Politics & Government

Pierce County Democrats repeatedly violated campaign finance laws — attorney general

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office says Pierce County Democrats repeatedly violated state campaign finance laws by failing to properly report thousands of dollars in spending and donations.

The attorney general’s complaint, filed Monday in Thurston County Superior Court, accuses the Democratic group of violating the law dozens of times between 2015 and 2017 by filing campaign finance reports late, or not at all.

“By not timely reporting its contributions and expenditures, the committee inhibited the public’s right to know the source of the committee’s income and how it spent its funding,” the attorney general’s office said in a news release Tuesday.

All told, the complaint says, Pierce County Democrats failed to properly report $90,358 in spending, $63,643 in contributions and $34,791 in debt.

Some of that money was reported only after a citizen activist filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office, according to Monday’s filing.

The debt has never been reported as state law requires, the attorney general’s office said.

A call to Tim Farrell, current chairman of Pierce County Democrats, wasn’t returned Tuesday. A message sent to a general email address for the group received no response.

In response to a similar complaint filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission, a former official with Pierce County Democrats said the group recently appointed a new treasurer who should help turn things around.

“I have confidence in his ability to put things in order, as he is a dedicated and dependable young man,” wrote former Pierce County Democrats Chairwoman Gina Bua.

The Pierce County group is one of conservative activist Glen Morgan’s most recent targets in Democratic political circles.

Morgan filed more than 40 campaign finance complaints with the attorney general’s office between October and March — almost exclusively against Democrats, including House Speaker Frank Chopp.

This week’s filing against Pierce County Democrats stems from the attorney general’s investigation of Morgan’s complaint.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, recused himself from the case.

The attorney general’s office is asking the court to hold a trial to determine appropriate penalties. The state also is seeking money to cover the cost of the investigation and attorney’s fees.

Pierce County Democrats have 20 days to respond to the attorney general’s complaint.

Similar allegations of campaign finance violations have been filed against Pierce County Republicans, said a spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Commission, which tracks election spending.

That complaint has been filed with the attorney general’s office as well, agency spokeswoman Brionna Aho said. The office has not announced any formal action against the Republican group, and Aho said it is against policy to discuss the status of such cases.

 

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1

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