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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

State Democratic Party Chair Excommunicates Former "Democratic" State Auditor Brian Sonntag

Posted by on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Congratulations to newly elected Washington State Republican Party chair Susan Hutchison for finally coming out of the closet and openly embracing her partisanship. But whether she can embrace partisanship as bluntly as her Democratic counterpart, Dwight Pelz, I sincerely doubt.

In an email thread making its way through Democratic Party circles, Pelz responds to an email about the Freedom Foundation's anti-union activities, by replying that "Brian Sontagg works for this union busting outfit." Which is true. Sonntag, the former "Democratic" State Auditor, recently took a position as the right-wing Freedom Foundation's "senior fellow for government accountability."

But Sonntag took umbrage at Pelz for questioning his Democratic/labor credentials, defensively responding to the long list of party and union stalwarts:

For 40 years in public service, the last 20 as Washington State Auditor, I've always advocated for open, accountable, and transparent government. That is what I'm continuing to do by working with citizens as well as local elected officials. Making sure government officials are exercising good stewardship over the public's money is essential for government to be able to provide needed services

No one can legitimately question my support of organized labor in this state. To do so is just plain wrong.

Even though I am no longer in public office, I will always be a strong advocate for prevailing wage laws, working men and women and responsible, open government.

A claim that of course opened the door to Pelz's very blunt reply:

Brian, I will legitimately question your support for organized labor.

By joining the staff of the Freedom Foundation you have chosen to attach your name to its Right Wing, Union Busting agenda. In addition to attempting to pass right to work legislation in Washington, the Freedom Foundation has a long track record of attacking unions.

WASHINGTON, DC—Today the United States Supreme Court announced it has overturned the Washington Supreme Court’s ruling in Washington v. Washington Education Association and Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA). The cases are the culmination of a decade’s worth of work by concerned teachers and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF), a Washington state think tank. The Court's ruling could potentially affect millions of union-represented workers nationwide.

"We are elated that the U.S. Supreme Court has honored the First Amendment rights of teachers by overturning the state Supreme Court’s decision," said Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. “The Court understood that the constitutional rights of teachers should be protected and are not superseded by the union’s statutory rights. This ruling will help protect non-member teachers from having their agency fees used on union politics against their will."
Brian, as Chair of Democrats for McKenna you directly challenged Washington’s labor movement by backing a Republican Attorney General with a record of opposing collective bargaining and increases in the minimum wage. McKenna as much as promised to balance the budget on the back of state employees, and was very clear in his intention to continue the Freedom Foundation’s war on the Washington Education Association. You backed McKenna despite his gratuitous and failed lawsuit to deny working families access to a doctor under Obamacare.

Brian, if you are a fan of transparency it is time to acknowledge that you are a moderate Republican now working for a Far Right think tank. As Auditor you worked for Tim Eyman in attacking state and local government. Today you work for Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers – your new job is to bring Washington in line with Wisconsin and Texas and North Carolina as another state that adopts the ALEC agenda.

The lone act of integrity available to you is to simply pay your dues to the Republican Party.

Dwight Pelz

It's moments like this when I really love Pelz. Sure, he can be an asshole. But he's our asshole.

As for Sonntag, I know the editorial boards love him, but I say good riddance! The "D" next to his name on the ballot, and his support for a long list of conservative programs and candidates, had long given Republicans the cover to paste the "bipartisan" label atop their otherwise partisan agenda. No more. Indeed, Sonntag's association with the Freedom Foundation is no less a public admission of his true ideological leanings than the once insistently nonpartisan Hutchison's election to Republican Party chair is a proclamation of hers.


Comments (18) RSS

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MrBaker 1
It's about damn time.
Posted by MrBaker on August 28, 2013 at 12:36 PM · Report this
"The lone act of integrity available to you is to simply pay your dues to the Republican Party. "

That was kind of fun to watch.

Posted by Christi S on August 28, 2013 at 12:44 PM · Report this
All of this may be true but from my viewpoint, Sonntag was a good and capable state auditor. The office was well-run, professional and certainly outed some real issues (especially in Seattle schools).
Posted by westello on August 28, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
Sonntag must think this is some state full of hillbillies like N. Carolina. We're onto you Republican anti-worker assholes.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 28, 2013 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Somebody's feeling his oats. Hard to understand why someone who is (allegedly) not in line with a political party on one issue deserves a fatwa. We decry it when the GOP bullies the Susan Collinses of the world because she commits some act of heresy like voting in favor of the ACA. Yet a lifelong Democrat (who has as good a reputation as they come) gets Mau Mau'd by a political hack and we titter and giggle?

