April 3, 2020

Technology keeps PDC operating during emergency

Commission Chairman David Ammons said the PDC is committed to carrying forward with its essential business during the COVID-19 emergency.

He said meeting attendance -- including by the public, commissioners and staff -- was through remote computer or phone access only during the emergency.

 “We welcome public comment by email and telephone,” Ammons added.

PDC Executive Director Peter Lavallee said that the agency’s Information Technology team was able to work quickly to establish channels for meetings and other forms of collaboration.

He explained that as staff work remotely, use of cloud computing ensures public records remain within the custody of the PDC.

Commissioners heard other examples of how the PDC is working to accommodate filers and the public during the emergency:

  • Elected and appointed officials working on their Personal Financial Affairs (F-1) Statements who are prevented by the COVID-19 emergency from obtaining all information needed to complete the report may opt to file a partial report now and amend the report with complete information following the end of the emergency.
  • Training classes for filers have moved online.
  • PDC phone lines were transferred to a new system that allows staff members to continue to field calls via mobile and desktop apps.

Legislative update

Commissioners heard a report on the legislative session that ended March 12.

Lawmakers passed Substitute Senate Bill 6152, which requires candidates and political committees to certify that campaign contributions, expenditures, advertising or electioneering communications are not financed by a foreign source or entity based outside the United States. The governor signed the bill into law March 25; it goes into effect June 11.

The Commission will need to adopt emergency rules to assist filers with compliance before that date. After the November election, the PDC will adopt permanent rules pertaining to the new law.

Requests for filing modifications

The Commission considered eight requests for limited modifications to F-1 reporting requirements; it granted seven of the eight, including six renewals of previous modifications.

Such modifications can be granted when disclosure law creates a manifestly unreasonable hardship on the filer and the modification does not frustrate the purposes of the law.

Commissioners also discussed streamlining the process used for future modification requests, in line with authority granted by the Legislature. Commissioners Russell Lehman and Nancy Isserlis will study options and make a recommendation at the next meeting of the Commission.

Review and reconsideration of enforcement actions

The Commission heard two requests to reconsider previous enforcement actions. They voted to vacate a previous order in one case, and in the second case voted not to reconsider the enforcement action.

Stipulated agreement

The Commission voted to accept a stipulated agreement between the PDC and the Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants PAC (Political Action Committee). The agreement lists six reports of campaign contributions and expenditures that were filed late in 2016.

The PAC has now filed the required reports. Commissioners voted to fine the PAC $2,500, with half the penalty suspended provided the PAC does not commit further violations within four years.

Enforcement actions

PDC staff closed 65 cases between Feb. 19 and March 12, 202o. As of March 26, there were 59 active cases.

See details about individual enforcement cases here.

Next Commission meeting: April 23, 2020