Defendants gave false information to state investigators
OLYMPIA — As a result of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance case, a former Grant County Superior Court judge and a Moses Lake business owner will pay $250,000 in civil penalties, costs and fees.
In a judgment entered Friday, Jerry Moberg and Ken Greene also acknowledge they violated Washington campaign finance law numerous times when they sent a 2014 mailer in the election for Grant County prosecutor, and concealed that they were the source.
The state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) raised concerns about “what appear to be incomplete, deceptive, or untrue answers to staff's questions” by Moberg and Greene, and referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office.
In January, a judge confirmed the PDC’s concerns about the defendants’ candor.
“This judgment demonstrates that intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance laws and lying to investigators about your conduct will result in a significant penalty,” Ferguson said.
“This case exemplifies why the Public Disclosure Commission and campaign finance disclosure exists: To hold to account those who try to influence elections,” said PDC Chair David Ammons. “Voters deserve true transparency.”
In January, Judge John Skinder granted partial summary judgment in Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance lawsuit against Moberg and Greene. The judge ruled that Moberg and Greene violated the law by concealing their sponsorship of a political mailer and for failing to register and report as a political committee. The judge also ruled that Greene unlawfully used an assumed name to identify the sponsor of an electioneering communication.
Today’s judgment orders Moberg to pay $115,000 in civil penalties, and Greene to pay $13,872 in civil penalties. Moberg and Greene will also pay $115,000 and $6,128, respectively, for the costs associated with bringing this case. Today’s judgment resolves the case.
The recoveries in this case will go into the state Public Disclosure Transparency Account as required by law. The transparency account was created as part of campaign finance legislation in the 2018 legislative session that also removed the Attorney General’s independent authority to bring campaign finance cases. To date, cases by the Attorney General’s Office have garnered $2,033,135 in judgments to be deposited in the transparency account.
“Grant County Concerned Voters”
In 2014, incumbent Angus Lee ran against challenger Garth Dano for Grant County Prosecutor. Dano eventually won the election.
Around Oct. 11, 2014, a negative mailer arrived at voters’ homes attacking Dano’s character and endorsing Lee. The flyer identified “Grant County Concerned Voters” as the sponsor. No such group ever registered with the PDC or filed any reports, meaning that no public information was available to determine who was behind the mailing and how much they spent.
The PDC received complaints about the mailer and launched an investigation.
The PDC investigation uncovered email communications between Greene, Moberg and the South Dakota-based printer they worked with to print and send the 12,000 mailers. In a Sept. 30, 2014 email, Moberg approved the printer’s quote for $3,872.10, but instructed the company to send the invoice to Greene. Moberg wrote that Greene “will forward you a signed check for the amount due. Those funds will be available for withdrawal tomorrow by noon Pacific Standard Time.”
At the time Moberg sent his email, bank records show Greene’s account balance was $91.37.
On Oct. 1, 2014, Moberg wrote a check to himself from his law firm’s account, cashed the check and provided the cash to Greene. The same day, Greene deposited $4,000 in cash to his account.
Also the same day, Moberg — not Greene — sent an email to the printer with a scanned copy of a check from Greene authorizing the $3,872.10 payment for printing and mailing.
On or about Oct. 11, 2014 — three weeks before the election — thousands of Grant County voters received the mailer Moberg and Greene created.
When the PDC reached out to Greene in September of 2015 to notify him of the investigation, “Greene initially refused to disclose his or Moberg’s involvement with the Dano mailer. Instead, Greene demanded an explanation of how the PDC staff came to associate him with the Dano mailer,” the judge wrote.
Greene and Moberg later responded in writing through their attorney. In his ruling, the judge wrote, “Significantly, their January 22, 2016 letter to the PDC omitted Moberg’s role in providing the funds needed for the Dano mailer and instead represented that ‘Ken Greene was the sole decision-maker and financial contributor.’”
Later, the state deposed Greene and Moberg during which Greene and Moberg repeated this claim under oath.
“While under oath, each defendant represented that no one other than Green had any role in paying for the Dano mailer, and that Moberg, in particular, did not help pay for the mailer,” the judge wrote. “More than two months later, after the PDC had requested and obtained a copy of Greene’s bank statement, which showed that a $4,000 deposit had occurred on October 1, 2014, defendants’ then counsel revealed to the PDC that Moberg was in fact the source of the funds used to pay for the Dano mailer.”
Assistant Attorneys General Todd Sipe and Martha Rodríguez López handled the case for the state.
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, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org