Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin publicly apologized this week to her opponent in the race for state Senate for using false information on a campaign mailer she sent before last month’s primary.
Her apology was made as the state Public Disclosure Commission began inquiring about the mailer in response to a formal complaint.
McLaughlin, a Republican, now acknowledges that state Rep. Andy Billig, McLaughlin’s Democratic opponent for the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, never sponsored bills for an income tax that didn’t also include the repeal of business and occupation taxes or reductions in sales taxes, as was claimed on her flier.
The mailer from McLaughlin’s campaign was loudly condemned by Billig supporters soon after it was sent, and Billig’s campaign responded with its own flier showing McLaughlin’s mailer stamped with “false,” and accusing her of “partisan distractions.”
McLaughlin said she was unaware that the statement was false until she began examining it after she was recently contacted by the Public Disclosure Commission. Billig detailed his concerns about McLaughlin’s mailer well before the primary on his campaign Facebook page. He said he also complained about the false statement to McLaughlin’s campaign manager.
In a news release sent Thursday, McLaughlin’s campaign said the mailer was “created by her former campaign consultant” and that the incorrect statement “was not fully vetted.” McLaughlin said in an interview Friday that she “parted ways” with her consultant, Brian Murray, even before she was aware of the misstatement because he was working on other campaigns and was “spread too thin.”
McLaughlin apologized to Billig by phone.
“As a woman who believes that integrity and character count, the right response was to acknowledge the misstatement and to extend an apology to my opponent,” McLaughlin said in a statement released Thursday by her campaign.
Billig said Friday that he appreciates McLaughlin’s apology.
“I’m glad that the Public Disclosure Commission is holding my Republican opponent responsible for the false statements that are in her campaign materials,” he said.
Lori Anderson, PDC spokeswoman, said the commission has begun to examine whether it should open a formal accusation into a complaint filed July 25 by South Hill resident Timothy McHenry, who called the statement a “deliberate false assertion.”
Violations related to false advertising in a campaign are hard to prove because they can only be sustained if the commission determines that a campaign knew the information was false when it was distributed and that the statement harmed his or her opponent’s campaign.
In the primary election, Billig topped McLaughlin with about 58 percent of the vote. Their next contest, the November election, is what counts.
The original headline on this story incorrectly stated the state Public Disclosure Commission’s actions related to the complaint filed against McLaughlin. The headline was changed Sept. 1, 2012.