Former Reason intern and current New York Post columnist Ryan Sager reports on an incredible abuse of campaign-finance law in Washington state. Two Seattle radio hosts got behind a signature drive for a ballot intitiative designed to repeal a recently enacted tax hike on gasoline, talking about it a lot on their show. The group pushing the initiative, No New Gas Tax, clearly benefitted from the press.
A lawyer with the chief pro-tax hike group, Keep Washington Rolling, convinced a county prosecutor to file a suit against the initiative, claiming that the radio hosts' time was an in-kind contribution and that the initiative's organizers had failed to disclose it. Sager asks some questions:
So, what happens when a talk-radio jock is seen as "campaigning" for a candidate for governor? Or a state legislator? He could quickly find himself making an illegal contribution, far in excess of the limits.
And why do these types of enforcement actions always seem to cut in favor of the government?
San Juan County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord told me that his "personal opinion about the initiative played no part in this." But a Keep Washington Rolling press release quotes Gaylord as saying his county has "a lot at stake" in the initiative fight and that the gas-tax increase is "a fair way to pay for it."
If there's a silver lining, it's that citizens in Washington state seem to have little patience for this idiocy.
On Friday, No New Gas Tax turned in 420,518 signatures to get I-912 on the ballot — some 200,000 more than needed.
According to Bader [head of No New Gas Tax], [the judge's] ruling ticked off voters and fueled signature-gathering tremendously.
"Maybe," he said, "I should report it as a contribution."
Whole thing here.