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Seattle Times writer calls out Sen. Maralyn Chase over her defense of controversial public records bill

On Thursday, Seattle Times editorial writer Melissa Santos wrote a column fact-checking Senator Maralyn Chase’s recent op-ed defending the legislature’s attempt to rush through a bill (SB 6617) that would limit their transparency. In response, Chase sent out a fundraising email on Friday morning claiming she was being targeted by dishonest members of the media.

“We’ve had half-truths and vulgarity thrown at us during the campaign by an aggressive challenger and some in the media,” wrote Chase in the email. “That is why I am especially grateful to those of you who know the truth about my records as a public servant.”

In a Twitter thread posted Friday, Santos defended her reporting and challenged Chase’s claim using portions of a transcript from a recent interview between Sen. Chase and The Times editorial board. The transcript includes quotes from Chase that previously hadn’t been made public.

Despite voting for the bill that would remove the legislature from the Public Records Act, during the interview Chase claimed that her office readily makes her records available to the public.

“You know, like I say, anybody can come look at my records. And I’ve only had one person in my all 16 years come and want to see my records. And fine, you have at it,” said Chase.

In 2017, members of the media filed a lawsuit against the legislature claiming lawmakers were in violation of the Public Records Act. Prior to filing the lawsuit, media outlets had asked all legislators to turn over certain records. According to the interview transcript, some legislators provided calendars, but Chase did not. When Santos brought this up during the interview, Chase replied,

“I’ll give you my calendar. I don’t have a problem with it… But I’m looking to say one more thing too. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this. And I think the newspapers need to think about whether or not they were reporting the news or creating the news. And if they are creating the news, do they have an obligation to file with the Public Disclosure Commission on what they spent.”

Then in January of this year, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese ruled in favor of the media coalition, stating that individual lawmakers are subject to the Public Records Act. The legislature quickly moved to appeal the decision.

During the interview with the editorial board, Chase claimed that the reason the legislature moved forward quickly with SB 6617 is because the legislature’s attorneys said it was likely that the ruling would be overturned. If overturned, Chase said there would be no transparency.

“Unless we took action there would be no transparency, because the legislature is a separate entity, just as the courts are…And we thought if we are going to be transparent, we had better pass a bill that will get transparency out there. I mean we opened up a lot in that bill.”

Santos also tweeted that during their interview, Chase claimed she didn’t support an income tax, despite having sponsored income tax bills in the past.

Santos ended the thread writing,

“In sum, I take pretty thorough notes. So if you are going to suggest I’m peddling “half truths and vulgarity,” you probably should have something to back it up.

Furthermore, pointing out someone is factually incorrect isn’t vulgarity. It’s journalism.”

Santos’s full thread can be found here and a separate fact-checking Twitter thread by Rachel La Corte of the Associated Press is here.