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October 30, 2009 at 4:37 PM

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Constantine: Take down the ad violating TVW's copyright

Posted by Kate Riley

Campaigns can turn ugly. The King County executive is a brutal example of that -- on both sides.

There is no way that candidate Dow Constantine, a King County councilmember, is responsible for Boeing's decision to expand into South Carolina -- as his opponent Susan Hutchison inartfully suggested this week. I think I pulled a muscle comtemplating that stretch. Hey, this is politics. Mud flies.

But Constantine really stepped outside the lines of propriety, not for nastiness, but for violating the copyright of a revered institution, the nonprofit TVW, Washington's version of CSPAN -- and for refusing to cut it out. TVW has asked that it be taken down, and Constantine's lawyers have refused. Constantine's spokesman Sandeep Kaushik told that the use is justified.

Founded in 1995, TVW's programming has included legislative hearings and debates, Supreme Court proceedings, law school symposia and public policy events, such as the Washington Policy Center's annual dinner.

Snippets of the 2008 dinner programming showing Hutchison lavishly praising a WPC report were used in an ad to suggest she aligns herself with extremists. That insinuation is ironic since WPC's staff members have been invited to testify before the Washington Legislature by Democrats and Republicans alike. I didn't go to WPC's most recent dinner, but a friend who attended said plenty of folks from both sides of the aisles were sitting at table breaking bread together.

By the way, another Constantine ad maligns WPC as global warming deniers, an allegation that doesn't ring true. See this Times guest column by the director of WPC's Environmental Policy Center, arguing for a carbon tax as part of a more coherent approach to climate change.

But here's what has TVW officials righteously exercised. Under its policy, TVW footage can be used only in its entirety, so people can see the context of what is said. That standard is to keep the trust with citizens, policymakers and elected officials that TVW stays out of the political fray.

So far, though some have had to be reminded, campaigns have abided by that policy with one notable exception. In 2006, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee cleverly excerpted a speech by Republican Congressman Dave Reichert in ads supporting challenger Darcy Burner.

Then-TVW President Cindy Zehnder was fighting the violation but to no avail. By the way, Zehnder later became Gov. Chris Gregoire's chief of staff (Hello! This is not a partisan issue.)

TVW's current President Greg Lane said the behavior of Constantine's campaign is especially disturbing.

"It’s a local campaign, not a third-party organization from D.C., which is creating a crack in the wall we’ve built locally to successfully keep our footage out of the political fray," Lane says.

That is serious breach. And, as a former state lawmaker, Constantine should know better. He should pull the ad and apologize.

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