EVERETT, Wash. – A liberal political strategist could face thousands of dollars in fines following a report that found she failed to disclose who paid for mailers that attacked a Democratic state senator in the primary.
The report issued by the staff of the state Public Disclosure Commission on Friday says that Lisa MacLean schemed to conceal donors for the mailers that urged voters to support a conservative candidate over Sen. Jean Berkey in August's primary. The report also found that actions by MacLean and others involved with two political action committees she created may have violated several provisions of state election law.
The commission will discuss the staff report at a meeting on Thursday, The Herald of Everett reported over the weekend.
MacLean did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment Monday. In a statement issued last month in response to the complaint, MacLean denied trying to conceal the source of any contributions.
Berkey was the only incumbent state lawmaker to lose in the primary. She was targeted by liberal Democrats who thought she was too conservative. Berkey filed a complaint with the PDC after she lost the election, coming in behind Democrat Nick Harper and conservative candidate Rod Rieger.
MacLean was hired to run a campaign aimed at ousting Berkey and supporting Harper. That effort was supported by unions representing state employees, teachers and health care workers who donated close to $300,000, which went to the Stand Up For Citizens political action committee and paid for television commercials, mailers and phone calls and visits to thousands of voters.
The PDC staff report said that MacLean created two new political action committee - Cut Taxes PAC and Conservative PAC - and got verbal promises from the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Federation of State Employees and the Washington State Association for Justice to cover the roughly $9,000 cost of two mailers and a round of automated phone calls, but didn't disclose those pledges as required by law.
The report also found that MacLean promised her clients that they would not be connected to the effort until after the election.
"In written communications to her clients, Ms. MacLean clearly stated her intent to obscure the clients' sponsorship of postcards and robocalls that attacked Senator Berkey from the right," according to the findings.
Berkey contends MacLean's actions misled voters, and she may file a lawsuit as early next month to try and get the August primary results set aside and a special election be held to fill the seat, The Herald reported. Berkey has also said that she could ask the Legislature to not seat the winner of the Nov. 2 election while her legal fight is going on.
PDC spokeswoman said that MacLean and Moxie Media could reach an agreement on penalties beforehand, and that the commission can then accept or reject it. An enforcement hearing would be held if no settlement is reached, with fines reaching into thousands of dollars.