House Speaker Frank Chopp must pay $6,470 including court costs for late filing of contribution and expenditure reports during the 2016 election cycle. Like other high-profile politicians, the Seattle Democrat should know better than to get sloppy with his campaign finance paperwork.
The sanctions were part of an agreement Chopp reached with the state Attorney General’s Office, which filed suit after receiving a citizen complaint. It was one of more than 40 complaints filed at the state Public Disclosure Commission by Glen Morgan, who has run for office as a Republican and mostly targeted Democrats.
Earlier this year Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman settled a similar complaint with the attorney general and PDC after state Democrats complained that her campaign failed to file financial in a timely way during the election.
Both cases reflect the nature of campaign finance enforcement in Washington, which depends on complaints. Citizen action letters, such as those filed by Morgan at the PDC, are one way of forcing state regulators to act within 45 days.
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The Legislature should look closer at whether this system is being abused with too many petty complaints, whether the PDC needs more funds for enforcement and whether the PDC needs new options when responding to 45-day complaint letters.
Meantime, the sanctions against Chopp make clear that all candidates must account for campaign funds.
The AG filed similar actions against Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, and the Thurston County Democrats, based on Morgan’s complaints. Another was brought against Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, by King County Democrats.
Hunt’s campaign is accused of failing to report $9,752.75 worth of contributions and expenditures or debts in a timely way last year and an error involving a Democratic mailing list.
Thurston Democrats are accused of failing to file timely reports involving a $1,250 in-kind contribution, $21,000 in spending and $4,827 of debts.
Please, candidates and parties. You must do much better.