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Stuckart gives congressional campaign money to assist colleagues on Spokane City Council

UPDATED: Mon., July 10, 2017

Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart at a town hall in April, before announcing he’d be dropping out of the 5th Congressional District race. Stuckart gave $2,000 to two of his colleagues on the City Council out of his campaign warchest to assist their re-election bids. Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart at a town hall in April, before announcing he’d be dropping out of the 5th Congressional District race. Stuckart gave $2,000 to two of his colleagues on the City Council out of his campaign warchest to assist their re-election bids. Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Some of the money given to support Ben Stuckart’s now-ended congressional campaign will instead support his current colleagues in re-election bids.

Stuckart, who announced in early June he’d be dropping out of the 2018 contest for Washington’s 5th Congressional seat due to family health issues, said he was told by several donors to give their money to “like-minded” candidates. On June 27, his campaign committee gave $2,000 each to Breean Beggs and Candace Mumm, the maximum amount allowed under state law, for their re-election campaigns to the Spokane City Council.

Stuckart said he was inspired to make the contributions, which are not barred by any state or federal rules or laws, after speaking with candidates running against Beggs and Mumm for the council seats.

“I decided having them there would be detrimental to my working environment, so I made a donation,” Stuckart, whose second and final term as council president ends in 2019, said.

Stuckart hoped to be the Democratic opponent against Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Since announcing he would not be running in 2018, his campaign committee, Ben Stuckart for Congress, has also made a payment to the Spokane County Democratic Party totaling $674.53. His campaign rented office space in the party’s downtown Spokane headquarters, according to public campaign finance reports.

The City Council seats Beggs and Mumm are seeking to retain are nonpartisan. However, both ran unsuccessfully for county-level office under the Democratic banner, with Beggs challenging current Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell in 2014 and Mumm running against at Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns last year.

Mumm said she didn’t seek Stuckart’s money and hasn’t asked for his endorsement in the council race, but wouldn’t be turning the contribution down.

“I had a wide range of donors last time, and I hope to have that again from individuals, organizations and business owners,” Mumm, who is in a three-way race to retain the seat representing northeast Spokane she won in 2013, said. “I appreciate the support.”

Beggs said he, too, didn’t seek support from Stuckart’s congressional coffers, and that the council president’s individual contribution of $250 was no different from a donor giving to both a candidate and a political action committee.

In an email, Mumm’s primary opponent Matthew Howes said the contribution seemed “a bit dishonest.” But it’s common for federal-level candidates to give to colleagues running for offices within the state of Washington, said Kim Bradford, a spokeswoman for the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

Those contributions are subject to the same limitations as any other individual giving to a candidate, including a cap of $1,000 to support a primary campaign and an additional $1,000 for the general election to follow.

“We see this a lot in the Senate, with Patty Murray giving to local candidates,” Bradford said. If the federal candidate is from Washington, they do not need to file notice with the commission about the contribution. Out-of-state candidates must file a separate form notifying the state the gift was made. State laws apply to federal candidates giving locally, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Election Commission.

Since 1998, Murray’s political committee has given $95,876 to campaigns and political parties within the state of Washington, according to campaign finance records. Beneficiaries include the Spokane County Democratic Party, Gov. Jay Inslee and Tina Podlodowski, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Washington’s Secretary of State position last year.

McMorris Rodgers’ political committee has given $8,985 within the state of Washington since 2008, according to the Public Disclosure Commission, with most of that going to Republican parties in Spokane, King and Stevens counties. She gave $400 to Kathy Lambert, a nonpartisan member of the King County Council, in April 2013, according to campaign finance records.

Stuckart had amassed a total of $69,011.66 to support his candidacy before dropping out, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Both Mumm and Beggs had comfortable fundraising leads in their council campaigns as of last week.

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