Falling In Lock Step With Governor's Victimhood Line

PLAYING the race card is as American as apple pie. Recent statements made by Gov. Gary Locke, the nation's first governor of Asian descent in the continental U.S., prove that he can wave the flag of victimhood as patriotically as anyone.

At the annual conference of the Asian American Journalists Association in Boston last month, Locke whined: "(M)ost painful to me, my ethnicity has meant that my campaign has been targeted for special scrutiny because of the fact that many Asian Americans across the country contributed to my campaign and John Huang contributed to my campaign."

"Special scrutiny?" A few post-election stories reported that Huang had made a contribution to Locke's campaign and had organized several fund-raisers on Locke's behalf. The stories contrasted the Democratic National Committee's decision to return millions of dollars in questionable contributions collected by Huang with Locke's decision to keep his much smaller amount of funny money. How dare those ruthless presshounds!

To date, not a single news article has been published on Locke's truly embarrassing out-of-state fund-raising troubles - even though the state Public Disclosure Commission has just completed an extensive investigation of those activities. The PDC is now finalizing a report on the Locke campaign's improper collection, expenditure and tardy disclosure of cash contributions over the state's legal limit made at fund-raisers in New York and Washington,

D.C., last fall.

"In larger cases like these," Susan Harris of the PDC told me, "we will notify the media when the report is available." Contrary to Locke's mewling, you can bet that few journalists are waiting to pounce on the report detailing his out-of-state campaign-finance improprieties. Political bias may help explain the persistent absence of news coverage, but the fact that the story was originally broken on an editorial page may also be aggravating reporters' Locke-jaw.

Still, Locke's evasions and misrepresentations about his campaign's apparent failure to comply with public disclosure laws have become so blatant that news reporters may not be able to ignore them for long. Consider Locke's heretofore unscrutinized statements last month on "Ask the Governor," a call-in show hosted by KCTS-TV's Barry Mitzman.

When asked to respond to a Seattle Times editorial highlighting the improprieties, Locke first explained that his campaign used the improper cash contributions to pay for the expenses of the New York City fund-raiser because "the restaurant would not take a credit card or a check." In fact, the restaurant in question - Harmony Palace - accepts Visa, Mastercard and other major credit cards.

Locke then boasted that "we voluntarily hired an outside auditor - one of the Big Eight accounting firms - and we spent over $10,000 to have a complete audit of our books." In fact, a copy of Arthur Anderson's pricey two-and-a-half-page analysis, which simply probed the campaign's compliance with certain PDC rules, states: "As we have discussed, we were not engaged to, and did not, perform an audit . . ."

When a caller asked the governor why he waited five months to report the questionable contributions to the PDC, Locke retorted: "We have records with the Public Disclosure Commission that show that we went to the Public Disclosure Commission in October. . . . We can prove that. We have the documentation for it and the Public Disclosure Commission asked us and outlined a series of steps we should take to document who the donors were and so forth."

Yes, a Locke staffer called the PDC in October. But neither she nor anyone else from the campaign gave a list of the dubious cash contributions to the PDC until March, 1997. If in fact the PDC explicitly told the campaign to document who the donors were, as Locke asserts, then the campaign's failure to do so in a timely manner is all the more disturbing, since it implies not only subversion of the public's right to know but also utter disregard for the PDC's instructions. As for "documentation" and "records" of the October phone call cited by Locke, there are none filed publicly with the PDC. Nor does any "outline" from the PDC exist, according to PDC executive director Melissa Warheit.

No matter. Locke has avoided responsibility by brandishing the race card. Asian-American officials across the country have already begun parroting Locke's line. "If you are living in America and if you are of Asian ancestry, you are being implicated," said U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia March Fong Eu recently. "Gov. Gary Locke is facing unrelenting and unjustified demands by the Seattle press."

Boo-hoo. The only thing unrelenting about the Seattle press' treatment of Locke is its unjustified failure to report his penchant for playing fast and loose with campaign cash - and with the facts.

Michelle Malkin's column appears Tuesday on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is: malkin1@ix.netcom.com.