Washington Pro-Life Group Challenges Campaign Finance Law to Protect Donors

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 20, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Pro-Life Group Challenges Campaign Finance Law to Protect Donors

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 20
, 2008

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — A leading Washington pro-life group is challenging the state’s campaign finance laws because it wants to protect its donors from harassment. Human Life of Washington is worried its donors would be harassed by assisted suicide backers and that it won’t be able to engage in issue advocacy.

In April, Human Life filed suit in federal court challenging Washington’s restrictions on it for doing issue advocacy. Issue advocacy is protected from state restriction by the First Amendment, as the U.S. Supreme Court recently reaffirmed in the Wisconsin Right to Life case.

The group has long opposed assisted suicide as part of its pro-life mission and normally it would be free to engage in issue advocacy about the topic.

But because efforts are now underway to qualify and pass a ballot initiative ("I-1000") legalizing assisted suicide, HLW’s issue advocacy on the same subject would be restricted by laws regulating political action committees.

Jim Bopp, a leading pro-life and campaign finance attorney tells LifeNews.com the group is worried that its efforts to oppose assisted suicide will be seen as political in nature and will be declared illegal by the state.

The gorup’s ads against assisted suicide could be seen as opposing I-1000 even if they don’t actually tell voters to do that.

"This case is simple. Human Life of Washington wants to freely engage in constitutionally-protected issue advocacy and not have Washington burden it with heavy ‘political committee’ requirements," he said.

"Under controlling decisions by the United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit, Washington may neither restrict issue advocacy nor impose PAC burdens," he explained, adding the state laws should be declared unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the group is also challenging laws requiring the disclosure of campaign donors because it worries its members will be harassed by backers of the assisted suicide proposal.

“They want to attack our donors, and we want to protect them,” Bopp told the News Tribune about the pro-assisted suicide group. “And it’s reasonable to believe that our supporters would be subject to harassment and intimidation, which is why the U.S. Supreme Court protects donors from disclosure.

I-1000 would make Washington the second state, after Oregon, to legalize assisted suicide and Human Life is joining with the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide in opposing it.

Backers of the statewide ballot measure have until July 4 to gather the nearly 225,000 signatures they need to qualify the measure for the November vote.

Related web sites:
Human Life of Washington – https://www.humanlife.net