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AGLO 1975 No. 70 - August 11, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

INITIATIVE NO. 276 ‑- ELECTIONS ‑- APPLICABILITY TO NEGATIVE POLITICAL COMMITTEES

A "political committee", within the meaning of Initiative No. 276, is not merely an organization which is formed for the purpose of supporting particular candidates for public office but, in addition, as defined in RCW 42.17.020(22), the term also includes an organization which receives contributions or makes expenditures in opposition to any candidate or ballot proposition.

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                                                                 August 11, 1975

Honorable Warren E. Peterson
State Representative, 43rd District
1927 25th Avenue E.
Seattle, Washington 98112                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 70

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested our opinion on the following question:

            ". . .  May a group or individual receive contributions and/or expend funds for the purpose of conducting a negative campaign against an incumbent elected official, but not specifically supporting any of the candidates seeking the incumbent's position, avoid the reporting requirements of the Public Disclosure Act?"

            We answer this question in the negative as explained in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Public Disclosure Act to which you have referred is chapter 42.17 RCW, which originated as Initiative No. 276 in 1972.  Among the requirements of this law is the periodic reporting of electoral campaign contributions made to, and expenditures made by, what are referred to in the law as "political committees".  See, AGO 1973 No. 14 [[to Arthur C. Brown, State Representative on June 8, 1973]], copy enclosed at pages 15-24.

            Apparently your question has arisen because of a misunderstanding on the part of some as to the full scope of this term.  A "political committee", within the meaning of the law, is not merely an organization which is formed for the purpose of supporting particular candidates for public office but, in addition, as defined in RCW 42.17.020(22), the term also includes an organization which receives contributions or makes expenditures in opposition to any candidate or ballot proposition.  For your immediate reference, we herewith set forth the full text of this definition as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] "(22)  'Political Committee' means any person (except a candidate or an individual dealing with his own funds or property) having the expectation of receiving contributions or making expendituresin support of, or opposition to, any candidate or any ballot proposition."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Therefore, an organization such as is described in your question would constitute a "political committee" for the purposes of the Public Disclosure Act, and, thus, would be required to comply with such reporting requirements of the law as are applicable to those organizations.  Again, see the above referenced pages of AGO 1973 No. 14 for a detailed discussion of these requirements.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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