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Rantz: Manka Dhingra’s wildly inaccurate defense of disclosure bill

Manka Dhingra. (AP)

Washington legislators are on the defensive and their arguments in support of a disaster of a bill are crumbling. Senate Democrat Manka Dhingra, desperate to position her support as supporting constituent privacy, is just plain wrong in her claims.

RELATED: Outrage erupts over Washington lawmaker’s public records law

In record time, and without public debate, Democrats and Republicans approved a bill that exempts them from complying with the Public Records Act, even though a judge ruled they were subject to public disclosure. Why does this matter? This kind of transparency is what many in the press rely on to uncover abuses of power, injustice, inefficiencies and so much more of what you demand of us.

Now, thanks to urgent pleas from the media that Governor Jay Inslee veto the bill, constituents are angry and concerned. This is putting senators like Dhingra on the defensive. Indeed, I’ve obtained email correspondence between her office and a constituent. Dhingra’s defense of her vote indicates she either doesn’t understand the bill she supported or she’s willfully misleading her constituent.

Writing on behalf of the senator, an aide touts Dhingra’s legal bonafides as a prosecutor. So, you know, she actually understands the law. Could have fooled me. The email claims private, personally identifiable information of constituents would be subject to public disclosure. She writes:

So the question is: Should a marketing firm be allowed to do a records search of all communications to and from my office for everyone who has e-mailed me about an issue? Names, E-mail addresses, phone numbers and home addresses would be released. Personally, I do not think these kinds of emails should be subject to a commercial or political effort that could demand any and all communications on a certain subject or bill.

I agree. I, too, do not think these kinds of emails should be used by marketing firms. As it turns out, existing law agrees and this information is already protected. The law currently states: “[A]gencies may not produce lists of individuals in response to requests made for commercial purposes under RCW 42.56.070(9).”

A senator’s weak argument on public records

You’d think that a prosecutor with Dhingra’s experience would have known that. I’d love to see how she came up with her defense and see if the messaging has been coordinated with special interests and Democratic leadership in an effort to deceive us. Unfortunately, she passed a law that keeps all of this secret.

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