Recent Judgments in Our Cases

Smith & Dietrich Law Offices, PLLC is pleased to report we have successfully completed three cases we filed earlier in 2017 with judgments entered in Thurston County Superior Court. We brought these campaign finance enforcement case known as “citizen actions” under Washington’s state law, and obtained relief for the benefit of the State including civil penalties and injunctive relief. We were able to reach resolutions in these cases through agreements reached with the Defendants, the Pierce County Republican Central Committee, the Snohomish County Republican Central Committee, and the Spokane County Republican Central Committee.

Contact us here if you would like to discuss how we can help you with a civil legal dispute affecting you or your business. Please note that each case is unique and we never guarantee the outcome of any litigation matter; your case needs specific review and evaluation before we can determine whether we can represent you.

Smith & Dietrich files 19 complaints against county political parties, sitting legislators

Walter Smith of Smith & Dietrich Law Offices PLLC filed campaign finance complaints (and citizen action notices under Chapter 42.17A RCW) on Friday, September 1 against nineteen sets of Respondents concerning a variety of apparent violations of Washington State’s campaign finance laws. The Respondents were identified using research from publicly accessible sources freely available to anyone with an internet connection. Read on for details about the allegations in the complaints, with links to the Enforcement page of the Public Disclosure Commission.

Candidates and authorized committees

  • Bruce Chandler, State Representative (R-Zillah, 15th Leg. Dist., Yakima County) and the Bruce Chandler Campaign.
    • $60,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee not reported as surplus funds expenditure; failure to report any contributions or expenditures for 2016 legislative race.
  • Mary Dye, State Representative (R-Pomeroy, 9th Leg. Dist., Garfield County) and the Committee to Elect Mary Dye.
    • $24,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee not reported as surplus funds expenditure; failure to organize or report for surplus funds account; failure to timely file/amend contribution and expenditure reporting.
  • Norman Johnson, State Representative (R-Yakima, 14th Leg. Dist., Yakima County) and Norm Johnson for State Representative.
    • $3,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee not reported as surplus funds expenditure and over $1,000 donation to private organization from campaign funds; failure to report orders, debts, and obligations incurred during 2016 election campaign; failure to timely report campaign expenditures.
  • John Koster, State Representative (R-Everett, 39th Leg. Dist., Snohomish County) and Elect John Koster, a political committee.
    • $10,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee from campaign funds; failure to report orders, debts, and obligations incurred during 2016 election campaign; failure to timely report campaign contributions and expenditures.
  • Jami Lund, Centralia School Board Member (Nonpartisan position, Centralia, Lewis County) and Citizens for Jami Lund.
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions and expenditures, and orders placed, debts, and obligations.
  • Drew MacEwen, State Representative (R-Union, 35th Leg. Dist., Mason County) and Committee to Elect Drew MacEwen.
    • $5,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee not reported as surplus funds expenditure and over $600 in donations and contributions from candidate authorized committee funds; failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions.
  • Mathew Manweller, State Representative (R-Ellensburg, 13th Leg. Dist., Kittitas County) and Committee to Elect Matt Manweller.
    • $72,500 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee from campaign funds; failure to accurately and timely report campaign expenditures and file statement of organization.
  • Gina McCabe, State Representative (R-Goldendale, 14th Leg. Dist., Klickitat County) Committee to Elect Gina McCabe.
    • $20,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee not reported as surplus funds expenditure and $200 donation to private organization from campaign funds; failure to organize or report for surplus funds account; failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions, expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations.
  • Robert McCaslin, State Representative (R-Spokane Valley, 4th Leg. Dist., Spokane County) and Committee to Elect Bob McCaslin.
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign organization, contributions, and expenditures; $10,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee from campaign funds.
  • Kirk Pearson, State Senator (R-Index, 39th Leg. Dist., Snohomish County) and Kirk Pearson for State Senate 2016, a political committee.
    • Extraordinary volume of late reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures (a cumulative 11,870 days late).
  • Pam Roach, Pierce County Councilmember (R-Sumner, Pierce County) and Friends of Pam Roach, a political committee.
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions and expenditures; failure to identify sub-vendors for expenditures.
  • Matthew Shea, State Representative (R-Spokane Valley, 4th Leg. Dist., Spokane County) and Committee to Elect Matt Shea.
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions, expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations; failure to identify sub-vendors for expenditures.
  • Norma Smith, State Representative (R-Clinton, 10th Leg. Dist., Island County) and Friends of Norma Smith, a political committee.
    • $30,000 contribution to House Republican Organizational Committee from campaign funds.
  • Melanie Stambaugh, State Representative (R-Puyallup, 25th Leg. Dist., Pierce County) and Friends of Melanie Stambaugh, a political committee.
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations.
  • David Taylor, State Representative (R-Yakima, 15th Leg. Dist., Yakima County) and Committee to Elect David Taylor.
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions; over $1,000 in donations to private organization from campaign funds.

