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June 14, 2006

HIgh court candidate says he's target of state "political ambush"

Posted by David Postman at 10:29 AM

The Times has a story this morning about Supreme Court candidate John Groen's fundraising rush right before new campaign donation limits went into effect.

Groen's campaign is using that new limit to try to scare up more donations, painting the conservative attorney as the target of a political attack. A fund raising letter dated June 1 from Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr., closes with this p.s.:

Just yesterday, the Public Disclosure Commission (who oversees campaign contributions and practices) passed an emergency rule aimed specifically to prohibit John Groen from using legal contributions raised so far! This appears to be nothing other than a political ambush. So, we desperately need your financial support. Please cut out the form below and return in the envelope provided as soon as you can.

The PDC did approve an emergency rule May 31. The law passed by the Legislature said campaigns covered by the new limits had to "spend" any money before June 7 that otherwise would be above the new campaign limits. The PDC had to decide what "spend" meant. The commission adopted a rule that said the money had to be used to buy goods or services that were used by the deadline. That meant a campaign could not buy TV time for October and say it was spent. It had to be used up by June 7.

Was it directed just at Groen? No, said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson. When the PDC staff was preparing to notify candidates about the pending rule-making, in April, there were a number of candidates who appeared like they would be over the limit, but Groen was not one of them, she said. The new limits govern court races and county offices.

But direct mail often works best with some fear factor thrown in. And conservative candidates for the court this year are clearly trying to run against the establishment. Judicial candidates aren't allowed to say much about their political leanings and positions on specific political issues, but certainly there are messages for voters in portraying the candidate as the target of a "political ambush" by state regulators.

Groen's campaign did amp up spending before the deadline and likely got rid of anything that would have been above the limit, said campaign manager Laurel Christiansen:

"It was just exciting. ... especially for a woman that loves to shop."

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