Double standard. And dumb.
Posted by Bagehot on August 28, 2013 at 1:27 PM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 6
I'm glad Pelz called him out. Remember that nasty "guest opinion" by some flack at Sonntag's foundation that Crosscut posted last week? The one trying to make hay about sick leave?

Yeah, Sonntag's jumped the fence, shark, whatever. Good on Dwight. Thanks for posting this, you.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on August 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Goldy 7
@3 I felt that Sonntag abused his performance audits power to turn it into an adversarial and punitive process. I also thought his press releases consistently exaggerated the inefficiencies found and the "savings" that could be realized. He took advantage of the fact that most people—including journalists—didn't really know the difference between a financial audit and performance audit, which are two different beasts entirely.

And what we never got was a performance audits of the performance audits to see whether we realized an savings at all.
Posted by Goldy on August 28, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Piper Scott 8
How many billions of taxpayer dollars did Brian Sonntag save us, including you Goldy, during his tenure as state auditor -- dollars that Dwight Pelz was all for wasting on stupid government shit?

Curious -- will Dwight support reading out of HIS party scummy buggers like Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bob Filner, the brain trust behind the REAL war on women...the Democratic Party's war on women?

Posted by Piper Scott on August 28, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Rujax! 9
Dear "Crack-Piper"...

Please see comment #8, douchebag.

What the fuck, dude? Aren't you in Massachusetts or advising tea-hadi's in MAINE or something?...or did you get fired from there too...
Posted by Rujax! on August 28, 2013 at 2:43 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 10
Sonntag was a horrible auditor. The performance audit sham is the sick love child of Tim Eyman and Frank Blethen, with Sonntag as its demented governess.

The new auditor has actually had to hire an ambassador to convince local governments to participate in performance auditing; many refused to even call Sonntag's office for advice, knowing they would be blasted in public for minor foot faults to satiate Sonntag's endless appetite for publicity.

Sonntag was a blowhard publicity hound who craved being in the limelight. He had no interest whatsoever in improving the audit function. Audits are so late (18 months after fiscal year-end is typical) that local governments are often in violation of federal securities regulations governing financial disclosure.

The entire office should be outsourced to the private sector (as it is in virtually every other state).

Good on Pelz for calling out this anti-government hack.
Posted by kk in seattle on August 28, 2013 at 3:05 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain's comment above (Comment 4) shows in fact he is accurately named!
Posted by Huskybob on August 28, 2013 at 3:15 PM · Report this
Based on his comment (#4), Pope Peabrain is certainly accurately named. Sonntag is a moderate and obviously few people on this blog are. Moderates are a group we need more of so our legislature can accomplish something, in spite of the void at the top now sitting in the Governor's chair!
Posted by Huskybob on August 28, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
You do know that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the WEA had violated the law and the civil rights of its members?

Just to reinforce how serious that is remember, that's every justice from Ginsberg to Scalia and the seven in between.

When a group violates the civil rights of its members its appropriate to stop them.
Posted by Civil Libertarian on August 28, 2013 at 3:42 PM · Report this
Democrats do not like government accountability and hated that he actually expected government contracts to not be corrupt...
Posted by socialismSux on August 28, 2013 at 3:58 PM · Report this
Goldy 15
@8 Okay, how many billions did Sonntag save us? I've no idea whether he saved us a penny. Or cost of millions conducting ineffective adversarial performance audits. Just because he'd issue a press release saying an agency would save X amount of dollars if they followed the recommendations in the performance audit, doesn't the agency ever would or did. The least accountable function of state government were the performance audits themselves.

He took a great idea and turned it into a political cudgel that worked against the very mission of performance audits.
Posted by Goldy on August 28, 2013 at 8:07 PM · Report this
Wait... Pelz's big example of an anti-union agenda was a First Amendment case in which the Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY decided the unions were acting improperly? Does this suddenly mean that Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter, and Stevens are suddenly supposed to be anti-union shills?
Posted by Dead Justice Jackson on August 29, 2013 at 11:07 AM · Report this
Why does Dwight Pelz dress up like this?…
Posted by stopthecraziness on August 31, 2013 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Sonntag knows where all the political skeletons have been buried during the last 20 years. Now he's joined an organization that makes a mission of unearthing political skeletons.

Pelz chairs the state Democratic party that has been in power for 20+ years. That's 20+ years of political skeletons.

Given Pelz's extreme reaction over the doings of a RETIRED politician, those must be some juuuuuuicy skeletons. (I smell a movie!)

Pelz is right. Retired or not, Sonntag knows too much, and he must be discredited before he unveils the skeletons.

I love the smell of Washington state politics in the morning.
Posted by oink on September 4, 2013 at 10:22 PM · Report this

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