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Moxie Media case may bring crackdown on PAC's

State lawmakers are considering tighter restrictions on political action committees, or PAC's. The proposal stems from the case of a Seattle-based Democratic political firm now being sued by the Attorney General for campaign finance violations. 

Last summer, Moxie Media set up a series of PACs that obscured the backers of a bizarre primary election campaign. With backing from labor unions and trial lawyers, the firm ran a stealth campaign designed to help a liberal challenger beat a more conservative Democratic incumbent state senator.

The effort appears to have worked. That incumbent, Jean Berkey, lost the primary. Now the state senate is considering legislation that would ban the laundering of political contributions through multiple PACs.

Craig Salins with the group Washington Public Campaigns testified in favor of the proposal.

"Citizens should not need training from Sherlock Holmes in order to decipher who is serving campaign propaganda and trying to influence their vote," says Salins.

Washington's Public Disclosure Commission also backs the proposal.

But professional initiative activist Tim Eyman testified in opposition. He says provisions in the bill would violate First Amendment rights.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.