July 29, 2011 in Region

State watchdog reconsiders $1 million transfer

Mike Baker Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., is shown in a Jan. 6 file photo.
(Full-size photo)

OLYMPIA — Jay Inslee will no longer be able to augment his Democratic campaign for governor with unlimited transfers from his $1 million federal campaign account, Washington’s election watchdog said Friday.

Public Disclosure Commission Executive Director Doug Ellis said staff took a closer look at the law after a story by the Associated Press last weekend. The commission initially had advised Inslee that he could roll forward some $1 million leftover from previous campaigns without the money being subject to contribution limits.

Ellis said the staff incorrectly considered Inslee’s federal campaign to be similar to a state campaign.

“We have no jurisdiction over federal campaigns,” Ellis said. “It’s money that’s outside of the state campaign finance laws.”

State candidates are allowed to create dedicated surplus accounts that can then be rolled into future elections without limitations, according to the PDC. Inslee’s campaign had argued that he had compartmentalized his federal campaign cash and that the dedicated accounts were essentially “surplus” accounts as described in state law.

The commission initially agreed with Inslee’s interpretation of the law, saying Inslee could ask past donors to roll forward their surplus donations to his state campaign. He could then ask those same donors for additional funds that would be subject to this year’s campaign contributions.

He will still be able to ask donors to roll forward the surplus donations, but the money will count toward the maximum amount an individual can donate.

The money could have provided Inslee with a key advantage in what is shaping up to be one of the most closely watched races for governor in the country. The leading candidates for governor in 2008 raised and spent more than $10 million each.

Republican candidate Rob McKenna’s campaign had argued that the transfers would be illegal. Advisers for both candidates did not immediately return phone calls Friday.

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