Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner's campaign will refund $63.48 to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Foundation after the nonprofit organization learned that a check it thought was simply to cover the cost of breakfast for two employees had been recorded as a political contribution.
"We'll certainly take care of that," Baumgartner said today after questions about the contribution from a tax-exempt 501c3 organization were raised by Democratic challenger Rich Cowan's campaign. "We're big supporters of the MAC."
The foundation, as well as the museum, enjoy federal tax exempt status from the IRS but because of that are prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. Museum officials are asking the Baumgartner campaign to refund the money and clarify with state elections officials that it wasn't intended to be a contribution.
The museum's executive director, Forrest Rodgers, said he and Development Director Betsy Godlewski attended an April 3 breakfast event, dubbed the "Keep Working Kick Off," after receiving an invitation as museum representatives from Baumgartner. Rodgers said he knew that the event was a re-election kickoff announcement but thought the $30 per person charge was to cover breakfast -- not a contribution.
"We attend events and support all of our elected officials," Rodgers said, explaining that museum staff has worked closely with Baumgartner and other legislators to secure state funding to help keep the MAC open. "We go to many of their events on behalf of the museum."
Meanwhile, state campaign finance records show numerous 501c3 organizations as contributors to various political candidates across Washington. Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission, said the state has few limitations on who can contribute to political campaigns but leave it up to organizations to determine whether it might run afoul of obligations or restrictions imposed by others, such as the IRS in the case of nonprofits.