Legislation would recommend felony prosecution for egregious violations of campaign finance laws
OLYMPIA—Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) announced today legislation that would give the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) the option to recommend felony charges when it deals with egregious violations of campaign finance laws. Currently, the PDC is limited to fining donors who purposefully and willfully circumvent laws designed to make contributions transparent. This proposal would require the PDC to refer violations to the state attorney general for criminal prosecution, a dramatic change for those who attempt to circumvent Washington State law and one that will help keep the public informed on who spends money on elections in the state.
“Right now, it’s too easy for people that can easily afford to pay the fines to circumvent the law and sway an election, only to receive a monetary fine,” said Rep. Van De Wege. “My proposal would put real consequences on breaking campaign finance laws and bring about cleaner and fairer elections.”
The legislation arose from a $60,000 fine to Sequim resident Bill Littlejohn in 2014 for blatantly concealing campaign contributions against a fire district levy. Mr. Littlejohn illegally funneled money, using his employees’ names, to the chairman of the campaign against the levy, Eric Foth. The levy failed.
“Too often those with the means think they’re above the law and can abuse the system to get what they want, and that’s not how democracy should work,” said Van De Wege.
The PDC has been in existence since 1972 and the fine against Mr. Littlejohn was the tenth largest ever handed down in its history.