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AGLO 1972 No. 17 - March 15, 1972
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

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                                                                  March 15, 1972

Honorable John B. Rabel
State Representative, 43rd District
5308 N.E. 43rd
Seattle, Washington 98105                                                                                            Cite as:  AGLO 1972 No. 17 (not official)

Dear Sir:
 
            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion with regard to the legality of financial contributions to an initiative campaign from certain out-of-state organizations.
 
                                                                     ANALYSIS
 
            The governing statute with regard to this matter is RCW 29.79.490 (6) which states that:
 
            "Every person shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor who:
 
            ". . .
 
            "(6) Receives, handles, distributes, pays out or gives away, directly or indirectly, money or any other thing of value contributed by or received from any person, firm, association, or corporation whose residence or principal office is, or the majority of whose members or stockholders have their residence outside, the state of Washington, for any service rendered for the purpose of aiding in procuring signatures upon any initiative or referendum petition or for the purpose of aiding in the adoption or rejection of any initiative or referendum measure."
 
            In connection with this statute we are enclosing herewith a copy of AGO 1971 No. 6 wherein we concluded, specifically, that:
 
            "The provisions of RCW 29.79.490 (6) are applicable to a corporation whose principal office is, or a majority of whose members or stockholders have their residence outside  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] the state of Washington, even though such corporation may possess a certificate of authority to transact business within the state of Washington under RCW 23A.32.020."
 
            For a clear understanding of the precise thrust of the subject statute, we believe it well to break it down into the following three component parts:
 
            A person is guilty of a violation of the statute if he ‑ (1) receives, handles, distributes, pays out or gives away, directly or indirectly, any money or any other thing of value ‑
 
            (2) which is contributed by or received from any person, firm, association, or corporation whose residence or principal office is, or the majority of whose members or stockholders have their residence outside, the state of Washington ‑
 
            (3) in exchange for any service rendered for the purpose of aiding in procuring signatures upon any initiative or referendum petition or for the purpose of aiding in the adoption or rejection of any initiative or referendum measure.
 
            With all of the foregoing in mind we would comment upon each of the four separate "out-of-state" situations described in your letter as follows:
 
            (1) "Direct contributions by entities headquartered outside our state but who maintain a Washington office or who have a substantial number of Washington members."
 
            Such an organization as this would clearly fall under the ban of the statute ‑ as a "firm, association, or corporation whose . . . principal office is . . . outside the state of Washington . . ."  Therefore, it would be illegal for any person to receive, etc., financial contributions from such an organization in payment for any service rendered in obtaining signatures on initiative petitions or aiding in the adoption or rejection of any initiative or referendum measure.
 
            (2) "Direct contributions by Washington organizations, corporations, etc., the majority of whose members or shareholders reside out of the state."
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
            This organization would also come under the ban of the statute ‑ on the basis of the out-of-state residences of a majority of its members or stockholders.  Thus, as with situation (1), it would be illegal for any person to receive, etc., financial contributions from this category of organization for any services rendered in connection with an initiative campaign.
 
            (3) "Out of state organizations mailing initiative petitions to their membership in Washington State."
 
            The issue raised by this situation is not (as we view it) whether the organization comes under the ban of the statute but rather, whether its activities are prohibited.  The stipulated activities are simply those of mailing initiative petitions to members of the organization living in Washington state.  We do not believe that these activities would violate the statute for the reason that there would, in this situation, be no recipient, etc., of money or any other thing of value contributed by the out-of-state organization; in other words,the only "actors" who would be here involved are the out-of-state organization and the United States Postal Service ‑ and neither of these would fit the description of a "person" as described in subdivision (1) of the statute as broken down for ease of reading above.
 
            (4) "Out of state organizations soliciting their members to send contributions directly to an organization sponsoring an initiative."
 
            Here, as we understand it, the financial aid would come not from the out-of-state organization but from its members.  The only activity performed by the organization would be that of "soliciting" its members to contribute to an initiative campaign.
 
            Of course, if the "members" themselves are nonresidents of the State of Washington, their contributions to the campaign would be prohibited without much doubt.  However, assuming that these individuals are Washington residents, we do not believe that the statute would be violated in this case by reason of the mere fact that the contributions from these individuals were solicited or otherwise encouraged by the out-of-state organization.
 
             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]
            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
 
Very truly yours,
 
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General

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