County political party committees

  • Clark County Republican Central Committee (Vancouver).
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions, expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations; acceptance of prohibited contributions from candidate authorized committees.
  • Franklin County Republican Central Committee (Pasco).
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions, expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations.
  • Snohomish County Republican Central Committee (Marysville).
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions, expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations.
  • Spokane County Republican Central Committee (Spokane).
    • Failure to accurately and timely report campaign contributions, expenditures, orders, debts, and obligations; concealment of identity/payment amount for speaker’s fee; acceptance of prohibited contributions from candidate authorized committees.

 

Campaign finance complaint: PAC repeatedly violated law while Executive Director was busy complaining about others

Yesterday, Walter Smith of Smith & Dietrich Law Offices PLLC notified state authorities at the Attorney General’s Office and in Thurston County of over one hundred apparent violations of Washington’s campaign finance laws committed by a political committee or “PAC,” Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights, between 2015 and the present. The information cited in our citizen action notice was freely available to anyone with an internet connection, chiefly through the Public Disclosure Commission’s own website. You can access our notification letter here, and the attached spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel format here.

The cited violations include failures to timely file contribution and expenditure reporting on forms C-3 and C-4 on 99 occasions, including almost all of the PAC’s reporting for the Presidential election year of 2016 (which was mostly filed in May 2017). Additional apparent violations cited in our notice include failures to disclose debts, orders, obligations, and in-kind loans, and to file lobbyist employer reports.

Public Disclosure Commission documents available online show that the Executive Director for the Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights, Mr. Glen Morgan, filed a large volume of campaign finance complaints against other entities in Washington throughout late 2016 and continuing to the present day. Evidently, during the same time, his own committee was seriously out of compliance with the same laws. Our notice cites these facts to show that the PAC’s violations were intentional. State authorities have 45 days to complete their initial review of the allegations in this notice; we will provide an update when one is available. In the event that all notice requirements are satisfied and the State does not file an enforcement action based on the allegations in our notice, by law, we are allowed to proceed with a campaign finance enforcement action against the Respondent in the name of the State.

If you would like to discuss campaign finance compliance duties and how our firm can help you remain in compliance or address allegations of wrongdoing, contact us today.

Campaign finance complaint: Shell entity hid contributors to robocalls

Last year, just before the November general election, Thurston County’s race for County Board of Commissioners (District 1) was rocked by a series of dramatic news stories. First, the Olympian reported that a political committee or “PAC” conducted a series of robocalls including attack messaging against candidate Jim Cooper. The name of the PAC was “Friends of Jimmy,” which was reportedly sponsored by another PAC called “We Want to Be Friends of Jimmy Too.” The article reflects that Cooper and his opponent, John Hutchings, both denied any connection to the PAC. But wait; why did Cooper even need to be asked whether he sponsored the robocalls that attacked his own candidacy? Perhaps because his candidate authorized committee, “Friends of Jim Cooper,” sounded so similar to the PACs that sponsored the robocalls against him. But more on that below.

Later, the Olympian would go on to report that a person who managed the PACs and their robocall campaign had, unfortunately, received a death threat, and had been sued by private citizens over the unwanted robocalls. After the election, the same person began filing a series of campaign finance complaints that were followed by state government lawsuits against not only Jim Cooper but many other Democratic candidates and party organizations as well. He was even quoted in the newspaper as saying that “everybody is in violation” of Washington’s campaign finance laws.

