ELECTIONS ‑- INITIATIVE MEASURES ‑- ARGUMENTS ‑- VOTERS' PAMPHLET.
The opponents' arguments against Initiative No. 194 should not be accepted for publication in the voters' pamphlet unless and until one specified sentence is stricken.
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August 18, 1954
Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Olympia, Washington Cite as: AGO 53-55 No. 303
In response to your oral request of yesterday, we have reviewed the proposed argument against Initiative 194. Time is of the essence, and it has been necessary to prepare our opinion immediately.
We advise that the argument should be rejected unless and until one particular sentence is stricken.
This is a companion opinion to AGO 53-55 No. 300 of August 13, 1954 [[to Earl Coe, Secretary of State]], wherein we considered the proposed argument in favor of the same measure. The definitions and rules set forth in that opinion should be considered applicable here, and it is unnecessary to repeat them.
The picture accompanying the argument depicts a curtain being drawn over a television screen upon which a boxing bout is being shown. The word "CENSORED" is prominently displayed at the top of the picture and "Initiative 194" is printed upon the curtain. Your concern is over the inference to be drawn from this picture. Of course, it does not necessarily follow that televising of boxing matches will be eliminated if 194 passes. We are all familiar with the fact [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] that a major network program carrying such bouts is sponsored by a large brewing company. It is also true that the present broadcast time in Washington falls within the prohibited period designated in Initiative 194. Obviously, however, the same show could be released as a delayed broadcast after 10:00 p.m., or a different sponsor could carry it.
Whether or not the picture creates a false inference is not nearly as important as theeffect of the inference created, if it is false. Whatever may be said about the accuracy of this picture, we can see nothing scandalous, libelous, or defamatory about it, or any inference which could be drawn from it. Nor does the picture fall within any other class mentioned in RCW 29.79.360. In our opinion, the picture is entirely acceptable under the statute.
We have reviewed the complete text of the argument and find only one statement which, in our opinion, is violative of the spirit of RCW 29.79.360. That is the following:
"Remember how the Prohibitionists in their heyday dominated not only state legislatures, but successive Congresses? And the bootleggers and gangsters were right behind them."
The first sentence can be read as legislative and Congressional lobbying, and as such would be a proper statement. But, the addition of the underscored language charges domination of legislatures and Congress by the Prohibitionists, acting in concert with bootleggers and gangsters. This is so obviously scandalous and defamatory as to admit of no argument. The statement not only violates the spirit of the statute, but is unbecoming the dignity of a quasi-official publication. Its use was, perhaps, inspired by provocation; nevertheless, it should be stricken from the argument prior to publication.
Several ensuing statements have been inked out upon the original copy. Apparently this material was stricken by the proposers prior to filing with you, consequently we have not considered it.
We recommend to you that the argument in opposition to Initiative 194 be rejected for publication in the voters' pamphlet unless and until the quoted sentence, indicated by underscoring, be stricken.
Very truly yours,
RALPH M. DAVIS
Assistant Attorney General