RCW 42.17 was recodified to RCW 42.17A effective January 1, 2012 (see the recodification cross-reference table). For this interpretation see:
RCW 42.17.020(14) = 42.17A.005(13)
RCW 42.17.710 = 42.17A.560

PDC Interpretation






October 24, 1995


















RCW 42.17.


The Commission









Fund Raising Through 900 Telephone Numbers



The utilization of 900 numbers as a campaign fund raising mechanism in Washington State is a recent occurrence.  This interpretation is intended to provide initial guidance.  As campaigns and the Commission develop more experience with this fund raising method, additional advice will be provided as warranted.


Nothing in this interpretation is to be construed as permitting other than full compliance with the provisions of 42.17. RCW and 390 WAC, including proper identification of contributors when required, the restrictions regarding contributions from out-of-state businesses, and the other limitations and stipulations in the law and administrative rules.


1)     Is the amount of a contribution donated using a 900 number the net amount the campaign actually receives from the transaction?


Yes.  Even though the contributor will pay the telephone carrier several dollars in excess of the contribution amount to transmit the donation, this excess is analogous to postage costs and the amount of the contribution is the amount actually received by the campaign.


2)     Is the date the contribution is received the date the campaign receives the lump sum check from the telephone carrier?


Yes.  Although the telephone carrier will receive payment from donors making 900 number contributions prior to forwarding the funds to the campaign, the carrier is not an intermediary or conduit for the contribution any more than a post office would be for a mailed contribution.  And, according to WAC 390-05-215, a contribution is received when the contribution comes into the possession of the campaign, or the campaign is informed of the contribution, or it is available for use, whichever occurs first.


3)     Is the date the contribution is made the date the telephone call to the 900 number is placed?


Yes.  The telephone call triggers an obligation to pay the telephone carrier the amount designated by the caller (plus service charge).  According to the definition of contribution in RCW 42.17.020(14), this pledge constitutes a contribution and this donation can reasonably be said to have occurred on the date of the call.  (Note, however, that pledges may not be redeemed during the legislative session freeze period by those subject to the prohibition in RCW 42.17.710.)


4)     During the legislative session freeze period, when state officials and persons acting on their behalf are prohibited from accepting or soliciting contributions, are callers prohibited from making contributions to such state officials/candidates using the 900 telephone number?


Yes.  During the session freeze period, the 900 number should be discontinued as of the first day of the freeze period or carry a message that until 30 days after the regular session (or, if applicable, during a special session of the legislature), contributions may not be solicited or accepted.


5)     During the legislative session freeze period, if the state official/candidate or anyone employed by or acting on the candidate’s behalf receives any contributions, including contributions generated by the 900 number, must the contributions be returned?


Yes.  RCW 42.17.710 does not exempt from the prohibition donations made prior to the beginning of the legislation session freeze period.


6)     During the legislative session freeze period, is the state official/candidate or anyone employed by or acting on the candidate’s behalf prohibited from distributing any advertisements of the 900 number?


Yes.  Distribution of ads would constitute impermissible solicitation of a contribution.

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