Politics & Government

Smell test: GOP auditor candidate fought cuts to office, contrary to opponent’s claim

Mark Miloscia
Mark Miloscia

Two candidates vying to become the state’s top fiscal watchdog are sparring over which one of them fought to preserve funding for the agency they hope to lead.

THE CLAIMS: Democrat Jeff Sprung says he’s the only candidate running for state auditor who fought this year against cutting funding for the office, which is charged with rooting out fraud and waste in government.

“In the recent legislative session, Jeff was the only candidate demanding Olympia politicians stop diverting citizen-mandated Auditor funding,” reads Sprung’s statement in the voters’ guide for the Aug. 2 primary election.

His Republican rival, state Sen. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, says that’s false, and says he also opposed the Legislature’s decision to move $10 million out of the state’s performance audit account.

Miloscia recently told state elections officials that Sprung’s voters’ guide statement contained “libelous accusations against me and my character.”

This month, the secretary of state denied Miloscia’s request to block Sprung’s statement from appearing in the voter guide, saying Miloscia would have needed to appeal to a judge, and the deadline to do so had passed in May.

THE FACTS: Sprung based his claim primarily on comments Miloscia made at a press conference in February.

There, a reporter asked several Republicans — including Miloscia — if they thought Democratic budget writers were targeting funding for the auditor’s office because they had lost faith in indicted State Auditor Troy Kelley.

The reporter also asked Republicans whether they thought that kind of retribution was proper.

Miloscia gave an answer critical of Kelley’s leadership, but he didn’t say he supported raiding the audit fund. Instead, he said it was inevitable that some lawmakers would propose cuts to the auditor’s office, given the cloud over Kelley and the agency.

At that time, Miloscia had announced he was running for auditor and had been urging Kelley to resign.

A few weeks later, Miloscia’s office sent out a press release indicating he had fought to restore some of the money in the Senate’s budget proposal. After that, Miloscia sent a letter urging Gov. Jay Inslee to veto the $10 million transfer from the performance audit fund, a request the governor obliged.

As far as Sprung’s efforts to maintain the funding, he sent out a press release in February criticizing Miloscia and saying funding for the auditor’s office shouldn’t be tied to Kelley’s legal battles.

In an interview this week, Sprung said Miloscia didn’t make his position clear on the funding issue until after Sprung and others had criticized his comments.

CONCLUSION: False. Sprung can’t claim he was the only candidate fighting to maintain funding for the auditor’s office, since Miloscia formally requested that the governor veto cuts to the agency.

Both candidates sent out press releases saying they thought the money should be restored.

Three other candidates are looking to replace Kelley, who isn’t running for re-election this year: Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, a Democrat; Mark Wilson, who identifies himself as an independent; and David Golden, who lists no party preference.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1