Longform

Taken to the Cleaners

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Other articles chronicle the Maryatts' social life: Sally chaired a ball committee to benefit a museum; Mary Tyler Moore visited the Maryatts; Sally and her decorator opened an upscale antique shop.

The Maryatts are also politically connected. David is a board member of the Washington Institute, a conservative Washington-state think tank with a regulatory-reformist agenda that claims to have been endorsed by Robert Bork and William F. Buckley Jr. Members of the Washington Institute regularly breakfast with Washington state legislators, promoting conservative policies.

"We want to help Washington's citizens understand and practice the fundamental tenets of a free society: that personal and economic freedom are inseparable; that individuals must be accountable for their actions; and that citizens must respect the lives and property of others," the Institute proclaims on its Internet Web page.

This is exactly the political rhetoric spouted by Russell Bowers--in spite of the fact that his bill puts Charlotte Walton's livelihood and property rights in even more peril.

And it may explain why in 1995 Bowers' campaign chest enjoyed donations of $50 each from Sally and David Maryatt, $100 from David Maryatt's Phoenix attorney James Vieregg and $100 from Ed Ricci, an environmental consultant on Maryatt's payroll. While these sums may seem small, the obvious solidarity is significant.

Bowers' political assent has been swift. The freshman senator was hand-picked by conservative Republican legislative leaders and Governor J. Fife Symington III to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, a position that gives him power to decide how much money each state agency gets. Bureaucrats are loathe to anger Bowers, fearing financial retribution.

Maryatt also has ties to Symington through Vieregg's Phoenix law firm, Quarles and Brady. The firm, which is registered with the state to lobby for Alsco, also employs P. Robert Fannin, a lawyer who leads the Symington '98 Exploratory Committee, which raises funds for any political campaign the indicted governor might wage in the future. (Quarles and Brady attorneys have also donated to campaigns of Tom Patterson, a state senator and '98 gubernatorial hopeful who has also interceded on Alsco's behalf at the Department of Environmental Quality.)

Vieregg himself supported Bowers in his various campaigns and observers say he is something of an environmental guru to the senator. Vieregg has been observed passing notes and prompting Bowers with nods and head shakes during hearings.

Bowers denies that Vieregg is his guru and denies that he has been bought or co-opted by either Vieregg or Maryatt.

He notes that Maryatt, whom he met at a fund-raising event, donated only $100 to his campaign. And the senator says he does not "consider Mr. Vieregg more of a friend than anyone else in the Legislature."

"He has lobbied me heavily on behalf of small businesses and many times I've had to say 'Jim, stay out of the way,'" Bowers says, adding that Vieregg is more of a "litigator" than a "lobbyist."

Vieregg declined an interview for himself and David Maryatt, citing ongoing settlement negotiations with DEQ. He then referred New Times to the public record. In that public record, Alsco repeatedly claims Maroney's was the chief polluter and demands to settle with the state for about $1 million. Alsco also claims the state's case against it is riddled with indefensible science and inaccurate statements from witnesses.

That public record shows something else: For its support of local politicians, Alsco has been handsomely rewarded.

When he chaired the House Environment Committee in 1996, Bowers rammed through rule changes in the state Superfund (also known as the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund, or WQARF) that would make it easier for polluters to get low-dollar settlements with the state. His legislation also imposed a moratorium--July 1996 to July 1997--forbidding state regulators from suing polluters. The moratorium provides time for the Superfund law to be further watered down.

Through all the politicking, Alsco was portrayed as a small company overwhelmed by the state Superfund law. No one seemed to recognize the real irony: that Maroney's--not Alsco--was the business more threatened by state Superfund laws.

This year, newly elected Senator Bowers went to bat for Alsco again--but this time he dropped all pretense of representing the interests of state taxpayers. He introduced Senate Bill 1448, which would force the state to settle with Alsco for only $250,000. (Representative Jeff Groscost sponsored the bill in the House.) When Bowers introduced the bill, he again sang Alsco's praises as a small, cooperative company caught up in a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape.

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Terry Greene Sterling