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WA Supporters Hope Next Year is Charm for Public Financing

March 25, 2010

SEATTLE - A measure that would have, for the first time, allowed candidates for the State Supreme Court to accept public campaign funding made it all the way to the Senate floor this session, but fell short of the votes needed to become law. Opponents, in part, blamed the poor economy for their votes, but supporters said it would have been a bargain that would boost the public interest.

Betty Ogden, board member with the League of Women Voters in Tacoma, says $4 million was poured into State Supreme Court elections in 2006, leaving voters to wonder what powerful interest groups both inside and outside the state might be affecting the course of justice.

"The thinking on it is, that they would have the opportunity of opting into public campaign funding, in which case they would be able to count on public funding, instead of rich corporations."

A companion version of the Judicial Elections Reform Act (SB 5912) failed to muster enough votes in the House. So, the public financing option is dead for now; but supporters say they will try again next year.

Opponents of public financing say the state simply could not afford to be pouring money into political campaigns this year. State Sen. Jim Kastama disagrees.

"I would argue that it's a great deal; we would make much-wiser decisions, if in fact we did not have the interest groups driving the show; determining in fact who goes into office and who doesn't by these political contributions."

Under the proposal, candidates for the State Supreme Court would have the option of using public funding. Similar measures have been passed in Wisconsin, New Mexico, North Carolina and Connecticut.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA