The following letter to the editor of the Seattle Times was posted on their website yesterday. I wrote the letter in response to their editorial on Sunday entitled, “State lawmakers should listen to voters on I-1185 and the two-thirds tax law.” The Washington State Supreme Court ruled on February 28, 2013 that requiring a supermajority vote of the Legislature to raise revenue or pass any other ordinary legislation was unconstitutional. The Seattle Times choose to editorialize on the issue against the decision of the Washington State Supreme Court. My response:
The Seattle Times in its recent editorial errs in it’s judgment that supermajority votes are somehow in the best interests of our state. Logic says that to require a supermajority vote to pass legislation means that the minority interest would trump the majority interest. Under Initiative 1185, if 17 State Senators out of 49 Senators said no to a revenue bill to fund education, they would prevail over any majority vote by both the state Senate and House.
As the state Supreme Court noted, “ … a supermajority requirement for ordinary legislation would allow special interests to control resulting legislation. While the current Supermajority Requirement applies only to tax increases, if carried to its logical conclusion, the State’s argument could allow all legislation to be conditioned on a supermajority vote. In other words, under the State’s reasoning, a simple majority of the people or the Legislature could require particular bills to receive 90 percent approval rather than just a two-thirds approval, thus essentially ensuring that those types of bills would never pass. Such a result is antithetical to the notion of a functioning government and should be rejected as such.”
The issue here is actually not just a tax issue but but an issue of how our State legislature functions and whether or not minority interests can impose roadblocks to the majority of Legislators doing their jobs. It is absurd that this supermajority requirement has hindered the Legislators from doing their job for the larger part of 20 years. Ever since voters passed I-601 by a small margin of 51% to 49% the problem has persisted, illustrating how by a simple majority vote could give a minority of 1/3 of the legislators in one House of the Legislature veto power over the majority.
As pointed out by the Washington State Supreme Court in their opinion:
“…allowing a supermajority requirement for ordinary legislation alters our system of government. The framers of the United States Constitution expressed as much in the Federalist papers:
If a pertinacious minority can controul the opinion of a majority respecting the best mode of conducting it; the majority in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will over-rule that of the greater.
THE FEDERALIST NO. 22, at 141 (Alexander Hamilton) (Jacob E. Cooke ed., 1961);
accord THE FEDERALIST No. 58 (James Madison).”
In a 6 to 3 decision this last week the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053′s supermajority provisions for passage of revenue measures by the State Legislature was unconstitutional. In fact it went beyond revenue measures and said any attempt to require supermajority votes not in the Washington State Constitution was unconstitutional.
The decision stated that, Article II, sec. 22 of the Washington State Constitution “prohibits either the people or legislature from passing legislation requiring more than a simple majority for the passage of tax legislation – or any other ordinary legislation”. Despite this language Majority Leader Rodney Tom in the Washington State Senate immediately tried to figure a way to change the Senate rules to require a two thirds vote to raise taxes by the Legislature.
On the same day the Court issued their opinion, the Olympian reported that Tom said:
“We’re going to stand behind the will of the people. They’ve been very clear that they want it to be difficult to raise taxes,” Tom said today.
The rule would require a two-thirds supermajority or a public vote to pass any tax increase.
And passing the rule would take only a simple majority of all senators, unlike a constitutional amendment that is much less likely to pass.
Seems that legal counsel finally convinced Tom that the Washington State Supreme Court ruling also applied in principle to any rule making by the Legislature. By that didn’t stop him from trying to consider it. Here’s what the Supreme Court said about allowing a 1/3 minority of Legislators to overrule a majority:
Article II, sec. 22 “prohibits either the people or legislature from passing legislation requiring more than a simple majority for the passage of tax legislation – or any other ordinary legislation.”…
They also stated that) “The Supermajority Requirement unconstitutionally amends the constitution by imposing a two-thirds vote requirement for tax legislation.
More importantly, the Supermajority Requirement substantially alters our system of government, thus enabling a tyranny of the minority.”
The telling words here to listen to are not so much that requiring a supermajority vote to raise revenue was unconstitutional but that it allowed a 1/3 minority of legislators in one House of the Legislature to veto any majority vote of the rest of the Legislators. Under this system the minority vote prevails and the minority rules, not the majority.
