ACORN Bitchin’ out Booth. Adam L. Weintraub
Booth Gardner has had a rough time of it lately. A lot of it is not of his own making; the 66-year-old ex-governor now suffers from Parkinson's disease, the degenerative neurological disorder. But other things--such as his decision to represent Household International, the $100 billion mortgage financer currently under investigation in Washington for predatory lending--were his own doing.

That latter choice may be one he has come to regret, especially after an enthusiastic crew of 15-odd angry protesters picketed on the street outside his office on Friday, August 30. Waving placards and silver inflatable sharks labeled "Household," they chanted slogans for the benefit of passing traffic at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Denny Way, slogans such as, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Household loans have got to go!"

The demonstrators belonged to ACORN, a group that claims Household's lending practices target poor and minorities and involve excessive fees and interest rates. They were incensed that Household, which has so far succeeded in suppressing a negative report compiled by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, has hired Gardner to negotiate with the state on its behalf [see "Predatory Politics," Sandeep Kaushik, Aug 29]. Gardner gave Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire, whose office is also investigating the company, her first major statewide job in 1988.

Police allowed three demonstrators up to Gardner's office. Told by staff that Gardner was not on the premises, the protesters left written material for him, including a copy of last week's Stranger article.

In return, they were handed a short written statement, asserting that Gardner is advising Household "on ways to work effectively with state governments and regulators to solve issues related to sub-prime lending," a claim that evoked derisive laughter from the protesters gathered below. A later call from The Stranger to Gardner for comment went unreturned.

Terry Becht, a protester with a Household loan, admitted to having voted for Gardner in the past. He "was shocked" to learn of the former governor's new affiliation with such a company, he said.

The event drew major press coverage, including articles in both dailies.