Last week, Democrat Speaker of the Washington State House Frank Chopp paid $6,469 in fines and court costs to the state for a variety of campaign finance laws broken mostly during his uncontested election for the legislature in 2016.  This lawsuit was brought against Speaker Chopp by Democrat State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.  As both Chopp and the Editorial Board of the Olympian noted, he certainly earned his fines.  In summary, Chopp committed the following violations:

Frank Chopp paid his fine and got back to work
  • 28 days late in reporting $6,722 in expenditures in 2015
  • 14 days late in disclosing $5,150 in contribution in November 2016
  • 8 days late returning over-limit contributions last November
  • Travel and campaign debt were not timely disclosed during the 2016 campaign
  • Chopp was forced to refund his campaign $1287.13 in illegal campaign reimbursements which he had originally given himself.  

In a press release on the same day the Attorney General outlined the two legal cases currently in Thurston County Superior Court which had also been filed against both Democrat Senator Sam Hunt and the Thurston County Democrats (we wrote about these cases here and here).  While the Thurston County Democrats appear to be attempting to fight their charges before they settle the case, it looks like Senator Sam Hunt is still in denial.

Frank Chopp(L) and Sam Hunt are discovering that the Size of the Campaign Finance Violation matters too

Chopp and Hunt – contrasting styles

Regardless of what anyone thinks about Frank Chopp as a politician, observers must admit, he didn’t try to deny the truth.  He accepted guilt, paid his fine, and moved on to other political priorities.  This should be respected as the adult approach to dealing with a problem like this.  

Democrat Senator Sam Hunt (D-22nd district), whose district encompasses the City of Olympia was another matter.  Originally, Senator Sam Hunt would not comment, which was probably a prudent strategy.  Later Hunt was quoted as stating that his violations were not “willful” and that he might fight the AG over these charges.  While Senator Hunt is certainly entitled to enacting whatever legal defense strategy he desires, it really won’t matter.  As long as he didn’t lie on his reporting documents, he committed at least the violations for which he has been charged.

Many lobbyists and insiders in Olympia have contrasted the response of these two experienced politicians.   Frank Chopp admitted guilt, paid his fine, then moved on.  Senator Hunt has just been whining, made a last minute effort to change the law (not to reform the underlying statute – just to protect himself from future complaints), and is flailing in anger.

Sam Hunt is not yet sure the size of the inevitable fine

This disappoints us.  Senator Sam Hunt’s original letter to the PDC (linked here) that indicated this author was ignorant of the law was very inspiring.  All these complaints originated, in no small part, due to the inspiration of Sam Hunt.  Everyone currently involved with the PDC and the AG should thank Senator Hunt for encouraging this educational effort to learn about our campaign finance laws.


Democrats push for Draconian penalties

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is on a litigation spree and appears to be sticking to his campaign promise to rigorously enforce campaign finance laws, even if he is a bit more reluctant now that a handful of Democrats have been caught.  However, while his office may be trying to slow down the process a bit and help their friends settle quicker for less money, others on the Democrat side of the aisle appear to be demanding even more aggressive enforcement.

Democrat Senator Van de Wege wants hard time for campaign crimes

Tina Podlodowski, recently failed candidate for Washington Secretary of State and recently elected Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party has been repeating her campaign talking points to encourage the state to be even more aggressive with bigger penalties and more bureaucracy.  

She isn’t alone. Democrat Senator Van de Wege (from the 24th Legislative District – Olympic Peninsula) even proposed a bill this session to increase the penalties including jail time for campaign finance violators. These suggested penalties seem a little harsh to this author, but we would like to be in the room while he tries to explain to Speaker Chopp why he  believes Chopp should be in jail for violating these laws rather than just pay a fine.  A penalty like jail time would ensure Senator Hunt would do far more than just whine.  

We disagree with our Democrat friends – jail time is not the answer

The need for Reform, not just punishment

These events all emphasize the need to reform the state’s campaign finance laws, but probably not travel down the road to sharia-like penalties as envisioned by Rep Van de Wege or Democrat State Party Chair Podlodowski .    Here are just a few examples of possible suggestions:


  • Simplify the reporting requirements.
  • Emphasize contributions more than expenditures or debt reporting.
  • In Statute – clarify minor vs. major violations – don’t leave this in the hands of a political appointee at the Public Disclosure Commission.
  • Standardize contribution limits (committees, individuals, and judges – why are the maximum amounts all different?)
  • Create a tiered penalty process that ratchets more significant for repeat offenders (and clarified in statute, not at agency level rulemaking – to avoid partisan bias)

We will probably discover more ideas for reform as we move forward.  Despite bizarre editorials by papers like the Tacoma News Tribune, there would never be a conversation about reforming these laws without examples to illustrate the need for reform in the first place. Fortunately, there are still plenty of examples to be shown.



