One of the primary purposes of the public disclosure law is to provide citizens of this state, and especially voters, with the means for becoming informed about the financing of political campaigns. The public disclosure law was enacted through voter approval of Initiative 276 in 1972. In 1992, voters instituted contribution limits and other campaign reforms with the passage of Initiative 134.
I-276 also established the five-member Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) to enforce the law. Commission members are appointed by the Governor for one five-year term. Commissioners set policy, adopt administrative rules, and interpret and enforce the law. They are citizen volunteers, not state employees. They typically meet in Olympia on the fourth Thursday of the month. The public is welcome to attend Commission meetings or watch a live webcast on the PDC’s website. The public can also follow the PDC’s work at www.pdc.wa.gov.
This manual explains the disclosure requirements, prohibitions, and restrictions with which a candidate for state executive, legislative, or local office must comply. Candidates for other offices should refer to the PDC’s other candidate manuals. In addition to campaign requirements, a candidate for state office must also disclose some personal financial information. This disclosure requirement is fully explained in the PDC’s Personal Financial Affairs Statement Instructions.
The law requires that records be kept and reports be filed of all contributions and expenditures. Campaign records should be kept for five years from the date of the contribution or expenditure.
All candidates and committees subject to the Public Disclosure Law must report to the PDC, regardless of the amount of money they will receive from contributors or spend on their campaigns. Treasurers for most campaigns using full reporting will have to devote many hours to keeping exact records and filing accurate, detailed reports of receipts and expenditures.
The key to complying with both the regulatory and the reporting provisions of the law is to keep detailed records of each contribution and expenditure and file reports on time. The treasurer and the candidate share the responsibility of ensuring that campaign reports are accurate, complete, and timely filed. Each year the PDC receives many complaints alleging violations of the public disclosure law. The PDC’s most visible role is to hold hearings and judge these cases. The PDC can assess a civil penalty up to $10,000 per violation upon concluding that someone has violated the public disclosure law and may refer certain violations to the Attorney General's Office.
Most campaigns will be required to electronically file contribution and expenditure reports. E-filed reports are considered filed on the file transfer date. Any report mailed to the PDC is filed as of the postmark date. Mailed reports, schedules and attachments should be typewritten or printed in black ink. Use 8 1/2" x 11" white paper for attachments or enclosures so that they can be scanned and made available online.