It is a negation of the idea of one person one vote, saying that on revenue issues, including repealing any tax loopholes, that a State Legislator opposed to raising revenue had the equivalent of 2 votes for every one vote that a State legislator had that supported raising revenue. The result was that the No vote of 17 State senators out of 49 Senators could negate the Yes votes of 32 Senators. The minority position would win out which is what happened in almost all cases in the State Legislature while the 2/3 voting mandate was in place.
One could similarly make an argument that incumbents have an unfair advantage in running for office and need to be term limited. The equivalent to I-1053 in this instance would be if the voters agreed and passed an initiative saying that any incumbent Legislator running needed to get a supermajority vote to win or his opponent would win. Following the logic of I-1053, if the incumbent got 64% of the vote, but did not receive the 2/3 supermajority vote, then his opponent would win, even though he only got 36% of the vote. The goal of limiting re-election of incumbents would be accomplished by this action which lets a minority of voters make the decision as to who gets elected. Most voters seeing the results would cry foul. Fortunately this example is also now void as the Washington State Supreme Court specifically noted that Article II, sec. 22 of the Washington State Constitution “prohibits either the people or legislature from passing legislation requiring more than a simple majority for the passage of tax legislation – or any other ordinary legislation“ (highlighting mine).
Tim Eyman and his corporate donors for I-1185 which voters passed this last November argued that raising taxes should be harder than passing other legislation and that was why they should prevail. This is a political philosophy that represents the conservative Republican position. Yet running on that position against Democrats they have not been able to elect a majority of Republicans to the House or Senate in recent years. This year two so called Democratic Legislators, Senator Rodney Tom of the 48th LD and Senator Tim Sheldon, joined with 23 Republicans to take over the State Senate.
There is a clear difference between Republicans and Democrats on this issue that still persists. Republicans and Rodney Tom in the Senate rapidly passed SJR 8205 – Amending the Constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes, out of the Ways and Means Committee to the Rules Committee, 2nd reading. Fortunately for those who agree that allowing a minority position to prevail over the votes of a majority is undemocratic, the State Constitution put amending the State Constitution in a select category of legislation requiring a 2/3 vote by both the Senate and the House and a majority vote of the people in order to pass.
The State Constitution is the framework of state government and as such should be more difficult to amend than passing a general law or raising revenue or repealing tax exemptions which the voters can put on the ballot by referendum or elect new legislators who can change the law. The absurdity of Eyman’s I-1053 and I-1185 2/3 voting mandate was that it allowed Legislators to pass tax exemptions by a simple majority vote but required a 2/3 vote to repeal them.
Eyman’s measures were strongly supported by corporate business interests like BP Oil, Conoco Phillips, Association of Washington Business, the Beer Institute and others which sought to both avoid any business tax increases or repeal of any of their tax loopholes. It was a Corporate Tax Loophole Protection Act not an act which helped most residents in Washington State because it resulted in the inability of the Legislature to raise new revenue or reform our tax system.
As noted by the broad based Washington coalition called Our Economic Future we have now cut about $10 billion dollars from the State Budget. State college tuition has doubled in 4 years. It now costs to go to State Parks. State employees and teachers have lost their jobs. Public K-12 education funding has gone down. All kinds of funding to help the needy, handicapped, kids, and unemployed have decreased. The future of our state’s economy is under attack as businesses and corporations report record profits. We need a balanced approach to taxation and funding to help the people of Washington State move into a better future.
Contact your State legislators today and urge them to oppose SJR 8205 – Amending the Constitution to require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes. Go to www.leg.wa.gov and let your Legislator know you oppose a Constitutional Amendment to give a minority of Legislators veto power over the majority.
Charlie Wiggins is a candidate for the Washington State Supreme Court. People running for the Washington State Supreme Court have the formidable task of running statewide. It is even harder when you are running against an incumbent. Wiggins is running against Justice Richard Sanders. So when he showed up at the 46th District Democrats last night after having been in Spokane the day before I offered his campaign the opportunity to do a guest post on Majority Rules Blog. Here is what they wanted to pass on to the voters about their campaign:
This year Charlie Wiggins, a thirty-year practicing attorney and former Appeals Court judge is running for the Washington State Supreme Court Position 6 against Justice Richard Sanders. Many people are unsure of how to vote for judges: what sets one candidate apart from another in a nonpartisan race? What qualities should we look for in a judicial candidate? According to a report issued by the American Bar Association, the three key qualifications for a judge are integrity, impartiality, and independence. Charlie exemplifies all three.
