Type Complaint Opinion 
Date 12/12/1996 
Number 96-10 
Topic Caucus Internet Page - mailing statutes 
Respondent Senators Spanel, Loveland, Betti Sheldon, Wojahn and Snyder 
Question/Complaint
A few months before the general election the Senate Democratic Caucus created and published a homepage as a separate site on the Legislature's homepage on the internet.  Materials were similar to newsletters in appearance, discussed issues in somewhat partisan terms, and were available electronically as opposed to being mailed.  None of the materials directly advocated the election of any of the respondents.
Summary
Although analogous to a newsletter the materials had not been mailed so the homepage does not fall within the specific language of the mailing statute, RCW 42.17.132 (now 42.52.185).  Internet usage doesn't neatly fit the terms of the statute.  Dismissed for lack of reasonable cause.  However, the Board proceeded to issue a prospective advisory opinion within the text of the complaint opinion.  Purpose of mailing restrictions is to reduce advantage of incumbents mailing at state expense, AO95-19  - this purpose will guide the Board's analysis in reviewing the publication and distribution of partisan materials by electronic means as well as by mail.  Factors identified in AO96-11 will be applied to all materials published and distributed for public consumption, not just to responsive press releases (timeliness, proximity to election, relevance, source of initial statement and tone and tenor).
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