OLYMPIA – As the battle to oust Spokane Mayor Jim West shifts from the courtroom to campaign mode, West’s detractors and supporters now must begin publicly reporting donations and spending.
The state’s campaign-finance watchdog notified both sides of the rules on Friday.
“They’ll be reporting everything associated with the recall effort,” said Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the state Public Disclosure Commission.
People can contribute as much as they want, she said.
“There are no limits,” said Anderson.
That’s a marked change from most of Mayor West’s previous campaigns. As a longtime state legislator, he was limited to donations of $1,350 a year from individuals, businesses, unions or political action committees. Some counties – like King and Snohomish – have set similar limits for local political races. Spokane hasn’t, Anderson said.
Neither side has yet declared any contributions or spending, she said. But under state law, Anderson said, West and his foes must publicly report the name and address of anyone who contributes more than $25. Any spending report over $50 must include the vendor’s name and address.
The monthly disclosure reports typically are due by the 10th day of the following month. As the election draws closer, the reporting periods become more frequent.
It’s unclear whether West has raised money yet. He has said that he sold his Lexus convertible and dipped into his retirement to pay his legal bills, and considered borrowing money from his elderly father.
It appears West cannot tap surplus money from previous campaigns. If he had surplus cash, Anderson said, he could return the money, then ask for it back to help him fight the recall. But his successful mayoral campaign in 2003 left him with $4,949 in debt.
“So it’s really not an issue,” Anderson said. West’s lawyers on Monday said that the mayor is putting together an organization to fight the recall, but the paperwork has not been filed yet.
Shannon Sullivan, the Spokane woman spearheading the recall campaign, raised money two weeks ago with a car wash aimed at paying her travel expenses for her appearance last week at the state Supreme Court in Olympia.
Neither West’s legal expenses nor the car wash money spent on travel will need to be publicly disclosed, Anderson said. Both fall under an exception that allows legal expenses for a ballot measure to remain private. Any car-wash earnings spent on other things, however – like the printing of petitions – would need to be disclosed.
Citizens for Integrity in Government, a group working with Sullivan to recall West, has also been soliciting donations by mail and via its Web site, www.westmustgo.com.
The Web site donations use PayPal, a popular online credit-card payment system. But PayPal donations caused problems earlier this year for opponents of the state’s gas tax increase, who were initially unable to give names and addresses of many donors. The gas tax foes had to send e-mails to the donors, asking for their names and addresses so that the donations could be publicly reported.
The westmustgo.com Web site also tells prospective donors that their contribution is tax deductible. That seems to conflict with IRS rules prohibiting the deduction of political contributions from taxes.
Rita Amunrud, a spokeswoman for Citizens for Integrity in Government, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
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