Integrity: Charlie was given the highest possible ethics rating by the widely respected legal directory Martindale-Hubbell, was chosen for the national publication “Best Lawyers in America,” and received the Washington State Bar Association Young Lawyers Professionalism Award in 2008. His excellent reputation and conduct earned him his position as Chair of the Disciplinary Board for the Washington State Bar Association, which disciplines lawyers who violate legal ethics. His commitment to service and sharing his legal expertise have been widely recognized; in 2010 he received the Kitsap Bar Association Humanitarian Award and was named Volunteer of the Year by the Legal Services Clinic of the Union Gospel Mission in the Pioneer Square district of Seattle in 2004.
Impartiality: Throughout his career Charlie has represented all types of clients, from individuals to corporations, from victims seeking damages to those accused of negligent conduct. His experience as a Court of Appeals judge and a pro tem judge in superior court have proven him to be fair. In superior court, lawyers and parties must agree on a pro tem judge, and they continue to choose Charlie because they know he is impartial. He has worked tirelessly to preserve impartiality in the judiciary, helping to establish the nonpartisan award-winning website votingforjudges.org, the best single source of information about judicial candidates in Washington.
Independence: Limits on campaign spending prevent special interest groups from attempting to “buy” judges. In 2006 Charlie testified in the legislature in favor of imposing campaign contribution limits in Washington judicial election, which was signed into law the same year. In 2007 he again went before the legislature in favor of public financing of judicial elections, which has not yet been adopted. In 2008 Charlie represented 27 former state Supreme Court Justices from across the country in an amicus brief, arguing that a judge should not be allowed to sit on a case involving a party that donated to his or her campaign. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed, and the case was retried. For the past two years Charlie has been working towards the adoption of a rule in Washington to require a judge to step down from a case if a party to the case provided substantial financial support for the judge’s election.
Charlie’s record speaks for itself. However, a recent study noted that, “In any given election in Washington state, as many as 50 percent of those who cast votes for other candidates choose not to vote for judicial candidates on the same ballot.” It’s time to change that statistic. Learn more about Charlie, as well as his opponent, and spread the word. Effective democracy requires educated voters. Please visit www.votingforjudges.org and www.charliewigginsforjustice.com to learn more.
So how do you reward your biggest benefactor? How about a seat on the Washington State Supreme Court? The BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington) has now spent some $7 million dollars through its so called independent PAC called “It’s Time for a Change” to try to elect GOP (AKA Republican) Dino Rossi Governor this year. This money has been spent both supporting Dino Rossi and opposing Governor Chris Gregoire.
In past years the BIAW has spent a huge amount of money trying to get their selected candidates unto the Washington State Supreme Court so that they can weaken state environmental and land use laws and regulations.
In 2004 they succeeded in getting Jim Johnson elected as a Supreme Court Justice by helping him out raise his opponent Mary Kay Becker by $539,000 to her $157,000.
In 2006 they threw their support behind their candidates Stephen L Johnson to run against Justice Susan Owens and John Groen against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.
They funnelled their money through their independent PAC’s like It’s Time for a Change and ChangePAC so that they could avoid the new limits set for contributions to candidate committees to include the State Supreme Court races for the first time.
The BIAW set new state records in campaign spending in the Washington State Supreme Court races via their independent expenditures. Groen saw some $1,356,000 spent independently on his behalf and Stephen Johnson saw some $532,000 spent in so called independent expenditures. Despite this record spending and probably because of it, the BIAW’s effort backfired and alerted the state’s voters to their blatant attempt to buy seats on the Washington State Supreme Court.
Justices Owens and Alexander won re-election.
The BIAW is concentrating their efforts this year in trying to get Dino Rossi elected Governor and have spent over $7 million dollars so far in their efforts.
Judge Alexander will reach the mandatory retirement age before his 6 year term expires. He was 70 in 2006 and is now 72 years old. In three years he will be 75.
