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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: GOP should be careful with fix for McKenna bind

OLYMPIA – Washington Republicans are exercised over a wrinkle in state election laws that restricts some candidates, but not others, from raising money during a legislative session. Their concern is logical, although not necessarily consistent. It goes like this:

No state elected official can raise money for a state office while the Legislature is in session. That means Rob McKenna, the state attorney general who would like to be governor, can’t hold fundraisers or dial for dollars while, or shortly before, the legislators are ensconced in Olympia.

Given the bleak prospects for legislators settling the budget problems anytime soon, Republican McKenna is at a disadvantage with Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, who is not a state official and is under no such restriction.

States have limited ability to tell members of Congress how they can or can’t raise money – it’s a federalism vs. states’ rights thing – but an argument can be made that at some point this gets seriously out of whack in the money-grabbing department. If the Legislature goes from its current special session into a regular session a few weeks later, then needs another special session to finish work (as it has the last two years), perhaps McKenna should be allowed some sort of catch-up period in which he’d be allowed two fundraisers for every one of Inslee’s.

Restrictions on money-raising during a session were approved to keep people from donating to a candidate not because they think he or she is the best person to hold the office being sought, but to influence legislation in the session at hand. It’s a good, if imperfect, law.

But Republicans might want to think before protesting too loudly, because if one were to expand it logically, it also would bar legislators who are running for congressional office from raising money during the session. There are a fair number of legislators running for Congress in 2012, including state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane. This kind of rule would put him at an even greater disadvantage in his fledgling race against U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Strangely enough, a bill introduced by several Republican legislators to address the McKenna-Inslee situation doesn’t get around to the Baumgartner-Cantwell situation. There may be federal court fights in the wings for either change, but if they were really serious about the good government aspect of this, seems they’d cast a wider net.

Quote of the week

“We don’t usually have people arrested during our hearings.” – Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, expanding on his description of the panel’s first hearing of the special session as “a riot” in which protesters had to be cleared from the room by state troopers.

O’Reilly at war on Washington state?

News commentator Bill O’Reilly has been bugged by holiday activities in and around the state Capitol for several years, ever since the state allowed atheists to place a sign in the building in 2008.

In a recent newscast, he was asking a couple of Culture Warrior panelists for an update on the alleged “War on Christmas,” and – in the fullness of time as the Good Book says – Washington state came up.

“You may recall that the state of Washington, in their Capitol rotunda, put up an atheist thing, right next to the Christmas tree,” he said. (Fact check: A group of atheists put up the sign, not the state, and it wasn’t next to the tree, it was one level up, as was a Nativity scene.)

So what’s Washington doing this year? he asked Gretchen Carlson and Margaret Hoover. “Remains to be seen whether they’re going to allow Nativity scenes and atheists to put – ” replied Hoover.

“So we don’t know yet what the governor of Washington is going to have in her rotunda,” O’Reilly said.

“They’re going to allow all displays,” Hoover said.

Not exactly. The only thing in the rotunda is the holiday tree, which is named thus by its sponsor, the Association of Washington Business, not the governor. No other displays are allowed inside the Capitol, and haven’t been for a couple years.

The Department of Enterprise Services says it has approved applications for a Nativity scene near the Tivoli Fountain from Dec. 20-26, a banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation on the Capitol campus at roughly the same time, and a large menorah on the grounds at nearby Sylvester Park starting Dec. 16 for Hanukkah.

So at ease, Xmas warriors.

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