- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other donors have given hundreds of thousands of dollars for a late ad campaign to defeat state Supreme Court Justice Charlie Wiggins.

The Seattle Times reports ( https://bit.ly/2fjrVv8 ) a political-action committee called Citizens for Working Courts raised $550,000 in donations in recent weeks to support Wiggins’ challenger, Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson.

Gates gave $200,000 to the PAC. An additional $300,000 came from Vulcan, the company that manages the interests of Paul Allen, fellow billionaire and Microsoft co-founder.

The Gates-funded PAC will air positive TV ads about Larson, said Michael Davis, president of Enterprise Washington, a pro-business group coordinating the effort. Davis pointed to a 2016 judicial scorecard by the Association of Washington Business that was critical of the court’s rulings on business and regulatory issues.

That’s in addition to a separate PAC, Judicial Integrity Washington, that has raised more than $350,000 to fuel TV ads against Wiggins over a ruling that overturned a man’s conviction on possession of child pornography.

The independent spending dwarfs the $205,000 raised by Wiggins’ campaign. Groups including Planned Parenthood have reported an additional $12,000 in independent spending to support him.

“This is an attack on the credibility of the court,” Wiggins said, expressing astonishment over what he called an “eleventh-hour” stroke of the pen by some of the state’s wealthiest people.

Gates and other major donors to the effort were big supporters of the state’s charter-schools law, which was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court last year and subsequently overhauled by the state Legislature.

Other donors to the Citizens for Working Courts PAC include former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Washington State Tree Fruit Association

Davis called Larson, Wiggins’ opponent, an extremely well-qualified and moderate judge who’d bring balance to the Supreme Court.

“The court right now is just simply too divisive, too extreme and too polarizing in its decisions,” he said.

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