As noted in the PI,“the statutory retirement age of 75 will require Alexander to leave the court at the end of 2011, a year before his six-year term expires. The governor then would appoint a successor who would have to run for election in 2012.”
Sure its a couple of years down the line and there will be 3 more Supreme Court races up in 2010, but it is just another example of the power one has as Governor. If Rossi is elected Governor he will have at least one Supreme Court appointment for sure and you know it will be a payback to friends.
Rossi in fact note the importance of the power of appointments as Governor. In an article in the Tacoma News Tribune, it is stated that Rossi“vows to change the “tone and tenor” of state government through the power of appointments. If he’s elected governor, Rossi says he will get to appoint 1,000 people “from Blueberry Commission on up.”
One of those positions would be a Washington State Supreme Court Justice.
John W Dean, the former Nixon White House Counsel, has thrown his support strongly behind the need to elect Barack Obama to the White House and reject McCain/Palin.
Saying that Barack Obama “has shown without any doubt (in my mind anyway) that he is not only qualified to be president, but that he might be a once-in-a-lifetime leader who can forever change the nation and the world for the better.”, Dean gives insightful and cogent reasons to end Republican rule in the White House.
The following excerpt is from a column he wrote for FindLaw’s Writ entitled “The Evidence Establishes, without Question, that Republican Rule Is Dangerous: Why It Is High Time to Fix This Situation, For the Good of the Nation”
The Republican Approach to Government: Authoritarian Rule
“Republicans rule, rather than govern, when they are in power by imposing their authoritarian conservative philosophy on everyone, as their answer for everything. This works for them because their interest is in power, and in what it can do for those who think as they do. Ruling, of course, must be distinguished from governing, which is a more nuanced process that entails give-and-take and the kind of compromises that are often necessary to find a consensus and solutions that will best serve the interests of all Americans.
Republicans’ authoritarian rule can also be characterized by its striking incivility and intolerance toward those who do not view the world as Republicans do. Their insufferable attitude is not dangerous in itself, but it is employed to accomplish what they want, which is to take care of themselves and those who work to keep them in power.
Authoritarian conservatives are primarily anti-government, except where they believe the government can be useful to impose moral or social order (for example, with respect to matters like abortion, prayer in schools, or prohibiting sexually-explicit information from public view). Similarly, Republicans’ limited-government attitude does not apply regarding national security, where they feel there can never be too much government activity – nor are the rights and liberties of individuals respected when national security is involved. Authoritarian Republicans do oppose the government interfering with markets and the economy, however – and generally oppose the government’s doing anything to help anyone they feel should be able to help themselves. “
The column makes interesting reading and puts forward a concise analysis of the current ongoing disaster that has been the Republican Party’s approach to governing our country.
I feel the same mentality exists in Washington State. GOP aka Republican candidate Dino Rossi has run a typical authoritarian conservative Republican campaign, such as Dean describes, against Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire. Ads supporting Rossi and opposing Gregoire are full of distortions and misrepresentations of Governor Gregoire’s record.
Rossi and his supporters like the BIAW and the Republican Governor’s Conference have run a divisive us versus them campaign that is bereft of detail on what he would do which lets the public fill in the details. The problem is that if he wins, what he will do will be very different from what people expect.
Unfortunately voters made a similar mistake years ago when they elected Dixie Lee Ray Governor. She also represented change. She only survived one term after voters finally got to know her.
Don’t be fooled by Rossi’s smile. He’s for change all right, just not what you might think.
For example, if Rossi is elected, he will be appointing a Washington State Supreme Court Justice to replace Judge Gerry Alexander when he reaches the mandatory retirement age. Expect Rossi to reward his big BIAW money backers with a BIAW approved candidate like John Groen that voters previously rejected.
As of the latest reports filed with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission for the period though Dec 31, 2007, and first available after 1/10/2008, Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire, has raised over $4,665,352 for her re-election campaign, has spent $1,554,766 and has $3,110,586 in cash on hand.
Because of the prohibition of raising funds 30 days before the legislative session begins and during the session, Governor Gregoire’s fundraising stopped as of Dec. 10, 2007. She will be able to resume fundraising after the session ends. The same prohibition on fundraising also applies for other state incumbents running for office.
