Ensure you’re compliant with state political disclosure  law, whether you’re a candidate, political committee, lobbyist, or an elected or appointed official. 

These guidelines are distilled from the requirements in RCW 42.17A and WAC 390. Care has been taken to ensure the guidelines are accurate and concise. Nevertheless, they do not take the place of local, state, or federal laws. 

Filter by audience for reporting guidelines and restrictions relevant to you or your interest area. Filter by interpretations or declaratory orders to see the Commission’s statements on how the law applies in certain situations.  
 

Title Type of Guideline Audience(s) Topic
A Printing Company Is A Commercial Advertiser

A printing company is a commercial advertiser pursuant to RCW 42.17A.005 when the service it sells is that of communicating or producing messages for the general public or segment thereof.  [Declaratory Order No. 9, issued July 28, 1992]

Declaratory Order
Affiliation General Candidates, Political Committees, Out-of-State Political Committees, Incidental Committees Campaign Contributions, Contribution Limits, Registration
Allowable Uses of Campaign Funds General Candidates, Political Committees Campaign Expenditures
Anonymous Contributions General Candidates, Political Committees Campaign Contributions
Campaign Loans Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees Campaign Loans
Campaign Loans & Loan Agreements Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees Campaign Loans
Candidate Loan Repayments General Candidates Campaign Loans
Charging for Endorsement or Media Coverage

Charging money for an endorsement or media coverage is illegal.

General Candidates, Political Committees
Committee Seeking Creation Of New County

A committee which has been formed for the purpose of creating a new county, solicits contributions for their activities and is engaged in a campaign to obtain the required number of signatures on the petitions to be presented to the Legislature for the formation of the new county is a sponsor of a 'grass roots lobbying campaign' and therefore must file reports pursuant to RCW 42.17A.640 (formerly RCW 42.17.200)  [Declaratory Order No. 12, issued May 24, 1994]

Declaratory Order
Concealment General Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee Campaign Contributions, Campaign Expenditures
Contributing to Other Candidates and Committees General Candidates Campaign Contributions
Contribution Limits General Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Out-of-State Political Committees, Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer Campaign Contributions, Contribution Limits
Contribution Limits After Redistricting Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Sponsors of Independent Expenditures, Lobbyists Contribution Limits
Contributions - Receiving Currency General Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee Campaign Contributions
Contributions - Reimbursements General Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Lobbyists Campaign Contributions
Contributions from Out-of-State Committees General Candidates, Out-of-State Political Committees Campaign Contributions, Reporting Deadlines
Contributions Given Within Three Weeks Of General Election ("11th Hour" Contributions) Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee Campaign Contributions, Contribution Limits
County Council Questionnaire Mailed During Election Campaign

The production and mailing of a budget questionnaire at county expense during an election campaign would violate RCW 42.17A.555 (formerly RCW 42.17.130) if it includes a cover page which is unrelated to the questionnaire and which draws special attention to a council member who is a candidate.  [Declaratory Order No. 2, issued October 23, 1979]

Declaratory Order
Definition of "Local Official" Commission Interpretation Elected Officials
Definition of "Open Press Conference" Commission Interpretation Elected Officials Public Agency Facilities
Definition of "Within 21 Days of a General Election" Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees Contribution Limits
Definition of Political Committee Commission Interpretation Political Committees
Describing Candidates in Ads

Party preference must be stated if the office is a partisan one. Rules govern photo size and certain descriptive terms.

General Candidates, Political Committees, Sponsors of Independent Expenditures, Incidental Committees, Lobbyists Political Advertising
Determining When an Entity is the Functional Equivalent of a Public Agency Commission Interpretation Public Agencies Public Agency Facilities
Distinguishing In-Kind Loans, Debt, and Pledges Commission Interpretation Candidates Campaign Debt, Campaign Expenditures, Campaign Loans
Earmarked Contributions General Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Lobbyists Campaign Contributions
Employee Withholding for Political Contributions General Lobbyist Employer, Public Agencies Campaign Contributions
Endorsements Of Candidates Distributed Through School Facilities

Distribution through the internal mail system of a school district of a newsletter published by a local education association, which contains endorsements of candidates for public office, would violate RCW 42.17A.555 (formerly RCW 42.17.130).  [Declaratory Order No. 4, issued May 27, 1980]

Declaratory Order
Exempt & Non-Exempt Accounts General Political Committees
False Political Advertising

False political ads, published with actual malice, are illegal.

