Sen. Don Benton, the new chairman of the state Republican Party, invited Olympia business lobbyists to lunch at the party's best friend's place this week.
On Tuesday, Benton played host to about 25 lobbyists and PAC directors in a conference room at Services Group of America, the Seattle conglomerate run by Thomas Stewart. Stewart has been the party's biggest donor in years past and was convicted and fined $5 million for violating campaign-finance laws.
"I said, `Lay out your fears. Lay out your concerns. What can the party do for you?' " Benton said yesterday.
He said he hopes to meet with Boeing officials today to make sure there are no bad feelings from last year when former party Chairman Dale Foreman compared business leaders to gangsters for - he alleged - saying they wouldn't give the GOP any money because the party was backing Initiative 695.
Benton told the business lobbyists he has hired a new executive director for the party, Kelly Hinton, aide to state Rep. Marc Boldt, R-Hockinson, Clark County.
Hinton may be the best-known legislative aide in Olympia, and that's not necessarily a good thing. He has been the focus of newspaper stories in Boldt's hometown Vancouver paper, The Columbian.
In 1995, he sent an e-mail to legislative staff members inviting them to a "life-principles seminar" in a state House hearing room. It was to be a "a noncoercive approach to discussing the Pro-Life Movement" by Human Life of Washington.
But both the e-mail and the use of the House hearing room would have been improper. And Boldt, who said he had told Hinton to send the e-mail, canceled the event.
That same year, Hinton was also the author of a letter Boldt sent to constituent Darcy Peters. Peters had written the lawmaker seeking funding for preschool, parenting classes and literacy programs.
"The taxpayers' perspective says this: This is something that Darcy WANTS to have, and not something that she MUST have," the letter written by Hinton said. It also said taxpayers want to know, "a. If your situation was subject to so much financial instability, then why did you have three children?
"b. Why is your husband in a line of work that subjects him to frequent layoffs?
"c. Why, in the face of your husband's ability to parent as a result of his frequent layoffs, are you refusing to work outside the home?"
Hinton said yesterday he intends to keep a low profile at party headquarters. "The situations that led to my name getting in the newspaper were certainly inadvertent on my part," Hinton said. "I'm perfectly content to be a coat holder, is one way to characterize it."
Happy Paul, Sad Paul
Seattle Mayor Paul Schell doesn't like the way he looks - at least not in The Seattle Times.
His gripe came up during a radio interview last week, in which Schell downplayed a Times story describing recently released Washington State Patrol reports criticizing his handling of last year's WTO demonstrations. The photo accompanying the article showed a morose-looking Schell.
"Do you think The Times will ever publish a picture of you actually smiling? Or is this all they've got in the file?" asked KIRO radio host Dave Ross.
"We keep sending them smiling pictures," Schell said, with a hint of exasperation.
Schell's press secretary, Dick Lilly (a former Times reporter), later said that he'd long suspected that the newspaper didn't care much about whether its photos made people look good.
For the record, The Times has a whole mess of Schell images on file. But we wonder if the mayor really wants his smiling mug to accompany a story about cops accusing his office of gumming up their response to the WTO.
Asked and answered
Republican Sen. Slade Gorton is getting tired of reporters asking him which Democrat he would rather run against in November, Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn or former Congresswoman Maria Cantwell, who is tired of always being identified as a high-tech millionaire.
Yesterday in Olympia, an exasperated Gorton gave this answer: "Whichever one loses in the primary."
Inside Politics is written by Times politics and government reporters and compiled by chief political reporter David Postman. His phone number is 360-943-9882. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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