Pricey Washington Supreme Court race obeyed rules: watchdog

By Legal News Line | May 24, 2007

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander

Less than a week after last year's Washington Supreme Court election spending copped a roasting in a national survey, a state watchdog has given the ballot the all-clear. Seattle lawyer Kyle Olive complained last year to the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) that lobby groups including the powerful Building Industry Association of Washington (BAW) created Political Action Committees (PACs) to conceal candidate funding sources. Olive was complaining about the record $2.7 million spending, most on mud-slinging TV ads, for three hotly-contested state Supreme Court elections in 2006. One PAC spent over $1 million in ads against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Susan Owens. But the PDC yesterday ruled that the ads and PACs obeyed state election laws and that there was no evidence of collusion between donating PACs and individual campaigns over ad-spending. The law does not restrict how many PACs an entity can form, and all campaign contributions in and out of PACs can be traced on the internet, PDC spokesman Doug Ellis told the AP. The 2006 Washington Supreme Court elections have already been cited as one culprit in 'bidding up' the overall cost of state Supreme Court elections, LegalNewsLine reported last Friday. That election's $2.7 million spent by third parties in the race was the highest of seven states with Supreme Court races last year, according to The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2006. Washington's ballot was also the only one to pull in all funds from outside donors. The median funds raised per Supreme Court candidate across the U.S. rose 21 percent from 2003-04 to 2005-06 according to the report, funded by the non-partisan Justice At Stake (JAS). Five of the 10 privately financed Supreme Court races set fundraising records. Olive told the AP he won't appeal but might now seek legislation next year to tighten the state's campaign-finance reporting rules for PACs.

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