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Originally published October 19, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Page modified October 20, 2012 at 1:34 PM

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Truth Needle: Ferguson's claims about Dunn are mostly right

Bob Ferguson's ads question Reagan Dunn's spending on Australia trade trip, Persian rug for office.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Claim: The Democratic candidate for attorney general, Bob Ferguson, is running a TV ad knocking his fellow Metropolitan King County Council member and Republican opponent, Reagan Dunn. The ad says Dunn "overspent his county office budget, wasted taxpayer money on a Persian rug, and 6,000 taxpayer dollars on a trip to Australia." The ad goes on to say "Dunn doesn't even do the job we pay him for," citing nearly 500 votes Dunn missed.

What We Found: Mostly true.

The ad is highly misleading about Dunn overspending his county office budget. In 2009, he overspent by $803. But in every other year of Dunn's tenure, from 2005 through 2011, he underspent and returned an average of $13,679 to the county's general fund from his office budget. In all, according to staff analysts who work for the entire council, Dunn returned $82,074.

Ferguson returned $84,024 from his office budget to the county over the same period, slightly more than Dunn.

As for the other charges, Dunn did indeed spend $707 in 2006 on a rug for his office. Dunn counters that Ferguson spent $700 in 2007 for a "table skirt" — fabric draped around an ordinary table to make it look more attractive. Ferguson says he bought the table skirt for town-hall meetings with constituents and it shouldn't be compared with office décor.

Regarding the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce-sponsored trip to Australia in 2006, Dunn spent $5,695 in taxpayer funds. He defended the trip by noting that Gov. Chris Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata and John Ladenburg — the Democrat Ferguson endorsed for attorney general in 2008 — all went on the trip. Dunn asks if they were all wrong to go on a trip to promote trade.

Finally, in a Seattle Times analysis earlier this year, we confirmed that Dunn had missed 491 full-council votes between 2005 and the first quarter of 2012, more than any other council member. We later noted, based on second-quarter 2012 records, that Jane Hague eclipsed Dunn for the worst record with 502 missed full-council votes, while Dunn held at 491, or second-worst. Over the same period, Ferguson missed 245 votes, according to our analysis, fourth-best among the nine council members.

Elected officials who take overseas trips, spend $707 on an office rug and miss votes should expect these kinds of criticisms. But we don't believe the ad is flatly or fully true because it is so misleading about Dunn's office-budget spending.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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