PACs getting dirty in governor’s election
By VAL TORRENS
North Kitsap Herald Columnist
August 1, 2008 · Updated 5:35 PM
One of the great things about this state is the effort to make the political process transparent. Candidates and organizations that run campaigns in support of candidates or issues are required by law to register with the state.
The organization that is charged with overseeing this political process is the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). There are clearly stated rules that both candidates and organizations must follow in order to comply with the law.
The rules cover when a campaign must be declared, what contributions need to be listed, who are the contributors, what are the expenses for the campaign, when and what reports need to be filed and when to provide the preceding information.
The creation of the PDC was part of the legislation that gave the state the Open Public Meetings Act. It was all part of the public-driven effort to bring transparency to politics.
It is therefore more than a little disturbing that the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) is hiding behind four different political action committees (PACs) in its pursuit of having Dino Rossi elected as governor.
It has raised more than $3.5 million dollars to pay for ads that either attack Gov. Christine Gregoire or support Rossi.
The ad money comes from the BIAW, its members and supporters. It has been funneled into four PACs: ChangePAC, WA Affordable Housing, Walking Washington and It’s Time for a Change PAC. This makes them the single biggest supporter of Rossi’s campaign.
By doing it this way, the individual contributors are not listed so the public has no way of knowing who gave money. This is precisely what the sunshine laws were trying to prevent: People not knowing who is underwriting the cost of a political campaign.
Contrast that with the ads that go after Rossi. Right at the bottom there is the list of who has contributed to the ad. The ads are paid for by Evergreen Progress of Seattle, Washington (it specifically states that no candidate authorized this ad) whose top five contributors are: Service Employees International Union – Washington State Council, Democratic Governors Association, National Education Association, Washington Federation of State Employees, Sheet Metalworkers Local 66 PAC.
Thus, people can judge for themselves what they think about the ad and who is behind it. The same cannot be said for the BIAW PAC ads. The BIAW maintains, according to the KING-5 news report, that they have done nothing wrong.
Obviously, those filing the lawsuit against the BIAW don’t agree. They maintain that the public has a right to know who has given the monies that are underwriting the attack ads against Gregoire and in support of Rossi. Regardless of whether BIAW has not violated the law or not, the BIAW should do the right thing by letting everyone know who is responsible for their ads.
If their position is so valid, why do they not want to take credit for raising the issue? Or are they more concerned with trying to fool the public by making it look like there are several diverse groups who all share the same goal of defeating Gregoire?
Sleazy campaign tactics are nothing new but this does take things to a whole new lower level. The BIAW and its supporters should come clean and tell people what ads they are underwriting and who supports them.
After all, that is what the people of this state have and do want from those involved in getting people elected to office: public disclosure.