OLYMPIA–The Attorney General’s Office today (AGO) settled a lawsuit against Moxie Media, its principals Lisa MacLean and Henry Underhill, and two political action committees (PAC) formed by MacLean and Underhill, Conservative PAC and Cut Taxes PAC.
The suit stemmed from a complaint filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) as well as a citizen action letter filed on behalf of Sen. Jean Berkey (D-Edmonds).
The defendants were accused of multiple violations of the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws including an effort to conceal the source of the funding behind last-minute independent expenditures until after the primary election in the 2010 38th Legislative District State Senate race. The expenditures were for mailings and robo-calls in support of the Conservative Party candidate and were targeted against Sen. Berkey, who lost her re-election bid that year.
“This settlement holds Moxie Media, Lisa MacLean, Henry Underhill and their two political action committees accountable for their campaign finance disclosure violations and preserves the integrity of state law while avoiding the additional expense to taxpayers of taking this case to trial,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Under the terms of the settlement filed in Thurston County Superior Court today, the defendants are required by pay $250,000 in fines and $40,000 in attorneys fees and costs—one of the highest penalties levied against individuals. As is common in these types of cases, a portion of the penalty ($140,000 in this case) has been suspended based on the defendants’ future compliance with campaign reporting laws. If any one of the parties is found to have committed a new violation between now and December 31, 2015, the full suspended amount will be owed. The defendants also agreed to obtain training from the Public Disclosure Commission staff on proper disclosure reporting.
The AGO explored the feasibility of setting aside the election (one possible remedy for violations of campaign finance disclosure laws) and hired an expert to review the facts of the case. The expert could not conclude with any certainty the defendants’ campaign finance violations probably affected the outcome of the election. As such, the AGO did not pursue that remedy in this case because it could not meet the legal burden.
Stipulated judgment, PDC v. MacLean and Underhill, Conservative PAC and Cut Taxes PAC
Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director/Deputy Chief of Staff, Attorney General’s Office, (360) 586-0725