Not what mama taught us but Washington State Supreme Court says "it’s OK for political candidates to lie"

By a 5-4 vote the Supreme Court of the state of Washington has just ruled that candidates can lie about political opponents. And to think this is newsworthy?

Following is from the Oregonian. You can also read about this ruling in today’s Times editorial. This is the link I have posted below:

Sharply split Washington Supreme Court says candidates can lie about political opponents

Posted by The Oregonian October 05, 2007 07:44AM
(Editor’s note: Jeff Mapes points out in his blog that Oregon law cracks down on one form of political advertising.)

A sharply divided Washington Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a law that bars political candidates from deliberately making false statements about their opponents violates the First Amendment right of free speech.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court affirmed a state Court of Appeals ruling that overturned the law. The measure was enacted by the Legislature in 1999, a year after a similar ban on false statements involving initiatives and other ballot measures was thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, invoked the law in 2002 after his Green Party challenger, Marilou Rickert, distributed a flier that asserted Sheldon voted to shut down a state institution in his district. In fact, he voted against a budget that included closure of the Mission Creek youth camp, although critics said he didn’t do enough to support the facility.

He filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission, which investigated and imposed the maximum fine, $1,000. By then, Sheldon had easily won re-election. The commission action was upheld in Superior Court but overturned by the appeals bench.

The Washington Supreme Court majority said the new law “like its predecessor, is unconstitutional on its face.”

“The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment,” Justice James Johnson wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Charles Johnson, Richard Sanders and Susan Owens.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander joined the majority as well, but in a separate concurrence. He wrote that, “The majority goes too far in concluding that any government censorship of political speech would run afoul of the United States and Washington constitutions” but agreed that the law was unconstitutional because it was overbroad.

The dissent called the majority decision “an invitation to lie with impunity.” “The majority opinion advances the efforts of those who would turn political campaigns into contests of the best stratagems of lies and deceit, to the end that honest discourse and honest candidates are lost in the maelstrom,” Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the dissent, joined by Justices Tom Chambers, Mary Fairhurst and Bobbe Bridge.

The Associated Press

OK. If they lie about their opponents during a campaign than they can surely lie to supporters once elected. We have sadly experienced that in our city where candidates whom we helped get elected flip shortly thereafter. We are simply thrown to the winds unless we bow down and kiss their rings, or ignore their about face on key issues that they campaigned on but now change course. They attend League of Cities meetings and get re-educated. Isn’t it nice that they now have access to vendors who come forward to help them retire their campaign debts, no strings attached. SURE!

And people make jokes about bottom feeding lawyers. I can show you some city councilmembers who swim much lower in the miry waters of their cities.

“Buyer beware.” We have all heard this expression. Be careful as you listen to these candidates and their promises and pledges. This year’s primary election is being held on Feb 5th, four months from now. Do your homework before making that important decision of casting your valuable vote. It’s sad that integrity is a dying art.

As always your comments are welcome.

About Larry Gilbert