OLYMPIA —The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) today announced that it filed a complaint in Thurston County Superior Court alleging campaign finance violations by the Pierce County Democratic Central Committee. Specifically, the AGO asserts the committee failed to timely report a total of $63,643 in contributions, $90,357.95 in expenditures, and $34,791 in debts over a three-year period.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson recused himself from any involvement in the matter.
In May, the AGO received a Citizen Action Notice alleging multiple violations of the state’s public disclosure laws by the Pierce County Democratic Central Committee.
After receiving the notice, AGO staff determined the committee failed to timely file numerous reports of contributions received and expenditures made between 2015 and 2017.
Washington law requires political committees to regularly report information to the state Public Disclosure Commission about sources of contributions, starting with those over $25. Political committees must also regularly report information about their activities, including expenditures, debts and obligations.
Among the reporting deficiencies, the Pierce County Democratic Central Committee:
- Failed to timely disclose $63,643 in contributions it received on 92 separate reports, up to 179 days late.
- Failed to timely disclose $90,357.95 in expenditures (e.g. political donations) made on 16 separate reports, up to 171 days late. For example, the committee contributed $15,000 to a Pierce County candidate before the 2016 general election. The committee was required to report this contribution a week before the election and did not do so until December — more than a month after Election Day.
- Failed to file any reports for 2017 until after the committee learned the Attorney General’s Office was investigating. These 2017 reports were up to 146 days late.
- Failed to timely disclose debts and obligations in 2016. No corrective action has been taken to report these debts.
By not timely reporting its contributions and expenditures, the committee inhibited the public’s right to know the source of the committee’s income and how it spent its funding.
The state seeks penalties and injunctive relief. The defendant will have 20 days from the date they are served to respond to the state’s complaint.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton is handling the case.
When the Attorney General’s Office receives a Citizen Action Notice, it has 45 days to investigate and respond to the citizen. If the Attorney General’s Office or local prosecutor does not initiate litigation, the individual may sue in the name of the state. If litigation is successful, any penalties awarded go to the state, and the individual’s attorney can recover attorney fees and costs. If the citizen’s litigation is unsuccessful, the defendant may recover attorney fees from the state.
The Attorney General’s Office enforces the state’s campaign finance disclosure law to ensure free, open and fair elections in Washington state. A summary of campaign finance case resolutions is available here.
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.
Brionna Aho, Interim Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org