Unable to achieve their agenda through the legislative process, the BIAW and other conservative groups are attempting to pack the bench by spending huge sums on low-profile judicial races:
For the first time in this state, a political action committee has been formed to help elect candidates to the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The Constitutional Law PAC has a right-of-center orientation.
The development alarms some court observers, who say an agenda-driven PAC for judicial elections could threaten the independence and impartiality of the state’s judiciary, and that the emergence of one will lead to other, countervailing PACs.
It’s especially troubling, he said, since Washington is one of only four states that elect judges but have no finance limits on their campaigns. Contributions to candidates for other statewide offices are limited to $1,350 per donor. A bill to place that limit on judicial candidates passed the state House this year but died in the Senate.
This development makes it clear that we absolutely need to pass legislation applying campaign limits to judicial races; if we can’t get it through the Legislature, we need to (gasp) run an initiative. These races have already been heavily politicized, and we simply cannot continue to allow wealthy special interests to pack the bench with judges that favor their agenda.
It also makes it clear that progressives need to create their own version of the BIAW… a blatantly self-interested, partisan organization that exploits a loophole in the state workers compensation system’s “retro rebate” program, to fund candidates and causes.
What we need is a Progressive Industry Association of Washington, that hires away a retro manager from one of the other groups, and competes for business and influence on an even playing field. If we can’t change the rules to make them more fair, then we need to start competing using the rules in place.