April 5, 2021

Commission issues $10,000 in fines for Kennewick Public Facilities District board members  

The Commission voted to fine five members of the Kennewick Public Facilities District Board for violating campaign finance laws during a 2017 unsuccessful campaign to increase sales taxes. 
 
In a written agreement, the five board members — Barbara Johnson, John Neill, Ron Hue, Renee Brooks and Calvin Dudney — acknowledged that they authorized ads, website and other marketing materials in violation of state law that prohibits the use of public resources to promote a ballot measure. 
 
The Commission fined each board member $2,000, with $1,000 suspended, for a total penalty of $10,000, with $5,000 suspended as long they avoid future violations and pay fines within 30 days of the Commission’s final order. 
 
The proposed sales tax increase would have supported event and entertainment center expansion known as The Link. 
 
Read full case documents here and here
 

Campaign audit results released 

The Commission heard a report on four recently completed campaign audits
 
The four limited-scope audits are the first conducted by PDC staff since 2008. 
 
 The four completed audits of 2018 state Senate campaigns – two Republicans and two Democrats – were chosen because they were substantial in terms of contributions and expenditures and each of the candidates was in a contested election. 
 
 Staff members began the audits late last year. In progress are audits of four more Senate campaigns and a selection of contested 2020 House races. 
 
 Audits of the campaigns of four 2018 Senate candidates – Claire Wilson, Pinky Vargas, Doug Ericksen and Mark Miloscia – showed that they substantially complied with reporting requirements and employed sound internal control procedures. Documents reviewed included reports filed with the PDC, as well as checks, invoices and receipts PDC staff requested from the campaigns.  
 
 The audits focused on political advertising – the biggest driver of political spending, especially in the weeks preceding the election. 
 
 Some collective highlights: 
 
  • The campaigns disclosed receiving between $345,00 and $561,000 in total contributions.  
  • The number of contributors to any single campaign ranged from 594 to 2,047 contributors. 
  • The largest contributors were state party caucus committees and party state, county and legislative district committees. Those entities contributed more than $675,000 to the four candidates and represented 34.5% of all contributions received. 
  • Staff looked at a random selection of C-3 reports – a total of 73 reports, representing more than $720,00 and more than a third of all contributions. Of those 73, all but one were filed on time. It was one day late.
  • A few expenditures for political advertising failed to disclose the number of mail pieces paid for or the information for sub-vendors. But those expenditures did not represent a significant number. 
  • All four candidates adhered to contribution limits and had robust systems for processing contributions. 
 
The audits, authorized by RCW 42.17A.105 and RCW 42.17A.110, are designed to provide the public with information about how well campaigns comply with state laws and PDC regulations and to strengthen public confidence in campaign reporting transparency.   
 
The audits also provide an opportunity to identify problems that campaigns encounter. Recognition of common errors can prompt improvements in PDC instructions to campaigns and the electronic filing systems used in reporting, as well as suggestions for new PDC rules or changes in state law.  
 

Surplus funds draft interpretation 

Commissioners reviewed a draft of a proposed interpretation that will provide guidance for the designation and use of surplus campaign funds. 
 
The use of such funds is governed by RCW 42.17A.430. The interpretation seeks to answer commonly asked questions. 
 
The Commission is soliciting public comment on the proposed interpretation. Send written comments to Sean Flynn at pdc@wa.gov by April 16, 2021. 
 

New rules on foreign involvement and financing in campaigns 

The Commission voted to adopt permanent rules related to Substitute Senate Bill 6152, which took effect in June 2020. The PDC has been operating under emergency rules to date. 
 
One new section of the law prohibits foreign nationals from financing or involvement in campaign-related contributions or expenditure activity. Another new section requires campaigns to certify that their contributions do not include foreign national funding or involvement. 
 
The permanent rules define what financing by a foreign national means, what constitutes decision-making by a foreign national related to a campaign and explain what’s needed to certify contributions as free from foreign influence. 
 
The new permanent rules are available on the PDC website and will be posted as part of the Washington Admininistrative Code (WACs).
 
 

Enforcement  

The Commission heard three enforcement cases involving late or missing Personal Financial Affairs (F-1) reports. Officials in each of the three cases had previous violations on record. 
 
In PDC Case 80248, the Commission voted to fine Aiomanu Betty Patu, a former member of the Seattle School Board, $500 for failure to file an F-1 for calendar years 2018 and 2019. 
Patu also had one previous violation for failing to file an F-1, with an unpaid fine of $250. 
 
In PDC Case 80230, the Commission voted to fine Joshua Quantrell, parks and recreation commissioner for Klickitat Recreation District, $500 for failure to file an F-1 for calendar years 2018 and 2019. 
Quantrell had one previous violation for failing to file an F-1, with an unpaid fine of $250. 
 
In PDC Case 80283, the Commission voted to fine Justyn Turner, a former school board member for the Mary Walker School District, $500 for failure to file an F-1 for calendar year 2019. 
Turner paid a partial fine from a 2012 case involving a missing F-1, but still owes $200. Turner also paid a $200 fine in a previous case involving a missing F-1 for calendar year 2016. 
 
Other enforcement statistics:
 
As of March 25, PDC had 36 active cases. Between Feb. 18 and March 15, staff closed 34 cases. 
 
Next meeting: April 22, 2021