John Groen, the Building Industry Association of Washington’s (BIAW) candidate for Washington State Supreme Court Justice running against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, is playing street politics, where anything goes. As noted in an article today by Neil Modie of the Seattle PI, despite the Washington State Legislature passing campaign contribution limits for Supreme Court races, Groen has collected over $300,000 in contributions with some eleven contributions over the new $2800 limit. A large chunk of this came before the new law went into effect, thereby ignoring the limits and the spirit of the new law.
The campaign contribution law (3SHB 1226) went into effect on June 7, 2006. Groen collected most of his contributions and spent them after the Legislature passed the law and but before it went into effect. The legislature 3SHB 1226 on March 8, 2006 and Governor Gregoire signed it on March 30, 2006.
Justice Alexander supported the contribution law and did not accept contributions over $2800 ($1400 for the primary and $1400 for the general election). He reported raising $76,645 compared to Groen’s $301,115.
Before the Legislature passed the new law, Washington State was one of only four states that elected judges, that did not have limits on campaign contributions. But in the last two elections the BIAW has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting 2 conservative right wing candidates who won, Jim Johnson and Richard Saunders. The BIAW is trying to add Groen as their third anointed Supreme Court Justice.
The Washington State Legislature responded to the out of control contributions of the BIAW by passing the new campaign contribution limitation law. The law is an attempt to try to limit the influence of special interest money.
As reported in the Seattle PI today, Groen’s campaign finance chairman and partner in Groen’s law firm, Charlie Klinge, said the contributions were legal and “complied with the law in all respects.” Technically he’s right because the Legislature should have added an emergency clause to have the law go into effect immediately.
Unfortunately the Legislature probably thought that no one running for State Supreme Court would go ahead and collect contributions hugely exceeding the limits once they passed the law. After all, these are people running for the Washington State Supreme Court, the final arbiter of the spirit and intent of state laws. One would expect that these people would have the highest respect for the law and would comply with the wishes of the voters of Washington as expressed through their elected representatives.
Unfortunately the Legislature was wrong. But the public has just learned a very valuable piece of information about the character of John Groen. He was more interested in what personally benefited him than in voluntarily complying with the spirit of the newly passed campaign contribution limitation law. It says he will do whatever it takes to get elected. One can expect that he will probably also do whatever it takes to represent the special interests of his contributors before he considers the interests of Washington State voters.
As the Seattle Times has previously reported, most of Groen’s big contributions before the June 7th deadline came from BIAW members and affiliated building interests. The Seattle Times quotes Lynnwood homebuiler Larry Sunquist, who with his wife gave $25,000, saying he “supports Groen because of his work as a property rights litigator” Translate that to mean opposition to growth management and zoning.
Contributions over $2800 to Groen before June 7th iinclude:
6/02 John Spadara SDS Lumber Co, Bingen, WA $25,000
6/02 Fremont Dock Company, Seattle, WA $5000
6/02 One Pacific Corporation , Camas, WA $25,000
6/02 Thomas Cam, Underwood Industries, Underwood, WA $25,000
6/05 Pacific Lifestyle Holdings, Inc, Vancouver, WA $5000
5/22 Amo Construction, Inc, Vancouver, WA $15,000
5/20 John Cheney, SDS Lumber Co, Bingen, WA $12,5000
5/20 Lana Cheney, SDS Lumber Co, Bingen, WA $12,500
5/17 G.G. One Inc., Vancouver, WA $5000
5/13 Larry Sunquist, Sunquist Homes, Lynnwood, WA $12,500
5/13 Diane Sunquist, conquistador Homes, Lynnwood, WA $12,500
5/9 Bill Connor, Bellevue, WA $5000
So some $160,000 in contributions were for amounts exceeding $2800 per contributor.
Subtracting a maximum of $2800 from each contributor or $31,600 would leave a total of $128,400 exceeding the limits under the new campaign finance laws. This exceeds the sum total of contributions received by Justice Alexander during this same period.
Notice that most of these and many other contributions of lesser amounts reported to the PDC come from building industry groups.
You can help equalize the playing field for Justice Gerry Alexander and show your opposition to the building industry trade groups trying to exert special influence in this election by going to his Justice Alexander’s website at www.justicealexander.com and making an on-line contribution today.