Skip to comments.Gas Tax Foes Claim Free Speech Violated By Opponents [attack on talk radio]
Posted on 08/11/2005 10:01:10 AM PDT by sionnsar
OLYMPIA - Supporters of an initiative to roll back the controversial new gas tax sued San Juan County and the cities of Auburn, Kent and Seattle on Tuesday, alleging that the group's free speech rights were violated.
NoNewGasTax.com alleges that a judge's ruling last month forcing them to disclose the value of two talk show hosts' comments promoting Initiative 912 was a violation of state and federal free speech laws.
The county and cities sued NoNewGasTax.com in June, alleging the group failed to fully disclose their donors' identities and failed to report the value of two talk show hosts' comments promoting Initiative 912.
Last month, a judge agreed to a preliminary injunction, ruling that for now NoNewGasTax.com must disclose the identities and value of KVI talk show hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur's time spent discussing the issue on air. While NoNewGasTax.com's attorneys will be able to argue against that once hearings begin in the case, they have already filed a notice of appeal on the judge's preliminary injunction ruling.
In its counterclaim filed in Thurston County Superior Court Tuesday, the group argues that the requirement of disclosing broadcast media discussions of public campaign issues was "an unprecedented and dangerous assault on the free speech and free association guarantees of both the United States and Washington constitutions."
Among other actions, the suit is seeking dismissal of the county and cities' lawsuit, plus attorneys fees, expenses and damages in the amount of $1 for violation of civil rights.
"Do you want government agents monitoring radio broadcasts or newspapers or television, writing down the number of times somebody says something nice about a campaign and checking later to make sure that was reported as an in-kind contribution?" asked Bill Maurer, executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter, which is defending NoNewGasTax.com for free.
Current state law says that editorials, commentaries and other types of news reports are not considered contributions, said Public Disclosure Commission Assistant Director Doug Ellis.
Ellis said the commission was waiting to see what the judge ultimately ruled in the original lawsuit.
"He just put out a preliminary injunction against one party," Ellis said. For the law to change, the judge would "have to say that section of law is not applicable anymore."
Gas tax foes believe the sole motive of the original lawsuit was harassment.
"Those prosecutors have a vested interest and they are abusing the power of the state in order to silence their political opposition," anti-gas tax campaign manager Brett Bader said. "They have taken these gross actions in order to silence us, intimidate us, stop us from collecting signatures and now to distract us and throw our case off course."
On Monday, NoNewGasTax.com won a ballot spot for its initiative to overturn the Legislature's gas-tax hike of 9.5 cents a gallon over the next four years.
The tax increase is the main foundation of a 16-year, $8.5 billion transportation program for mega-projects like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 Lake Washington bridge, road improvements, ferries and mass transit.
The first 3 pennies were added on July 1, bringing the state tax to 30 cents a gallon. Automatic annual increases also were authorized: 3 cents in July 2006, 2 cents a year later, and a final 1.5 cents in July 2008.
Initiative 912 would erase the gas-tax hikes, but not weight fees - $10 a year for most cars - and assorted license fees.
San Juan County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord said he had not yet seen the lawsuit, but dismissed claims that his original lawsuit was intended to harass gas tax foes.
"The lawsuit we brought was to enforce the public disclosure laws," he said. "No part of our lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate or harass or to alter what anybody said about the campaign."
Bader complied with the last month's ruling by estimating that the in-kind help was worth $20,000 to the campaign - $10,000 apiece for the two hosts during May, though he insists none of it should have been reportable.
KVI and Fisher Broadcasting executives - KVI's parent company - said Carlson and Wilbur were doing only what political commentators and newspaper editorial pages do across America - discussing issues and recommending action.
"What sort of a value do you put on it? I would be willing to bet you nobody knows how much time any of those guys spent talking about it on their radio shows," said Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers.
Thompson said there's a fine line between determining whether a show's primary purpose is to back a campaign or whether a show is just discussing the hot topic of the day.
"They weren't created to back this campaign, they were created to have a radio show," he said.
Hearing dates have not yet been set in either the original lawsuit or Tuesday's counter-lawsuit.
This has national ramifications.
bumparooni - this is an important case for free speech nationwide
These city and county prosecutors should be jailed for using public money to attack the institution of free speech. Further they should be prosecuted for using public funds to illegally campaign against a public initiative. They are essentially using tax dollars to illegally steal more tax dollars.
The corruption and audacity of this move is breathtaking. They belong in prison for the rest of their lives.
THE NATIONAL PLAN TO SOLVE ALL OF AMERICA'S PROBLEMS IS TO RAISE ALL PRICES AND TAXES?
So...what's next? Will anyone in the media who has reported favorably on the tax hike be required to submit forms declaring it as a campaign contribution for the politicians supporting it?
First Amendment ping, my friend.
So let me get this straight, Kirby and John now have to run their show contents past a beaurocrat before each show? Because that's where this is headed.
If the state can tell you what you can't say, they can tell you what you must say.
Then by extension are we setting a bad precedent here? (I know, that would be a slippery slope, but that's not to say that slippery slopes / camel's noses don't exist.)
SCOTUS threw this back into the state's laps; probably will resurface.
The ruling that says "one nation under god" is not separation comes closer to the subject under review here.
Better if we were to avoid ritual at all levels in social settings.
Ordinary discourse was the original focus of the 1st, not careering blabbermouths in the populated agoura.
Life doesn't come with an instruction manual.
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