If you’re running for elected office under one of the state’s two major political parties, getting help from the state organization is usually a good thing.
But in 2006, a last-minute push for Republican 45th Legislative District candidate Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland) and several others landed state Republicans into some hot water with a campaign finance watchdog organization.
A $15,000 fine was levied at an Aug. 28 Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) meeting for disclosure violations. During the 2004 gubernatorial and 2006 legislative elections, Dino Rossi and 13 Republican candidates received in-kind contributions that they didn’t know about. When it came time to file the paperwork, the numbers between state Republican officials and the candidates didn’t add up. The total amount of nearly $300,000 in unaccounted spending was made on behalf of the various candidates but never reported, a violation of state campaign finance laws.
In Nixon’s case, he said he received $21,627.36 in the form of two mailings while running for the State Senate in 2006. The mailers went out on Oct. 27 and Nov. 3 of that year by political consultant Stan Shore and his company Polis Political Services, giving Nixon a last minute boost to get his message out to voters. A number of his supporters informed the campaign about the campaign material and he admitted he wasn’t sure where the mailings were coming from. The money represented nearly 10 percent of his war chest, compared to the $217,186.28 in funds declared to the PDC.
“We could have pulled a number out of the air, ‘guesstimating’ how much had been spent,” Nixon said. “But our policy was to report exactly how much was spent.”
The Republican Party fine comes the same month as a complaint against 45th Legislative District Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) for ethical violations. He was later found to have illegally used state press-releases as part of his campaign literature, the exact same violation as Nixon ran afoul of in a 2006 campaign for the State Senate.
Goodman was also fined $100 for a non-disclosure violation in 2007.
The PDC, an independent body appointed every five years by the state’s Governor to watchdog state campaign finance laws, found no error with the Nixon campaign. In the PDC report, Nixon said the confusion of the final days of the campaign and the lack of information from the state party caused the filing to be “overlooked.”
“This time we’re being much more careful,” said Nixon. “If they don’t let us know and we hear about something, we’ll proactively investigate it.”
The investigation was begun after the PDC received a citizens’ complaint in February that alleged the impropriety.
Kendall Watson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166, ext. 5052.