On Friday, at 4:56pm , Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against Democrat Senator Sam Hunt (22nd Legislative District, Olympia) and his candidate’s authorized campaign committee for a variety of violations of Washington State’s campaign finance laws enshrined in RCW 42.17A (copy of complaint filed in court linked here). The lawsuit has three core claims:
- Sam Hunt failed to timely and properly report debts and obligations/orders placed as those obligations were incurred (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235 & .240)
- Sam Hunt failed to properly and timely report the value of the mailing list he obtained from the Washington State Democratic Party (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235 & .240)
- Sam Hunt failed to timely report expenditures he made during the 2016 election campaign (again, Violation of RCW 42.17A.235 & .240)
This lawsuit began with a complaint filed by this author on December 19, 2016 with the Public Disclosure Commission (see original PDC complaint linked here). However, the origins of this campaign finance violation actually began even earlier.
During a hotly contested race for the Thurston County Commissioner seats, the Thurston County Democrats and their chosen candidates were expecting to cruise to a “coronation” since Democrats had dominated the Thurston County Commission as long as anyone could remember. However, two independent candidates for these offices (soon to become Commissioner John Hutchings and Commissioner Gary Edwards) were still campaigning hard and some were starting to recognize this was going to be a serious race. I participated in the campaign process with a micro PAC and some Robocalls, which upset the political establishment who preferred that political opposition remain silent and unheard. This included Senator Sam Hunt, who gave me the original idea for the Robocalls in Thurston County due to his history of attack Robocalls in the past.
Representative Sam Hunt had contacted the Olympian to complain about my Robocalls and to claim that I had violated a host of campaign laws. Dueling Public Disclosure Complaints ensued. My first complaint against Sam Hunt was pretty weak (linked here) and Representative Sam Hunt (soon to be Senator) wrote a letter to the PDC claiming that I was ignorant about campaign finance laws (linked here). Sam Hunt was right. I was ignorant. So I resolved to educate myself – a process that appears likely to take many years, but which helped me file the complaint which led to the current lawsuit by the Attorney General’s office against Senator Hunt.
Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson campaigned last year, in part, on a platform of more rigorously enforcing Washington State’s campaign finance laws. Some recent lawsuits Ferguson has filed include:
- Democrat Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (see complaint linked here)
- Failed Democrat candidate for the Legislature (19th District) Theresa Purcell. (see complaint linked here)
- Failed Democrat candidate for the Thurston County Commission Jim Cooper (see complaint linked here).
- Failed Democrat candidate for the Thurston County Commission Kelsey Hulse (see complaint linked here).
- Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council Director Jay Manning (see complaint linked here and the rapid $4800 settlement linked here)
- Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman (see AG press release about lawsuit filed against Wyman here and the $10,000 settlement here).
In Senator Hunt’s original letter he bragged about never having a PDC complaint filed against him in 24 years in public office. That streak is now over (and wasn’t entirely accurate as was pointed out in the second complaint).
Eventually, Sam Hunt will pay a nominal fine plus some investigation and attorney fees to justify the bureaucracy’s efforts. Attorney General Ferguson will do this with little fanfare. Hunt’s future campaign paperwork will certainly improve and get a lot less sloppy. However, this author owes a debt to Senator Sam Hunt for his willingness to point out my lack of education on campaign finance law and for encouraging me to become more educated in the process.
This inspiration has created the opportunity to learn so much, and share this knowledge with the Attorney General’s office and the Public Disclosure Commission, which in turn has kept Attorney General Ferguson true to his campaign promise to more rigorously enforce the campaign finance laws. In the end, Senator Sam Hunt’s penalties and fines will be a small price to pay if his mistakes and failures lead to the self-improvement of others. Perhaps his errors will improve transparency and the campaign finance laws for everyone else.
OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.” IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT. IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.” UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED…
Recent Sam Hunt lawsuit and other pending complaints:
December 19, 2016 -AG lawsuit against Theresa Purcell (Thurston Superior Court #16-2-04959-34)
Background articles on Attorney General lawsuits:
For More Background on this story (Thurston County Drama):