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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Campaign complaint filed against Spokane House candidate

A Republican precinct committee officer is challenging the campaign advertising of a GOP candidate for state House.

But the candidate, Ben Oakley, said he cleared his signs and logos with the state Public Disclosure Commission before he started using them.

Oakley, a Republican, is running for the 6th Legislative District Houseseat currently held by Rep. John Ahern, R-Spokane. Ahern is retiring. Oakley faces two other Republicans, attorney Jeff Holy and Cheney Public Schools Superintendent Larry Keller, and one Democrat, former state Rep. Dennis Dellwo, in the August primary.

Julian Hale, who is a precinct committee officer in the 7th Legislative District, filed a complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission on Sunday.

In it, he argues that Oakley’s advertising violates state campaign rules because Oakley’s signs and logo do not say ‘Elect’ before his name or anywhere else except in his web address. He argues that voters could be misled into believing that Oakley, former legislative aide for state Rep. Kevin Parker, is an incumbent.

“There are two other Republicans in that race, and I’d like to see an even playing field,” said Hale, who said he supports Holy in the race.

But PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said that Oakley’s signs and logos likely comply with the law because ‘Elect’ is included in the web address, which is prominently displayed on Oakley’s campaign advertising.

“In my opinion, having the word ‘elect’ anywhere on that sign is good enough,” Anderson said.

One potential problem, however, could be the Oakley’s website, where the word ‘Elect’ is not prominently written -- though at the bottom of the page, it says “Paid for by the Committee to Elect Ben Oakley” in small print.

“It needs to be a prominent part of the Web site that’s not in danger of being overlooked,” Anderson said.

The final decision about Oakley’s advertising will be made by the commission’s director of compliance, she said.

Oakley noted that he recently won the endorsement of the Republicans of Spokane County, which is a club of Republicans.

“We have the momentum. We’re in the lead in every category,” Oakely said. “This is one way to slow us down. We’re not going to play their games.”

Oakley has raised more for the race than his Republican competitors, about $28,000, according to the PDC’s database. Holy has raised about $17,000 and Keller has raised about $12,000. But it’s Dellwo who has the fund-raising lead with about $38,000.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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