of articles appearing in the print version of the Spokesman are often somewhat different than the online version. This particular article appeared online under the headline, “After ‘horrendous’ year for cash-strapped IRS, taxpayers can expect more delayed returns”.

CMR, Insulin, and Drug Prices

Does she really “share a goal”?

According to the Spokesman article from April 1st, “House passes $35-a-month insulin cap as Dems seek wider bill”.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown support across party lines for congressional action to limit drug costs.

Eastern Washington’s U.S. Representative McMorris Rodgers not only voted against the $35-a-month insulin cap, but saw fit to rail against it in a 3 minute floor speech you can watch here. She starts with “We all share the goal of reducing the cost of insulin”. If that’s true, she certainly isn’t demonstrating any appetite for it. The insulin bill, she says, is “price fixing” and a “socialized medicine approach”. This bill, according to her, would “lead to fewer cures” and result in “higher costs someplace else”. 

Let’s stop and consider those vacuous assertions. How will putting a cap on the cost of insulin, “lead to fewer cures” and “higher costs someplace else”? Overall drug costs must, in McMorris Rodgers’ world, be a zero-sum game: if you cap the price of insulin in her system, then the lost insulin revenue resulting from the price cut will simply reappear somewhere else. Evidently, in her world, there is no elasticity in drug company profits, drug companies and their investors in her world must have a fixed or growing profit margin. Moreover, if these private companies don’t enjoy a high profit margin then they’ll quit innovating, quit looking for “cures” (as if drug company excess profits were always spent on the next “cure” rather than advertising, detailing drugs to physicians, and legal efforts to lengthen patent protection on existing medications). McMorris Rodgers’ simplistic, zero-sum world of drug pricing is imaginary economics.

This is the same Congressperson who, with most of the rest of the Republican Party, stone-walled a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. According to their thinking, drugs are priced in a “free market” and giving Medicare the power to negotiate price with drug companies would violate “free market” principles. A free market requires a buyer and a seller each with the freedom to walk away from the negotiation. For an insulin-dependent diabetic walking away from a negotiation about the price of insulin means debility and death. That’s not a free market. Giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices is a form of collective bargaining on behalf of otherwise powerless individual patients. (Consider, of course, that the notion of collective bargaining, a method of giving a lot of small players a voice against the big players in an economy, is anathema in Republican ideology.)

If, according to McMorris Rodgers, she shares the goal of reducing the cost of insulin, what is she doing to achieve that goal? In her floor speech she touts her bill (this year it is dubbed H.R. 19, the “Lower Costs, More Cures Act of 2021”) to rein in “pharmacy benefit managers” (PBMs). To be sure, Pharmacy benefit managers need reining in. But with her nearly eighteen years tenure in the U.S. House what headway has she made? She has put this legislation forward for years, including under a Republican majority Congress and Republican president—with no significant progress. If an eighteen year veteran “shares a goal” we might expect more than words. 

To close on this topic, I offer a letter-to-the-editor written by Bill Siems, a letter published in the Spokesman on April 7:

Cathy McMorris-Rogers loves the phrase “putting more money in your pocket” to explain her passion for legislation she supports, such as the Trump-era tax cuts which mostly benefitted the wealthy (permanently) but did (temporarily) lower rates for us ordinary taxpayers. 

However on March 31 her “money in your pocket” passion was inoperative for a bipartisan bill to cap insulin costs at $35 per month for the millions of Americans who need this lifesaving medication, many of whom have to ration their use because US prices are eight times the average for wealthy nations. 

Not only did CMR not join other Republicans in voting for the measure, but she spoke strongly against it.  Her reasons:  price caps never work, and controlling insulin prices will simply make other things more expensive.  No doubt her diabetic constituents struggling to control their disease will take comfort from that thought. 

Despite CMR the measure passed and went on to do battle in the Senate, where hopefully there will be some Republicans whose opposition to price controls can allow an exception in the case of a life-saving medication. 

