Referendum 71 donors should be revealed — it's the law
The state cannot set aside the public-disclosure law just because someone is alarmed or received a threat. Donors to the campaign to undo this state's domestic-partnership law should reveal themselves.
PROTECT Marriage Washington, the group trying to put the new domestic-partnership law on the ballot to kill it, has a new way of disclosing its donors to the Public Disclosure Commission:
D.L., Chehalis, WA, $100;
T.P., WA, $100;
C.H., Camas, WA, $100.
No names. No addresses. Just initials and, some of the time, cities.
Public Disclosure Commission Assistant Director Doug Ellis says flatly this does not comply with the law. It is also not acceptable politically.
The people of Washington need to know who D.L. is, because D.L. is trying to influence how they vote. It is all right for D.L. to do that — there is a whole industry devoted to it — but the people do not want it done anonymously.
At the same time it covers its donors, Protect Marriage Washington is asking the PDC's permission to do so. Its reason is that it is alarmed by a bellicose Web site and has received threats through the Internet.
The state cannot set aside the public-disclosure law just because someone received a threat. That is setting the bar too low. If all it took were a threat from an anonymous e-mailer, groups that wanted an exemption from public disclosure could threaten themselves. An exception should require a pattern of acts that are real, ongoing and serious.
There has been one example. In the 1990s, the Socialist Workers Party offered evidence of actual harassment and property damage done to its donors. Its argument had already been accepted by the Federal Election Commission, and several times the state PDC granted the request. The city of Seattle denied it, was sued, and lost in federal court. In 2005, Seattle allowed the donors to mayoral candidate Chris Hoeppner to remain anonymous.
But the Socialist Workers are a special case. They could show actual damage, not just threats. And they are different in another way. They are a communist party, a fringe party. They're tiny, and their candidates have no chance of winning. People have less need to know their donors.
Referendum 71 is not at the fringe. It is at the center of a political fight about gay rights that has been going on for most of the decade, here and across the country. If it gets on the ballot there will be campaigns on both sides, with the possibility of mailers, robocalls, radio, TV and newspaper ads. People will want to know who is paying to influence them. They will hear, and they will want to know who is speaking.
The PDC should stick to its guns.
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.