Nobody ever said working for local government wouldn't have some pitfalls.

Steven Drew

A recent decision by Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has rewarded Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew for getting caught extorting staff who work for him for his own personal campaign contributions.  This is the second time Mr. Drew has been caught and formally exposed for this practice, and while it may be illegal (See RCW 42.17A.565), clearly there is minimal downside for politicians who seek to violate the law in this manner moving forward.  It is unfortunate this has become Washington State’s campaign finance policy today, but few really believe the law is fair or consistent in its application anyway.  Proof like this case is helpful.

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I will always owe Assessor Steven Drew a personal debt of gratitude I can never repay, and I often thank God that Drew won the highly contested 2010 campaign for the most exciting position in local government  – the Thurston County Assessor’s office.  Had I known what I was doing back when I ran that campaign and picked up a few more points, I would be in that office instead.  I would not have experienced the joys of writing, producing videos, and exposing the truth about Washington State’s government today.   For this fact alone, I owe Steven Drew an eternal lifetime of gratitude. 

Steven Drew – A history of breaking the law

Steven Drew gets wacky around campaign season

However, while that election may have been a blessing for me, Steven Drew’s ascension to the office of Thurston County Assessor has not been so good for the staff who work there.  A common complaint from employees who have been unfortunate enough to be employed there over the past 12 years or so has been the fact that Steven Drew repeatedly has extorted them for campaign contributions.  Even in Washington State, this practice is illegal (See RCW 42.17A.565).  Yet, despite the legal prohibition on this practice, Steven Drew can’t help himself, and he continues to make this a habit.

In fact, twice, he has been exposed, caught and fined for the exact same violation.  In 2012, Steven Drew was fined $300 for browbeating his employees into making contributions to Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero and Karen Valenzuela’s reelection campaigns (See PDC Enforcement Case #13-014 linked here).  Both of these historic Commissioners and Steven Drew are proud members of the Thurston County Democratic Party.  In that case, just a few years after he was elected to the Thurston County Assessor’s office, Drew was so obnoxious in his browbeating of staff, the employees filed official complaints with the Human Resources Department.   It was the Head of Thurston County Human Resources who filed the original PDC campaign finance complaint against Drew.  At the time, Drew pretended it was a rookie mistake, and the Olympian (which back then, actually had a newspaper office) helped promote his story, as did the Seattle Times (linked here).

Unfortunately, that experience apparently only emboldened Drew, and he continued to pressure staff who worked for him to contribute to future political campaigns – mostly his own.  Once again, Steven Drew was caught breaking the law (thanks to a complaint I filed with the PDC (linked here), which was clearly based on staff complaints).  Drew was forced to both refund some of these “contributions,” and he also formally signed a Statement of Understanding (linked here) admitting guilt and paying an even lower nominal fine than he paid the first time he was caught.  In most cases, the PDC is supposed to escalate the fines for repeat offenders, but that policy has been abandoned, and now they reduce it each time.  Here is where the focus of this story changes from the bad actor Steven Drew – caught twice with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar, and the Public Disclosure Commission and the job they have theoretically been tasked on behalf of the people of our great state.

The Problem is not petty lawbreakers like Steven Drew – the PDC can do better

There will always be bad actors in the political campaign process.  Always.  This is just reality.  There is too much money, power, prestige, and narcissistic ego to avoid those who are willing to break the law. This is because to most of them, the ends (their quest for power) always justify the means (even cheating when you can get away with it).   The human capacity for self-justification is endless.  However, this very fact is why the people of Washington State created the Public Disclosure Commission via the initiative process in 1972 in the first place.  The whole point was to create some type of oversight to ensure the cheating, dishonesty, and campaign finance corruption be kept to a dull roar rather than an open mockery of the system.   One key way this goal is achieved is by adequately punishing those who are caught repeatedly breaking the law. 

In this case, I really don’t blame Steven Drew for the laughable reward of the $150 fine.  The guy obviously can’t help himself and his view of staff as potential campaign donors he can threaten and extort at will is just the way he views the world.  He isn’t alone in this attitude.  You can’t ask a dog to change his spots, but you can train him not to pee in the house, and the PDC staff and Public Disclosure Commission should at least be a little more serious about how they view their mission in overt cases like this.

My original critique with how the state was imposing absurd fines for minor violations back in 2016-2018 had to do more with how the state was selectively prosecuting certain cases (particularly the abuse of the AG’s office).  We saw $5 million fines to Tim Eyman (the tax-reducing initiative guy) for example while totally ignoring Ferguson’s political contributors (or a wrist slap fine if the narrative required) when they break the same law.  I also felt some of the campaign finance laws were poorly written and interpreted in such a way as to ensure nobody could comply, which was particularly harsh for new people getting involved in politics.  Political insiders always got the free pass. I proved this by filing hundreds of complaints that resulted in fines, sanctions, AG lawsuits, and other drama (see here) some of the issues which concerned me were fixed when the state passed the Stop Glen Morgan bill in 2018 (see here).   

