Eye On Olympia

"...And finally, you do it for the money."

It's a bit startling to see a long list of newspapers, TV stations and radio stations listed on campaign finance reports as contributing thousands of dollars to www.nonewgastax.com, the group that's trying to reverse the 9.5-cent gas tax increase lawmakers approved earlier this year.

According to the filings, The Spokesman-Review gave $1,250 in in-kind services to the effort. The Seattle Times, we're told, contributed $4,000 worth of work. KREM TV, KHQ and KXLY, the reports say, donated $2,000 apiece. Even the Moscow-Pullman Daily News is listed as giving $250.

Some sort of anti-gas-tax plot by the media? Nope. The figures are the political group's estimates of the worth of news stories about the initiative. Earlier this summer, a Thurston County Judge ordered Nonewgastax.com to report the airtime by two Seattle talk-radio hosts as a campaign contribution, since they spent days calling on listeners to donate money to the measure. That goes beyond news coverage and comment, the judge said, and becomes campaigning.

The group, however, said that there's no clear line; that an editorial, for example, could be construed as campaigning. Apparently to prove their point, Nonewgastax.com listed every bit of news coverage they could find as an "in-kind contribution" to their efforts.

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