Posted on
August 17, 2022

The Public Disclosure Commission has identified the following list of possible priorities for its 2023 legislative agenda. The Commission is seeking input on these issues to assist in the final preparation of any potential agency request legislation.

There will be the opportunity for public comment and discussion at the next PDC meeting on Thursday, August 25, 2022.

If you would like to participate in the meeting, please contact debbie.cafazzo@pdc.wa.gov for instructions on how to join the meeting with the Teams app. Discussion and comment on the possible legislative priorities is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Written comments can be submitted to pdc@pdc.wa.gov. Comments should be sent by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23 for consideration at the meeting.

Here is the list of possible priorities:

Enhancing grassroots lobbying disclosures to provide transparency through reporting and sponsor identification during the legislative session. RCW 42.17A.640

The grassroots lobbying disclosure law has not been substantively updated since the original initiative was enacted in 1972, and there are several limitations to full transparency that are under consideration for improvement, much of which originally was presented under HB 1586 (2021).

The Commission is proposing several improvements to the law, including:

  • Requiring the submission of an initial grassroots lobbying report at the time the campaign begins and timely disclosure during the critical period of the legislative session when the influence is being sought.
  • Requiring sponsor identification for grassroots campaign advertising (similar to political advertising) to allow the public to see who is soliciting for the public’s support.
  • Finally, directing grassroots campaigns to report on a single report (rather than allowing it to be reported on a lobbyist’s report) to make it easier for the public to locate and track campaign spending.

Making the Transparency Account a non-appropriated fund. RCW 42.17A.785

The Legislature created the Transparency Account in 2018 to receive penalties assessed for violations of campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure laws. The Account provides a revenue source for agency projects that improve transparency and efficiency, particularly the development of electronic and web-based reporting systems aimed at preventing filing errors and improving publicly available data. However, such projects require multi-year planning and commitment of resources outside of the state budget cycle.

The Commission seeks to ensure the Transparency Account will be a permanent, stable, and independent funding source that will allow the flexibility for effective long-term agency strategic planning in promoting the goals of Fair Campaign Practices Act. The Commission would use the account funds for development and implementation of specifically designated projects that will improve the usability, transparency, and accessibility of PDC information.

Adjusting the campaign expenditure reporting schedules and last-minute contribution reporting. RCW 42.17A.235 & RCW 42.17A.265

The current expenditure reporting schedule is oriented to a single Election Day. With the implementation of mail voting, ballot returns have continued to trend earlier in the voting period. This early voting movement is in line with election administration policy as well as campaign strategies. Requiring a single additional report of expenditure activity during the critical weeks leading up to voting is responsive to this trend and would provide more timely information to the public when people are making decisions and casting ballots.

The last-minute contribution threshold currently is set at $1,500 (adjusted for inflation). Synchronizing the threshold with the contribution limit for a statewide office would ensure that LMC reporting keeps pace with the adjusted highest contribution limit and therefore limit LMC reports to contributions that exceed the contribution limit for individuals and most entities.

Requiring sponsors to identify political advertising when purchased from commercial advertisers and specifying campaign expenditure reporting details for digital advertising. RCW 42.17A.345

The Commission recently adopted rules to allow commercial advertisers a limited amount of additional time to locate records of advertising sold in cases where the sponsor had not identified that their order included political advertising. See WAC 390-18-050. Providing a requirement for sponsors to identify political advertising they purchase it would work in conjunction with the new rules and assist commercial advertisers in collecting and maintaining the required information from such advertising.

Improving sponsor reporting regarding the expenditure details for digital advertising would provide greater transparency to the public in tracking the content, location, scope, and distribution of such activity.