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Commission determines campaign violations by labor-backed PACs active in Spokane election were minor

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 13, 2019

The Public Disclosure Commission resolved complaints against two labor-backed political action committees in Spokane last week.

The commission has declined to further investigate complaints against the political fundraising arm of the Spokane Firefighters Union and a union-backed political action committee, the Citizens for Liberty and Labor, both of which opposed Nadine Woodward in her successful bid for mayor.

Neither committee was fined or punished for its election activity.

A complaint filed Oct. 17 against the Spokane Firefighters Union PAC flagged its failure to disclose the source of about $67,000 in donations in its filings with the commission.

In its preliminary inquiry, the commission found that the firefighters PAC had entered 2019 with a $67,000 cash balance, but failed to disclose the money on its first several filings of 2019. Then, in its July report, the PAC accounted for last year’s balance after being notified by the PDC that it had reported expenditures that exceeded the amount of cash it had on hand.

The PAC updated its reports on Oct. 31 to clarify the balance it carried over from 2018.

“The Spokane Firefighters Union PAC made minor or ministerial errors on required reports which did not materially impact the public interest,” PDC Compliance Officer Alice Fiman wrote in a Nov. 4 letter.

The commission also wrapped up its initial inquiry into a complaint made against Citizens for Liberty and Labor – the largest single donor to which was the Spokane Firefighters Union PAC.

The complaint alleged that Citizens for Liberty and Labor had failed to properly disclose its top contributors on political advertising, as required by Washington law. In its response, the PAC acknowledged that it was noncompliant and stated that it was actively working to update its advertising where possible.

In a letter on Nov. 7, the commission reminded the PAC to follow the regulations regarding disclosure of funding sources, but did not take punitive action.

The complaints against both political action committees were filed by Glen Morgan, a conservative activist who regularly files complaints with the PDC against organizations and candidates throughout Washington.

Citizens for Liberty and Labor reported nearly $219,000 in independent expenditures against Woodward in the mayoral campaign and $16,000 in support of her opponent, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.

The Spokane Firefighters Union PAC donated $2,000 directly to Stuckart’s campaign.

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