May 02, 2024

The Public Disclosure Commission held its regular meeting April 24 in Vancouver, the second time in the past year that the Commission has held a meeting outside of Olympia.  

The Commission has made outreach a priority, and is committed to meeting in communities outside the state capital to better communicate with the regulated community and voters alike.  

The meeting included discussion of rulemaking regarding synthetic media in political ads and sponsor identification on political signs, discussion on the ever-evolving nature of deepfakes, and updates on election issues from Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey and the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, which is working to implement campaign finance reform.  

Experts talk deepfake dangers, detection and demonstrations 

The PDC hosted four experts and researchers in the deepfake technology field: Jevin West, founding director of the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, Oren Etzioni, founder of, an AI nonprofit fighting political deepfakes, and Lucas Hansen and Siddarth Hiregowdara, co-founders of, a nonprofit that produces software and demos to help the public understand AI capabilities and drawbacks.  

West, a professor in the UW’s information school, discussed concerns about the impact of individual deepfakes on elections and institutions. While saying some AI images and deepfakes can be innocuous, he noted individual deepfakes can cause real impacts, such as shifts in the stock market.  

However, West said he’s most concerned that the cumulative effect of generative AI images used for misinformation.  

“The thing that worries me the most is when it’s not AI generated, when it’s a real event that occurs and no one really responds because the public has become so desensitized to fake images, fake audio, fake text,” West said. “That’s the thing that scares me the most and that’s the thing we need to address.” 

West also discussed concerns about how generative AI and deepfakes can impact even local elections, and the difficulty of keeping ahead of technology for regulatory efforts like the PDC’s. The PDC is currently working on rulemaking regarding deepfakes or “synthetic media” after the passage of Senate Bill 5152

West said about 10 other states have enacted deepfake laws, and on a federal level, lawmakers are discussing The Defiance Act of 2024. The Federal Communications Commission has also banned AI generated voices in robocalls.  

West suggested agencies like the PDC could provide templates and concrete examples for proper disclosure of deepfake images to try to set a norm, but noted that not all creators of deepfakes are going to make an effort to comply.  

While concerns about ever-growing deepfake technology can be overwhelming, there are groups working to help people detect and understand the threat.  

Etzioni discussed how helps fight misinformation by providing a tool to detect AI images. Individuals can sign up for an account, then upload a media file. The technology then analyzes the image and provides an assessment. 

Etzioni said the software could be useful for politicians, journalists and the general public as we get closer to election season.  

Hansen and Hiregowdara of, have created an interface allowing the public to get a behind the scenes look at how deepfakes are made, and how easy it is to create them.  

Using their technology, they demonstrated how to generate a cyber-fraud campaign against a person. In addition to creating deepfake videos, audio and pictures on the fly at the meeting, they demonstrated how AI can also be used in smart phishing, or using information about a person, such as an elected official, to impersonate them and gain access to someone’s online accounts and passwords. AI can create misinformation campaigns that look like political ads, text messages or news articles that look to come from real news sources, they demonstrated.  

While bad actors can create a misinformation campaign around a celebrity or politician, it works the same way for an average person, Hansen and Hiregowdara said.  

Watch their full presentations on 

Commission reviews rulemaking efforts on deepfakes, yard sign sponsor identification 

Staff at the PDC gave presentations on two rulemaking efforts at the April 24 meeting, both of which will be open for public comment at the Commission’s regular meeting on May 23.  

First, staff reported on efforts to draft rules for Senate Bill 5152, which passed in the 2023 legislative session. The work would amend WAC 390-16 and 390-18.  

The law creates a private cause of action against the sponsor of political advertising using synthetic media, also known as deepfakes, unless the media includes a disclaimer.  

While the PDC has been directed by the Legislature to draft rules on disclosure of a synthetic media in political ads, the agency will not enforce those rules. Instead, the law will be enforced through civil court actions. For example, the subject of synthetic media could file a civil suit against the sponsor of a political advertisement that used that media, if the synthetic nature of the material is not disclosed. 

