Donation letter from local GOP office ‘raises a flag,’ but doesn’t cross line

Staff writerSeptember 26, 2013 

Jan Angel

AARON BARNA — Washington State Legislature

Some of state Senate candidate Jan Angel’s biggest campaign contributors recently received a letter from a local Republican offering them “a way for you to give more than the state maximum” donation.

While the wording of the appeal raised eyebrows at the state’s elections watchdog, it doesn’t appear to violate any law on its own.

“They shouldn’t be sending out some solicitation saying, this is the way you can get around contribution limits. That kind of raises a flag for me,” said Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Commission. “But it doesn’t say what they’re going to do with the money.”

Anderson said no election law was broken unless money later changed hands with an understanding that it would go to GOP Rep. Angel of Port Orchard. The PDC will look into a complaint filed by a Port Orchard Democrat, Johanna Baxter, against the 26th Legislative District Republican Committee and its board member who wrote the letter, Patrick Pettyjohn.

A resolution is unlikely to come before the Nov. 5 special election pitting Angel against Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher of Gig Harbor.

Donors who have contributed the maximum amount to a candidate, generally $900 per election, may give money to a political party but may not earmark it for that candidate – as the letter reminds donors.

“I specifically mentioned that – that you can’t earmark it for any one person, so they knew it was going to a multitude,” said Pettyjohn, of Port Orchard, who said he asked Anderson and the state GOP about election law and tried to follow it when he sent the letter to roughly 50 top Angel donors.

It’s common for parties’ and groups’ fundraising appeals to mention candidates – although not usually as explicitly as in this letter, which says: “This extra donation will enable we, as board members, to give more money to Jan Angel’s campaign.”

Pettyjohn said hardly any money came in response to the letter, which was sent shortly after the Legislature adjourned in late June. The committee hasn’t reported receiving any recent contributions except from Pettyjohn himself.

Pettyjohn said Thursday he is planning to quit the group, something the retiree had been thinking about doing anyway.

“I’m just a novice at this and if I screw up I don‘t want to mess it up for the rest of the Republicans,” he said. “I don’t want a controversy and that’s why I’m going to tender my resignation.”

Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826

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