Last Friday, the Spokane County Democrats received a Public Disclosure Commission complaint about serious campaign finance violations. The initial response by the newly elected Spokane County Democrat Chair Andrew Biviano was to deny any wrongdoing and reassure the members that all was well. His statement couldn’t be more wrong. Donors and Democratic Party members should be worried.
It is true that a complaint filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) can allege anything. This doesn’t make the claims true. However, as the author of this complaint, I will point out that every allegation is based on records either filed with the PDC or as exhibits attached to the complaint itself. These are easy to review and verify (see original complaint linked here). In summary, these are the allegations in this complaint, and all are supported by the documents provided or found in the public record:
1). Elected Chair and paid Executive Director and acting Treasurer Jim CastroLang Falsified C4 expenditure reports to hide Spokane County Democratic Central Committee (SCDCC) payments of at least $17,260.36 to himself from the PDC. (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235, .750(2)(c))
2). Failure to accurately report large donations, attempt to hide large donations, attempt to disguise and hide overlimit donations from PDC, and failure to return overlimit donations (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235, .705(2)(c)) – This included hiding a $5000 donation from the WEA, hiding multiple overlimit donations from the Spokane Firefighters, and hiding $3000 of a donation from the Spokane Tribe.
4). Failure to timely file C3 contribution forms (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235). From January 11 to August 22, 2016 zero reports were filed. Later 161 late reports were filed – many over 200 days late. This included just under $100,000 of donations reported extremely late, and inaccurately (see#2 above).
5). Failure to timely file C4 expenditure forms. (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235). Again, from January 11 to August 22, 2016 zero expenditure reports were filed. Of the 14 reports filed in 2016, only two were filed on time. Included about $100,000 in expenditures (and inaccurate anyway – see #1 above).
6). Knowingly Filed with willful malice at least 208 forged documents with the Public Disclosure Commission (Violation of RCW 42.17A.750(2)(c), .240, .235). Jim CastroLang filed all these documents using the name of a previous Treasurer who had resigned long before CastroLang filed these documents.
8). Failure to list all members of the political committee on C1PC form. (Violation of RCW 42.17A.205 (2)(c), see WAC 390-05-245).
9). Failure to accurately file expenditure reports (C4) by deadline. (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235). This details the various problems in 2015 with late and inaccurate expenditure reports.
10). Failure to accurately file contribution reports (C3) by deadline. (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235).
There were additional violations made by the Spokane County Democratic Central Committee during these years, but the volume of the already documented violations seemed significant enough that additional detail was merely repetitive.
How Pastor Jim CastroLang got here
The pivotal actor in these violations was the former elected Chair of the Spokane County Democrats Jim CastroLang. He was elected in 2013 and again in 2015 and remained chair until late January 2017. CastroLang is a part time pastor at a Colville United Church of Christ congregation, and has recorded sermons (like this one titled “The Devil Made Me Do it”). CastroLang was able to convince the Spokane Democrats executive board to hire him part time for approximately $2000 per month to be a paid “executive director.” This pay started in September of 2015. It is not common for county level political parties to hire staff like this (Republican or Democrat). While unusual, this is not illegal under Washington State’s campaign finance laws. However, it is illegal to hide the payments made to employees.
By late 2015, the Spokane County Democrats were regularly violating the campaign finance laws with late and inaccurate filings. These violations were already more significant than any of the violations which have recently triggered lawsuits by Attorney General Bob Ferguson against Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, Senator Sam Hunt, the Thurston County Democrats, Theresa Purcell, Jim Cooper, or Secretary of State Kim Wyman. However, rather than improving the professionalism or growth of the Spokane County Party, compliance by the SCDCC with campaign finance laws degraded. In 2016, the lack of compliance descended to what appears to be a malicious and intentional effort to deceive the PDC and the public.
It is unclear if the Spokane County Democrat Executive Board fully knew about CastroLang’s decisions to hide his personal payments from the PDC filings and also hide significant donations from the WEA, the Spokane Firefighters Union, and the Spokane Tribe, among others. According to SCDCC minutes from 2016, it appears that CastroLang would report semi-accurate information to the executive board, but would falsify the documents filed with the PDC. After the Spokane Democrat Party Treasurer, Justin Galloway, officially resigned in July of 2016, CastroLang failed to update any paperwork with the PDC, and began filing all official reports under Galloway’s name – over 208 of them, which is clearly against the law.
While CastroLang hid most of the payments made to himself from the public and the PDC, he did report on some of the money taken out of his paycheck for taxes and L&I. It took purposeful effort and wilful action to file reports hiding this financial information from the public. During 2016, it also appears, according to executive board minutes that CastroLang borrowed $7000 from another account called the “Drumheller Fund.” It appears this money was used to ensure he received his paychecks during this time, and while it was a violation of the SCDCC bylaws, there were no consequences for CastroLang for playing fast and loose with the finances and violating bylaws.
New Chair Andrew Biviano wishes away the scandal.
The Biviano family has been involved in the Spokane Democratic political scene for many years. Andrew Biviano was elected Spokane County Democratic Party Chair after an unsuccessful effort to run for Spokane County Commissioner in 2016. Andrew’s wife Amy Biviano ran unsuccessfully for the Washington State Legislature in 2012 (while bringing international news to that year’s legislative election). She also made an unsuccessful attempt to become Spokane County Treasurer in the 2014 elections.
Andrew Biviano is an attorney. He is also well versed in filing complaints with the PDC and the Washington State Attorney General’s office as he did a few weeks ago filing this complaint against the Freedom Foundation. He clearly supports the AG investigative and litigation process. Despite his background, Biviano is in the denial phase of the current investigation as he attempts to convince donors and political insiders that he can negotiate with the PDC. He can’t. The seriousness of the charges and the clear evidence supporting them ensure this is no longer in the hands of the PDC. It is possible that some allegations can be explained away, but no legal tap dance is going to change the fact this complaint ends up in court with a fine and attorney’s fees.
Did the devil make Jim CastroLang do it?
Andrew Biviano is attempting to do damage control, but he can’t be blamed for the historic violations that occurred at the SCDCC. It is clear that Pastor Jim CastroLang is the central character responsible for most of these violations. It is also evident the checks and balances the SCDCC had in place to prevent this type of behavior failed. The bylaws were ignored with no consequences. The former executive board was either kept in the dark or unwilling to ask questions. Now there is a price to be paid for this laxity.
As Pastor CastroLang is well aware, there are consequences for our actions. All have sinned and fallen short. It is now his turn to demonstrate this eternal truth for the rest of us. There should be no gloating when sins and human failings are exposed. However, there are lessons to be learned. CastroLang’s sermon “The Devil Made Me Do it” may be an appropriate theme for the Spokane County Democrats right now, but the law doesn’t recognize the Devil. The law only recognizes the violations.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson is a featured speaker at this weekend’s Tom Foley dinner in Spokane, a major fundraiser for the Spokane County Democrats. It seems odd that Ferguson would be helping an organization raise funds while they are being investigated by his office for hiding funds and ignoring the law, but they will need all the money they can get to pay the inevitable fine. The Devil may indeed have made the Spokane Democrats violate the law, but unlike the Devil, the Attorney General doesn’t want their souls. Angel donors with cash will be needed to give the Devil and the AG his due this time.
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…
Recent articles about Spokane County Democrat Complaints
Jim CastroLang sermon – “The Devil Made me do it” Feb 14, 2016
Recent articles about Frank Chopp Complaints
Recent AG lawsuits and other pending complaints:
December 19, 2016 -AG lawsuit against Theresa Purcell (Thurston Superior Court #16-2-04959-34)