December 21, 2023

Today the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission issued a unanimous order dismissing two complaints alleging that Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s 2024 campaign for governor violated campaign finance reporting rules.  The order implements a stipulation agreed to by  PDC staff and the Ferguson campaign, which was presented to the Commission at its Dec. 7, 2023 regular meeting.

The order resolves two complaints, filed after the Commission adopted new guidance on the transfer of surplus funds from a past campaign to a new campaign for a different office.
At its April 27, 2023 regular public meeting, the Commission began considering a request to review guidance about such fund transfers.  

Previous guidance required individual contributors to approve the transfer of their donations to a new campaign, but did not require those funds to be counted toward contribution limits. The new guidance, introduced on May 11 and formally approved by the Commission on May 25, advises campaigns transferring funds in such cases to attribute contributions to the individual donors, and count them toward applicable contribution limits for the new campaign.

The two complaints were filed May 19 and June 27, regarding more than $1.2 million transferred from Ferguson’s surplus accounts into his gubernatorial campaign. The transfers were made according to the old guidance, just before the new guidance was approved. In a response to the PDC on June 9, the Ferguson campaign maintained that it was correct to use the guidance in place at the time the transfers took place. 

On July 21, PDC staff held an initial hearing on the complaints, beginning a formal investigation into the allegations. On August 17, Ferguson’s campaign informed PDC staff that it had filed amended reports which complied with the new interpretation. 

On Dec. 7, PDC staff presented a stipulation of facts in the case signed by agency staff and the Ferguson campaign, which included a recommendation that the Commission dismiss the case with no finding of a violation, given the campaign’s efforts to come into compliance with the new guidance.

PDC staff reported that, as a result of their investigation, they were satisfied that the transfers now follow the new guidance. 

Commission Chair Nancy Isserlis thanked PDC staff for their work resolving this matter, noting that this resolution furthers two primary goals of the PDC -- public transparency of campaign financing and compliance with campaign finance reporting laws.  

While fully supportive of the Commission’s decision, past Chair Fred Jarrett, the longest serving member of the Commission said, “I was disappointed it took two complaints from the public, a formal investigation, and two months to provide the identity of persons whose contributions were transferred and the amounts  of those individual contributions.  But in the end, the public now has correct information as required by the Commission’s interpretation.”

See the order here.