PDC General Counsel Sean Flynn noted that the new law and rules are an “incremental step” in dealing with a new and rapidly changing form of media in political advertisements.  

The draft rules would require disclosure on expenditure reports of: The name of any vendor that provided the AI technology used and published the political advertising, as well as the description of how audiences were targeted. Independent expenditures and electioneering communications using synthetic media would also have to disclose the above information on their disclosures with the PDC. 

Second, staff briefed the Commission on expedited rulemaking regarding House Bill 2032, passed in the 2024 legislative session.  

Previously, political yard signs 4 feet by 8 feet and smaller were exempt from the requirement for sponsor identification on political advertisements. The bill removed that exception, making sponsor identification required on signs of that size starting June 6.  

Staff are working on an emergency rulemaking timeline, allowing the agency to adopt short-term rules in time for the election cycle. 

The draft rules would exclude signs purchased and printed before June 6, but require sponsor identification on signs purchased and printed after the law’s effective date.  

To be in effect for the current election cycle, both rules must be approved by June 30.  

Clark County Auditor, Oregon Secretary of State talk election struggles, campaign finance reform 

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey discussed current issues for county officials administering elections such as the difficulty matching signatures on ballots and registration when students are no longer taught to write in cursive.  

Kimsey said he is also concerned about the effect of deepfakes and misinformation around elections. 

“The biggest challenge we face in elections administration is that there continues to be, I’d like to say a small number, but there’s a number of people in our county, our state, our country who continue to not believe the election results reflect the will of voters” he said.  

Alma Whalen, election program manager Oregon Secretary of State elections division, spoke to the Commission about her office’s work to regulate hundreds of thousands campaign finance transactions each year and 2,000 to 4,000 political committees. Her team is also working to implement recently passed campaign finance reform that includes contribution limits.  

Whalen’s presentation highlighted two major differences between the neighbor states: Unlike Washington where an independent appointed commission administers campaign finance disclosure law, Oregon’s is overseen by an elected official who also administers elections. And here in Washington, contribution limits have been on the books since the early 1990s.   

Staff propose plan for more outreach on issues related to use of public funds in political campaigns 

Staff proposed updates to one of the Commission’s strategic plan goals – which directs the agency to prioritize Commission outreach – to specifically increase training and education around questions about RCW 42.17A.555, which prohibits the use of public facilities in political campaigns.  

Public agencies, especially school districts, have expressed concern in recent months that the PDC’s guidelines do not take into account the social media landscape or districts’ needs to adequately communicate with voters about bonds and levies. School districts and other government organizations are not allowed to use public funds or public facilities – including employee time and websites – to promote bonds and levies or other elections.  

The updated strategic plan charter calls for increased outreach on the law, and the development of additional training and guidance materials by staff. The plan also encourages forums or stakeholder engagement sessions on the topic.  

Commission Chair Nancy Isserlis spoke in favor of continuing to schedule engagement sessions for the public, as the PDC did twice last fall.  

The Commission voiced their approval for the updated plan.  

Enforcement update 

As of April 18, PDC staff had 352 active compliance cases. Between March 21 and April 18, 17 cases were closed, including two closed with no violation, one resolved with a technical correction, 12 formal warnings, and two statements of understanding (SOU).  

In one of the cases resolved with a statement of understanding, PDC case number 141053, a candidate agreed to pay a $200 penalty for incorrectly classifying monetary contributions as anonymous contributions on C-3, or contribution reports. The candidate also received a warning for failing to timely and accurately disclose all contributions and expenditures on reports.  

In the second SOU, case number 147906, the Citizens for Kelso Schools agreed to pay a $150 penalty for failing to timely and accurately disclose contributions and expenditures on campaign reports. The campaign was active prior to the February 2024 special election, and filed several expenditure and contributions late, PDC staff found.