Case #78947
Respondent name: Committee to Elect Gary Edwards
Complainant name: Joe Hyer

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has completed its review of the two complaints filed on September 18, 2020 and October 8, 2020. The complaints alleged that Gary Edwards, an incumbent Thurston County Commissioner, District 2 and candidate in the 2020 election, may have violated: (1) RCW 42.17A.320 for failure to identify the sponsor on a political advertisement video; (2) RCW 42.17A.555 by using public facilities for an election campaign; and (3) RCW 42.17A.320 for failure to disclose the sponsor's address on a political advertisement mailer.

PDC staff reviewed the allegations; the applicable statutes, rules, and reporting requirements; the response(s) provided by Gary Edwards (the “Respondent”); PDC Interpretation 04-02; and the applicable PDC reports filed by the Respondent, to determine whether the record supports a finding of one or more violations.

Gary Edwards is a current elected official and was re-elected in the November 3, 2020 general election. It appears that his failure to disclose a complete sponsor identification for an online political advertisement video and a mailer sponsored by his campaign, was inadvertent and not meant to conceal the sponsor from the public. Although Commissioner Edwards responded promptly to the complaint and made the necessary corrections to the online video, staff found that the limited sponsor information originally included in the online video was vague and could have been misconstrued as an independent expenditure done by a third party rather than by the Edwards Campaign.  

Staff found that the lack of an address on the mailer, although required, did not generally create confusion as to the sponsor of the advertisement. However, staff noted that the sponsor name originally used on the mailer did not match the name identified on the C-1 report until the C-1 was amended.

Finally, staff found the prompt response and remedy to remove visual images of Commissioner Edwards’ official Thurston County name plate from the video was sufficient in this instance.

Based on our findings staff has determined that, in this instance, failure to include the full required sponsor identification in an online video advertisement and mailer, and the limited use of an official name plate in a video advertisement, does not amount to a finding of a violation that warrants further investigation.

Pursuant to WAC 390-37-060(1)(d), Gary Edwards will receive a formal written warning concerning failure to disclosure the required sponsor name and address in an online video advertisement produced and distributed by his campaign. The formal written warning will include staff’s expectation that Mr. Edwards will review all future political advertisements prior to their distribution to ensure they include the required sponsor information. The Commission will consider the formal written warning in deciding on further Commission action if there are future violations of PDC laws or rules.

PDC staff is also reminding Mr. Edwards about the importance of including a complete and accurate sponsor identification on written political advertisements and the prohibitions against the use of public facilities to support or oppose election campaigns, in accordance with the statutes and rules.

Based on this information, the PDC finds that no further action is warranted and has dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).

Disposition: Case Closed with Written Warning (Resolved 11/23/2020)
Date opened: 10/26/2020
Area of Law: RCW 42.17A.320

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