OLYMPIA -- Anacortes Port Commissioner Pat Mooney has agreed to resign effective Sept. 1 to settle state claims that he won reelection in 2003 by committing violations of state campaign-finance reporting laws.
The resignation creates a vacancy that will require a special election to fill the unexpired term. Under state election law, a special three-day filing period will precede the special election, which may occur during the Nov. 2 general election.
A lawsuit alleging Mooney violated state campaign finance laws was filed in March by the Attorney General’s Office on behalf of the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). A proposed order finalizing the settlement agreement will be presented to a Skagit County judge today.
The settlement also requires Mooney to pay a $7,500 civil penalty, $5,000 of which will be suspended on condition that he not serve as a treasurer for any political committee, that he not select the PDC’s “mini reporting option” for any future offices he chooses to seek and that he not commit further violations of the Public Disclosure Act.
According to the complaint filed in March, Mooney decided to seek reelection as port commissioner and filed a candidate registration form with the PDC on Aug. 7, 2003. He selected the mini reporting option, which limited his campaign contributions and expenditures to $3,500. Mooney’s opponent, Brian Wetcher, also selected the mini reporting option.
Mooney subsequently admitted that he raised $5,379 and made campaign expenditures totaling $4,944, which was $1,444 or 40 percent over his agreed spending limit. On Nov. 4, 2003, he won the election by 21 votes, garnering 3,314 (50.03 percent) votes compared to Wetcher’s 3,293 votes (49.77 percent).
On March 10, the PDC found that Mooney had committed multiple apparent violations of the state Public Disclosure Act and referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office, which can seek broader remedies in court that the Commission can impose itself.
State law provides that a court may void an election and order a special election if it finds that a campaign-law violation “probably affected the outcome” of the election. Because the law does not define how such an effect is to be determined, the PDC retained an elections expert, Western Washington University Professor Todd Donovan, to evaluate the effect Mooney’s violations had on the election outcome.
A report on Donovan’s research concluded that there was a “very high” (above 95 percent) probability that Mooney’s excess spending was a decisive factor in his victory.