The Pacific County Democrats have been struggling with transparency and public disclosure compliance for many years. Finally last year, this author filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission against the Pacific County Democrats (linked here). Rather than follow the law, the Pacific County Democrats decided to dissolve their organization and fraudulently convey all their cash to the Washington State Democrats and others in December (see report linked here). As reported in the Chinook Observer (story linked here), their former Chairman Frank Wolfe thought this was a great way to avoid following the law and paying the fine for violating the law. While the Pacific County Democrats seem to believe they escaped legal repercussions for their violations of the law, this story is really just beginning.
Pacific County Commissioner Frank Wolfe – Supports breaking the law
Former Pacific County Democrats chairman Frank Wolfe is also a Pacific County Commissioner, and this author produced a video in 2016 detailing Pacific County’s vicious and bizarre attacks against local property owners– particularly against the Oysterville Sea Farms (see video story linked here). These actions were directed by Pacific County Commissioner Frank Wolfe, and he was named in the video. Judging from both that activity and his more recent actions committing fraudulent conveyance and attempting to evade legal responsibility for violating the state’s campaign finance laws (RCW 42.17A)– it appears the law is merely an obstacle for Commissioner Wolfe’s political agendas. He enjoys using it to beat up on local businesses and political enemies, but he won’t consider following the law himself.
It also seems likely that Wolfe made this poor choice because he listened to the advice of embattled Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski who appears to be attempting to siphon as much money out of local party organizations as possible. While Wolfe also disparaged the lack of sophistication of the Democratic Party’s volunteers and leadership, he also was taking advice from a Seattle law firm called Schwerin, Campbell, Barnard, Iglitzen, and Lavitt LLP (the Pacific County Democratic Party paid this firm $428 for legal services at the time of their dissolution, transferred $16,699.60 to the Washington State Democratic Party -making them the 4th largest donor to the State Democratic Party in 2017, and transferring another $5,050 to a “scholarship fund” – see report linked here).
The Pacific County Republicans also broke the law – but make no excuses
The Pacific County Republicans also appear to have committed violations of the state’s campaign finance laws. A complaint was filed on them by the Washington State Democratic Party. Their violations of the law were far less serious and significant than the Pacific County Democrats case. However, unlike the shady scheme cooked up by the Democrats to avoid compliance, it appears that the Pacific County Republicans are fixing their problems, not making excuses. This is how adults deal with these types of challenges. Not every Republican group has been so mature, but the contrast between the two competing political parties in Pacific County is unusually stark.
What happens next?
Despite the foolish choices made by Commissioner Frank Wolfe, Tina Podlodowski, and their law firm – their liability for breaking the law still exists. Dissolving the Pacific County Democrats will not help them avoid the final legal reckoning. The next step will be an additional complaint this author will file with the Public Disclosure Commission which will name all the former board members personally.
The former complaint will also be converted into a formal lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court. It also appears this author foolishly missed the fact that the Pacific County Democratic Party also accepted an additional $900 of illegal anonymous contributions in 2016, so that additional allegation will be added to the voluminous list of already significant violations of the state’s campaign finance transparency laws this organization has committed.
As a recent ruling in Thurston Superior Court (article linked here) has confirmed, and letters from the PDC to political committees who have tried similar games in the recent past (see this one here) demonstrate, it would be an “absurd” result to let political committees like the Pacific County Democrats egregiously violate the law and attempt to “dissolve” themselves to escape the penalties for violating the law. Transferring those funds to the Washington State Democrats only created a “successor in fact” to the original fraudulent conveyance, and no amount of “hide the cash” is going to prevent the state from collecting their fines and penalties.
The Pacific County Democratic Party has obvious legal and leadership problems. It is hard to see how breaking the law is fixed by more lawbreaking, but those unfortunate decisions can certainly be explained in court to a judge at a future date. However, these actions raise a much bigger question. If these folk are willing to do shady things like this, would you trust them to run your local government?
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:
The Chinook Observer – March 20, 2018 – “County political parties caught up in statewide campaign-finance fight” (article about Pacific County Democrats dissolving to avoid following the law)