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Party Lines 

Raul Labrador seeks the national spotlight; plus, "dirty politics" in the sheriff's race

Out in the Open

The next time a Spokane city councilmember wants to skip hiring a legislative assistant and spend that money elsewhere, he or she will need a public vote and the support of at least four other councilmembers.

The changes come after controversy and ethics complaints over Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori's decision to forego hiring an aide and instead split that money between the city's warming center program for the homeless and other groups, including the Spokane Angel Alliance, an investment group of which he is a board member. Critics also called out Council President Ben Stuckart for approving the spending.

The complaints were not upheld by the city's ethics committee and, even as they supported the changes Monday, Salvatori and Stuckart defended past practices. The council had used routine small contracts, like it uses to buy office supplies, for the payments. Now, such spending must be done in emergency budget ordinances, for which the city charter requires a supermajority.

"Policies were followed before and there was vetting of where these monies were spent, mine included, but this is a much better policy," Salvatori said Monday.


The Labrador Moment

In a single week, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador became a crucial player in two different internal GOP battles: one in Idaho, the other in Washington, D.C.

Following House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary defeat last week, tea-party conservatives struggled to find someone to run for the vacant Majority Leader slot. Finally, Labrador volunteered.

"I know some people made commitments before I entered the race, but the most important commitments we make are to the American people we represent," Labrador wrote in a message seeking support from his colleagues.

Running against current Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Labrador's seen as a long-shot for the Majority Leader election this week, though he's quickly won support of tea-party groups like FreedomWorks and conservative talk radio hosts like Hugh Hewitt.

But instead of wrangling support from members of Congress in Washington D.C., Labrador spent this Saturday in Moscow, Idaho, chairing a disaster of a state GOP convention. Despite Labrador's efforts to bridge the conservative and even-more-conservative wings of the Idaho GOP, the convention disbanded without electing a chairman or even passing a platform.

"This is as low as the party can go," Labrador said.

Nationally, pundits said that the convention's failure didn't help Labrador's chances for Majority Leader.


Playing Politics

The family of a Spokane Valley pastor fatally shot by a Spokane County sheriff's deputy in 2010 has recently filed a campaign complaint with the state's Public Disclosure Commission against Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, alleging a "pattern" of campaign violations. Knezovich disputes any wrongdoing.

Alan Creach, the son of Wayne Scott Creach who was killed in 2010, filed the complaint on June 6 after the Sheriff's Office issued a press release on department letterhead announcing a new endorsement of Knezovich. The complaint also questioned recent Crime Check billboards with Knezovich's name and photo.

"It didn't seem very fair," Creach says. "[The sheriff] has made a pattern of thumbing his nose at the law."

Creach, who is supporting the sheriff's challenger Douglas Orr, says he has been troubled by Knezovich's management of the Sheriff's Office in the years since the 2010 shooting. The family has also contributed money to Orr's campaign. Creach says the PDC has acknowledged receipt of his complaint, but offered no other details.

Knezovich says the PDC has not contacted him regarding the issue. He acknowledges he "should have caught" the endorsement announcement, saying he has put out a memo to prevent future issues. He says he quickly addressed concerns about the Crime Check billboards and they all came down months ago. He calls the complaint "dirty politics."

"There is no pattern here — zero," he says, adding, "A family is trying to make a political issue. ... What's the story in that?"


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