Where is the outrage?
A handful of well-connected GOP operatives are running $1.2 million worth of attack ads to knock Democratic AG frontrunner Deborah Senn out of the race. This unprecedented “independent expenditure” has changed the whole nature of Washington politics overnight, with nary a word from our solemn editorialists.
Suddenly, any powerful special interest with an axe to grind and money to burn can determine the outcome of a statewide election simply by drowning the candidates in a torrent of paid media. To put this in perspective, more money is being spent on a 10-day TV smear campaign than by all four AG candidates combined.
And thanks to the state GOP’s cynical manipulation of public disclosure laws, voters will have no idea where the money came from until well after the primary election.
Of course, we expect this from Republicans and their wealthy allies, so maybe that’s why the media doesn’t consider this big news — I suspect a similar campaign by Democratic operatives against Rob McKenna or Dino Rossi might attract more criticism. And of course, many editorial boards have endorsed her opponent, so why come to Senn’s defense?
But if this naked attempt to throw an election with unregulated money is allowed to stand unchallenged, it sets a terrible precedent for future elections for other statewide offices.
Perhaps timber and building interests will install an industry friendly Lands Commissioner by blowing a wad of cash on that low-profile office? Or maybe conservatives will pony up the bucks for a pro-voucher, pro-charter schools Superintendent of Public Instruction?
But the best value for smart special interest shoppers might just be packing our courts with partisan judges… races that traditionally can afford little if any paid media. A million dollars, strategically spent, could change the entire makeup of our State Supreme Court.
The editorial boards have apparently chosen to stay quiet, perhaps out of sympathy for the attack ads’ goals. But next time around, when they start screaming because one of their favorite candidates is getting gored, it will be too late.