Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle: Alleged Violation of RCW 42.17A.320 For failure to include full sponsorship Identification including accurate top five donor information on a campaign website (NOV'22 EY'22)




Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle


William J Bangs


The complaint alleged that Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle, a local ballot proposition committee supporting City of Seattle 1B, may have violated RCW 42.17A.320 for failure to include full sponsorship identification including accurate top five donor information on a campaign website.

PDC staff reviewed the allegation(s); the applicable statutes, rules, and reporting requirements; the response(s) provided by the Respondent and Complainant; the applicable PDC reports filed by the Respondent; the Respondent’s data in the PDC contribution and expenditure database; and other relevant information, to determine whether the record supports a finding of one or more violations.

Based on staff’s review, we found the following:

  • On August 11, 2022, the Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle committee filed a Committee Registration (C-1PC) with the PDC and selected the Full Reporting Option.
  • The Complainant reported the committee maintained a campaign webpage and provided a screen shot, from approximately November 15, 2022, of the webpage. The webpage indicated the top five contributors to the campaign as Robert Poore, Sarah Poore, Elaine Nonneman, Shel Kaphan, and David Bangs. The Complainant believes FairVote Action, FairVote Washington and Frederik Schaffalitzky should have been identified on the webpage.
  • Jason Bennett, Ministerial Treasurer for the committee, indicated the webpage was created approximately August 20, 2022. Mr. Bennett indicated “we do not have access to the exact dates the site was updated. Since the site has been deleted, the logs no longer exist. It was updated at least twice since the ballots dropped in October.” Nevertheless, based on PDC staff’s use of a web archiving tool, https://web.archive.org/ , five instances of the webpage were discovered from August 19, 2022, to October 20, 2022. On 8/19/22 the webpage appeared to be in development and did not indicate a sponsor or any top 5 contributors. On dates 9/20/22, 9/26/22 and 10/7/22 the webpage indicated sponsorship as “Paid for by Ranked-Choice Voting for Seattle” but did not include any top five contributors. Then on 10/20/22 the first instance of top five contributors appears on the webpage. The top five contributors identified in this last instance of the webpage are the same contributors as provided in Mr. Bangs’ complaint screen shot from November 15, 2022. These contributors met the statutory definition of a top five contributor per WAC 390-18-025 but were not necessarily the contributors who donated the most based on a point-in-time as reported in the reports for Cash Receipts Monetary Contributions (C3). The sponsor identification was correctly applied starting with the 9/20/22 instance of the webpage and did not change.
  • Per Mr. Bangs’ complaint, PDC staff confirmed the following identified contributors did donate prior to the point in time of Mr. Bangs’ webpage screenshot:
    • On October 14, 2022, Frederik Schaffaltizky contributed $25,0000.
    • FairVote Action contributed on October 14th $200,000 and on October 31st  $190,000.
    • FairVote Washington contributed $50,000 on October 25th and $30,000 on October 28, 2022.

However, the date of viewing, by the public, of a committee webpage does not determine whether the identification of top donors was accurate in this case. WAC 390-18-025 identifies the “date on which the advertisement is published or otherwise presented to the public” is the point-in-time date which the top five contributors must be identified. As well, there is no statutory obligation to continually update a webpage if larger contributions are received once the webpage is published.

  • The committee has expressed agreement the webpage was missing any indication of top five contributors between the period 8/19/22 – 10/7/22.  During this period, based on C3 reports, the top five contributors who could have been identified depending on the date the webpage was published included:
    • Sarah Poore (1 contribution $2500, 1 contribution $10K) 
    • Elaine Nonneman ($5K) or Shel Kaphan ($5K)
    • David Bangs (2 contributions of $2500)
    • Leigh Bangs (2 contributions of $2500) 
    • Robert Poore (1 contribution $2500, 1 contribution $10K)
  • Without a comprehensive log of the webpage updates, an exact date cannot be pinpointed so it is accepted that at some point between 10/7/22 and 10/20/22 the webpage was updated, and top five contributors were added. There are several possibilities for who could have been identified as a top five contributor during this period to include:
    • 10/14/22 – Frederick Schaffaltizky $25,000
    • 10/14/22 – FairVote Action $200,000
    • 10/17/22 – Jabe Blumenthal $7500 or Julie Esdforth $7500
  • The committee did timely submit all required C3 reports and Summary Full Reports Receipts and Expenditures (C4). These reports appear to accurately identify contributors, cash or in-kind amounts donated, debts and obligations. The committee filed a C3 on January 27, 2023, reporting a cash contribution, received on 1/19/23, from FairVote Washington and a C4 for the period 1/1/23-1/31/23 reporting all prior obligations as zero balances.
  • Respondent does not have previous warnings or violations of PDC requirements.

Based on our findings staff has determined that, in this instance there does not appear to be a violation that warrants further investigation.

Pursuant to WAC 390-37-060(1)(d), however, Ranked Choice Voting for Seattle will receive a formal written warning concerning the failure to comply with requirements to identify and include accurate top five donor information on a campaign website. PDC Staff expects in the future that you will adhere to RCW 42.17A.320 and PDC Interpretation No. 07-04 as well as any future PDC guidance, laws, or rules. The Commission will consider the formal written warning in deciding on further Commission action if there are future violations of PDC laws or rules.

Based on this information, the PDC finds that no further action is warranted and has dismissed this matter in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).


Case Closed with Written Warning

Date Opened

November 23, 2022

Areas of Law

RCW 42.17A.320

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