OLYMPIA – After a contentious hearing, the state’s campaign-finance watchdog has fined a statehouse candidate $300 for failing to file any reports after months of campaigning.
Republican Chris Bowen, who’s challenging state Rep. Alex Wood, D-Spokane, told investigators that he put the reports in the mail and that’s all he’s required to do. It’s not his problem, he said, if the state Public Disclosure Commission didn’t get them or lost them.
Wrong, PDC Chairman Ken Schellberg said during a telephone hearing Thursday.
“We need the reports. I’m sorry, this is not a utopia,” he told Bowen. “At some time in our life, I think most of us have to learn to keep copies of something we’ve sent in the mail.”
Schellberg, an accountant, said he would suspend half the fine if Bowen turns in the forms within two weeks. Bowen has given no indication he intends to do so.
The forms are required of most political candidates running in Washington. The C-1 form is Bowen’s candidate registration, which discloses campaign staff and lists a time when the public can view his campaign’s spending records.
The other, called an F-1 form, details a candidate’s personal financial affairs, such as loans, employer, real estate holdings and other assets.
“It gives a good chance to make sure the people being elected don’t have any conflicts and that the people elected will really be representing the constituents, not personally benefiting from the elected office,” said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson.
Bowen, 30, launched his campaign June 6. He narrowly beat fellow Republican Laura Carder in the August primary for the right to challenge Wood in the November election.
The forms were due by June 20, according to the PDC. When Bowen told the PDC that he’d already mailed in the forms, a staffer asked him to simply fax a copy.
“Nothing was forthcoming,” said the PDC’s Kurt Young.
Bowen has repeatedly declined to answer questions about his occupation. In the primary election voters guide, he listed his occupation as “small-business owner.” Last month, he posted an online ad offering his services as a student tutor.
“If you or someone you know is having difficulties in the subject of government,” he wrote, “let me use my wealth of government knowledge and experience to make you an expert in the field. $17 per hour.”
In an e-mail Sept. 19 about the PDC charges, Bowen maintained that there “have been many times where I have had to give my information multiple times to the PDC, County Elections and many other requiring agencies.” Each time, he said, it got lost.
“This mishandling of my information is not new,” he wrote. “So I have a great policy that allows me to do everything I am required to do, and at the same time not concern myself with others’ mistakes.”
He said at the time that he had spoken with the PDC and that “it is understood that the matter is laughable.”
Not sharing in the laughter: Schellberg. In cases like this, he told Bowen, a candidate simply provides copies of the reports.
“You’re just making laws up to cut me down on certain fines,” responded Bowen. “You’re the lawman. You read it to me where it says it doesn’t matter what the reason is.”
Schellberg said Bowen could appeal the ruling if he wants to. Then he hung up on Bowen.
On Saturday, Bowen – still not saying what he does for a living – said he plans to appeal.
“I won the case, but they were focused on fining me no matter what,” he wrote. “It was not a shock. This is a regular thing for me.”