Candidate Nathan Choi

Late last Friday, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit (linked here) in Thurston County Superior Court against failed Appellate Court Judge Candidate Nathan Choi, a Bellevue attorney, for a wide range of campaign finance violations during the 2017 election year.  This lawsuit was triggered by a complaint filed by this author (linked here, see letter from AG to this author linked here).  This is the 19th lawsuit filed by the AG initiated by complaints filed by this author over the last 14 months.  The AG has not issued a press release on this case.

Choi’s candidacy was plagued with problems and a failure to comply with the law from the beginning.  While Choi’s campaign platform included the importantly critical fact that he was part of MENSA (which is a club for people with high intelligence test scores), he failed to use his extraordinary intellect to study and understand Washington State’s campaign finance law.  As a result, he failed to file his Personal Financial Disclosure Documents with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) (a requirement for every candidate running for office).

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Choi failed to file ANY documentation about the various campaign expenditures he made or any explanation for how his campaign was financed.  At this time, it is still unclear who funded his campaign, how big his campaign was, and how he spent the money for his campaign.  All of these are required to be reported to the PDC, and this has been the law since Initiative 276 passed in 1972.

While Nathan Choi as a candidate for Washington State’s Court of Appeals failed significantly in his campaign efforts (he received 23.73% of the vote in November- election results here), he still managed to rack up an impressive array of legal violations along the way.  Here is a short list:

  • Choi paid for a full page advertisement in the Seattle Times on October 30, 2017, which implied that he was an incumbent judge multiple times (“Judge Nathan Choi”).  In addition to failing to report this expenditure (a clear PDC violation) he also earned the rare distinction of  a formal written rebuke from the King County Bar Association and a complaint to the judicial ethics board and the PDC on November 3, 2017 (linked here).  This ad was valued at between $3,960 and $6,600 according to Seattle Times 2017 ad rates.
  • Choi paid for at least 16 different election free standing sandwich board style campaign advertisement boards throughout Seattle, which were illegally placed in violation of local Seattle
    Not so easy if they money is hidden from view

    ordinances.  These actions earned him several bonus fines in Seattle of $250 on October 13, 2017 and $500 on October 26th.  He also failed to report these fines as expenditures, which helps pile up further evidence of violating the state’s campaign finance laws.

  • Choi also produced a bulk mailer which he sent out before the 2017 election in which he designed a mailer that could be perceived as an official mailer from the county elections office.  While this may or may not be a violation of the campaign finance laws, Choi’s failure to report this expenditure to the PDC certainly was.
  • Choi paid a candidate filing fee of $1,750 in May last year and failed to report this expenditure, despite a clear AGO opinion on this issue from 1974 by Slade Gorton back when he was Washington State Attorney General in opinion #16, on July 29, 1974 (linked here).
  • Additionally, someone registered a domain name for a website supporting Choi and attacking his opponent, incumbent Appeals Court Judge Michael SpearmanThe website ( displayed no statement of sponsor identification at the time, which is another bonus PDC violation.

Many other violations were committed en route to Choi’s shellacking by the voters last November.  As a final act on this election campaign fiasco, the Attorney General’s lawsuit (linked here) will probably be enough to ensure that attorney Nathan Choi (assuming he keeps his bar license) is a bit more careful next time he runs for office.

This case is a further reminder that nobody should be above the law – even judges and those who wish to be judges.  In fact, judges should be held to a particularly high bar in their efforts to comply with our state’s campaign finance laws since they are the very ones who judge whether other people have complied with the whole suite of Washington State laws.

Nathan Choi is not alone among judge candidates in 2017 to break the campaign finance laws.  We wrote about Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stolz who brazenly broke every campaign finance law to lose her seat on the bench last year.  A similar complaint against Stolz was filed by this author and led to that settlement.  The AG also settled a lawsuit including a $2000 fine against Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Larsen last year for a more technical, yet serious violation of the law last year (settlement linked here).

Nathan Choi is certainly a smart guy – they don’t admit every applicant into the MENSA club.  However, he will be well advised to carefully read the law next time before he runs for office again.  His failed campaign last year is going to be an expensive lesson, yet a necessary reminder that the law does indeed apply to everyone – even those smarter than the rest of us.



Additional Background articles and documents:

Original PDC complaint filed by Glen Morgan against Nathan Choi on November 22, 2018, posted to the PDC website November 30, 2018

Letter from Washington State Attorney General to Glen Morgan dated Feb 21, 2018 indicating that investigation based on Citizen Action Notice has resulted in lawsuit

State of Washington vs. Nathan Choi (Thurston Court #18-2-00591-34) complaint filed Feb 16, 2018

King County Bar Association Complaint against Nathan Choi filed with PDC and with Judicial Ethics Board – November 3, 2017

Seattle Times -Feb 18, 2018 “State sues Bellevue judicial candidate Nathan Choi over alleged violations”

Seattle Times – Nov 6, 2017 – “King County Bar Association rebukes judicial candidate for late spending, misleading ad”

Washington State Attorney General Opinion #16 – July 29, 1974 “Filing Fees as Reportable Expenditures under Initiative No. 276”

Seattle Weekly – Oct 18, 2017 – Endorses Choi’s opponent, provides more details about Choi’s campaign

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Larsen AG lawsuit settlement – Nov 8, 2017 – (Snohomish Superior Court #16-2-19162-31)

Superior Court Judge Stolz fined $13k for failed “stealth” election campaign

Original PDC complaint #24413 against Judge Katherine Stolz

Judge Katherine Stolz – Final Stipulation and Agreement – January 12, 2018 (Thurston Superior Court #17-2-05915-34)

Full size scanned image of the secret Judge Stolz mailer

Democrat legislators break law, propose bill to hide their lawbreaking – attempt to punish those who expose them

The Columbian – “Local Democratic PAC plans to disband after complaints”

Washington AG forced to sue labor group, keeps $36k settlement very quiet

Tukwila Firefighters PAC settles campaign finance lawsuit for $23k, promises to do better

Dem Representative Morris settles AG lawsuit quietly and cheaply

AG attorney complains suing Democrat lawbreakers “unfair,” quits to sue Republicans

Jay Manning fined for Cult PAC violations, State Democratic Party pays the tab

Democratic Party attacks campaign transparency in Washington

Dem PACs dissolve after campaign finance complaints

The Scorched wasteland of Washington’s campaign finance laws