Sarah Lee, Communications Director,
Center for Competitive Politics
Alexandria, Va. – The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) on Thursday, Sept. 22, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Robin Farris and the “Recall Dale Washam” committee in Washington State.
Farris has been involved in trying to recall Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam for, among other charges, using his office to retaliate against his personal and political opponents, actions that are grounds for recall in Washington State.
After the state’s Supreme Court determined Washam was eligible for a recall, Farris and her group began a campaign to gather signatures to place the recall on the ballot. Because of Washam’s tendency to retaliate against his opponents, Farris had difficulty recruiting volunteers to gather signatures. She then attempted to hire less intimidated professional signature gatherers but was stymied by the cost. Moreover, due to the contribution limits imposed by the state’s campaign finance laws, the group wasn’t able to afford the costs of raising funds, a necessary element in trying to pay professionals to gather signatures.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a preliminary injunction against the state, blocking enforcement of the contribution limits against the Recall Dale Washam Committee.
CCP made two arguments in support of the district court’s injunction: First, that Washington State’s recall regulations are so carefully limited that they deny the opportunity for corruption. Without a need to fight corruption, the state’s contribution limits are unconstitutional. CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson noted that the state’s evidence that recall elections can afford opportunities for corruption all came from states with lax and liberal recall rules.
“The District Court got this right: a state cannot justify its limits on political speech by cherry-picking evidence from across the country. Washington could not find a single instance of even the appearance of corruption within its borders, and it should not stain that record by making it harder to recall abusive officials,” Dickerson said.
Secondly, CCP argued that due to U.S. Supreme Court precedent indicating that the state’s corruption interest must not be undermined by the regulation itself, contribution limits should not apply to the Recall Dale Washam committee. Mr. Washam’s reputation for reprisal deterred the committee from procuring volunteer signature gatherers.