OPINION AND EDITORIAL
Another Rip-Off Of State Taxpayers By The Washington Public Recrds Act
April 17, 2017
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This piece was first published April 13, 2017 in the Breaking News column, front page
There are so many proven, documented rip-offs to residents of Washington State thanks to the ill-advised, badly worded and horribly conceived Wash. Public Records Act (PRA) it's a stone-cold mystery why some responsible lawmakers in Olympia don't figure out a way to scrap this pathetic, costly and dangerous monstrosity and start over.
This state's PRA is one of the WORST in the nation, when judged against PRA's that are sane and weren't written by lobbyists for the dead tree newspaper industry, to benefit that industry at the expense of taxpayers.
And the latest assault on you the taxpayer who continues to pay and pay for this obscenity is this: the Wash. State Patrol selling your information to ambulance chasing lawyers, chiropractors and to potential psychotic stalkers.
The Inlander , an urban weekly based in Spokane, published a story last week that explains yet another assault on state residents thanks to this bad legislation.
Here's how the piece explains it:
"You're in a terrible car accident. You're injured, maybe badly. The cops arrive, swipe your driver's license to get state Department of Licensing data, then upload that information into the Washington State Patrol database.
The next day, someone from an attorney or chiropractor's office logs onto the Washington State Patrol website and buys more than a dozen accident records — including yours.
They use your name, your address and your accident details to send you an advertisement in the mail. It outlines exactly what happened to you. For a price, the mailer explains, you can get help."
Well isn't that just swell? That law now makes you a target to every ambulance chaser and any weirdo in the state who wants access to you because you got into an accident.
Last year, the Inlander wrote about former Spokane County Prosecutor Jim Sweetser's years long effort to get the WSP to stop doing this (without success) and now he's taking a new a track on the whole thing: last week he filed a class-action lawsuit against the chief of the Washington State Patrol.
God bless you Mr. Sweetser. The action argues that the WSP is breaking federal law when it sells your accident information to people who plan to use it for marketing purposes.
Sweetser told the Inlander, "The state does not screen these requests. You are never told that your information is sold. The requests may be made by anyone. A crazy person. An ex-boyfriend. A neighbor. A stalker. Identity thieves. You name it. They've got your address, your telephone number and your full name."
Uh, yeah. And guess what?
"That sort of thing (a stalker) has happened," says the Inlander story. "In 1989, a stalker murdered California actress Rebecca Schaeffer after he got her personal information from a motor vehicle database. That's what the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, was created explicitly to prevent: DMV information can't be released unless it fits into a narrow series of exceptions."
So why is the WSP making you a target for all sorts of people by selling your data? Because (again) of the God Awful Public Records Act in this state.
A spokeswoman for the Washington State Patrol told the Inlander the Patrol, "Is in an awkward spot: It has to abide by Washington's broad public records act — requiring disclosure of nearly every public record, outside some narrow exemptions — without running afoul of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act."
"But she says she's confident that the WSP has struck the right legal balance...federal law bars the Washington State Department of Licensing from directly releasing information, but not the Washington State Patrol from releasing that same information indirectly," says the Inlander story.
"It's our position that it's on a WSP form now, it's not a [Department of Licensing] document," the spokeswoman said.
Wow. Doing an end run with a different "form" that could put you in danger with a psycho stalker just to satisfy the poorly written Wash. Public Records Act.
Oh. And did you know that Public Records Acts are also being used to pry into the medical histories of women who've had abortions?
You'll find that info here .
That story is right up there with Wash. State legislators, when they passed this pathetic law, exempting themselves from abuses of the law because they knew that would eventually happen.
You'll find that information here .
Your tax dollars at work.
Here's something the numbskulls, nimrods and self-serving mouth drooling dead tree newspaper gnats who created this Antichrist of a law never tell you.
Nowhere in the Bible, the Koran, the Jewish Torah, the Gospel of Buddha or that precious United States Constitution or any other sage repository of sound advice about decent living and justice for all does it say the public has a god damned right to know everything about you, your personal life, your work life, your medical history, where you live, where your kids go to school, their names, how you vote and everything else.
Some idiots in this state have gone into such overkill on this "public right to know" bullshit that people's lives, livelihoods, personal safety and personal privacy are placed in jeopardy over and over again every day of the week somewhere thanks to this unholy PRA law (and others like it) and this insane obsession with the idea that the Great Unwashed - which includes perverts, stalkers, full-on psychos, killers, con men, thieves and burglars - have a right to know every god dammed thing about everybody and everything else anytime anywhere simply because they want it.
That concept is and always has been a stupid idea and fraught with danger. But no one, except this newspaper and a few others will ever tell you that.