March 04, 2024

Commission plans rulemaking work for next six months 

At its meeting Feb. 22, the Public Disclosure Commission discussed plans for possible rulemaking during the first half of 2024. The focus areas, as proposed by PDC staff and approved by the Commission, are:  

  1. Implementation of ESSB 5152, regarding the use of synthetic media. The law, passed by the Legislature in 2023, creates a private cause of action against the sponsor of an electioneering communication using synthetic media, also known as a deepfake, unless a disclaimer is included.  
    The law requires the PDC to draft rules in furtherance of the law, but the agency will not enforce them. Instead, the law will be administered through civil legal cases. Rulemaking in this case started on Jan. 18.  

  1. Second, PDC staff are preparing for the possible implementation of SSB 5857, which would reorganize campaign finance law, currently chapter 42.17A in the revised code of Washington (RCW) to its own chapter, 29B. This wouldn’t change the law that governs the PDC, but would require statutory references in PDC rules, and elsewhere, to be updated. If passed into law, the bill would take effect in 2026. 

  1. The agency also anticipates continued work to update PDC Interpretation 07-04 regarding online campaign activities and digital advertising. Due to the continued development of technology around online advertising, the Commission plans to analyze broader use of social media, including influencers, websites and other forms of communication in relation to disclosure goals.  

Commission denies rulemaking request, but will address issue at strategic planning session 

The Commission denied a request to amend PDC rules regarding enforcement of reporting requirements for campaign contribution (C-3) and expenditure (C-4) reports, including notices from staff when a candidate or political committee files a campaign registration, before mandatory C-4 filing dates and on the day of each due date.  

In a petition one year ago, the same petitioner, Conner Edwards, asked the Commission to find violations and apply automatic penalties for presumed late C-4 reports. The Commission denied that petition.  

The Commission unanimously denied the newer rulemaking petition as well, stating that the best place to discuss policy changes such as this would be in their upcoming strategic planning session. The item is on the agenda for the March 14 planning session.  

Commissioners and staff also noted that the changes did not necessarily require a rulemaking process, but could be implemented as policy changes.  

“C-3s and C-4s are an absolutely essential part of who gave, who got,” said Vice Chair Allen Hayward, referencing a report by early public disclosure advocate Jolene Unsoeld. 

Hayward and other commissioners said new strategies for increasing compliance on C-3 and C-4 reporting require a broader discussion of how best to use PDC resources rather than a quick rule change.  

Enforcement report  

As of February 15, the PDC had 110 active enforcement cases and 314 new complaints between Jan. 17 and Feb. 22.  

Of the 110 active cases, 73 have moved from the initial assessment to the investigation phase. In that same time period, three cases were closed with no evidence of a violation, five resulted in reminders, and 30 were closed with formal written warning letters to filers. Another four cases were closed with statements of understanding involving fines.  

PDC Deputy Director Kim Bradford noted a continued high volume of complaints. The more-than-100 active cases actually involve well over 400 individual campaigns or committees, she said.  

Next up 

The Commission’s strategic planning retreat is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. March 14 at a conference room at the Double Tree hotel at 415 Capitol Way N. in Olympia.  

The meeting is open to the public, but there will be no public comment period. The meeting will not be streamed online or on TVW.