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)
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
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, 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.
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.
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:
- Democrat Speaker of the House Frank Chopp (see complaint linked here)
- Democrat Senator Sam Hunt (22nd District) (see complaint linked here)
- Failed Democrat candidate for the Legislature (19th District) Theresa Purcell. (see complaint linked here)
- Failed Democrat candidate for the Thurston County Commission Jim Cooper (see complaint linked here).
- Failed Democrat candidate for the Thurston County Commission Kelsey Hulse (see complaint linked here).
- Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council Director Jay Manning (see complaint linked here and the rapid $4800 settlement linked here)
- Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman (see AG press release about lawsuit filed against Wyman here and the $10,000 settlement here).
- Grocery Manufacturers Association fined $18 million with $1.1 million attorney expenses charge (see AG press release here)
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.
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.
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.
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 AG lawsuit and other pending complaints:
December 19, 2016 -AG lawsuit against Theresa Purcell (Thurston Superior Court #16-2-04959-34)
More Background articles on Attorney General lawsuits:
For More Background on Thurston County’s political drama: