OLYMPIA – The state Public Disclosure Commission is investigating a complaint that the campaign of Olympia City Council candidate Karen Rogers made incorrect and late filings involving more than $15,000 in contributions and expenditures.
Rogers’ campaign violated election law 65 times, Thurston County resident Steven Segall says in an 18-page complaint filed Sept. 21. Segall, who supports Rogers’ opponent, Karen Veldheer, claims that Rogers broke a state election law that requires “that political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public.”
Rogers’ campaign didn’t report thousands of dollars in campaign contributions collected before the Aug. 18 primary until after it was over. For example, on June 22, Rogers’ campaign reported receiving $1,735 in cash for the reporting period from June 1 to July 27. On Aug. 31, 13 days after the primary, she filed an amended report saying she raised $4,475 in cash for the same period – a difference of nearly $3,000. Many of the corrections came in the days after the election; Rogers filed an amended report Aug. 23, three amended reports Aug. 31 and another Sept. 1.
Rogers might have gained an unfair advantage by filing late, “since other campaigns had dedicated personnel spending many hours on PDC regulatory compliance and maintaining proper campaign records,” Segall’s complaint reads.
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“Most important of all, the voters in Olympia did not have accurate and timely information on which to base their selection of candidates for public office.”
The incorrect reporting occurred in several categories, including cash contributions, in-kind contributions, cash expenditures, in-kind expenditures and loans.
Rogers is running against Veldheer for Position 4 on the seven-member council. The election is Nov. 3, and voters have received their mail-in ballots.
In a brief interview, Rogers said the matter was a mistake. She said that her first campaign treasurer “didn’t quite know what he was doing,” and that when the mistakes were uncovered, “we corrected it as soon as we could.”
She added: “It’s a volunteer campaign. Mistakes happen.”
She did not elaborate, except to say that the complaint is politically motivated and that Segall supports Veldheer’s campaign. Records show that Segall contributed $250 to Veldheer’s campaign Sept. 23 and $100 on July 22. His wife, Sarah, gave $100 on April 4 and another $100 on Oct. 9.
Asked for further comment, Rogers referred a reporter to a letter she sent to the Public Disclosure Commission on Friday.
In the two-page letter, Rogers writes that she has had three treasurers since her campaign began. Her first, David Bremer, “misfiled reports for the month of May 2009, despite assuring me that the appropriate paperwork had been filed,” she wrote. “Upon discovering the misfilings, I immediately went to the PDC’s headquarters and met with (PDC employee) Jennifer Hansen in person, apologized on behalf of my campaign, and asked how to correct the misfilings.”
Rogers said Bremer was replaced by Robb Wilcox on June 11.
“Unfortunately,” Rogers wrote, “my second treasurer failed to correct the reports misfiled by David Bremer.”
Judy Layne became the campaign’s treasurer July 23, Rogers wrote, and corrected the “incorrectly filed reports by Sept. 1.”
In the letter, Rogers asks the Public Disclosure Commission for “additional time in order to submit a thorough response.” She asked that she be given until Nov. 10, seven days after the election.
Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Public Disclosure Commission, said she can’t comment on the investigation until it is completed, and that likely won’t happen until after the election.
Segall, a state employee who examines disability claims, said he is a concerned citizen who wants “to make sure the public is aware of where the candidates’ money comes from.”
He said he has been tracking Rogers’ campaign donations for months. After Labor Day, he noticed that the Rogers campaign filed several amended reports showing that campaign contributions received before the primary were significantly higher than initially reported.
He cites incorrect or late filings in each of four reporting periods from April 1 to Aug. 10.
The Olympian’s independent analysis of public disclosure filings shows, for example, a pattern of underreported or late reporting of cash campaign contributions:
• On May 11, the campaign reported that Rogers received $200 in cash from April 1-30. On Sept. 1, it revised that number to $1,200.
• On June 10, the campaign reported receiving no cash from May 1-31. On Aug. 31, the campaign filed a revised report changing that number to $2,204.29.
• On June 15, the campaign reported raising $1,735 in cash from June 1 to July 27. On Aug. 31, it filed a report changing that number to $4,300.17.
• On Aug. 3, the campaign reported raising $480 in cash from July 28 to Aug. 10. On Aug. 31, it revised the number to $590.
Rogers has significantly outpaced Veldheer in fundraising. She has raised $15,481.64 and spent $10,246.78; Veldheer has raised $9,548 and spent $6,800.86.
Veldheer criticized her opponent but stopped short of accusing her of wrongdoing.
“She’s a political science major,” she said. “She has a lot of experience. This isn’t anything new to her.”
Rogers has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in wetland ecology, both from the University of Florida.
“This is all we know about each of us,” Veldheer said of the PDC filings. “It’s how we run our campaigns, how we act, and how we react to things.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869