Attorney General Rob McKenna's staff wasted no time in filing legal action Friday against Lisa MacLean and her Democrat- and labor-allied consulting firm Moxie Media. At issue is its alleged illegal handling of campaign funds used to tilt the outcome of a state Senate race so that conservative Democratic Sen. Jean Berkey was ousted in the primary.
The lawsuit, linked here, is only the latest in a string of actions the Republican AG (and his Democratic predecessor) took against illegal campaign maneuvers by influential groups with Democratic or Republican leanings.
The state Public Disclosure Commission's citizen members rejected a proposed settlement with Moxie on Thursday that would have let MacLean and her associates pay a $30,000 fine. McKenna's press release on Moxie, MacLean and associates is here.
The lawsuit mentions the DIME PAC created by the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Federation of State Employees and Forward PAC as groups that approved MacLean's proposal to create PACs for a behind-the-scenes strategy to oust the moderate Democrat Berkey by helping both a weak Republican and a liberal Democrat.
Our news partners at The News Tribune have this piece on the lawsuit filing and this piece on Republican legislative candidates that were targeted by Moxie Media in several other races.
Here is our blog post on the PDC decision to reject a settlement with Moxie that includes links to the full 130-page PDC investigation.
And here is a background story by reporter Erik Smith on the tangle of 40 political committees Moxie created this election season.
The action against Moxie comes in the same season that the Republican-oriented Building Industry Association of Washington settled charges of concealing funds it later used to promote Dino Rossi’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign. The left-leaning National Education Association settled allegations related to 2000 initiative campaigns.
If those other recent cases are a guide, Moxie could be facing extreme penalties if found guilty of violating campaign-finance law. The BIAW agreed to $584,000 in sanctions this fall (including $342,000 in fines that were suspended if the builders' Member Services Corporation avoids campaign-finance violations through 2016). The builders denied wrongdoing.
The NEA agreed on Oct. 21 to pay $85,000 under a settlement of a case dating to 2002. The case dealt with allegations the NEA violated a state law that had barred unions from using fees paid by nonmembers for political purposes unless they got permission first. Under the agreement, NEA was to pay $50,000 in penalties to the state and $35,000 in attorney and other costs to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
EFF, a right-of-center think tank in Olympia, and the AG and PDC went after the Washington Education Association and NEA's alleged misuse of union fee-payers' money in initiative campaigns to lower class sizes and boost teacher pay.
The NEA settlement was an outgrowth of a similar WEA settlement in 2008. The state teachers union agreed to pay $735,000 in state penalties and to refund $240,000 to fee payers.