Alleges intentional concealment in county prosecutor election
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a campaign finance lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against former Grant County Superior Court judge Jerry Moberg and Moses Lake business owner Ken Greene. If successful, Moberg and Greene could face a total of $453,852.60 in penalties, plus costs and fees.
The lawsuit alleges Moberg and Greene intentionally concealed the fact they were behind a political mailer attacking a candidate in the 2014 Grant County Prosecutor election.
The state Public Disclosure Commission investigation report also outlines “what appear to be incomplete, deceptive, or untrue answers to staff's questions” by Greene and Moberg.
“Washington law allows people to participate in the political process through political advertising — but you must stand up and put your name on it,” Ferguson said. “I will continue to ensure dark money does not unlawfully influence our elections.”
The lawsuit alleges Moberg and Greene violated the law by concealing their sponsorship of a political mailer, failing to register and report as a political committee, and using an assumed name to identify the sponsor of an electioneering communication.
In 2014, incumbent Angus Lee ran against challenger Garth Dano for Grant County Prosecutor. Dano eventually won the election.
Around Oct. 11, 2014, a mailer arrived at voters’ homes containing controversial information about Dano. The flyer identified “Grant County Concerned Voters” as the sponsor. This group did not register with the PDC as required by law. Additionally, the group did not disclose expenditures on the PDC website as required by law. Consequently, no public information was available to determine who was behind the mailing and how much they spent.
The PDC received two complaints about the mailer. Staff determined a South Dakota company called the Borns Group sent the mailer. After receiving a subpoena from the PDC, the company identified Greene as the source of the $3,872 payment for the mailer. The company also identified Moberg as the person they worked with to produce and distribute the mailer.
In interviews under oath with PDC staff, both Greene and Moberg testified that Greene alone was the source of funding for the mailer.
However, the PDC obtained bank records showing Moberg obtained a check from his law firm for $4,000 payable to himself on Sept. 30, 2014. That same day, Green wrote a check to the Borns Group for $3,872. The next day, on Oct. 1, Moberg gave Greene the $4,000. Two days later, on Oct. 3, the Borns Group cashed Greene’s check. The mailer arrived at voters’ homes around October 11.
An attorney for Moberg and Greene eventually told the PDC that Moberg loaned the money to Greene, contrary to their earlier sworn testimony. Moberg and Greene provided no documentation to the PDC related to the alleged loan.
"While Mr. Moberg did not 'reimburse' Mr. Greene, he did provide Mr. Greene with the funds he needed to pay the Borns group for printing and mailing services, and he failed to disclose that fact when asked during his PDC interview if he helped Mr. Greene pay for the flyer,” the PDC report states. “In addition, during Mr. Greene's PDC interview, when staff asked Mr. Greene if anyone offered to help him pay for the flyer, Mr. Greene did not disclose that Mr. Moberg had provided the funds needed to pay for printing and mailing the Garth Dano flyer.”
“Two years after these transactions, Mr. Moberg and Mr. Greene have acknowledged that Mr. Moberg provided $4,000 in cash to Mr. Greene so that Mr. Greene could pay the Borns Group for the flyer.”
For concealing the $4,000 payment made by Moberg to Greene, Greene and Moberg each face up to a $10,000 penalty plus the $4,000 concealed.
For concealing the source of the $3,872.10 payment for the mailer, they each face another $10,000 penalty plus the $3,872.10 concealed.
For operating an unregistered political committee, Greene and Moberg jointly face penalties up to $95,540. This results from failing to file at least five required forms to register the committee, with a $10,000 penalty each, plus a $10 per day penalty for each day the forms were late.
Under state law, if the court finds that the unlawful conduct was intentional, penalties can be tripled.
If all violations are proven and found intentional, Moberg and Greene could each face penalties of $83,616.30, and jointly face penalties of $286,620, for a total of $453,852.60. Additionally, the state will seek to recover attorney fees and costs, and costs of the PDC investigation. If the violations are proven and found intentional, the court can order defendants to pay triple the amount of the costs and fees expended on the investigation and litigation.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton and Assistant Attorney General Walter Smith are handling the case.
The Attorney General’s Office enforces the state’s campaign finance disclosure law to ensure free, open and fair elections in Washington state.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov