On Monday afternoon at 4:34 pm, the Washington State Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court against the Thurston County Democratic Central Committee for a variety of campaign finance violations.  The lawsuit was filed after a preliminary investigation was completed by the Public Disclosure Commission based on two complaints filed by this author.  The civil complaint is linked here.  The primary charges against the Thurston County Democrats are as follows:

  • Thurston County Democrats Failed to timely disclose contributions they received to the Public Disclosure Commission on multiple occasions (violation of RCW 42.17A.235)
  • Thurston County Democrats on many and varied occasions, failed to disclose expenditures it made, including but not limited to debts and obligations as of the time they knew or should have known the amounts would exceed $250 in value, to the Public Disclosure Commission (Violation of RCW 42.17A.235)

    Thurston County Democratic Party Chair Katie Nelson is not starting 2017 on a high note (Photo:  KOMO News)

A tough year for Thurston County Democrats

For Thurston County Chair Katie Nelson, this is not the optimal way to begin her second term in leadership, and it has capped a not-so-stellar year for the local Democratic County Party.  This is particularly true because Nelson had repeatedly informed the Democrat PCOs that the “Morgan Complaint” had no merit and was frivolous.  Those promises are

Can all the cash be found?

now shown to be less than honest or accurate.  The Public Disclosure Commission and Attorney General’s office have given great deference and shown prosecutorial restraint, but clear and overt violations of the campaign finance laws can’t be ignored forever.  The time has come to clean up the books, come clean on any shady financial transactions, and start fresh.


Thurston County is home to the State Capital in the City of Olympia

Thurston County, which includes the Capital City of Olympia contains a variety of political legislative districts.  The 22nd District, which is made up mostly of the City of Olympia has been solidly in Democrat control since the early 80s.  The 2nd District (which also includes south eastern Pierce County) has trended solidly Republican.  The 20th District which includes a slice of south county has been solidly Republican for decades.  However, the 35th District, which is the western part of Thurston County has largely shifted to Republican control over the last few years.  Although the Thurston County Democrats spent money in the 35th and 2nd District races, there was no noticeable impact with their expenditures on the increasingly poor performance of the party’s candidates in these districts.  Other than the 22nd, the political trends in these districts appear to be shifting to the benefit of Republicans.

Three new independant commissioners in Thurston County. (L-R) John Hutchings, Bud Blake, Gary Edwards

To make matters worse for local Democrats, the Thurston County Commission – long controlled by the Democratic Party- has been entirely replaced by political Independents not officially affiliated with either the Republican or Democrat Party.  To the best of our research, this was the first time a major commission county in Washington State elected an entire commission independent of either political party.  However, this fact might be unknown if you attended Democrat Party functions since the label “Republican” has been tossed out as an epithet to describe the new commissioners.  Thurston County is not Trump Land.  Only 37.5% of the voters supported Donald Trump, yet a large majority of them also rejected the Democrat offering for local government.

Washington State AG Bob Ferguson cares about campaign finance laws which still apply in Thurston County

Attorney General Bob Ferguson seems serious about campaign finance laws

Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson campaigned on a platform to more rigorously enforce the state’s campaign finance laws.  This lawsuit against the Thurston County Democrats is just another example of his effort to fulfill this promise.  Here are a few other recent cases which the Attorney General has enforced just in the last few months when he isn’t suing Donald Trump:

The elections of 2016 were rough for Katie Nelson and the Thurston County Democrats. Their close affiliation with local cult leader JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000 year old homicidal Lemurian warrior spirit named Ramtha and has warned about the impending invasion of the Lizard People among other prophesies has generated understandable concern.  In 2012, videos of JZ Knight making racist statements about Mexicans, Jews, and Catholics (and weirdly enough – organic farmers) surfaced, causing the State Democrat Party to divest itself from JZ Knight/Ramtha campaign cash.  However, since 2014, JZ Knight/Ramtha has given the Thurston County Democrats over $215,000 in campaign donations (including earmarked PAC cash).  Chair Katie Nelson was forced to go on KOMO News and renounce political violence during the 2016 election cycle in response to a publicized death threat by a local Democrat PCO against this author (see the news segment).  A judge issued a restraining order against the Democrat PCO.  Finally, the entire local Democrat Party leadership was recently ousted (with the exception of Nelson) in the party reorganization last year.  The new leadership has decided to move their meetings away from the Thurston County Courthouse now because it is no longer a “safe space” to meet since “Republicans” control the building now.  

New Leadership is in charge of the Thurston County Democratic Party, but they still have a legacy mess to clean up.

All of this recent drama is boosted by the fact that the Attorney General is investigating both recent Democrat candidates for the county commission seats, local State Senator Sam Hunt, and fined local Cult PAC director Jay Manning (former Director of Ecology and Chief of Staff for Governor Gregoire) $4800.  This recent lawsuit and investigation of the Thurston County Democrats is not optimal news for Katie Nelson.  This is probably why the proposed agenda for the next Thurston County Democratic Meeting (at a still undisclosed location – see document here) emphasizes “Unity” as the main topic of discussion.   The Washington State Democratic Party has offered to help with some of the legal defense, but there is some concern internally that the cost to defend this lawsuit may be a bit higher than originally anticipated.  Unity is a logical rallying cry for Nelson.

The previous Democrat County Commissioners Wolfe, Romero and Valenzuela helped lay the foundation for where the Thurston County Democrats find themselves today.  There are always consequences.

Many local observers believe that when this lawsuit is settled and the fines and legal fees are finally paid, the new Thurston County Democrats can make a fresh start and begin rebuilding their local party brand once again.  Thurston County has historically been friendly territory for the Democrats, and despite a cascade of recent setbacks, it seems likely they can rebuild and rebound from this setback.  In the meantime, Nelson may want to be more honest with party activists and leadership and perhaps get a treasurer willing to do a better job keeping the books.  If this can be achieved at some point in the future, then the recent tribulations and scandals will only serve to make the party stronger and more transparent than before.  That is a worthy goal for any political party.

In Thurston County, the show must go on with a local cast of characters involved in these campaign finance investigations and lawsuits…



Recent AG lawsuit and other pending complaints:

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)

October 13, 2016 – Original PDC complaint against Theresa Purcell – PDC #8913

October 30, 2016 – Purcell response to PDC complaint PDC #8913

February 23, 2017 -Purcell response to AG 

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)

Complaint #12633 – Jay Manning – F1 and Illegal Lobbying complaint

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