Just before Thanksgiving Washington State Representative Jeff Morris, a Democrat from the 40th Legislative District located in San Juan County, quietly settled the lawsuit filed against him by the Washington State Attorney General’s office earlier this year. This lawsuit was initiated by a complaint filed against Morris filed by this author earlier in the year (lawsuit settlement linked here, original lawsuit linked here, original PDC complaint linked here).
Representative Jeff Morris was caught violating Washington State’s Campaign Finance laws, which are codified in statute here (RCW 42.17A). He was fined $170 plus $960 in court, investigation, and attorney costs for a total payment of $1,130. Based on a review of recent Attorney General settlements, this is the smallest fine ever given to a politician or political committee for violating the campaign finance laws.
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, by AG Ferguson’s campaign promises as well as local State Senator Sam Hunt, who also provided encouragement to better understand these laws. The Washington State Democratic Party also helped inspire this effort in their own way by filing their complaints against this author last year.
One unanticipated outcome was the large number of politicians and committees affiliated with the Washington State Democratic Party who violated the law. Most of these organizations and politicians endorsed Ferguson during his election campaign in
2016. This is why Ferguson was forced to “recuse” himself from these investigations and lawsuits. 18 lawsuits were filed against these Democratic Party affiliated groups before the AG’s office determined that they had reached their quota for lawsuits against Democrats. The other complicating factor for the AG’s office was the fact that at least one hyper partisan attorney, named Walter Smith, quit the campaign finance unit because he didn’t want to enforce the state’s campaign finance laws against Democrats.
The Attorney General’s office also implemented a “media silence” campaign about settlements and lawsuits against Democrats. Historically, 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, and now Democrat Representative Jeff Morris there were no press releases issued. Not one. Sometimes they are announced briefly on Twitter, but the AG is keeping these litigation successes as quiet as possible.
In some ways, Representative Morris was unlucky. When the AG originally filed this lawsuit against him in early 2017, the AG was still serious about enforcing the state’s campaign finance laws. Now that so many Democrat legislators, senators, and political committees have been caught violating this same law, the priority has shifted away from enforcing this law so rigorously. It is unlikely the AG would file this same lawsuit against a Democrat politician today.
In other ways, Morris is very fortunate. When Kim Wyman settled her case, she paid total fine of $12,090 for very similar violation of the statute (Wyman had more late reports, but the type of violation was the same). However, the fines for similar violations are now dropping to much lower levels as a large volume of Democrats are exposed violating those same laws. In theory, the law is written to be applied equally to everyone, but as Attorney General Bob Ferguson is demonstrating – some violators are always more equal than others.
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…
Additional Background articles and documents:
(added after article published): Woke Washington – “WA Dems team up with WA GOP to dismantle campaign accountability” (local Socialist writes detailed article with source documents – critical of this author (with is fine), but also providing more insight on Democrats evading trasparency.
Pierce County Settlement Document (Thurston Superior Court #17-2-04616-34 , filed October 27, 2017) (if document is missing – you can download it here)
AG lawsuit against Pierce County Democrats (Thurston Superior Court #17-2-04616-34) filed August 14, 2017) (if document is missing – you can download it here)