We touched on it previously, but it bears further analysis and critique. Pridemore's PAC bill grants criminal prosecutorial power to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats at the PDC. Under current law and practice, once the PDC determines there's been an especially bad violation, the case is turned over to the publicly elected Attorney General who can seek unlimited fines and penalties. The AG's prosecution of the violator is overseen by a judge with rules of evidence and a final determination made by that judge in a court of law. Pridemore's bill allows the PDC to be judge, jury and executioner by 1) making such violations criminal and 2) radically increasing their fine-imposing authority. Again, current practice is to have the prosecutor not be the judge -- SB 5021 empowers the PDC to be both prosecutor and judge. Current law and current practice have checks-and-balances -- SB 5021 removes them.
It is appropriate for the PDC to have limited fine-imposing authority to encourage PACs to turn in their reports on time and follow other administrative requirements. The PDC's role is administrative: collect campaign information and then make it public. But 'bad violators' are properly prosecuted by the publicly elected, publicly accountable Attorney General with rules of evidence and oversight and final determination by a judge.
As we wrote previously: The best deterrent is strong prosecution of those who violate the law. That's exactly what's happening with Moxie Media. It's important to note that government doesn't do its best work when it tries to 'fix' what is undeniably a very rare occurrence. And rarely does the Legislature pass a new law that doesn't create more problems, intended or unintended, than it solves. Some of the changes proposed by Senate Bill 5021 do not seem well thought out.
Finally, as reported by the Everett Herald: State Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, ranking Republican on the panel, questioned the need for another law. "It's not that we didn't have enough laws," he said. "It's just they didn't abide by them."Posted by Tim Eyman at January 17, 2011 10:56 AM | Email This