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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Olympia

High court hardball in the Alexander/Groen race…

If you're tracking the state Supreme Court races, keep hitting "refresh" on the state's campaign-finance website. In what was already a record-setting year for spending on high court races in Washington, nearly $600,000 has been spent by independent groups since Thursday.

The most surprising development so far: that a Virginia-based tort-reform PAC has poured $357,500 into attack ads in this Washington State race.

"It's ridiculous," said F. Parks Weaver, Jr., the campaign treasurer for Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, said of this year's big-money battle. "How do you compete with a million-dollar budget?" (Answer: by enlisting Gov. Chris Gregoire to help fundraise, for one thing.)

And what's the money bought? Attack ads, most of them in the primary fight between Alexander and challenger John Groen.

"When it's your time, you know it. You're tired, you get sloppy, you make mistakes. Take Chief Justice Gerry Alexander..." says one radio ad, bankrolled by a PAC set up by the Building Industry Association of Washington. (Here's a Quicktime TV version of the ad.)

Today's response, from the union/tribe/lawyers-backed Citizens to Uphold the Constitution: "Justice for sale? John Groen and far-right extremists are trying to buy our Supreme Court..."

The group is also sending out a mailer playing on Groen's name -- "Groen? Groan!" -- featuring people overcome with dismay in front of the Temple of Justice and an unflattering carricature of Groen.

Groen, en route to Yakima this morning, scoffed at the attacks. "It sounds like they're desperate," he said.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.