The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has completed its review of the complaint filed on June 21, 2019. The complaint alleged that One Washington Equality Campaign (OWEC), a political committee registered in the 2019 election to support the passage of Referendum #88 (R-88) to restore affirmative action, may have violated: (1) RCW 42 17A.240 for failure to timely and accurately file Summary Full Campaign Contribution and Expenditure reports (C-4 reports), disclosing expenditures or in-kind contributions for legal services provided by Foster Pepper, LLC; and (2) RCW 42.17A.255 for failure to report independent expenditures for the same legal services. PDC staff also reviewed a supplemental complaint submitted on September 11, 2019 alleging that OWEC may have violated RCW 42.17A.240 by failing to disclose receipt of an in-kind contribution made by SEIU Initiative Fund.
PDC staff reviewed the allegations; the applicable statutes, rules, and reporting requirements; the response(s) provided by OWEC treasurer Andy Lo and OWEC Co-chair Jesse Wineberry; the applicable PDC reports filed by the Respondent; and queried the Respondent’s data in the PDC contribution and expenditure database, to determine whether the record supports a finding of one or more violations.
After a careful review of the alleged violations and relevant facts, PDC staff has concluded it investigation.
During the investigation, staff found the treasurers of OWEC, Mr. Lo and Ms. Cole, to be knowledgeable and responsive. As ministerial treasurers only, both had limited authority and had to rely on other committee officers for specific campaign activity details which may have resulted in reporting delays. Staff found that the content of I-1000 and the subsequent introduction of R-88 was difficult for some members of the general public to understand. Staff also found the formation of several other committees in support of R-88 during the 2019 election cycle may have contributed to further confusion.
R-88 was presented to voters on the November 5, 2019 general election ballot but failed to receive enough votes to restore affirmative action. Apart from the complaints filed by Mr. Morgan, PDC staff received no additional complaints against OWEC.
Based on our findings staff has determined that, in this instance, OWEC’s failure to timely disclose pro bono legal services as in-kind contributions does not amount to a finding of a violation that warrants further investigation.
Pursuant to WAC 390-37-060(1)(d), however, OWEC will receive a formal written warning concerning failure to timely disclose legal services received as in-kind contributions. The formal written warning will include staff’s expectation that OWEC timely files all required PDC reports of contributions and expenditures if the committee is involved in future campaigns. The Commission will consider the formal written warning in deciding on further Commission action if there are future violations of PDC laws or rules.
Since OWEC disclosed the legal services provided by Foster Pepper LLC as in-kind contributions, staff found no evidence to support a violation of RCW 42.17A.255. In addition, staff found no evidence of OWEC’s failure to disclose an in-kind contribution from SEIU Initiative Fund as alleged in the supplemental complaint. Both of these allegations are dismissed in accordance with WAC 390-37-070.Disposition: Case Closed with Written Warning (Resolved 09/14/2020)