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Grading the Lawmakers 

A left-leaning lobby scores legislators in Olympia; plus, election fundraising is back

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PASS OR FAIL

If you ask the activists, our elected officials aren’t passing their classes. The Washington Community Action Network, a statewide left-leaning lobby group, released a report this week grading legislators on their votes for racial and economic equity.

The Washington State Legislature overall received a D. Of the failures across the state, 19 live in districts with more than 30 percent “constituents of color,” according to the report.

“That’s pretty horrifying,” says Rachael DeCruz, Washington CAN’s communications director.

The group analyzed 25 bills from the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions they believed would have increased racial equity or worsened existing inequities. Legislators were graded on how they voted and whether they showed any leadership in authoring those bills. The report also analyzes “missed opportunities,” dinging the Legislature for rejecting bills the group believes would have had a positive impact.

In Spokane, the grades split down party lines, giving 3rd District Democrats Sen. Lisa Brown and Rep. Timm Ormsby B’s and Rep. Andy Billig an A. Spokane Republicans — 4th District Sen. Mike Padden and Representatives Matt Shea and Larry Crouse, and 6th District Sen. Michael Baumgartner and Representatives Kevin Parker and John Ahern — all got F’s.

“It’s clear work needs to be done on the Republican side around these issues,” DeCruz says. The group plans to use the report in its lobbying at next year’s session, which starts Jan.14.

-Heidi Groover

More Fundraising

Election season ended just five weeks ago, but freshman 3rd District Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) is hosting another fundraiser.

Riccelli calls the fundraiser an opportunity for “some folks in the community that wanted to support me that didn’t get a chance to” during the campaign. It’s also an opportunity for Spokies to go rub shoulders with House leaders.

“The majority leader Pat Sullivan wanted to come out and help me out,” says Riccelli, adding that this fundraiser is occurring in this election cycle’s window.

The fundraiser — at Northern Quest Resort & Casino Dec. 18 — is being sponsored by Sterling Savings and construction and engineering firm CH2M Hill, according to the invite. Timm Ormsby, the other District 3 representative, will also be there. Suggested donations are in the amount of $500, $250 and $75, according to the invite. Riccelli has raised over $5,500 since the end of the election, some of which may have gone to retire campaign debt.

— Joe O’Sullivan

A Victory for Sketchy Ads

Back in March, Governor Christine Gregoire signed a law, to great fanfare, intending to curb sex trafficking. The law took aim at a website, BackPage.com, a classified site that often runs “Adult Services” ads in alt-weeklies across the country, requiring the hosts of such websites to make an effort to verify the ages of those advertising their escort services.

Several prostitutes in Spokane have told The Inlander they advertise on Backpage.com whenever they can afford to. (The Inlander has not been associated with BackPage.com for some time, and hasn’t run ads for adult services since the early 1990s.)

After a lawsuit from the Internet Archive and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, however, the law was struck with a legal injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez called the law overbroad, saying it violated the First and 14th Amendments and the Communications Decency Act.

Because of the way the Communications Decency Act is written, Attorney General Rob McKenna decided any appeals would be expensive and unlikely to succeed.

“It is unfortunate that because of this ruling, Backpage will continue to profit from sex ads for kids and others,” McKenna was quoted in a statement published on his website. “Congress must revisit the [Communications Decency Act] in order to close a loophole that allows companies such as Backpage to make millions advertising an illegal service that takes a particularly devastating toll on children.”

— Daniel Walters

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