Keep to the high ground,

Chief Meidl, SPS, and Restorative Practice

“School resource officers” vs. “campus safety specialists”

City of Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl recently, in a letter to the Superintendent of Spokane Public Schools (SPS) that was soon made public, accused SPS of violating state law. Chief Meidl accused the District of not reporting “assaults and threats” to the Police, reporting that he claims is required by the law as detailed in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). The media details and the background are well covered in Luke Baumgarten’s article, Custody of the Kids. Spokane Public Schools quickly contested the allegations, but Meidl went to the media and then, abruptly, the FBI was called in to investigate. Now neither Meidl or SPS will comment until completion of the FBI investigation. 

When a public figure like a police chief makes such an accusation in a letter and in the media it leaves an impression, warranted or unwarranted, on those exposed to the reporting. “Gee, there must be something bad going on in the public schools.” It is hard not to suspect a political motivation on the part of Chief Meidl—or at least some sort of payback—to explain his public action. 

Spokane Public Radio, using a public records request, obtained and reviewed the thirty reports Chief Meidl reviewed before issuing the letter with his legal interpretation of state law. You can listen to or read the resulting story by Rebecca White here on SPR’s website. It’s entitled “Spokane police chief says Spokane Public Schools is not reporting violence; police reports show more complicated picture”.

For reference, keep in mind that Spokane Public Schools serves nearly 30,000 students, so this Meidl-media-event is based on 30 reports involving a tiny fraction of students. Meidl’s allegation of a violation of a legal requirement to report all of these incidents is, to be generous, subject to legal argument: 

Kim Ambrose, a law professor who specializes in juvenile law at the University of Washington, says some of the police reports Meidl reviewed, such as students threatening to kill their teachers, don’t fall under mandatory reporting. 

In instances where parents called the police, Ambrose says it’s difficult to make a judgment because of the vagueness of state law and the limited information captured in a police report, but the common understanding of mandatory reporting is as a tool to address adults abusing children.

It used to be that “school resource officers” in the Spokane Public Schools had the power to arrest, embroiling a student in the criminal justice system. 

Spokane Public Schools is one of many districts across the country that reviewed and revised its policies in response to racial justice protests and complaints from parents of children with disabilities. 

The district’s current approach bars school staff from arresting students, and focuses on restorative practice. It has garnered praise from some, and criticism from others – including Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl. He alleges the district leadership may be telling staff to not call the police when they are legally required too.

School resource officers have been replaced with campus safety specialists, who cannot arrest students. 

The policy does not tell teachers to not call law enforcement, but it does discourage staff from criminalizing students. It calls law enforcement a “last resort” for serious threats to campus safety.

An example of the difference in approach under the new guidelines is illustrative:

Erin Carden is a member of the local Every Student Counts Alliance group and the mother of an autistic student. She says the newer approach has changed the district for the better.

Carden says her son’s first of many encounters with school resource officers came in second grade. He was handcuffed after he laid down on the ground during story time and wouldn’t follow orders. In his teens, interactions with resource officers became more violent. Carden says once when she went to school to pick her son up for non-compliant behavior, she arrived to find a resource officer restraining him face down on the ground, and he was repeatedly hitting his head on the linoleum floor.

She says the experience was traumatic for them both, and she contacted school leadership and eventually worked with several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

“This isn’t what our kids deserve, and for me those were two really defining moments,” she said.

She says in the last two to three years, the district changed its approach when working with her son. They’ve given him more personal space and time, stopped putting him in isolation rooms, and removed school resource officers.

“He’s a different person,” she said. “I feel like we waited almost 19 years to really get to see glimpses of this, glimpses of his potential because he was so constantly kept under this magnifying glass, or pressure to be something that he was not. If he didn’t fit into that little box that they wanted him to be, the punishment was go to jail.”

Could Chief Meidl have asked to sit down with representatives of Spokane Public Schools and discuss his concerns over the reports he had read? Of course he could have, but no one is suggesting that he did. Instead, he chose to air his allegation to the media in a manner to suggest an adversarial relationship between the police department and the public schools. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation?? One has to wonder if the FBI was called in to further dramatize the supposed gravity of the accusation and foster public distrust. Is Meidl chaffing over the loss of “school resource officers” and, thereby, the police department’s direct route to criminalizing student behavior? Meidl’s media enlistment rather than cooperative effort doesn’t pass a basic smell test.

