PDC staff reviews each complaint to determine whether the complainant has provided sufficient information to support the allegations being made, and if a more formal investigation is warranted. The PDC's complaint investigation process is governed by the Administrative Procedures Act (RCW 34.05). A complaint filed with the PDC will not be investigated if it is:
  • About activity that is not within the PDC's legal authority to address (the PDC does not enforce federal campaign laws or rules, local ordinances, the Public Records Act in RCW 42.56 or the Ethics in Public Service Act in RCW 42.52).
  • Lacking sufficient information (such as the identity of the complainant or the alleged violator) or sufficient allegations or evidence for staff to determine whether it alleges a potential violation of a law or rule within the commission's jurisdiction.
For complaints with sufficient information to proceed, staff notifies the subject of the complaint (the respondent). The PDC provides the respondent with a copy of the complaint and 14 days to respond. Respondents may cite mitigating factors as to why the commission should take no action.
Both the complaint and any response received from the respondent are posted on the PDC website.
PDC staff will consider any response received as part of its initial review. Based on that initial review, complaints will be categorized within 90 days as:
  • Dismissed as unfounded or frivolous;
  • Deemed appropriate for resolution as a minor violation;
  • Addressed as remediable violation or technical correction;
  • Resolved by agreement through stipulation or statement of understanding;
  • Stayed pending satisfaction of conditions of deferred enforcement;
  • Converted into a formal investigation; or
  • Referred to the attorney general.

State law allows complainants to bring lawsuits in the name of the state if the PDC or Attorney General's Office doesn't act. If the PDC hasn't resolved a complaint, referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office, or opened a formal investigation and held an initial hearing within 90 days of a complaint being filed, complainants can file a 10-day notice signaling their intent to go to court.