The Commission voted to make inflationary adjustments to campaign finance reporting thresholds and contribution limits.
The commission is authorized by statute to periodically revise these values to reflect changes in economic conditions. The new limits are based on inflation since the last time values were established in statute, with values rounded for easier public understanding.
The new limits amend WAC 390-05-400 and take effect April 1, 2023.
Among the changes to contribution limits:
Other changes to the rule:
The Commission also voted to update the mini-reporting eligibility limit from $5,000 to $7,000. Mini-reporting campaigns do not file contribution or expenditure reports provided they don’t raise or spend more than the limit, but must comply with other registration and disclosure requirements.
And the Commission voted to update WAC 390-16-034, which requires campaigns to report the occupation and employer of contributors whose total donations exceed a certain threshold. That threshold increases from $100 to $250.
The Commission plans to hold a June meeting in Spokane, fulfilling its strategic plan goal of more outreach to the public, and giving people across the state the opportunity to attend a Commission meeting without the need to travel to Olympia.
The Commission heard a request for reconsideration in PDC Case 112528. At an Oct. 27, 2022 hearing, Faaluaina Pritchard was found in violation for failing to file the F-1 Statement of Personal Financial Affairs for calendar year 2021 on time. She was assessed a penalty of $1,000, with $500 suspended, but asked the Commission to reconsider.
Pritchard, a former Clover Park Technical College trustee, filed both the missing 2021 report and another missing F-1 for calendar year 2020. She also paid a $250 fine connected with that case.
Pritchard acknowledged that she was behind in filing, but told the Commission that she speaks English as a second language and that she has trouble using online applications. She required PDC staff assistance to bring her reporting up to date.
The Commission voted to impose a new penalty of $500, with $400 suspended, as long as the penalty is paid within 30 days of the final order and no further violation is committed for four years.
The Commission voted to grant two modification renewal requests for calendar year 2023, one from the state Republican Party and another from the state Democratic Central Committee.
The modification exempts the state party from itemizing expenditures such as staffing and other overhead costs paid from the party’s federal account in its reporting to the PDC. Those expenses are itemized in reports to the Federal Election Commission.
Between Jan. 17 and Feb. 15, PDC staff closed 29 cases, including nine closed with no evidence of a violation. Five cases were resolved with a reminder, nine with a formal warning letter, three were resolved with a statement of understanding and three were found in violation and assessed a monetary penalty.
Among the closed cases:
PDC staff issued a reminder to a newspaper in Lewis County after receiving a complaint alleging that the newspaper failed to identify published statements by three candidates as political advertising it gifted the candidates.
The newspaper publisher said the published articles were guest editorials, not advertisements. PDC staff issued a reminder to the newspaper to clearly indicate when candidate information is being presented as “editorial” or “guest editorial” content.
A complaint alleging that the Whatcom County Republican Party failed to timely and accurately disclose contributions and expenditures during calendar year 2020 was resolved through a statement of understanding and payment of a $450 penalty. The committee engaged an outside expert to review its books and re-enter contributions and expenditures. The review uncovered two duplicate expenditures and numerous unreported small contributions and proceeds from low-cost fundraiser sales of merchandise during 2020.
The complaint also alleged there were errors in the party’s 2021 reporting. But the PDC found that those errors resulted from erroneously duplicated reports.
A complaint against incumbent Thurston County Assessor Steven Drew was resolved through a statement of understanding and payment of a $150 penalty. The complaint alleged that Drew violated campaign finance law by soliciting contributions from an employee of his office. Drew stated that he made fundraising calls to a list of contributors from a prior campaign, and that when this contributor’s name came up, he was thinking of him “as a friend and prior supporter” rather than as an employee.
An additional 27 cases remained in active status as of Feb. 15, 2023.
Use the search tool on the PDC website to read more about these and other PDC enforcement cases.
Next Commission meeting: March 23, 2023