Keep to the high ground,


CMR on the Age of the Earth

And Why What She Believes is Critical

Is U.S. Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R, CD5, eastern Washington) educationally capable of comprehending global warming (and taking it seriously) or does her use of the words “renewable energy” simply serve as smokescreen to hide full fledged climate science dismissal?

As McMorris Rodgers faces another August primary and November general election it is important to re-examine the core qualifications and understanding (or lack thereof) with which she represents us to the federal government. Today I want to re-visit a telling exchange that occurred four years ago.

Only the first hour of the debate at the Bing in Spokane on Wednesday, September 19th, 2018, was televised. That hour is available to watch here. Another half hour of audience questions followed, questions and answers KHQ did not post. Parts of that half hour I’ve transcribed from recordings made by members of the audience.

Thanks to Bob Gilles (who, sadly, has since passed away) for the following question, which he posed in a very jolly, upbeat fashion I cannot express in print.

Bob Gilles: “What is your take on evolution and science? Do you believe the earth is more like 6000 years old or four and a half billion years old?”

CMR: “I get to go first, huh? [laughter] Well. OK. Ummm. The account that I believe is the one in the Bible that God created the world in seven days. [clapping] …made by His creation… [noise] I’m not here…I can’t say how old the earth is. I believe this is an exciting time for us to be living. I’m proud of the innovation and ingenuity of the American people. I’m proud to be an American. It’s the greatest country [loud clapping]…liberty and human rights and religious tolerance and self-determination. So this is a [murmuring] …and science. And I do believe that we need to…ah…know what the science is, respect the science…I’m battling right now to make sure we use science when it comes to making decisions around the Lower Snake River dams and the Snake River system…[trails off]”

It is a free country. Everyone is entitled to their point of view. The point of view McMorris Rodgers publicly revealed in her answer (a little reluctantly) is consistent with her education. She has never been exposed to the foundations of geology and biology, except, perhaps, to discount the evidence. Her undergraduate degree was taken at the Pensacola Christian College where, among the Articles of Faith, one finds:

We believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days, and that God created all life (Gen. 1). We reject the man-made theory of evolution occurring over millions of years and believe that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.

No instructor at such an institution would dare offer an unbiased presentation of the physical evidence for a planet that is three and a half billion years old. (The evidence is not only fossils in layers of rock but also the physics of the decay of radioactive isotopes, the stuff of basic science.) 

If everything one is taught begins with the unshakable belief the earth is around 6000 years old (a number calculated based on the “begats” in the Book of Genesis) one must intentionally disregard the bases of nearly all modern science, especially modern geology, continental drift, and, importantly, the geological understanding of the history of climate. (If all ice ages and past documented changes in climate all occurred over 6000 years then everything has to have happened fast. In that mindset modern day concerns over the speed at which climate is changing can be glossed over as unremarkable and natural. That is the sobering background underlying McMorris Rodgers’ analysis, “We’ve been through times when the earth warmed and then also we’ve been through times when the Earth…there’s been more ice on…in the world”.)

It is important to recognize adherence to the idea of a 6000 year old earth is not a majority view in America, probably not even among self-described Christians. Much of Christianity, including United Methodism, the tradition in which I was brought up, considers the biblical creation story to be allegorical: “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.”  It is worth noting there have been recent (and un-successful) efforts to change Methodist doctrine to an anti-science view. Christianity is not monolithic, and McMorris Rodgers’ views represent only some of those who call themselves Christian. That realization is at the core of her hesitation to directly answer the question Mr. Gilles posed. 

Look at McMorris Rodgers’ answer again. She performed an almost immediate hard pivot to the only “scientific” refuge she knows, her claim of a scientific basis for preserving the Snake River dams, the same pivot she employs every time climate change comes up as a question.

We need a representative whose understanding of science is not crippled by her upbringing and education. Her mouthing of words like “renewable energy” ought not be mistaken for a clear understanding of the threat we face from global warming. Even less should her utterances be mistaken for willingness to legislatively support conversion to non-carbon sources of energy.

Keep to the high ground,