October 12, 2020

Curious about who’s funding recall efforts involving local elected officials?  

Here’s how to find that information on the PDC website.  

Recalls are ballot propositions, and groups that raise or spend money to support or fight a ballot proposition are political committees, or PACs.  

To find the PACs involved in a local recall election, start here

The page defaults to the current year. Type the official’s last name (and/or first name) or the committee name in the filter box under the Committee heading. A search may also reveal if there is a committee raising money to defend that official.  

 

September 28, 2020

PDC levies fine against Joshua Freed for violation of campaign loan rules 

The Public Disclosure Commission voted unanimously to fine former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed $50,000 – with half the penalty suspended – for campaign violations related to personal loans to his unsuccessful 2020 campaign for governor. 

Freed acknowledged in a stipulation negotiated with PDC staff that he exceeded the $6,000 limit on repayment of a personal loan to his campaign. The campaign repaid him at least $450,000 of a $500,000 loan —  later characterized as a contribution – he made at the start of his campaign. He also acknowledged that the campaign filed incorrect reports concerning the contribution and/or loan. 

September 24, 2020

The Public Disclosure Commission Thursday voted unanimously to fine former Bothell Mayor Joshua Freed $50,000 – with half the penalty suspended – for campaign violations related to personal loans to his unsuccessful 2020 campaign for governor. 

Freed acknowledged in a stipulation negotiated with PDC staff that he exceeded the $6,000 limit on repayment of a personal loan to his campaign. The campaign repaid him at least $450,000 of a $500,000 loan  –  later characterized as a contribution – he made at the start of his campaign. He also acknowledged that the campaign filed incorrect reports concerning the contribution and/or loan. 

The stipulation cited aggravating factors in the case, noting that the loans and/or contributions made up the majority of Freed’s campaign funds and that the public was deprived of significant information for a good portion of the 2020 primary election cycle. 

September 17, 2020

A new PDC tool helps the public visualize candidate campaign reports by mapping the sources of their campaign cash and showing how their financial support has changed over time.  

You’ll find the “Show me the money” application via a link on each candidate’s campaign overview page. (The exception is some small-dollar campaigns that don’t have to report contributions.) 

Use this link to browse 2020 candidates. Enter the candidate name in the search box at the top of the page, and you’ll find the candidate overview page. Clicking the map image will take you to the visualization dashboard.  

September 14, 2020

Emerging issues around digital political ads 

Commissioners heard an update about the work Vice Chair Fred Jarrett and Commissioner Russ Lehman are leading to research problems and potential solutions for the complex issues created by the rise of digital political advertising.
PDC staff members are consulting with researchers, political consultants, media, the digital ad industry and regulatory officials in other states to explore potential improvements to disclosure requirements around digital ads.
The first step is to discern what information is important to the public to learn from digital political ads, and who should provide that information.
A potential solution is a public digital political ad archive. But Jarrett noted that the PDC must “make sure we understand the problem we are trying to solve” before arriving at a solution.

August 28, 2020

The five-member Public Disclosure Commission voted unanimously Thursday to refer two 2019 complaints against Google to the state attorney general’s office.  

The complaints (PDC case documents here and here) allege that Google violated state campaign finance laws that require commercial advertisers to maintain records known as “books of account” for political advertising. Those records are to be made available to members of the public upon request, so that they can see who is paying for political ads. 

The complaints against Google have been under review by PDC staff. Executive Director Peter Lavallee brought the cases to the Commission for review due to his assessment that “continued investigation of this matter will involve the expenditure of substantial resources by the PDC.” 

August 25, 2020

Curious about who’s funding recall efforts involving elected officials? Here’s how to find that information on the PDC website. 

Recalls are ballot propositions, and groups that raise or spend money to support or fight a ballot proposition are political committees, or PACs. 
Generally, PACs are designated as either continuing (meaning they continue from year to year, usually to support a myriad of causes or candidates), or single-election.  

Recall committees are most likely to register as single-election, but they can register as continuing as well.  

To find the PACs involved in a recall, start on the PDC website:  

August 6, 2020

Commission fines former Olympia city manager 

In a 4-1 vote, the Commission levied a $10,000 fine – with half suspended – against former Olympia City Manager Steve Hall. The fine was the result of a 2019 mailer the city created and sent urging voters to reject Initiative 976, following a City Council vote opposing it.  State law prohibits the use of public resources to support or oppose a ballot measure. 

