Inspections of campaign books in the days preceding an election have new ground rules.
Washington state law has long allowed members of the public to inspect a candidate’s or political committee’s financial records prior to an election. The inspections provide additional disclosure of campaign activity after a candidate or committee has filed its final pre-election report of contributions and expenses.
The Legislature passed legislation this year that made changes to the inspection requirements. The new law took effect June 7 and will affect inspections of campaign books before the Aug. 7 primary and the Nov. 6 general election.
What the new law does
How the new rules work
Given that the 10th day before an election falls on Saturday, the effect of the legislation is to provide a bigger window to make requests to inspect a campaign’s books while maintaining the same timeframe for inspections to occur.
The requester must ask for an inspection via the email address listed on the candidate or committee registration filed with the PDC. For the inspection period prior to the primary, a requester can contact a campaign beginning Saturday, July 28, to request an appointment on Monday, July 30 at 9 a.m. or later.
The campaign then must grant an appointment that is within 48 hours of the request. The campaign must permit at least two consecutive hours for the inspection.
The treasurer and requester must agree on a location for the inspection. If they can’t agree, the treasurer for the candidate or committee may make the books of account available electronically. Digital access is also an option for a campaign in lieu of scheduling an appointment.
If the campaign's only copy of its books of account is maintained electronically with security protections, the person requesting the inspection must be given sufficient instruction to allow the inspection to proceed.
For inspection requests received after 3 p.m. on the third day preceding an election (Saturday, Aug. 5, in the example above), the candidate or political committee need only make best efforts to accommodate an inspection.
What’s required to be available
Campaign treasurers are required to keep books of account current within one business day. Books of account include a ledger, spreadsheet, or similar listing of contributions, expenditures, loans, debts and obligations to substantiate the information disclosed on the PDC campaign finance reports.
If a ledger is not sufficiently kept, the books of account must include the underlying source documents such as receipts, invoices, copies of contribution checks, copies of cancelled checks for expenditures, notes or other documentation concerning expenditures, orders placed, and loans. In the absence of those type of source documents, the campaign or committee must make the check register available.
The candidate or political committee is not required to make copies of its books of account for the requestor or provide the name and address of contributors who gave $25 or less in the aggregate in total contributions.
Videotaping, photographing or photocopying of the records is not required to be permitted but may be agreed to by both parties during or in advance of the inspection.