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, who lost to Gregoire in 2004, is re-running and is not subject to the prohibition on raising funds since he is not a state official. He reported receiving $1,707,197 in contributions and in kind donations and spending $393,626 as of Dec 31, 2007. He has $1.303,571 in cash on hand as of Dec 31, 2007.
Rossi’s previous figures were revised as the result of a Public Disclosure Commission dismissal of a complaint that his Forward Washington Foundation was really a campaign committee for his run for Governor.
Lt Governor Brad Owen, a Democrat reported raising $16,635, spending $6917 and having $9717 on hand as of 11/30/2007. No Republican has filed yet with the PDC.
Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican has raised $712,950, spent $318,155 and has $368,252 in cash on hand.
Democratic Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg , as noted at Riddenbaugh Press and first reported by the Tacoma News Tribune, is considering running as a Democrat against Rob McKenna.
Secretary of State Sam Reed, a Republican, has raised $230,899, spent $62,023 and has $168,875 on hand. He has no announced opponents at this time.
Democratic State Legislator Jim McIntire is running for State Treasurer. The current State Treasurer Mike Murphy, a Democrat, is retiring. McIntire has raised $61.795 and spent 14,494. Allan Martin is the Republican candidate. He has raised $29,480 and spent $2733.
Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland, a Republican has raised $170,808, spent $18,655 and has $ 152,153 in cash on hand.
Former Democratic Congressional candidate Peter Goldmark from eastern Washington is challenging Sutherland for this seat. Goldmark has raised $99,644 , spent $30,655 and has $69,025 in cash on hand.
State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, has no opponent at this time. He has raised $27,432, spent $4054 and has $23,398 on hand. His last report was 11/30/2007.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a Democrat, has raised some $40,236, spent $12,046 and has $28,189 in cash on hand. No opponent has filed yet.
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson has raised $61,573 and spent $8,488.
Richard Sendler of Richland Washington has raised $8,625 and spent $8,027.
Three Washington State Supreme Court races will also be on the November 2008 ballot. Supreme Court Justices are elected to 6 year terms. No fundraising has been reported for these elections yet.
Position #3 is held by Mary Fairhurst.
Position #4 is held by Charles W Johnson who was first elected in 1991 to the Supreme Court.
Position #7 is held by Debra L Stephens who was appointed in December by Governor Gregoire to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Justice Bobbe Bridge.
Today’s print edition of the Seattle PI that I received at my home relegated Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire’s appointment of Debra Stephens to the Washington State Supreme Court to a scant 131 words. It allotted it a space of 3 inches by 3.25 inches equal to 9.75 square inches.
Meanwhile the Seattle Times in a story entitled “Spokane native appointed to state’s top court” wrote 972 words and gave the story some 84 square inches of space. What’s up Seattle PI?
Is it any wonder voters don’t know about candidates who are running for election or re-election to the Washington State Supreme Court when a major newspaper like the Seattle PI gives token only coverage to a new appointee to the Washington State Supreme Court.
The last reported entry on the PI’s webpage is an AP story by Dave Ammons dated 5:48 P.M. on Tuesday Dec 4, 2007. There is no in depth story or any story on today’s webpage this afternoon that I can find. It was only by tying in a search for Stephens that I found the AP story. So much for getting the current news.
Neil Modie in his Strange Bedfellows blog at the PI discusses some of the instant opposition to the appointment of Stephens by the right wing PAC, Justice for Washington, headed up by conservative former Senator Slade Gorton. They raised concern about Stephen’s past association with the Washington State Trial Lawyers. Wonder why? I added the following comments to Modie’s blog post that I think are important for people to know:
“Perhaps you should look at another connection as to why Justice for Washington would so quickly knee jerk oppose new Supreme Court Justice Stephens. Justice for Washington’s most recent C1PC registration form filed with the Public Disclosure Commission has listed as it’s treasurer Dana Childers.
Dana Childers is with the Liability Reform Coalition which represents the insurance industry. She was a chief spokesperson for the Reject R-67 campaign. R-67 was passed by the voters in November. The Washington State Trial Lawyers, although heavily outspent, won.