Hall accepted responsibility for the mailer as the ultimate decision-maker, and entered into a stipulated agreement with the PDC over the fine. Commission members debated whether responsibility for the campaign finance violation was more widespread. 

July 23, 2020

The Public Disclosure Commission today fined Olympia’s former city manager $10,000, with half suspended, for a 2019 campaign mailer that urged voters to reject Initiative 976.

The decision to fine former City Manager Steve Hall came on a vote of 4-1, with Commissioner Russell Lehman casting the dissenting vote.

I-976, which was approved by Washington voters on Nov. 5, 2019, sought to limit vehicle license fees and taxes. Olympia’s two-page mailer explicitly urged recipients to reject it, stating “Every dollar counts. Thank you for doing your part to fix our streets. Vote NO on Initiative 976.”

July 1, 2020

Financial affairs statements back online

After a temporary pause, the Commission voted to restore online access to Personal Financial Affairs (F-1) reports filed by elected and appointed officials. The reports went back online June 26.

Online access to F-1 reports was initially suspended May 24, following concerns expressed by state officials from Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech) and members of the Legislature. They had questioned whether F-1 records could be a contributing factor in future fraudulent unemployment insurance claims. Commission Chair David Ammons authorized the temporary suspension after hearing those concerns.

A majority of Commission members had voted May 28 to lift it, following a consultation with technology experts at their June 25 meeting.

June 24, 2020

Emergency rules govern foreign involvement in financing campaigns

 

The Commission adopted emergency rules to implement a new state law governing foreign involvement in financing campaigns in Washington state.

The law, Substitute Senate Bill 6152, was approved during the 2020 session of the Legislature with an effective date of June 11, 2020. The PDC’s emergency rules take effect the same date.

The rules apply through the 2020 election cycle. The Commission received public comment on the emergency rules, and plans to include additional opportunities for the public to comment before it adopts permanent rules this fall.

May 28, 2020

The Public Disclosure Commission has temporarily suspended online access to Financial Affairs Disclosure (F-1) reports until June 26.

After officials from Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech) and members of the Legislature raised concerns about whether the records could be a source of information for fraudulent unemployment claims, Chair David Ammons authorized PDC staff to remove the reports from the PDC website on May 24. Two days later, WaTech requested the PDC maintain the suspension until more was known. 

PDC staff did an initial analysis of traffic to the data to see if it could identify suspicious activity and did not find anything extraordinary.

April 28, 2020

Budget impacts expected 

Commission members heard a preliminary discussion about what to expect regarding COVID-19 emergency impacts on state revenue and the agency’s budget. 

Chad Johnson, senior financial analyst with the state Department of Enterprise Services, said officials will know more after the next state revenue forecast. 

He said the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) sent a memo to agencies asking them to look for savings in their current and upcoming budgets. But he said there had not yet been direction on how the cuts would be structured or how widespread they will be.  

PDC Executive Director Peter Lavallee said he plans to continue making the case that the agency already operates efficiently, and only recently moved closer to being “right sized.” 

April 16, 2020

Campaign finance disclosure scored a major victory Thursday with the state Supreme Court’s decision to uphold an $18 million penalty imposed against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing the source of funds fueling its successful 2013 effort to defeat a citizen initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

PDC Chair David Ammons welcomed the news that the Court upheld a trial court finding that the industry group intentionally violated the law in trying to evade public knowledge of its members’ spending against Initiative 522.

“The court’s decision sends a ringing message to any group that might try to circumvent Washington’s campaign finance laws,” Ammons said. “Voters have a right to know who the players are in a campaign – whether they support or oppose a ballot measure. And this case demonstrates the Commission’s crucial role in ensuring transparency on the part of those who spend money to influence voters.

April 14, 2020

The Public Disclosure Commission welcomed the lawsuit filed against Facebook by the Attorney General’s Office today as a demonstration of the continuing relevance of Washington’s nearly 50-year-old campaign finance law.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson – acting on an investigation and referral from the PDC – filed the lawsuit, alleging the company violated a state law that governs sellers of political advertising in Washington state. 

The law – which applies to print shops, newspapers, TV stations and digital platforms, among other commercial advertisers – requires them to make information about the advertising available to the public within 24 hours of the ad’s publication. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook failed to do so.

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