OLYMPIA -- The state Democratic Central Committee was assessed a $250,000 civil penalty and will be required to provide yearly audits to the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) under an agreement filed today in Thurston County Superior Court that settles allegations of financial-reporting violations against the central committee.
Under the agreement, the central committee will pay $100,000 of the penalty by December, and additional amounts of $10,000 in each succeeding year through 2008. The remaining $100,000 will be suspended, but the PDC will have authority to reimpose the suspended amount if new campaign-law violations are reported that result in a PDC referral to the Attorney General's Office.
Filed simultaneously with the agreement was a complaint alleging that the Democratic Central Committee violated the state Public Disclosure Act by failing to timely file $5,956,418 in contributions between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2000. An investigation by the PDC revealed that the central committee also failed to report $1 million in expenditures during that time.
Last August, the PDC found apparent violations of the disclosure law and referred the case to the Attorney General's Office for further action. The case was referred because the commission concluded that the maximum $2,500 penalty it could levy was not sufficient to address the seriousness of the violations.
The Attorney General's Office established a special negotiating process that involved the office of King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and PDC staff.
One PDC commissioner did not participate because of a personal involvement with the Democratic Central Committee during the time that the disclosure-law violations occurred, but Maleng and the remaining four PDC commissioners support today's agreement.
An earlier investigation by commission staff showed that the reporting problems began when a staff member who lacked formal accounting training or knowledge of PDC rules was given the position of comptroller. Under today's agreement, the central committee will also be required to provide PDC-approved training to all state, county and local party officials or others responsible for preparing state campaign-finance reports. Also, two party officials, one of whom must be the party chair or vice chair, will be required to approve all reports to the PDC prior to submission.