As you noted Stephens did appellate work for the Trial Lawyers Association. Justice for Washington is obviously a vehicle for the insurance industry to continue to assert itself in Washington politics. The insurance industry spent $11 million trying to defeat R-67.”
I think once again, even though Governor Gregoire tried to appoint someone without controversy, the right wing sees controversy in anyone not believing as they do, and that we can again expect to see huge amounts of money funneled into upcoming state Supreme Court races like this one. As we have previously written, the Washington State Legislature needs to apply the same donor limits that apply for candidates to what individuals can contribute directly to PAC’s because without limits, these so called independent contributions can quickly exceed donations to candidate’s committees.
The Legislature should also revisit public financing for Supreme Court races. For candidates to be truly freely elected, the influence of special interest money needs to be controlled so as not to overwhelm the voice of the candidates themselves. When candidates lose the ability to be heard because special interest money dominates the airwaves, we all lose.
Additional information on Washington State Supreme Court appointee Debra Stephens:
Debra Stephens will replace Justice Bobbe Bridge who has resigned from the court. Stephens was appointed by Governor Gregoire 8 months ago to a seat on the Washington Court of Appeals. She ran unopposed last November. As an appointee to the Washington State Supreme Court she will have to run for re-election in November 2008.
Stephens is a native of Spokane Washington and practiced law there before becoming a judge. She is reported to have made over 100 appearances before the State Supreme Court.
She graduated from Gonzaga Law School in 1973 and has taught constitutional law there.
According to Governor Gregoire’s press release,
“Stephens has taught at Gonzaga since 1995, where she helped to develop a course on state constitutional law. She is a founding member of the Washington Appellate Lawyers Association and a contributing author to the Washington Appellate Practice Deskbook. She has received recognition from “Washington Law & Politics” as a “Super Lawyer” (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007) and as one of the “Top 50 Women Lawyers” (2005) and “Top Appellate Lawyers” (2005).
She has also taught as an adjunct professor at Gonzaga University School of Law since 1997.Stephens received her Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude with honors, and her Juris Doctorate, Summa Cum Laude, from Gonzaga University. She is married to Craig Stephens and they reside with their two children, Lindsey and Bob, in Spokane”
Governor Christine Gregoire today appointed state Court of Appeals Judge Debra Stephens to the Washington State Supreme Court. She replaces retiring Justice Bobbe Bridge. Stephens will have to stand for election next November.
Debra Stephens is from eastern Washington and gives eastern Washington representation on the Washington State Supreme Court. The last judge from eastern Washington was former Chief Justice Richard Guy who retired in 2000. And her appointment keeps the 5 to 4 male/female makeup of the court.
Only 7 months ago Gregoire appointed Stephens to the appellate court. She ran unopposed in the November election.
In selecting Stephens, Gregoire bypassed several people who previously ran for Supreme Court. These included Mary Kay Becker, an appellate judge in Bellingham and Hugh Spitzer, a Seattle constitutional law professor and attorney with Foster Pepper. Both are highly qualified candidates. Also under consideration had been King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu.
Last week a conservative Supreme Court candidate named Annette Ziegler won election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. A record amount of spending occurred by both candidates and third parties in a nasty negative campaign. Sound familiar?
According to an opinion entitled “Campaigns Badly Need Cleaning Up” by The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, Ziegler
“was a candidate who spent most of the past year orchestrating one of the most negative judicial campaigns in Wisconsin history, starting with a vicious letter authored by former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow and ending with a barrage of TV spots that depicted her opponent as a know-nothing “zero.”
An out-of-state outfit called the Club for Growth pumped $250,000 into Ziegler’s primary campaign alone to underwrite attack ads on Ziegler’s behalf, and even the public relations firm that engineered the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s slimy campaign against John Kerry in 2004 got involved on her side.
And none of this counts the onslaught by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the experts in negative campaigning, that piled on Ziegler’s opponent, Linda Clifford, for the better part of three months.”
In a separate article it is noted that besides the $1.7 million spent by the two candidates
“The race saw unprecedented spending by third parties. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby, spent $1.45 million on ads supporting Ziegler and criticizing Clifford, according to Clifford’s campaign. ”
So is it any surprise that today a group of legislators in Wisconsin started circulating for co-sponsors a bill for public financing of state campaigns?
