The Democrats filed a convincing complaint with the state this summer alleging that Dino Rossi's "nonpartisan" nonprofit, Forward Washington, was really a partisan front for Rossi's gubernatorial campaign ["What's Rossi Up To?" Josh Feit, July 5].
"Nonpartisan" may not be the only adjective to put in quotes when describing Rossi's nonprofit, though. "Nonprofit" may be a bit of a stretch as well.
In 2005, Rossi set up a for-profit group, registered at his home address, called Forward Books LLC. Forward Books sells Rossi's book, Lessons in Leadership, Business, Politics, and Life. (Given the large-print font and the color-by-numbers insights, I'm also tempted to put "book" in quotes.)
Records show that in 2007 alone Forward Books made $150,000 in revenues off sales of Rossi's book.
But the book is listed at a lowly number 92,461 on Amazon.com (Newt Gingrich's book is currently at 8,000). And a manager at the downtown Bellevue Barnes & Noble says, "It doesn't sell a whole lot." (He says he typically carries one copy.)
So presumably Lessons in Leadership is selling somewhere else. Well, Forward Washington hypes the book at Rossi's speeches, and gives autographed copies away when people make large donations. This indicates that Forward Washington is stocked up on the book. And this means that by promoting the book and giving the book away at Forward Washington events, Rossi's nonprofit is putting profits in Rossi's pockets (or at least a healthy dose of royalties).
It's not clear if Rossi's getting royalties along the lines of those amassed by former Democratic U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, who resigned from Congress in 1989 after he circumvented speaking fee rules by using his speeches to sell his book, for which he received an unusually high royalty of 55 percent.
Because Forward Washington financial reports aren't available, it's impossible to know how many copies of Lessons in Leadership have been sold or given away by the group. While Forward Washington doesn't have to release donor information, they are supposed to release basic budget and programming numbers. Weirdly, those records were not available.
Certainly, Forward Washington is allowed to sell or give away Rossi's book. IRS rules allow nonprofits to sell merchandise.
I did not get a call back from Forward Washington, but I did get this response when I called Forward Books: "You have the wrong number."