What exactly is one state legislator in Washington doing interfering in the communications of another with his constituents?
In essence, that's happening in Washington, through the intermediary of legislative staff.
All this grows out of a principle, enshrined in rules in various ways in many states, that legislators should refrain from personal attacks on each other. That makes some sense; start down that road and cooperative legislating soon becomes impossible. The imperative is to stick to the issues.
But that principle usually applies to speech and statements in official proceedings, on the floor and in committee. And ordinarily, it doesn't serve to limit lawmakers from saying what they want about substantive matters, or characterizing them as they will. Especially to constituents.
Enter a Washington legislative rule from 1998, which had bipartisan support, which said that attacks by legislators on other legislators should not be supported with state money, in whatever means. Here it starts to get tricky, because you wind up with bad cases like the one Representative Glenn Anderson, a Republican from Falls City, is contending with.
Like many other legislators, he sends his constituents newsletters. The House clerk's office has taken to editing these, to the point of insisting of what he can and cannot say about issues - because some of what he says about some issues could be taken as criticism of majority Democrats. (more…)