General Candidates, Political Committees, Out-of-State Political Committees, Sponsors of Independent Expenditures, Incidental Committees, Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer Political Advertising
Grassroots Lobbying and Exemption from Registration and Reporting

RCW 42.17A.610 (formerly RCW 42.17.160) does not provide petitioners an exemption from the registration and reporting requirements for grassroots lobbying in RCW 42.17A.640 (formerly RCW 42.17.200), given the facts presented. In particular, RCW 42.17A.610(4) does not exempt petitioners because that exemption does not apply to grassroots lobbying. If the petitioners engage in the anticipated activities outlined in the petition and exceed the current reporting thresholds by spending at least $500 in the aggregate in one month or $1,000 in the aggregate in three months on a grassroots lobbying campaign, they will be required to register and report their grassroots lobbying expenditures under RCW 42.17A.640.  [Declaratory Order No. 16, issued February 26, 2010]

Declaratory Order
Group Seeking Incorporation Of A City

A group of citizens which has publicly circulated petitions to a boundary review board seeking to incorporate a second-class city and has solicited contributions from the general public is a political committee and therefore must file reports of contributions and expenditures from the time of its first contribution or expenditure.  [Declaratory Order No. 3, issued March 25, 1980]

Declaratory Order
Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns Commission Interpretation Candidates, Public Agencies Public Agency Facilities
Guidelines for School Districts In Election Campaigns

Public disclosure law governing use of public facilities in school district campaigns

Commission Interpretation Candidates, Public Agencies Public Agency Facilities
In the matter of the Petition from Institute for Free Speech Regarding Pro Bono Legal Work

The Commission issued an order concerning a non-profit organization's plan to provide pro bono legal services to a person who plans to appeal a ruling in a campaign finance court case. The order says the non-profit need not register or file reports with the PDC, nor disclose its donors, as long as it represents the person in his individual capacity in the appeal.  [Declaratory Order No. 18, issued May 27, 2021]

Declaratory Order Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Out-of-State Political Committees, Sponsors of Independent Expenditures, Incidental Committees, Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer, Grassroots Lobbying, Public Agencies, Official disclosing personal financial information, Elected Officials, Voters & the Public Enforcement Cases, Rulemaking
In The Matter Of The Petition Of Recall Mark Lindquist For A Declaratory Order

Whether contribution limits identified in RCW 42.17A.405(3) may be applied to Recall Mark Lindquist in light of the Farris decisions [Farris v. Seabrook, 677 F.3d 858, 867 (9th Cir. 2012) and subsequent circuit court opinion] and injunction as well as the factual representations made by the Committee as to its campaign conduct.  [Declaratory Order No. 17, issued August 11, 2015]

Declaratory Order
Internal Political Communications and Sponsor Identification Commission Interpretation Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee Political Advertising
Intra-Party Transfers and Federal Accounts of Party Organizations Commission Interpretation Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Out-of-State Political Committees Campaign Contributions, Contribution Limits
Items Exempt from Sponsor ID General Candidates, Political Committees, Sponsors of Independent Expenditures, Incidental Committees, Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer Political Advertising
Legal Fees Related to Placing, or Not Placing, a Proposition on the Ballot Commission Interpretation Political Committees, Public Agencies
Legislative Session Freeze General Candidates, Lobbyists, Elected Officials Campaign Contributions
Legislator Newsletters Concerning Ballot Propositions

One or more of the cited prohibitions against use of office facilities or public office funds to promote or oppose a ballot proposition would be violated by a legislator using such facilities or funds (a) to prepare and distribute the attached newsletter expressing views in opposition to two ballot measures, or (b) to make speeches or distribute legislative materials for the purpose of opposing such measures.  [Declaratory Order No. 1, issued November 15, 1997]

Declaratory Order
Library Display of Campaign Materials Commission Interpretation Candidates
Limits on "Last Minute" Contributions General Candidates, Political Committees, Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer Contribution Limits
Limits on Publicly Funded Lobbying

Public agencies must limit lobbying activities and avoid spending public funds on gifts to state officials or employees.

General Public Agencies
Lobbyist Duties and Restrictions General Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer Registration, Lobbying
Local Agencies Promoting Ballot Propositions

Unless express authority is granted by an independent source, a local agency cannot promote a ballot proposition as 'normal and regular conduct' of the agency, for to do so would be in violation of RCW 42.17A.550 (formerly RCW 42.17.130).  [Declaratory Order No. 10, issued November 16, 1993]

Declaratory Order
Online Campaign Activities Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees Political Advertising
Penalty waivers for Small Business Paperwork Violations Commission Interpretation Candidates, Political Committees, Bona Fide Party Committee, Out-of-State Political Committees, Sponsors of Independent Expenditures, Incidental Committees, Lobbyists, Lobbyist Employer, Grassroots Lobbying, Public Agencies, Official disclosing personal financial information, Elected Officials, Voters & the Public
Petition by the University of Washington Regarding Application of the Public Agency Lobbying Provisions

Lobbying under RCW 42.17A.635 (formerly RCW 42.17.190) occurs when the person making the communication to an elected official, or officer or employee of any agency, intends to influence in a material way the adoption or rejection of specific proposed or reasonably anticipated bills, resolutions, motions, amendments, nominations, and other like matters before the state legislature.

The University of Washington's discretionary funds, and returns on those funds, received by the University under RCW 28B.20.130 do not constitute 'public funds' under RCW 42.17A.635(3) and (5).

The gift prohibition contained in RCW 42.17A.635(3) applies when lobbying occurs within a reasonable period of time before or after receipt of the gift.  [Declaratory Order No. 15, issued February 26, 2010]

Declaratory Order