Ross: Gov. Inslee’s bill to punish lying politicians may be asking for trouble

Jan 17, 2022, 5:34 AM | Updated: 9:09 am
emergency powers...
(File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Danny Westneat – Seattle Times columnist – is the latest among a growing number of reasonable people questioning Governor Inslee’s bill to punish lying politicians.

It’s Senate Bill 5843 – and it would allow criminal prosecution of any politician who makes false claims about the election process for the purpose of inciting or producing “imminent lawless actions.”

Upon conviction, the offending politician would be removed from office.

At first glance, it SEEMS to be a pretty narrow bill:

It only applies to discussions of the election process, and then only to claims about that process that the politician knows to be false, and then only if the politician makes those claims for the purpose of causing trouble, and then only if the trouble actually occurs.

It looks like the intent was for this to apply to a January 6th-type event.

But this bill doesn’t limit itself to that circumstance.

The reason the Jan. 6 riot was so dangerous is that it appeared to be an attempt by a sitting U.S. President to use physical force to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

But the governor’s bill applies to any situation where a politician knowingly says something false about the election process for the purpose of riling people up – no matter the context.

So, consider this hypothetical: President Biden comes to Seattle, and delivers an angry speech arguing that some states are passing laws that amount to “Jim Crow 2.0.” And after that speech, suppose protesters block streets on our own Capitol Hill, and that once again the protest is infiltrated by people who end up looting and setting fires.

Again, just a hypothetical …

But if that happened, under the governor’s law, I’ll bet there’d be calls to investigate: 1) whether Biden knew that the Republican election reforms bear no resemblance to Jim Crow laws; and 2) whether Biden deliberately made that false claim knowing there’d be trouble.

Now I emphasize that’s a hypothetical.

And yet, given that there are groups on the left that can get just as riled up by political speech as the right – I wouldn’t be surprised if some Republicans actually voted for this just to see what happens.

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Ross: Gov. Inslee’s bill to punish lying politicians may be asking for trouble