Thomas Steyer, the California environmentalist and billionaire who jumped into Washington state politics this year by helping bankroll ads in a state Senate race, has put another $3 million into his political organization -- but the group says the money won't be spent in Washington.
The contribution to the NextGen Climate Action Committee on Friday raised eyebrows after it was reported Monday because the committee is registered in Washington where state election law typically does not allow large last-minute contributions.
Republican state Rep. Jan Angel, who has been on the receiving end of attacks from a group whose biggest donor is NextGen, denounced the latest transaction as "illegal contributions."
The state Republican Party filed a complaint Wednesday asking the election-watchdog Public Disclosure Commission to seek a legal injunction keeping NextGen from spending the $3 million and force it to return the money to Steyer. Contributions of more than $5,000 or in some cases $50,000 are not allowed fewer than 21 days before an election.
The law makes an exception for political parties and the courts have carved out another one for ballot-measure campaigns. "A strict reading of the statute does not allow for other exceptions," PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said in an e-mail.
NextGen spokesman Matthew Lewis said Washington law required the group to register here as well as with the federal government and report even activity that took place elsewhere.
"He didn’t give the money to the PAC in Washington. He gave it to the federally registered PAC," Lewis said. "It shows up in the Washington disclosures because that’s what the rules require.
UPDATE 2 p.m.: Lewis said NextGen told the PDC about its plans and the agency "agreed that the 21 day rule does not apply." But Anderson said while NextGen asked, the PDC hasn't yet answered.
NextGen has spent nearly $6 million but most of it has gone to other states such as Virginia. Just more than $500,000 has gone to Washington, most of it making its way directly or indirectly to the She's Changed PAC trying to help Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher of Gig Harbor defeat Angel of Port Orchard.
Schlicher said he doesn't support any illegal activity or any violation of PDC law.