The Public Disclosure Commission enforces the election and campaign reporting requirements in chapter 42.17A RCW. This interpretation is intended to provide guidance to state-elected officials and municipal officers on Section 703, Chapter 204, Laws of 2010, a new law to be codified in RCW 42.17A concerning limitations on public service announcements when those officials and officers are candidates. This interpretation is also intended to interpret and provide guidance on current laws and rules in light of the new law.
No state-elected official or municipal officer may speak or appear in a public service announcement that is broadcast, shown, or distributed in any form whatsoever during the period beginning January 1st and continuing through the general election if that official or officer is a candidate. If the official or officer does not control the broadcast, showing, or distribution of a public service announcement in which he or she speaks or appears, then the official or officer shall contractually limit the use of the public service announcement to be consistent with this section prior to participating in the public service announcement. This section does not apply to public service announcements that are part of the regular duties of the office that only mention or visually display the office or office seal or logo and do not mention or visually display the name of the official or officer in the announcement.
RCW 42.17A.005 defines “state official” as a person who holds a state office.
RCW 42.17A.005 defines “elected official” as any person elected at a general or special election to any public office, and any person appointed to fill a vacancy in such office.
RCW 42.17A.005 defines “candidate” as any individual who seeks nomination for election or election to public office and provides several factors demonstrating when a person becomes a candidate.
RCW 42.17A does not define “municipal officer.” The Legislature otherwise defined the term in current law at RCW 42.23.020(2) as “all elected and appointed officers of a municipality, together with all deputies and assistants of such an officer, and all persons exercising or undertaking to exercise any of the powers or functions of a municipal officer.” The term “municipality” is defined in that same statute at subsection (1) as “all counties, towns, districts, and other municipal corporations and quasi municipal corporations organized under the laws of the State of Washington.”
RCW 42.17A.550 restricts the use of public funds to finance campaigns with an exception not relevant here. RCW 42.17A.555 restricts the use of public facilities and agency facilities in campaigns. (RCW 42.17A.555 does not apply to persons who are state officers or state employees because they are subject to similar restrictions in the State Ethics Laws in RCW 42.52.180. See RCW 42.17A.555.) RCW 42.17A.555 provides that this restriction in RCW 42.17.555 does not apply to activities that are part of the “normal and regular conduct of the office or agency.”
The Commission has provided further guidance with respect to RCW 42.17A.555 in WAC 390-05-271, WAC 390-05-273, and PDC Interpretation 04-02 (Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns).
The Commission adopted the following rules prior to the passage of the 2010 PSA Law:
WAC 390-05-525 Public service announcement.
(1) "Public service announcement" means a communication meets all the following criteria. The communication is:
(a) Designed to benefit or promote the community's health, safety or welfare or nonprofit community events;
(b) Not selling a product or service;
(c) Sponsored by an organization with a history of routinely providing the community such outreach public service messages in the service area of the organization;
(d) Of primary interest to the general public and is not targeted to reach only voters or voters in a specific jurisdiction;
(e) Not coordinated with or controlled or paid for by a candidate's authorized committee or political committee;
(f) Subject to the policies for public service announcements of the entity broadcasting, transmitting, mailing, erecting, distributing or otherwise publishing the communication including policies regarding length, timing and manner of distribution; and
(g) One for which the arrangements to include a reference or depiction of the candidate or candidates in the communication were made at least six months before the candidate became a candidate.
(2) Examples of public service announcements include but are not limited to communications regarding nonprofit community events, outreach or awareness activities such as: Breast cancer screening, heart disease, domestic violence, organ donation, emergency or other disaster relief for organizations such as the Red Cross, programs designed to encourage reading by school children, childhood safety, fund drives for charitable programs such as United Way, and similar matters.
WAC 390-05-273 Definition of normal and regular conduct.
Normal and regular conduct of a public office or agency, as that term is used in the proviso to RCW 42.17.130, means conduct which is (1) lawful, i.e., specifically authorized, either expressly or by necessary implication, in an appropriate enactment, and (2) usual, i.e., not effected or authorized in or by some extraordinary means or manner. No local office or agency may authorize a use of public facilities for the purpose of assisting a candidate's campaign or promoting or opposing a ballot proposition, in the absence of a constitutional, charter, or statutory provision separately authorizing such use.
Considering the above references, the Commission provides the following interpretation:
“State-Elected Official” and “Candidate”
“Public Service Announcement”
The Commission recognizes it adopted the PSA definition in WAC 390-05-525 in 2006 to implement a different law, the “electioneering communications” PSA exemption in RCW 42.17.005(21)(f). The 2010 PSA Law presents additional considerations particularly with respect to public agencies employing state-elected officials and municipal officers.
As noted, all activities of public agencies including PSAs funded or produced by public agencies are otherwise still subject to the restrictions on the use of public funds and public facilities to assist a campaign, including RCW 42.17A.550, RCW 42.17A.555 and RCW 42.52.180. Alleged violations by public employees of RCW 42.17A.550, 42.17A.555 or the 2010 PSA Law will be enforced by the Commission. Alleged violations of RCW 42.52.180 will be referred to the appropriate state ethics board.
Because under the 2010 PSA Law it is not lawful for state-elected officials and municipal officers who are candidates to speak or appear in PSAs between January 1 and the general election, it is also not “normal and regular” for such public employees to engage in those activities during that time period under WAC 390-05-273, RCW 42.17A.550 or RCW 42.52.180.
Also, with respect to RCW 42.17A.555, municipal officers should keep in mind that the 2010 PSA Law is an additional consideration to take into account when engaging in activities during an election, beyond those identified in PDC Interpretation 04-02 (Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns)
 State officials subject to RCW 42.52.180 should also consult the relevant ethics agency rules, advisory opinions or other guidance. For example, see Legislative Ethics Board Advisory Opinion 00-04 (Press Releases, Use of Public Resources).
 See also Telford v. Thurston County Board of Commissioners, 95 Wn.App. 149, 974 P.2d 886 (1999) for application to organizations or entities that are the functional equivalent of public agencies.
 If part of a speech or testimony is recorded and a portion is later used in a PSA, that recording is no longer a live speech or testimony.
See also: Sec. 703, Chap. 204, Laws of 2010; RCW 42.17A.550; RCW 42.17A.555; WAC 390-05-271; WAC 390-05-273; WAC 390-05-525; PDC Interpretation 04-02 (Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns); RCW 42.23.020(2); and, RCW 42.52.180