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By Bob Hegamin AN OPINION October 27, 2000

"A state law prohibiting malicious lies in political ads was thrown out by the state Supreme Court yesterday on the grounds it chills the free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment…… " The minority opinion chastised the court with: "Today, the Washington State Supreme Court becomes the first court in the history of the Republic to declare First Amendment protection for calculated lies, ....." (Seattle Post Intelligencer State law against lies in political ads is thrown out June 12, 1998)

It seems inconceivable that an appeal to allow lying, for any reason, could have actually reached any state Supreme Court in the nation. It was left to the Washington State Supreme Court, however, to be the first to make the decision that pitted two concepts against each other, -- lack of honesty in political campaigning and free speech. The High Court's decision told the electorate that candidates can subordinate ethics to the concept of free speech, without penalty.

Honesty will apparently no longer be a universal standard since it can now be defined and redefined to suit unique situations. The Washington State Supreme Court has forced the state's electorate to identify the lie from among countless statements by candidates. But, most voters do not have time for the chore and probably could never learn the "truth", except for independently reviewed statements with results dutifully reported by the media. In essence, the voter may be voting for the lie, a result that will only provide inferior and unethical elected officials.

On the other hand, the "Free Speech" component of the First Amendment is a precept established by the framers of the Constitution, human beings who strove for a "perfect" nation and government. But, human beings cannot be expected to preserve a free and perfect society if its citizens have only an idealized constitution that have no limits -- the certain road to chaos.

The "Freedom of Speech" was based on the premise that it would be used in a "perfect", ethical, Christian nation. It would be where within the limits of Christian morality, philosophically honest ideas could be freely expressed, no matter how highly charged or controversial the ideas. In the case of today's political campaign, honesty should of necessity, be an integral element in keeping the "playing field" level. So it is, that in spite of the state High Court's use of the First Amendment to justify lying in political ads, a lie is still just a dishonest word or statement intended to deceive or take advantage of others. It is generally considered to be a fraudulent and an unethical act, subject at least to societal penalties. Ethical and honest people can certainly understand that and can just as easily repudiate lying as a legitimate method of campaigning.

The idea that candidates can lie in their political ads leads naturally to the conclusion that they can continue lying to defend them. The Court's ruling has assured the electorate that their only choice will remain "between the lesser of two evils", which now could very well be between two liars. Obviously, once in office, the winner can legitimately renege on every promise or ideology made during the campaign. The state Supreme Court should be censured for having created a loophole for unethical candidates with enough money to buy their way into office. What need is there for campaign issues and supporting documentation when lies will do?

The Washington State Supreme Court, by allowing political candidates to lie during a campaign, has demeaned the idea of representation. It must be obvious that no constituent wants a liar to represent him or her.

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