However, there are still basic norms of human decency and some violations are more serious than others.  If someone misses a date in the filing of their C4 – ok, the PDC can fine them a nominal amount, like a parking ticket.  The PDC does this every year for late F1 (Financial Affairs Statements).  Maybe they will do better next time, and if they don’t – normally the fines start to grow.  But, when someone goes out of their way on multiple occasions to extort cash from employees who work for him and then the PDC keeps giving him decreasing fines, far less than the amount he is extorting in the first place -this has the practical effect of encouraging more of this type of behavior.  Not just for Steven Drew, after all, he is a small, backwater politician in Thurston County.  No, the real problem is the message this failure sends to thousands of other local government officials who will learn that they can do the same thing and pretty much get away with it.  How miserable will this make life for the employees of local government? 

The Consequences of the PDC’s Drew Loophole

Do any staff or anyone else at the Public Disclosure Commission even think these consequences through?  There are inevitable even if unintended consequences to actions like this one, and the results can be far messier than any fit of rage a backbench local politico player might have in Thurston County.  There are always consequences when it becomes clear crime pays well.  We see this every day with the local drug camps.  That, unfortunately, is the message now broadcast by the PDC with this micro, wrist slap penalty for Steven Drew last month.

The sure way to get a promotion in Thurston County

There are always unintended consequences when engaging in exposing bad behavior by local elected officials.  I understand this, and it can moderate your behavior when you understand these consequences.  For example, staff at the Thurston County Assessor’s office have often mocked Assessor Steven Drew for so rarely being in the office.  By one measurement, the number of times he logged into his computer for example, it appears that he was only there 17 days over a two-year period.  I mean, this is what you get when you only pay him $130,000 per year.  You can’t really expect the guy to show up at the office, can you?  However, drawing too much attention to this fact potentially triggers the risk of actually encouraging Drew to be in the office more frequently.  Staff universally stated over the past decade that Drew was so miserable and mean to them when he was in the office they actually preferred if he was not there.  These can be the unintended consequences of exposing the truth

So, if you are a local government employee – anywhere in Washington State, and you find yourself getting the squeeze from your local elected politician trying to encourage you to write them a check or “there might be consequences” to your career, etc – let me know.  I’m sorry you are experiencing that type of behavior, but we can still expose it wherever it might be happening.  Please document those cases, provide as much evidence as you can find, and pass that information to me.  As I’ve amply demonstrated already (see here), I’m clearly willing to call out that type of illegal activity.  I’ll continue to do so, even if the people we put in charge of this process don’t appear willing to do the same. 

For some reason, someone sent me this “campaign” ad for Steven Drew last year. I’m not sure it would really work, but it illustrates the missing dates the staff complained about.


Background articles and reference links:

Public Disclosure Commission Case File #112911Steven Drew (complaint by Glen Morgan)

Original Complaint filed by Glen Morgan against Steven Drew

Final Statement of Understanding signed by Steven Drew – January 17, 2023 – $150 fine

Public Disclosure Commission Case File #13-014 – Steven Drew (complaint by Thurston County HR Director)

A current list of over 200 politicians, PACs, judges, etc who I have caught breaking the law and who were either fined or received formal sanction from the AG, PDC, or Ethics Board

RCW 42.17A.565 – “Solicitations of contributions by public officials or employees”

Governor Jay Inslee signed “Stop Glen Morgan” campaign finance bill, but will it change anything?

Adventures in Political Accountability and Campaign Finance Enforcement in Washington State

The Scorched Wasteland of Washington’s Campaign Finance Laws

October 2022 – Ethics Complaint against Inslee and 11 Senators and Legislators

Washington State Executive Ethics Board

Washington State Public Disclosure Commission

Washington State Legislative Ethics Board

Video about Governor Inslee being sanctioned by the PDC for breaking the law

RCW 42.52.180 – “Use of Public Resources for Political Campaigns”

WAC 292-110-010 – “Use of State Resources”

RCW 42.17A.555 – “Use of public office or agency facilities in campaigns”


  1. Hi Glen

    What is really way out of line is having a former
    “Judge” sitting on this PDC. It should be a serious conflict of
    interest that there is a BAR member and former judge being
    allowed to screen or vet out the complaints that flow through.

    Yes the People of Washington the TRUE government need
    to begin to reclaim the public offices by setting up grand juries
    without any interference from crooked BAR members and we the
    people should be looking at shutting down the WASHINGTON STATE BAR due to its criminal and piracy nature. its a private union that has hijacked the peoples right to seek jusitce when it is needed. Peace

    • I do believe the Washington State Bar Association has a lot of problems. Even when they are not headed by a convicted criminal (remember, they arrested one of their Presidents recently). However, the people who sit on this board have some expectations that they will hold true lawbreakers accountable and restore some minor semblance of balance and honesty in the process. They have strayed far away from that mission lately.

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