Hypocrisy of state lands commissioner a concern

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Washington state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark is unquestionably a smart man. Before being elected lands commissioner, Goldmark, among many other things, earned a doctorate in molecular biology and was state Secretary of Agriculture.

Yet, hubris seems to have clouded good judgment, resulting in Goldmark shattering a campaign promise to not accept contributions from the timber industry.

He made matters worse when he justified the breach as acceptable because he says he is above being influenced by money.

Goldmark’s actions are an insult to voters, particularly those who voted for him.

The Seattle Times reported this week that Goldmark accepted about $100,000 in campaign contributions from timber and wood-product companies over the past three years, accounting for 20 percent of the cash he collected in that time period.

Accepting the donations, which are perfectly legal, might have been acceptable if he offered a reasonable explanation for his dramatic 180 on campaign contributions. Goldmark originally vowed to shun such donations when he challenged incumbent Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland in 2008.

Goldmark, a Democrat, attacked Republican Sutherland for a “reprehensible” conflict of interest by accepting money from timber harvesters while allowing them to conduct clear-cuts in landslide-prone areas, according to the Times’ article.

Goldmark said he would restore trust to the office (although in our view Sutherland did not break the public trust while in office).

“I will not accept money from the industries that I’ll be regulating,” the Goldmark said at a public forum in 2008.

Now Goldmark simply says he didn’t keep his pledge to not accept timber industry donations because he’s not swayed by contributions.

Maybe, maybe not.

But at least some voters cast their ballots for him because of his stand on campaign contributions. Voters — his constituents — are owed an explanation.

Goldmark, from our perspective, seems to have dealt with logging and timber issues appropriately. (However, we also saw Sutherland’s approach as appropriate.)

So, at this point, Goldmark’s about face on timber money is hypocritical and arrogant.

Taking the timber contributions for his campaign war chest is a broken promise and has been handled poorly.

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