OLYMPIA — The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) announced that it filed a complaint in Thurston County Superior Court today alleging campaign finance violations by the Freedom Foundation. Specifically, the AGO alleges that the Freedom Foundation failed to properly and timely file independent expenditure reports disclosing money it spent to oppose statewide ballot measures.
“Washingtonians demand that the financial forces at work in their elections are fully and timely disclosed,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “I am committed to enforcing the laws that ensure the transparency vital to our democracy.”
In August 2016 the AGO received a Citizen Action Complaint from the Campaign to Prevent Fraud and Protect Seniors alleging multiple violations of the state’s public disclosure laws by the Freedom Foundation. These allegations included that the Freedom Foundation failed to report independent expenditures it was making to oppose Initiative 1501 and that the Freedom Foundation was an unregistered and non-reporting political committee.
Following review of its staff investigation and review, the Public Disclosure Commission recommended that the Attorney General “take legal action as appropriate concerning the allegations.” PDC staff determined that the Freedom Foundation did not timely report its independent expenditures. It did not find sufficient evidence that the Freedom Foundation was acting as a political committee as defined by state law.
The Freedom Foundation paid its staff their normal salaries as they engaged in opposition activities to Initiative 1501 and created, paid for and sponsored an anti-1501 website.
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.
A copy of the Commission’s documents are available on the PDC website and its recommendation to the Attorney General’s Office can be found here. A copy of the AGO’s complaint filed today can be found here. The Attorney General’s Office enforces the state’s campaign finance disclosure law to ensure free, open and fair elections in Washington state.
The Attorney General’s Office filed a separate lawsuit against the Freedom Foundation in October 2015 based the Freedom Foundation’s efforts to support local ballot measures in the cities of Sequim, Shelton and Chelan. Dismissal of that case is currently on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Linda Dalton and Assistant Attorney General Chad Standifer are handling the case.
Since becoming Attorney General, Attorney General Ferguson has devoted more agency resources and a full-time attorney position to campaign finance casework.
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