Any of this sound even more familiar now? Last year Washington went through a similar attack by the Building Industry Association of Washington and out of state money to try to elect right wing ideologues to the Washington State Supreme Court. We also saw record spending by special interests. We fared much better than Wisconsin but unfortunately the Washington State Legislature has done nothing to address the expected impact of large amounts of independent expenditures in future elections when the public is over the shock impact of last year’s races.
The Washington State Legislature this session has chosen to ignore public financing for judicial races as well as other state wide races. The reason is mainly that Legislators are also the recipients of large contributions spent by independent PAC’s in their own races. Speaker of the House Frank Chopp visualizes how such unlimited independent expenditures can be used to benefit his Democratic agenda and further solidify his caucus numbers. Republicans see it as their way back into power in the future.
They have however chosen to ignore the fact that we now have two separate and unequal campaign finance structures set up in our state that discriminate against the average citizen contributor. By limiting individual contributions directly to a candidate’s campaign committee, while allowing unlimited contributions by special interest groups, individuals and out of state funders to so called “independent PAC’s”, candidates lose control of their own campaigns and can be vastly outspent by outside interests.
One simple solution to end this segregated campaign system is to extend the present $1400 contribution limit per election for donations to major statewide candidate campaign committees, including Supreme Court Justices, to all campaign committees supporting or opposing a candidate. Whether given directly to the candidate or indirectly to a PAC, everyone is limited to the same $1400 contribution to support or oppose a candidate in a campaign.
The other solution to try to limit special interest mega-spending is to enact public financing for campaigns. Washington Public Campaigns attempted do this with a strong grassroots push to get the Washington State Legislature to pass legislation like Arizona and Maine have for all statewide candidates and North Carolina has for State Supreme Court races. Governor Gregoire supported a trial program for Supreme Court and Appellate Court races. The Washington State Legislature held hearings but ultimately passed nothing.
Last fall we wrote a number of posts about the attempt of the Building Industry Association of Washington’s attempt to buy their self anointed candidates seats on the Washington State Supreme Court. They were unsuccessful.
Today we were honored to receive a David Neiwert Award given by the Northwest Progressive Institute to progressive bloggers. Click on the link to see awards given to other bloggers. Our award was for “Most Valuable Explanatory Reporting “for our series of articles on the Washington State Supreme Court races in September and November 2006.
“The regional blogosphere continues to grow at a rapid pace, and in 2006, the Northwest netroots community was fortunate to be joined by an experienced activist who is a veteran of many past campaigns for progressive policy solutions. Steve Zemke, who in 2003 founded MajorityRules.org, launched a new blog early in 2006 and found a key niche covering issues not receiving prominent exposure in other blogs. Most significantly, in the summer of 2006, Steve maintained a consistent and unyielding focus on judicial races targeted by the right wing Building Industry Association of Washington. He profiled the incumbent justices and judges under attack, urged readers to donate to help their campaigns, dissected campaign expenditure reports from the Public Disclosure Commission, and explained how judicial races work (if there are only two candidates running in the primary, the election is decided in the primary and only one candidate goes on to the general). The right wing effort to pack the courts was ultimately a failure and we commend Steve for his efforts to mobilize the community and inform the public.”
Post Script to Washington State Supreme Court Races – April 2007
Washington State dodged the heavy artillery attack by the BIAW in Sept and Nov. 2006 but because of that the lessons seem to be forgotten already.
The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission choose to ignore the complaints filed by MajorityRulesBlog and others. The Washington State Legislature heard bills sponsored by Washington Public Campaigns to provide public financing for Judicial races as well as all statewide races but choose to let the bills die. Tightening up spending by PAC’s that allow avoidance of campaign spending limits placed on candidate committees also saw no action by the Washington State Legislature.
Unfortunately we can expect a repeat of unlimited spending by special interest PAC’s, like those put together by the Building Industry Association of Washington, in the next judicial election cycle.
Washington Public Campaigns would be wise to run their legislation as an initiative to the people considering that Washington State Legislators seem more intent on preserving special interest PAC campaign spending than on controlling it because they are frequently the beneficiaries of the current system of such spending.
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