Recent articles about Chopp Complaints

Tacoma News Tribune – House Speaker hit with campaign finance complaint in growing tug of war

AG – Chopp to pay $6469 over campaign finance violations

Tacoma News Tribune editorial – Stop the PDC from becoming the Petty Complaint Department

The Olympian – Speaker Chopp earned his fine

Seattle PI – Speaker Chopp will pay $6,469 in penalties for campaign reporting violations

Seattle Times – Frank Chopp pays $1700 fine over campaign finance violations

Recent articles about Spokane County Democrat Complaints

Spokesman Review – Western Washington Political Activist alleges financial disclosure violations on Spokane Democrats

Redoubt News – CastroLang and Spokane Dems violated Campaign Finance Laws?

Recent AG lawsuits and other pending complaints:

AG – AG files campaign finance complaints against Sam Hunt and Thurston Democrats

March 6, 2017 – AG lawsuit against Thurston County Democrats (Thurston Superior Court #17-2-00972-34)

December 19, 2016 -AG lawsuit against Theresa Purcell (Thurston Superior Court #16-2-04959-34)


February 24, 2017 – Attorney General lawsuit against Senator Sam Hunt (Thurston Superior Court – 17-2-00849-34)

February 24, 2017 – Attorney General lawsuit against Frank Chopp (Thurston Superior Court – #17-2-00847-34)

February 3, 2017 – Attorney General lawsuit against Jay Manning (Thurston superior Court)

February 9, 2017 – Jay Manning Stipulation and Agreed Judgement (Thurston superior Court)

Jay Manning skates away from transparency thanks public disclosure commission

Can political insiders violate campaign finance laws with no consequences?

AG press release about Jay Manning settlement

Copy of Complaint for Civil Penalties and for Injunctive Relief (State of Washington v. Jim Cooper) No #16-2-04960-34

More Background articles on Attorney General lawsuits:

Can political insiders violate campaign finance laws with no consequences?

AGO Files Campaign Finance Complaint Against 19th District House Candidate

AGO Files Campaign Finance Complaints Against Budget and Policy Center, Thurston County Candidate Jim Cooper

AGO Files Campaign Finance Complaint Against Secretary of State Kim Wyman

AGO Settles Kim Wyman Campaign Finance Complaint with $10,115 settlement

This Washington State official overseas elections, and now she’s paying campaign fines

AG:  Eyman and Committees Violated Campaign Accounting and Disclosure Laws

Washington State Attorney General’s press release about lawsuit filed against Jim Cooper

For More Background on Thurston County’s political drama:

How Democrats ripped off “Ramtha” and wasted donor money

Thurston Democrats plateau at peak paranoia

Former Chief of Staff Jay Manning busted by Attorney General for hiding financial documents

Democrat Party official threatens to kill me

How did the Democrats lose Thurston County?

Democrat Party now openly disavows violence

SPLC – Ramtha Riled article

NPR – Ramtha Channeler JZ Knight channels $54,000 into Olympia elections

Ramtha, New Age Cult Leader, Unleashes drunken, racist, homophobic rants to large following

ShiftWA – Will County Commissioner Candidates Return Racist Ramtha $?

Western Free Press – C’mon JZ Knight, how many accents does Ramtha have?

Seattle Times – State Democratic Party will donate money from JZ Knight after offensive comments

Ancient Warrior Spirit endorses Democrats

Seattle Times – Democrats again under fire over JZ Knight donations

NPR – Washington Democrats reverse course, shed JZ Knight contributions

Seattle PI – Democrats do penance for JZ Knight donations

Will County Commissioner Candidates return racist Ramtha $$?

JZ Knight Tirade Videos Submitted to Politicians she supports

The Olympian – Romero to give away JZ Knight Campaign Cash

Thurston County Dems Accept Money from JZ Knight Again

Anti-Semitic Cult Leader who channels ancient Lemurian warrior is “Democrat in Good Standing”

Thurston County goes Independent, first time in state history

The Olympian – “Everybody is in violation of the PDC” says activist as the Attorney General files complaints


  1. It sure seems like the Democrat party wants government to control “YOU”, and the Republican party want “YOU” to control government. I think that is the very essence of We The People. I do think the laws need reform, more freedom of speech is in order, especially political speech; but what was it the Rev. Wright said, the chickens have come home to roost.

Comments are closed.