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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

State To Sue Wea Over Campaign Law Violations

Associated Press

Officials of the union that represents 65,000 employees of Washington schools said Tuesday they’ve been notified the state plans to sue them over alleged major violations of campaign finance laws.

Assistant Attorney General Rich Heath confirmed the state will be in Thurston County Superior Court today to file a case involving the Washington Education Association, but he declined to divulge any details.

The state’s action has been expected since November when the Public Disclosure Commission referred its case against the union to the attorney general because the panel’s limited enforcement powers would not send a strong enough message.

A PDC staff investigation concluded the WEA had violated campaign law by failing to properly report $335,000 in political spending and by operating a political action committee that wasn’t registered with the state.

If the WEA loses, state law gives the court a variety of ways to seek relief, including the possibility of a $10,000 fine for each violation or a fine equal to the amount of the money that went unreported. In this case, that would be $335,000.

The PDC staff also raised questions about $700,000 that the teachers’ union spent on a campaign to defeat two education initiatives on last fall’s ballot.

Union officials on Tuesday were not sure if that issue would be addressed in the state’s lawsuit.