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McGinn Hires Bushnell as Official Advisor

By Erica C. Barnett January 25, 2010

Mayor Mike McGinn has hired Chris Bushnell, a pollster and longtime advisor on budget and political issues, as an official advisor on "safety net/human service issues and other projects," McGinn spokesman Mark Matassa confirms.

Bushnell's official position will be "policy advisor," and his starting salary will be $110,000 a year.

Bushnell has been a fixture on the seventh floor of city hall since McGinn was elected, reportedly advising the mayor on major political and personnel decisions. Bushnell was reportedly instrumental in McGinn's decision to push for a $241 million May seawall-replacement measure, as well as a major staff reorganization in which longtime city finance director Dwight Dively was reassigned and relieved of his duties overseeing the city budget.

Bushnell also reportedly advised McGinn on his plans to build light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, which McGinn has said could cost as little as one-third of Sound Transit's just-opened line from downtown to the airport, and along the 520 bridge.

Bushnell has a somewhat controversial history. In 1995, he was convicted of bank fraud and possession and utterance of counterfeit securities after he and a friend forged nearly $38,000 in money orders between 1992 and 1994; acting alone, Bushnell circulated another $55,000 in counterfeit money orders.

As a chief economic forecaster for King County, he spent one week a month for about a year and a half telecommuting to his county job from Hawaii, where his wife was in school. After leaving that position in 2008, Bushnell presented a controversial report asserting that the county’s budget shortfall was the result of overspending. That report made him numerous enemies at the county, where conventional wisdom has held structural problems for the shortfall.

Bushnell has also done work for a polling firm called Constituent Dynamics, which is owned by the Mercury Group's Bill Broadhead. That firm, whose phone wasn't working this afternoon, did the poll on the seawall that McGinn released today. In his new job at the city, Bushnell will report to Broadhead's wife, McGinn chief of staff Julie McCoy.

Bushnell changed his name from Chris Haugen to Chris Bushnell in 2006; however, he continues to use the Haugen name on occasion. For example, he donated the maximum $700 to both McGinn and then-city council candidate Mike O'Brien during last year's election.
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