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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane firefighters union continues financial support of fined political action committee

An election ballot is placed in ballot box outside of the Spokane Public Library on Nov. 7, 2016, downtown Spokane. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
An election ballot is placed in ballot box outside of the Spokane Public Library on Nov. 7, 2016, downtown Spokane. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

After fallout from a controversial campaign mailer targeting a Spokane City Council candidate last fall, the local firefighters’ union said it would no longer be financing its political arm responsible for the ad.

But late last month, the firefighters contributed $2,000 to the Spokane For Honest Government political action committee after the group racked up $7,000 in fines from the state for previous campaign malfeasance, according to state records.

Randy Marler, president of the Firefighters Local 29, said he understood the contribution could be seen as conflicting with the union’s statement in October, after concerns were raised about the veracity of a campaign mailer that accused Matthew Howes of negligence at his pizza restaurant that was rebutted by the Spokane Regional Health District. The $2,000 was paid to avoid the committee’s treasurer from having to pay the fine, and Marler said other groups had also pitched in to help cover the group’s monetary penalty.

“We’re paying off a fine, the debt and responsibility that we have,” Marler said this week. “None of that money went to voter contacts, or for any other political reason.”

The $2,000 contribution came from another political action committee, Safest City Spokane, which is also linked to the firefighters union.

The statement from the firefighters’ union, posted to Twitter on Oct. 24, stated, “We believe in positive electioneering and thus the Spokane Firefighters Union will no longer be contributing any future funding to Spokane for Honest Government PAC.”

Marler said that statement was made before the group knew it would have to pay the $7,000 fine, which was levied three days later after the state’s Public Disclosure Commission determined the group hadn’t timely reported $94,000 in spending to support city council candidates Karen Stratton and Lori Kinnear in their 2015 campaigns. The organization appealed the decision, but lost, Marler said, and has 90 days to pay the balance of the fine.

After the fine has been paid, he said, the Spokane for Honest Government PAC will dissolve. But that doesn’t mean the union will stop spending on campaigns, Marler said.

“The firefighters aren’t getting out of politics,” he said.

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