Top Washington Republican leaders are demanding the resignation of the head of the state’s campaign watchdog agency, accusing her of bias in favor of Democrats.
In a letter, the GOP leaders said Evelyn Fielding Lopez, the executive director of the state Public Disclosure Commission, has improperly intervened on behalf of a Democratic candidate in a contested state Senate race in Southwest Washington.
“It is highly disappointing to see you use your taxpayer-funded position to illegally advance partisan political interests,” says the letter signed Wednesday by state GOP chair Susan Hutchison, House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen and Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler.
The GOP leaders said complaints against Lopez will be filed with the state executive ethics board and the Washington State Bar Association. “We strongly urge you to resign your position” to restore trust in the PDC, the letter says.
Lopez rejected the demands, saying in an interview Thursday her actions — which included disputing the accuracy of a Republican political ad — were intended to provide accurate information about PDC actions.
“I don’t see any reason to resign. In fact I would be hesitant to do so. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a political party to exert control over the PDC or the executive director,” Lopez said. “This has a chilling effect.”
At issue is a letter Lopez sent to the campaign of Democratic candidate Tim Probst, who is running for the state Senate in the 17th Legislative District against Republican Lynda Wilson.
In her letter, Lopez told Probst she’d reviewed Republican political ads against him and found “they are not correct.” The ads inaccurately describe PDC actions in response to complaints about Probst’s fundraising, she said.
That enraged the GOP leaders, who said in their letter to Lopez “reviewing the truth or falsity of political advertising is not a normal and regular part of your office.” Hutchison had asked Lopez to rescind the letter — a demand Lopez rejected this week.
The GOP letter went on to complain that Lopez has contributed to Democrats in the past, accusing her of a partisan bias and calling her a “pawn” of the Democratic Party.
In the interview Lopez acknowledged “I am a Democrat” but said she takes her role as PDC director seriously and would clarify inaccurate information about PDC actions if they were directed at Republican candidates too.
Her goal, she said, is to not have PDC complaints used to mislead voters about political candidates.
“We’re not here to be a pawn in the political game,” she said. “We’re here to provide good information to the media and the public.”
This is not the first time Lopez’s neutrality has been called into question. In July, the Port of Tacoma and two business groups asked her to recuse herself from an investigation into a campaign-finance complaint.
At issue were comments Lopez, a Tacoma resident, made on social media and News Tribune stories against a now-withdrawn methanol plant proposal at the port. Opponents of the methanol plant later proposed a ballot measure that the port and business groups quashed, leading to the campaign-finance complaint.
Lopez agreed to recuse herself from the investigation, which ended with the commission recommending no action be taken against the port and business groups.
Information from News Tribune archives contributed to this report.