Today, Smith & Dietrich Law Offices notified state officials that Glen Morgan, manager of the PACs that attacked Jim Cooper, and filer of numerous campaign finance complaints starting in late 2016, apparently violated Washington’s campaign finance law prohibiting concealment of political expenditures and contributions. Our notice was based entirely on information in the public domain accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The violation was, in short, that he created two PACs ahead of the 2016 general election which were deceptively named as though they supported the opponent against which they would operate: Jim Cooper. He then used one of the PACs to obtain political contributions from various donors, sent that money to the second PAC, and used it to sponsor robocall attack ads. Doing this allowed him to effectively hide the individual contributors to the second PAC from the public; only a diligent researcher who located the first PAC would be able to piece together that they had funded the calls. This allowed the funders of his negative robocalling campaign to hide from the full public airing of their sponsorship required by law. A copy of our citizen action notice is here (and you can view the attachments here).

The notice we filed today follows a similar complaint filed by another member of the public with the Public Disclosure Commission before election day. No known action has occurred to date to remedy Mr. Morgan and his two PACs’ violations of the campaign finance laws; apparently, the complaint was returned with no action days ago. Now, state authorities have a statutory deadline of September 18, 2017 to investigate the allegations. The irony of this situation is likely lost on no one: the same activist who stated that “everybody is in violation” has himself been caught in an intentional violation of the same law he has so vigorously used against others. We will provide an update concerning the notice once the position of the Attorney General’s Office is clear.

At Smith & Dietrich Law Offices, we believe that the campaign finance laws should be used as they were intended, to improve public understanding of the funding of political contests. If you are involved in a political campaign or committee and would like to discuss reporting or compliance duties under Washington law, allegations of campaign finance violations, or how to respond to a complaint or citizen action notice, contact us here.

What you can do about campaign finance law violations

We are living in an age of great scrutiny of campaign finance issues. This is true both at the federal level (with organizations like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW] bringing cases like the emoluments clause lawsuits against the President of the United States), and in the City of Olympia, our own backyard. Much of the activity in Washington state is due to a law originally adopted by initiative in 1973, which allows Washington citizens to sue on behalf of the state to enforce campaign finance laws if state authorities will not bring the cases themselves.

This recent Seattle Times article explains that the number of formal notices starting off a state campaign finance enforcement case has shot up from 4 per year in 2012 to 79 in the first five months of 2017 alone. This continues a surge in notices that began in 2016. Nearly all of the recent notices were filed by a single individual against Democratic Party candidates and party organizations, left-of-center political committees, and related groups. Resulting in part from that increase in the volume of notices, in the past year, an historic number of campaign finance enforcement lawsuits have been filed by the Attorney General’s Office.

If you are aware of violations of Washington’s campaign finance disclosure law, codified at chapter 42.17A of the Revised Code of Washington, or its implementing regulations (see Title 390 of the Washington Administrative Code), you may file a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission, or provide a citizen action notice to the relevant county prosecuting attorney(s) and the Attorney General in Olympia. Unlike complaints filed with the PDC, citizen action notices trigger deadlines for the government to investigate or file suit on the allegations; if no suit is filed once the notice requirements are satisfied, the citizen may bring an enforcement action in the name of the state. And if the citizen suing in the name of the state prevails, he or she may recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs for prosecuting the action. If the defendant prevails, then he or she may recover fees and costs; where a court finds the lawsuit was filed without reasonable cause, these may be charged to the citizen who filed it.

Why do campaign finance complaints matter? Notices and complaints filed by the public can lead to campaign finance litigation or administrative penalties. Legal actions over campaign finance violations require time and resources to defend against and are significant issues in the minds of the voting public. Justice would be best served by all political players being held to the same standard of compliance with campaign finance laws. But state law leaves it in large part to private citizens to initiate enforcement actions.

To get a sense of the work our firm can do in this area, you can view an example complaint we filed last month with the Public Disclosure Commission here (this complaint was provided to the county prosecuting attorneys and the Attorney General in a modified form, and the 45-day deadline for initial review of that notice will expire September 7, 2017, so stay tuned for the next developments). All of the information we cited in this filing is in the public domain, and is freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The allegations in our notice are closely similar to many of the complaints filed with the Public Disclosure Commission in the past year, like failures to file expenditure and contribution reporting on time, and failures to properly report debts, orders, obligations, and loans. Several lawsuits have been filed by the state Attorney General’s Office on allegations like those in our notice.

State law gives significant responsibility to the citizens of Washington to make sure that political players play by the rules. Our firm is dedicated to doing justice in campaign finance cases by filing complaints against violators and assisting with responses to allegations of non-compliance. We are also available to review campaign practices and records and advise concerning compliance options before a complaint or citizen action notice arrives. If you would like to discuss campaign finance compliance issues under Washington law, contact us to discuss the next steps.