In a stunning public reversal of their public statements about campaign finance laws, the Washington State Democratic Party is declaring war on the state’s Public Disclosure Commission. Concerns have been raised by conservative and socialist activists alike, but Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington State Democratic Party appears determined to
destroy the foundation of the state’s campaign finance laws by promoting and financially benefiting from the dissolution of local Democratic Party Political Committees in a conspiracy to evade legal liability. If the Democratic Party succeeds in this fraudulent conveyance scheme, there will no longer be a reason for the Public Disclosure Commission to exist.
It is no longer a party secret that nearly every Democratic Party affiliated political committee has violated the state’s campaign finance laws. This has been common practice for years. However, this is the first time these violations have been exposed for public consumption. This exposure of violations began as this author, following the law as defined in RCW 42.17A, filed complaints against these organizations with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Partly, these violations are habitual and partly they are just the culture of politics in Washington State.
Have the Campaign Finance laws become “Weaponized?”
The Democrats are not alone in violating the state’s campaign finance laws, as evidenced by a recent lawsuit filed by the State’s Attorney General’s office against the Clark County Republicans, however, this may be the first time since these laws were drafted in 1972 that anybody bothered to call attention to the serious violations committed by these political committees routinely for decades.
Historically, the Democratic Party in Washington State was the leading organization filing complaints against Republicans, and they never complained in the past that the law was “weaponized.” As just a small abbreviated sampling of a few examples:
- State Democratic Party filed a 2016 PDC complaint against Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman which resulted in an AG lawsuit and settlement during her campaign for re-election last year (see AG press releases here, here, and here)
- Paid State Dem Party staffer Mina Mercer filed many PDC complaints against Republican candidates or committees in 2016 (linked here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)
- Paid State Dem Party staffer Alex Bond filed many PDC complaints against Republican candidates or committees in 2016 and 2017 (some examples are linked here, here, and here)
- King County Dem Chair Bailey Stober filed PDC complaint against Republican JT Wilcox in 2017 (linked here)
- The King County Democratic
Party filed PDC complaint against Susan Hutchinson during her campaign for the King County Council in 2008 (see article linked here)
- 40 different Citizen Action Notices filed by the Washington State Democratic Party against Republican legislators and Senators in November of 2017
- State Democratic Party Chairman Jaxon Ravens filed PDC complaint against Republican candidate for Governor Bill Bryant in 2016 (linked here)
- A variety of complaints filed by Democrat 7th Legislative District candidate Karen Hardy against Republican legislators in 2017 (examples linked here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)
- Complaints filed by Jessica LeVigne, Washington State House Democratic Campaign Committee paid staffer in 2016 (examples linked here, here, here, and here)
The Republicans rarely, if ever, responded in kind, so the Washington State Democratic Party celebrated the work of the PDC and State AG Bob Ferguson’s more aggressive posture in enforcing campaign finance rules. Filing complaints was just their civic duty. All was well in the political world.
Now that the State Democratic Party, their affiliated political committees, candidates, politicians, judges, and even Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson himself have been exposed by this author for violating these same laws, there is a hue and cry that the law has been “weaponized.” (see this recent article in the Spokesman Review). However, it has become self-evident that these campaign finance laws are only “weaponized” when your political friends get caught. If this was the extent of their reaction, this would just be another political story about hypocrisy. However, the State Democratic Party decided to destroy the very campaign finance system they once claimed to support, and they are breaking many more laws in the process.
Power Grab by Democratic Party establishment?
As reported previously, the State Democrats have decided the best course of action is to dissolve many of their local political committees who have been caught violating the law. In the process of this dissolution, the State Party becomes the recipient of the campaign funds these groups had in their bank account. Additionally, the local committees shift the balance of these fund to the State Democratic Party’s subsidized law firm. This is clearly illegal and is called fraudulent conveyance. The Island County Democratic Party, the 43rd Legislative District Democrats, and the 11th Legislative District Democrats have all taken this questionable path based on the fraudulent conveyance scheme constructed by the state party.
However, many local Democratic Party committees have wisely rejected this option. Some, including the Thurston County Democrats (who are currently defending themselves from a lawsuit brought by the AG’s office for their campaign finance violations, initiated by a complaint originally filed by this author) are publicly opposing this effort. They rightly see this fraudulent conveyance scheme as a power grabbing effort by the state party to wrest local control from many of the local Democratic Party organizations. Many of these groups are now being led by former supporters of Bernie Sanders. The Bernie supporters understandably view their grip on political power as a bit tenuous and under frequent attack by the more “establishment” Democrat power brokers.
Attack on the PDC
The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) was established as the non-partisan and independent public entity which was tasked with both storing the campaign finance public records (over 5 million documents right now and growing), and with enforcing the statute when violations occur. This fraudulent conveyance scheme invented and orchestrated by the State Democratic Party is a clear and present danger to the very existence of the PDC, and since 1972, no threat to the PDC has been greater than this scheme. This is why.
If the “dissolve and disappear” fraudulent conveyance scheme being orchestrated by the Washington State Democratic Party were to succeed, then there would be no reason to even bother filing any documents with the PDC. Any group could just take a million dollars, launch a major political campaign, run the campaign for 4 months, get sued by someone for violating the campaign disclosure laws, and then the political group could just “dissolve and disappear” to avoid legal liability. Then, the same group could start a new campaign
under a different name the next day and keep the roller coaster going. Why would anyone bother to jump through the crazy hoops of following any campaign finance laws? Obviously they wouldn’t. This concern was expressed by this author during the recent public comment period at the PDC (video linked here, starting at about 8 minutes) and written comment was submitted as well (linked here).
Despite frequent requests for public comment or position statements from the Washington State Attorney General’s office, there has been no public statement in opposition to this fraudulent conveyance scheme. Just the sound of silence.
When the Chair of the Thurston County Democrats, Boudicca Walsh, confronted Tina Podlodowski on Facebook recently about this scheme and expressed concerns, Walsh made the statement, “This is not the political revolution I asked for.”
Boudicca and I most likely do not agree on much, but these actions by the Washington State Democrats attempting to destroy the very fabric of transparency in Washington State’s campaign finance laws certainly doesn’t represent the political revolution any of us asked for.
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:
Public Disclosure Commission – December 7, 2017 video (author makes public comment at about 8 minute mark)
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 this issue.
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)
AG’s press release about initial lawsuit filed against Pierce County Democrats (shortly after this, the AG stopped issuing press releases about settlements against Democrat politicians or committees)
AG Press Releases about lawsuits filed as a result of complaints filed by this author
August 18, 2017 – AGO settles Campaign Finance Complaint against Representative Strom Peterson for a settlement of $11,950. Peterson pays $7, 595 with the rest deferred.Note- this was sent out as a tweet on August 21, 2017 in lieu of a press release