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WA Lege Day 4: Campaign fixes and labor initiatives

OLYMPIA -- Both houses have extensive hearing schedules today, with the most media attention being given to a proposal to tighten campaign disclosure laws in the wake of problems in a Snohomish County state Senate race that has already drawn more attention than anything short of the budget.

The state Labor Council also unveiled its legislative agenda, which includes a push to place some $3 billion in tax exemptions granted to businesses into a three-year moratorium. The unions know they can't get a two-thirds vote in both houses to cancel many tax exemptions, so they're hoping for a bill that will put some of them in abeyance for three years if voters say yes to the plan in November.

The Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations and Elections Committee held a hearing on Chairman Craig Pridemore's proposal to clearer names on the political action committees that flood the airwaves during the election, and to keep them from transferring money from one to another in such a way that voters can't tell who the heck is paying for all this stuff. It's a response to a shadow campaign in the 38th Legislative District in which campaign consultant Moxie Media secretly funnelled union money into a primary campaign against an incumbent Democrat they didn't like.

As the committee hearing started, the unions were across the Capitol campus calling for more transparencyand accountability in the Legislature on tax policy. they were asked how can expect any credibilitly on their call for transparency from the Legislature when they were anything but transparent in the 38th, agreeing to a plan to hide their money being used against Sen. Jean Berkey?

Jeff Johnson, the new Labor Council president, admitted "mistakes were made" with union money in the Berkey race, but suggested there was a lack of transparency on both sides.

"I don't think we lose credibility...for that small isolated incident," Johnson said. "That will never happen again. You can take that to the bank."

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.