WASHINGTON, D.C., February 10, 2023 – In the last week of January, the Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case in which a group of wealthy conservative activists are challenging a capital gains tax passed by the Washington state legislature. In their attempts to defeat the tax, which is expected to bring in about $500 million that will fund early childhood education in the state, one group has admitted to openly attempting to lobby the justices on that court.
In the days leading up to the hearing, the Washington Policy Center (WPC) — a rightwing, Freedom Foundation-aligned think tank in Washington and an amicus filer in the case — informed donors that it planned to run ads directly targeting the justices and their staff at their offices and homes to sway their thinking against the tax. In addition to being an amicus filer, two parties named in the lawsuit also sit on the WPC board. This ad campaign, they admitted to donors, would involve using microtargeting techniques like geo-fencing to ensure the justices, their staff, and their influencers see their materials.
Jake Faleschini, Legal Director for State Courts at Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, issued the following statement:
“It’s astonishing to see conservative groups openly admit that they’re trying to win their cases outside of the courtroom. I’m young enough to remember when conservatives tried to convince the nation that judges just call balls and strikes while they decried rulings they didn’t like as ‘judicial activism.’ Now, conservatives don’t even pretend to care about winning cases on the merits.
“As we’ve learned from recent revelations about anti-abortion groups courting the U.S. Supreme Court, this is not an isolated incident. Conservatives have transformed our federal courts into political institutions and want to do the same with our state courts. This is why public faith in our courts is so low. People from all political backgrounds should come together to condemn these lobbying tactics. If the president and CEO of the Washington Policy Center, who is a member of the Washington State Bar Association, had a hand in these attempted ex parte communications with the justices, then he should be disbarred for ethics violations. The only way to restore trust in our justice system is to make sure the courtroom is a level playing field for all cases.”