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. 

Read more on the PDC website

 

What constitutes a political committee? 

The PDC updated its guidance on what defines a group as a political committee that must register and report contributions and expenditures.

The guidance is meant to assist entities in determining whether their campaign activities constitute a “primary purpose” of the organization, and therefore trigger a requirement to register as a political committee.  

The interpretation, originally developed in 2007, is based on a formal Attorney General’s Opinion and court decisions. 

 

New pilot program will audit past reports

The PDC is initiating a pilot program to review past campaign financial reports for accuracy and timeliness. 

In its first phase, the review will look at a sampling of reports filed in 2018 and 2019 by legislative and local candidates that reported significant contribution and expenditure amounts. The sample will include campaigns from both major political parties. 

The goal is to ensure that campaigns understand what’s required, and to uncover common mistakes that reveal areas in which PDC might need to improve its guidance to candidates.

 

F-1 records reviewed

A review of personal financial affairs (F-1) statements submitted during the years 2007 through 2019, aimed at removing sensitive information that had been submitted in error, is complete. 

F-1 statements let the public assess whether the financial affairs of officials, candidates and others create potential conflicts of interest. 

The review found information – for example, financial account numbers – had been mistakenly entered by filers in less than one-tenth of 1 percent of nearly 130,000 documents. That information has been redacted. 

 

Discussion of legislative staff F-1s

After many months of discussion, the Commission agreed to let stand an earlier decision regarding online posting of personal financial affairs (F-1) statements by legislative staffers. Commissioners instructed PDC staff to make the technical changes needed to release reports filed this year online. 

The reports, filed annually, have always been available via public records request. 

F-1 reports filed in 2020 went online in January – with a temporary exception granted for legislative staffers. (Older reports are available through a public records request.) 

 

Enforcement actions

PDC staff closed a total of 16 cases between June 16 and July 14, 2020. Staff found some issue of concern in 10 of those 16. In three cases, the respondents accepted a statement of understanding, a resolution in which they admit a violation and pay a small penalty.  

As of July 14, there were 44 active cases. See details about individual enforcement cases here

 

Next Commission meeting: Aug. 27, 2020