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

Re: watchdogs and sheep…

Washington's campaign-finance watchdog is growling about the more than $2 million in independent advertising that poured into the recent primary election.

Independent expenditures – typically attack ads bankrolled by groups on their own, rather than by the candidate – nearly doubled every four years from 1994 to 2002.

Since then, they've nearly tripled.

"The only reasonable conclusion you can draw … is that the entities – the corporations, trade associations, unions – have taken control of the election process," says Public Disclosure Commission member Mike Connelly.

After a long report Thursday detailing "who gave, who got, and how much," as PDC Executive Director Vicki Rippie puts it, the commission voted unanimously to have staffers come up with suggestions to clamp down on independent advertising.

"The very system that we have is being undermined," said PDC member Ken Schellberg.

Not true, says Erin Shannon, a spokeswoman for the primary election's biggest spender: the Building Industry Association of Washington. Despite the BIAW pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into ads touting candidate John Groen and bashing Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, she noted, Groen lost.

"We certainly didn't have a disproportionate influence," she said.

Such arguments underestimate voters, she says.

"I don't think they're little sheep that need to be herded by the PDC," Shannon said.

Read our print edition story here.

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