We assume the Seattle Times is regretting its decision to endorse Troy Kelley for State Auditor in 2012. In an editorial published on October 14, 2012, the Times editorial board wrote that Kelley is its “disappointing choice between two flawed candidates.” The factor that “tipped the scale” in favor of Kelley was Republican candidate James Watkins aggressive attempts to expose corruption in the now scandal tainted State Auditor’s past. The Seattle Times wrote,
“Watkins created the website factchecktroykelley.com, in which he posts court documents that accuse Kelley of misappropriating funds, evading taxes, laundering money, and even stealing. None of these claims are substantiated…
“Voters should be cautious about the files posted on the website. Legal documents are rife with hyperbole…
“Kelley does not deny his involvement in these past legal issues. He claims they are “nuisance” suits and that his firm got swept up in many lawsuits spurred by the mortgage industry’s troubles… Not lost upon us is the fact they involve Kelley’s personal business, not his public record as a state legislator since 2006.
“Kelley’s refusal to make public the details of a 2011 settlement with a former client, Old Republic Title, is disappointing. More alarming, though, is the lack of fairness and disregard for context displayed in Watkins’ statements toward his opponent. If he’s going to attack Kelley, why not comment on his record as past chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Review or as the vice chair of the House Business & Financial Services committees?”
To answer the Times’ question, the reason why Watkins was correct to demand answers regarding Kelley’s allegedly corrupt private business dealings rather than on his legislative record is that, simply put, it matters. It matters enough for multiple federal agencies to conduct a years-long investigation into Kelley’s private business dealings. And, it matters to the integrity of the Office of State Auditor—an office that demands the public’s trust.
The Times’ editorial praised former Democrat State Auditor Brian Sonntag for his record of integrity. It then stated, “Kelley’s record indicates he is more likely to uphold Sonntag’s evenhanded approach.”
That’s a rather bold statement considering what the Times’ knew of Kelley’s shady record involving his private dealings at the time—a private record that has spilled over into his public record. As State Auditor, Kelley knew of the federal investigation for at least two years and remained silent. He is now lying about his knowledge of the investigation and has refused to appear at a state Senate hearing. As State Auditor, we now know Kelley also created a job for his former business associate and man at the center of the federal investigation at the auditor’s office.
The Times editorial board has changed its tune since its initial endorsement of Kelley. It called Kelley to “come clean or quit.” In the editorial board’s case, hindsight really is 20/20.