Politics & Government

35th LD candidate admits campaign finance errors, says he’s issuing refunds

Dan Griffey, a candidate for the state House in the 35th district, says he is refunding contributions from three would-be donors in order to settle concerns raised by three separate campaign-finance complaints. Two dealt with purchases at an Allyn fireworks stand run by Griffey volunteers who wrongly reported about $400 in July 4 fireworks sales as contributions to his campaign.

“If I make a mistake I make a mistake. If my campaign makes a mistake it makes a mistake. We will own up to it … and make it right,’’ Griffey, a firefighter from Allyn, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Regulators at the state Public Disclosure Commission shared copies of the three complaints with The Olympian and News Tribune.

Griffey is one of the two 35th district Republicans challenging Democratic Rep. Kathy Haigh in the Aug. 5 primary. Also running is Josiah Rowell, a Republican from Union. The 35th is a swing district that ranges from Olympia to Shelton and north to Bremerton, and its configuration could favor either political party.

Griffey said he already sent two checks to people who complained that proceeds of their purchases from a fireworks stand in Allyn on July 4 were then reported as campaign contributions under their names – without them realizing they were making a donation.

The candidate said he also plans to refund $100 to the Mason County Republican Women this week. The group gave $2,000 and was top donor to his campaign, but the amount exceeded the $1,900 allowed for the primary and general elections in the 2014 cycle, according to Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the PDC. The limit is $950 per election unless the organization is considered a bona fide political party organization, which in Mason County would be the Mason County Republican Party or the 35th Legislative District Republicans, Anderson said.

Griffey said he wasn’t at the fireworks stand on July 4, but believes his volunteers made a mistake.

One of those filing complaints at the PDC was Bonnie Knight of Allyn, who backed Griffey in the past but is supporting Rowell this time around. Knight said in a letter to the PDC that she was asked at the fireworks stand to fill out a form because the sellers were a nonprofit organization.

“At no time did they tell me my purchase of fireworks would result in a political contribution to the Dan Griffey for State House Campaign,” Knight wrote. “I would not have spent the money there if I had known the transaction would end up as a contribution.’’

The other complaint was from a man who paid $89 for fireworks and signed a form in order to qualify for a free fireworks drawing. His complaint says his purchase also was converted into a donation without his knowledge.

“When you are dealing with volunteers, some of them make mistakes,’’ Griffey said. “I’ve reimbursed the two people that flied the complaints … and I took their names off the PDC (forms).’’

Griffey said it was possible his campaign signs were not up at the stand and that the volunteers were not mentioning his name.

Knight said Wednesday that she got a call from Griffey explaining that he would refund $311, but she hopes this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. “I understand mistakes happen,’’ she said.

Three other complaints in 35th district races are also pending PDC review. A recent one targets a letter Linda Sheldon wrote in favor of re-electing her husband, Sen. Tim Sheldon; the complainant said it lacked sponsor information.

A complaint from November deals with $5,000 that the 35th Legislative District Republicans gave to Rowell’s campaign. The accusation is that the $5,000 came from an earmarked donation to the district committee, which would be illegal.

Another claims Tammey Newton, a Democrat running for the other House position against Rep. Drew MacEwen, did not report the cost of her web site to the PDC.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688