The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

26 April 2007

Talk Radio, Seattle, KVI, Political Contributions Ruling


Free Speech Beats Effort To Silence Talk Radio

*** Update Below ***

An outrageous attempt to undermine conservative talk radio via the courtroom has officially gone down in flames.

In a unanimous decision issued this morning, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that talk hosts who take positions in favor of political initiatives cannot be compelled to report the airtime as an in- kind campaign contribution.

The case began when objections were raised to on- air support of an anti- gas tax initiative by two KVI / Seattle hosts.

From David Postman at the Seattle Times:

Supreme Court says radio talk not a political donation

The state Supreme Court said in an opinion released this morning that KVI talk show hosts did not need to report their advocacy for an anti-gas tax campaign as an in-kind political contribution. And the court has reinstated a countersuit filed by the No New Gas Tax (NNGT) campaign against local governments that initially sued.

We hold that RCW 42.17.090 did not require NNGT to disclose the value of KVI's radio broadcasts supporting the initiative campaign as an in-kind contribution. The statutory media exemption, RCW 42.17.020(15)(b)(iv), excludes from the definition of "contribution" political advocacy for or against a political campaign by the hosts of a regularly scheduled talk show, broadcast by a radio station that is not controlled by a candidate or political committee. We reverse the order dismissing NNGT's counterclaims and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Last year, the Radio Equalizer covered this story at length. Click here to visit the archives.

Had the lower court's decision stood, it could have opened the door for a widespread crackdown on talk radio, especially during the upcoming election season, which is seen as crucial for stations in terms of ratings and revenue.

Here's how the Seattle Times covered the story last year:

At the center of the dispute are John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur, conservative talk-radio hosts for KVI who last spring ran an extensive on-air campaign for an initiative to overturn the biggest gas-tax increase in state history.

The initiative ultimately failed. But the legal fight over the anti-gas-tax crusade could set new boundaries for talk-radio hosts and determine at what point political speech becomes political advertising that can be regulated by the government.

Groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, oppose a lower court ruling that Carlson's and Wilbur's talk-radio campaign amounted to an in-kind political contribution to the gas-tax opponents.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, "it would give the government the power to micromanage and second-guess the editorial judgment of the press," William Maurer, an Institute for Justice attorney who represents the anti-gas-tax group, told the Supreme Court.

But the government lawyers who brought the case say reversing the ruling could open the door for powerful media corporations to become "king makers" by mounting unregulated political campaigns.

"In this case there was no limitation on anyone's right to speak," Mike Vaska, a Seattle attorney who represents four municipalities in the appeal, said in an interview this week. "The only requirement that came out of the case was that the people be informed about who was funding the campaign."

The case stems from a lawsuit filed by San Juan County and the cities of Seattle, Auburn and Kent last year against, the group backing Initiative 912, which was aimed at repealing a new 9.5-cent gasoline-tax increase.

Carlson and Wilbur promoted the initiative vigorously on KVI, asking listeners to collect signatures and donate money to the effort. Many of their on-air remarks suggested they were launching the initiative.

Last year, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham ordered that the I-912 committee had to disclose the on-air pitches as in-kind contributions from Fisher Communications, which owns KVI.

The I-912 campaign filed a countersuit, accusing the municipalities of infringing on the radio hosts' First Amendment rights. But Wickham dismissed the counterclaim, saying that Wilbur's and Carlson's close ties to the initiative rendered their on-air solicitations political contributions.

The ruling sent "shock waves" through the talk-radio industry, said Brian Maloney, a former KVI host who now runs Radio Equalizer, a Web site that focuses on talk radio.

"If it's allowed to stand, it would be a devastating blow for freedom of speech on the radio," Maloney said.

As additional information becomes available, we'll update the story.

UPDATE: "progressive" bloggers, obviously unhappy KVI wasn't muzzled, are nitpicking at the ruling. Trouble is, the Washington State Supreme Court hardly has a "right- wing" reputation!

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  • Hooray! Carlson wins another victory over Liberal stupidity.

    Where do citizens go when Liberals in office overstep their power to persecute anything not PC?

    By Blogger PCD, at 26 April, 2007 14:28  

  • Not to sound cliched but this is a victory for freedom of speech--AND 9-ZIP YET!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 26 April, 2007 17:44  

  • PCD

    crawls to the AM radio

    please think for me
    please think for me

    You fucking terrorist enabler

    The right are filth

    just look at the useful idiots they churn out
    PCD is ther poster child of braid dead ditto head, trash

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 27 April, 2007 09:49  

  • MoPoop, you are the one who can't think and needs a daily script for how to think for the day.

    By Blogger PCD, at 27 April, 2007 10:12  

  • what a clever comeback, fudgie

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 27 April, 2007 23:22  

  • PCD said all that needed to be said without curse words unlike brain dead MOP.

    By Blogger pf1, at 28 April, 2007 05:29  

  • maybe you should return to kindergarten then, pf1

    it's not our fault you were homeschooled in the first place

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 28 April, 2007 20:55  

  • Hash, homeschoolers ourperform the NEA owned mediocrity you call the public schools.

    Go back to Jordan.

    By Blogger PCD, at 28 April, 2007 21:04  

  • Keep talking hash, someday you'll say something intelligent!

    By Blogger pf1, at 29 April, 2007 00:17  

  • "Hash, homeschoolers ourperform the NEA owned mediocrity you call the public schools."

    considering you are PART of this very mediocrity, perhaps you should look at your doorstep to lay blame for the state of our inner cities, and consider the wisdom of paying the people back what you have stolen

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 29 April, 2007 20:25  

  • keep on pulling, pf1, maybe some day you'll reach some level of satisfaction with yourself

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 29 April, 2007 20:26  

  • Lets see you live in the city were the problems are. Who is running this city conservative or liberal? So where does the fault lie.

    This is why you are an idiot blame conservatives for problems created by liberals.

    Keep expanding the give me society (socialism) and see if it gets better.

    People say that you are the perfect idiot. I say that you are not perfect but you are doing all right.

    By Blogger pf1, at 30 April, 2007 00:53  

  • oh, no, i do not live in the city that pcd works for

    i have no idea what political party governs that town, and, to me, it doesn't really matter

    i can assure you that, regardless of party, the only time any officials show up to demonstrate any concern regarding schools in the inner city is immediately prior to the election

    and that, regardless of party, pcd's participation in the educational process of those inner-city schools would not go over well, if his views and categorization of the children he is supposed to be supervising, in addition to the apparent discipline issues he freely admits to under his jurisdiction, would be widely known

    but it is characteristic of so-called conservatives to paint themselves as "clean-'em-up" saviors, and then become part of the very corrupt and inefficient bureaucracies they decry

    look in any major american city, where poverty and race play a role

    as i've stated repeatedly, the conservative machine needs to pay back what it has stolen from american society, in the name of tradition and alleged family values

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 30 April, 2007 08:21  

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