Government has no business trying to stop political candidates from deliberately lying about each other in campaign ads, a divided state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In the 5-4 decision upholding a lower-court ruling, the high court said a state law aimed at punishing political candidates for false advertising is an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
....The case stems from a 2002 state Senate race in the 35th Legislative District, which covers Mason and parts of Thurston, Grays Harbor and Kitsap counties.
During the campaign, Green Party candidate Marilou Rickert sent voters a brochure claiming the longtime incumbent, Democrat Tim Sheldon, "voted to close a facility for the developmentally challenged."
Sheldon, in fact, had twice voted against a budget that closed the facility.
After the election, which Sheldon won easily, he filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission. He said Rickert had violated a state law that prohibited candidates from sponsoring "with actual malice" political advertising that "contains a false statement of material fact about a candidate for public office."
The PDC sided with Sheldon. It said Rickert had acted with "reckless disregard" for the truth and slapped her with a $1,000 fine, the maximum.