Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Overview

In 1972, Washington’s voters approved the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, also known as the Fair Campaign Practices Act, to promote complete disclosure of all information respecting the financing of political campaigns and lobbying. These laws govern the state’s campaign finance requirements by, among other things, requiring campaign finance reporting and setting contribution limits.

The Attorney General has authority to investigate a person’s or organization’s activities when there is reason to believe there is a violation of the state’s campaign finance laws. Upon discovering an apparent campaign finance violation, the Attorney General may bring a lawsuit in the name of the state and pursue appropriate civil remedies, including penalties.

In addition to the authority provided to the Attorney General to enforce RCW 42.17A, the voters approved creation of the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. The Commission is charged with providing timely and meaningful public access to accurate information about the financing of political campaigns, lobbyist expenditures, and the financial affairs of public officials and candidates. It also works to ensure compliance with and equitable enforcement of Washington's disclosure and campaign finance laws. The Commission is a quasi-judicial body and hears cases concerning alleged violations of RCW 42.17A. The Commission may assess penalties up to $10,000. The Commission may also refer apparent violations of the law to the Attorney General, which works in conjunction with the Commission, but the Attorney General's Office also retains its own independent enforcement authority.

The table below details recently resolved lawsuits brought under RCW 42.17A by the Attorney General to enforce this law:

Resolution Date Defendant Violation Judgment
10/27/2017 Pierce County Democratic Central Committee Failing to timely report expenditures, contributions and debt.

Total: $38,520

  • $15,890 civil penalty
  • $15,890 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $6,740 AGO costs and fees
07/14/2017 Sam Hunt Failing to timely report expenditures and contribution.

Total: $6,475

  • $1,367.50 civil penalty
  • $1,367.50 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $3,740 AGO costs and fees
07/14/2017 Washington Budget and Policy Center Failing to timely and properly file independent expenditure reports.

Total: $47,300

  • $16,755 civil penalty
  • $16,755 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $13,790 AGO costs and fees
03/14/2017 Frank Chopp Failing to timely report contributions and expenditures.

Total: $8,209.78

  • $1,740 civil penalty
  • $1,740 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $4,729.78 AGO costs and fees
03/03/2017 Kelsey Hulse Failing to timely report contributions and expenditures.

Total: $2,920

  • $515 civil penalty
  • $515 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $1,890 AGO costs and fees
02/13/2017 Audubon Washington Failing to timely file independent expenditure reports.

Total: $4,390

  • $650 civil penalty
  • $3,740 AGO costs and fees
02/13/2017 Jay Manning Failing to timely file financial disclosures.

Total: $6,385

  • $1,572.50 civil penalty
  • $1,572.50 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $3,240 AGO costs and fees
01/20/2017 Kim Wyman Failing to timely file contribution and expenditure reports and timely deposit contributions.

Total: $12,090

  • $1,975 civil penalty
  • $1,975 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $8,140 AGO costs and fees
01/06/2017 Food Democracy Action! Failing to register as a political committee.

Total: $412,328.10

  • $319,281.58 civil penalty
  • $93,046.52 AGO costs and fees
11/2/2016 Grocery Manufacturers Associatoin Intentionally concealing the source of contributions.

Total: $19,095,028.67

09/23/2016 Washington State Labor Council Failing to timely and properly file lobbyist employer and annual contribution disclosure reports

Total:  $25,872

  • $9,250 civil penalty
  • $9,250 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $5,240 AGO costs and fees
  • $2,132 PDC costs
07/15/2016 Washington State Association for Justice

Failing to properly file lobbyist employer and annual contribution disclosure reports

Total:  $9,240

  • $1,500 civil penalty
  • $5,240 AGO costs and fees
  • $2,500 investigation costs
02/08/2016

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 925 & SEIU Local 925 Public Service PAC

Failing to properly report contributions to defendant PAC and failing to report the value of in-kind services and administrative costs

Total:  $77,063.93

  • $20,844.75 civil penalty
  • $6,948.25 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $4,500 civil penalty
  • $1,500 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $7,240 AGO costs and fees
  • $3,630.93 investigation costs
01/29/2016 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775 & SEIU Quality Care Committee Failing to properly report contributions to defendant committee and failing to report the value of in-kind services and administrative costs

Total:  $51,806.50

  • $19,687.50 civil penalty
  • $6,562.50 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $4,500 civil penalty
  • $1,500 civil penalty provisionally suspended
  • $15,240 AGO costs and fees
  • $4,316.50 investigation costs
12/16/2011 Lisa MacLean, Henry Underhill, Moxie Media, Conservative PAC and Cut Taxes PAC Acting to conceal the true participants in campaign activities, the true source of funding for PAC activities, the fact that a pledge had been made for funding the activities of the PACs; failing to properly file committee registration forms for PACs; and failure to properly and timely file reports of contributions pledged to PACs Total: $290,000
  • $110,000 civil penalty
  • $140,000 provisionally suspended
  • $40,000 AGO costs and fees
  • Required training from PDC on campaign finance responsibilities
11/01/2010 Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties Failure to properly register the "Just 10%" program as a political committee or file the required contribution and expenditure reports Total: $340,000
  • $150,000 civil penalty ($50,000 annually over three years)
  • $150,000 provisionally suspended
  • $40,000 AGO costs and fees
09/24/2010 BIAW Member Services Corporation Conducting an illegal fundraising campaign and concealing solicitation and receiving of campaign contributions toward 2008 electoral activities Total: $634,000
  • $242,000 civil penalty
  • $342,000 provisionally suspended
  • $50,000 AGO costs and fees
09/17/2010 Washington State Republican Party Misuse of funds from an exempt account for mailings in violation of the permitted uses under the campaign finance disclosure law Total: $45,000
  • $15,000 civil penalty
  • $10,000 provisionally suspended
  • $20,000 AGO costs and fees
12/03/2008 Washington Education Association Use by a union of nonmembers' agency fees for election-related purposes Total: $975,000
  • $735,000 civil penalty
  • $240,000 to fee payers affected by the allegations in this action
  • Required to produce an audit of the percentage of WEA's annual budget utilized for "760 expenses"
  • Joint press release announcing resolution
09/26/2007 TME Capital Group and Environmental Materials Transport Failure to disclose contributions or expenditures as an organized political committee Total: $125,000
  • $125,000 civil penalty
  • $15,000 AGO costs and fees
  • Required to file any necessary reports to register as political committees and account for all contributions for times relevant to the complaint
10/19/2005 Alfred J. Kiefer Intentional failure to properly or timely file a Statement of Financial Affairs for calendar year 2003 Total: $5,000
  • $5,000 civil penalty
  • $1,670 AGO costs and fees
  • $270 court costs and fees
  • $257.68 investigation costs and fees 
  • Required completion of a Statement of Financial Affairs with PDC for the year 2003

 

Citizen Complaints

One way the Attorney General becomes aware of potential campaign finance violations is through “Citizen Action” complaints, authorized under RCW 42.17A.765. A member of the public who believes there has been a violation of the state’s campaign finance laws can file a written notice with the Attorney General. After receiving this notice, the Attorney General has 45 days in which to review the matter and decide whether to commence a legal action. If the Attorney General takes no legal action within 45 days, then the citizen must file a second 10-day notice. If at the end of the ten days the Attorney General takes no legal action, the citizen may file the action themselves in the name of the State of Washington. On occasion, when the Attorney General receives a Citizen Action complaint, it can be referred to the Public Disclosure Commission for review and a recommendation for appropriate action. You can review or check the status of a Citizen Action complaint referred to the Public Disclosure Commission through its website at https://www.pdc.wa.gov/browse/cases.