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Groups prep their arsenals
Seattle Times chief political reporter
This week, a political group formed by state trial lawyers e-mailed an urgent plea for money to stop special interests from taking over the state Supreme Court.
No. 1 on the parade of horribles was the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) and its alleged use of "political intimidation and money" to control the court.
But the e-mail from the Washington Network for Civil Justice & Accountability falsely claims that among BIAW's other sins is that it "hand-picked" Jeanette Burrage to run against Justice Tom Chambers. The BIAW not only didn't recruit Burrage, the group endorsed Chambers and will help him win re-election.
It's not the first false attack on BIAW this election season. A guest-written op-ed in this paper erroneously said the group "dumped $100,000" into a candidate's campaign just before new campaign limits went into effect.
I'm confident there will be plenty to write about BIAW this year. The group has earned its reputation as bare-knuckle fighters. It ran an ad in 2004 against then-candidate gubernatorial Christine Gregoire that had to be retooled after complaints it was inaccurate.
And in the drawn-out recount battle following Gregoire's win, the BIAW mailed a phony survey to try to get signatures of people to use in checking the validity of ballots.
Do the BIAW's tactics and big bucks make the left less than stringent about getting the facts right? Does the BIAW get what it deserves?
"I think they bring that on themselves," said Lisa MacLean. She's a political consultant working with Citizens to Uphold the Constitution, a group of mostly liberal organizations raising money to support three incumbent justices, two of whom the BIAW opposes. That's the group that the Washington Network for Civil Justice & Accountability e-mail asked people to support.
"In politics, perception is reality and BIAW has definitely created a perception that they are playing in judicial races in a very heavy-handed and financially significant way," she said.
MacLean calls the errors about BIAW "a couple little sloppy things."
"They're lying and it irritates me that these attorney groups continue to lie," he said. "I'm starting to believe all those jokes about attorneys."
Citizens to Uphold the Constitution wouldn't exist if it weren't for BIAW's success. Builders spent more than $420,000 in the past two election cycles to elect Jim Johnson to the court. He lost in 2002 but won in 2004, outspending his opponent by more than 3-1.
MacLean says the BIAW backs candidates based on ideology. She claims her group looks at experience and qualifications, even though its funding comes from liberal groups.
Her group may be on the side of the angels now, but MacLean says she will not be afraid to "communicate on partisan or ideological" grounds with voters if it makes strategic sense.
"We're going to use the full arsenal."
Just like the BIAW.
David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company