Washington AG Forced To Sue Labor Group, Keeps $36K Settlement Very Quiet
By Glen Morgan
January 5, 2018
(We The Governed) – The Washington & Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers PAC recently settled a campaign finance lawsuit brought by the Washington State Attorney General’s office in Thurston County Superior Court (linked here), based on a campaign finance complaint filed by this author (linked here). The final settlement was signed September 22nd of last year. The AG issued no press release about this settlement, made no Twitter announcement, and waited three months to post the final settlement information on their successful campaign finance enforcement page (linked here).
The lawsuit included a $30,695 fine ($15,347.50 payable to the state immediately, with the rest suspended assuming they do not violate the campaign finance laws again over the next four years), plus payment of $5,615 for the state’s attorney fees and costs. This labor council PAC had committed the following violations of Washington State’s campaign finance laws:
- Failed to file timely and accurate reports of contributions – totaling more than 20 reports over 2,893 days late, which were designed to hide a total of $350,855.06 in donations from public scrutiny
- Failed to file timely and accurate reports of expenditures (mostly donations to candidates) – totaling more than 16 reports over 2,526 days late, which were designed to hide and obscure at least $226,600.00 in contributions to political candidates or committees
The Attorney General was forced to file this lawsuit based on a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint filed against this political committee by this author on May 22nd of last year (original complaint linked here). The AG filed the lawsuit on August 1st of last year (linked here).
Background on this lawsuit
Attorney General Bob Ferguson campaigned for reelection in 2016 in part on his willingness to more aggressively pursue violations of the state’s campaign finance law. This author was inspired, in part, to help point out the many violations committed by a variety of politicians and political committees in the state by AG Ferguson’s campaign promises. Local Democrat State Senator Sam Hunt, also provided encouragement to better understand these laws. In additional, the Washington State Democratic Party also helped inspire this effort in their own way by filing lawsuits and PDC complaints against this author last year (in addition to a documented death threat by one of the local Democrat Party officials).
One unanticipated outcome of this effort was the large number of politicians and committees affiliated with the Washington State Democratic Party who had committed serious violations of the state’s campaign finance law. Most of these organizations and politicians endorsed Ferguson during his election campaign in 2016. This fact created tension at the AG’s office as at least one attorney quit because he felt it was “unfair” to sue Democrats. Additionally, the AG’s office has, for now, stopped suing Democrat politicians or candidates since last August despite being formally notified of over 100 well-documented campaign finance cases which, based on the significance and size of the violations, would normally have merited legal action by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office in the recent past.
Going media silent on successful lawsuits against Democrats and affiliated organizations.
Interestingly, the Attorney General’s office has quietly implemented a “media silent” campaign about settlements and lawsuits against Democrats and Democrat supporting organizations. This is particularly notable for Ferguson because his office has been so prolific with media press conferences, press releases and public announcements in most of his legal cases. Traditionally, the AG would issue press releases for every successful settlement or lawsuit filed by the campaign finance unit.
When Republicans or conservative/center leaning groups were sued, they often benefited from large volumes of press releases. For example, Kim Wyman, Republican Secretary of State received excellent coverage (press releases here, here, and here). Another example would be the 9 press releases gleefully issued about Tim Eyman (the initiative guy hated by Democrats) linked at the end of this article. Also, the Freedom Foundation received extensive AG press coverage (see here, here, and here). However, when settlements of lawsuits have been made against the Pierce County Democrats, Senator Sam Hunt (D, Olympia), Rep Strom Peterson (D), Snohomish Superior Court Judge Larson, Representative Jeff Morris (D), and now the Washington Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers PAC there were no press releases issued. Not one. A few were announced briefly on Twitter, but for the most part, the AG is keeping these litigation successes as quiet as possible.
It is also worth noting, while the Washington State Democrats have attempted to orchestrate a fraudulent conveyance scheme among their local political committees in order to avoid legal liability for the sin of violating the state’s campaign finance laws, they can once again learn from their friends and financiers at the Washington & Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers PAC about how to properly and legally settle these types of cases without resorting to fraudulent behavior.
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