Thursday, April 26, 2007

Good news on Free Speech in Washington State

During the 2004 election cycle, ballot initiative I-912 was introduced to repeal the 9.5 cent per gallon additional gas tax that had been voted into law by the state legislature. I-912 was a polarizing issue, and drew hot debate. Sadly, many of my fellow inmates citizens voted against I-912, and the gas tax increase stayed the law of the land.

Why does this relate to Free Speech? Because local KVI radio hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson were accused of using their platforms as free advertising for I-912, and were ordered to report their online support as a political contribution, which I posted about in July of 2005.

They have been fighing this finding ever since, and today we have the determination from the Washington State Supreme Court, by way of Michelle Malkin:

Breaking: Free speech victory in Washington state
There's an important breaking court decision on a political free speech case involving my friends at KVI radio in Seattle. A reader e-mails:

A unanimous Washington state supreme court ruling, issued this morning, reversed a lower court ruling that held radio commentary by Seattle's KVI-570's Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson made "in-kind" contributions when they promoted an anti-gas tax voter initiative on their shows in 2005.

Majority Opinion by Justice Barbara Madsen.

Concurring opinion by Justice James Johnson, scolding the abusive prosecutors.

Seattle Times coverage:

The state Supreme Court said in an opinion released this morning that KVI talk show hosts did not need to report their advocacy for an anti-gas tax campaign as an in-kind political contribution. And the court has reinstated a countersuit filed by the No New Gas Tax (NNGT) campaign against local governments that initially sued.

We hold that RCW 42.17.090 did not require NNGT to disclose the value of KVI's radio broadcasts supporting the initiative campaign as an in-kind contribution. The statutory media exemption, RCW 42.17.020(15)(b)(iv), excludes from the definition of "contribution" political advocacy for or against a political campaign by the hosts of a regularly scheduled talk show, broadcast by a radio station that is not controlled by a candidate or political committee. We reverse the order dismissing NNGT's counterclaims and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Great news, and a solid statement for free speech! I was listening to Kirby this morning, and he indicated that if this decision had gone against them, he and John were prepared to take it to the US Supreme Court. I'm glad that the justices of my state were able to see the light.