One quote from the robo-call dustup made me think:
You could read this (as did I) as a simple statement of "I'm telling the truth" or at least "I think I'm telling the truth," but in Washington State that isn't necessarily true.
In Washington State, Glen Morgan and Karen Rogers could well be lying, and know their lying, and still not run afowl of state law.
Twice now the state legislature has tried to outlaw lying in political speech, and twice the state Supreme Court has sent them back.
In the 1990s, there was a state law that barred candidates and campaigns from sponsoring "with actual malice" lies.
The first case that struck down these rules involved an assisted suicide initative, specifically one flier that the proponents of the intiative said were innaccurate about suicide safeguards. The second had to do with one of Tim Sheldon's state senate races in which his opponent tried to make hay over his weak defense of Mission Creek.
Between the two cases the state legislature tried to clean up the law, making it possibly better able to survive court challenge.
The bottom line of these cases is that the Public Disclosure Commission, which usually regulates political and campaign speech in Washington, can't get into the lie vs. truth business.
The deeper reading of these cases shows a divided court weakly coming to this conclusion. Both cases show a small majority coming to a very thin legal conclusion that the state has no part in the lie vs. truth business.
Justice Talmadge in 1998, writing (sort of) with the majority:
I agree with the majority that RCW 42.17.530 is facially unconstitutional because it sweeps protected First Amendment activity within its provisions by penalizing political speech, even if knowingly false, regarding an initiative measure. I write separately to emphasize that I am not convinced that the same is true where a statement contains deliberate falsehoods about a candidate for public office. In my view, there is merit to the contention that the Legislature may constitutionally penalize sponsorship of political advertising of such a nature by enacting a narrower statute than RCW 42.17.530.And Alexander in 2007:
Chief Justice Gerry Alexander joined the majority as well, but in a separate concurrence. He wrote that "the majority goes too far in concluding that any government censorship of political speech would run afoul of the United States and Washington constitutions," but he agreed that the law was unconstitutional because it was overbroad.But, then, two years later, the legislature again tried to clean up the law to make it illegal to maliciously defame a politician running for office. From the final bill report of SHB 1286:
It is a violation of the campaign laws for a person to sponsor, with actual malice, a statement constituting libel or defamation per se under certain circumstances: the false statement is about a candidate and is in political advertising or electioneering communications; a person falsely represents that a candidate is an incumbent for the office sought in political advertising or an electioneering communication; or a person directly or indirectly implies the support or endorsement of any person or organization in political advertising or an electioneering communication when in fact the candidate does not have such support or endorsement.
A candidate is also prohibited from submitting a defamatory or libelous statement to the Secretary of State for inclusion in the voters' pamphlet about his or her opponent. For the purposes of this act, "libel or defamation per se" is defined as statements that tend: to expose a living person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or to deprive him or her of the benefit of public confidence or social intercourse; or to injure any person, corporation, or association in his, her, or its business or occupation.
If a person makes a false statement, with actual malice, about himself or herself or falsely represents himself or herself as an incumbent, it is not libel or defamation and is not a violation of the campaign laws. It is also not a violation of the campaign laws for a person or organization to falsely represent that the person or organization supports or endorses a candidate as persons and organizations cannot defame themselves. If a violation is proven, damages are presumed and need not be proven.So, there. Clear as mud. Each time the legislature tries to make it unlawful to lie, then the courts kick it back and the legislature tries again. If we were to take a broader view in our historical circle, we're at the point where we wait for a case attempting to enforce this law makes it back to the Supreme Court.
Only problem is the statement about Cooper isn't a lie. We don't need someone who will abuse women as a Thurston County Commissioner.
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