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Spokane Firefighters Union PAC hasn’t revealed source of $66,000, complaint alleges

Oct. 21, 2019 Updated Mon., Oct. 21, 2019 at 7:36 p.m.

A firefighter’s helmet showing the name of Local 29, the Spokane Firefighters Union, photographed in 2015. (SR)
A firefighter’s helmet showing the name of Local 29, the Spokane Firefighters Union, photographed in 2015. (SR)

The Spokane Firefighters Union is once again spending on an election, and once again its bookkeeping has come under scrutiny.

A complaint filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission alleges that the union, which has poured funding behind efforts opposing Spokane mayoral candidate Nadine Woodward, failed to account for the source of more than $60,000 in contributions to its political action committee this summer.

On June 10, the union’s PAC reported raising a total of $21,315 up to that point this year. In a report filed just more than a month later, it reported having raised a total of about $92,000. But despite that surge in fundraising, the PAC only detailed where $4,285 of the increase came from. That means the PAC has not revealed the contributors who gave more than $66,000 during the five weeks between reports.

“At a minimum, this is a discrepancy of $66,408.28 which suddenly and conveniently appeared out of thin air,” the complaint alleges.

The firefighters union has been the most prominent financial backer of the Citizens for Liberty and Labor PAC, which has dropped $176,610 on independent expenditures against Woodward, who is battling Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart in the race for mayor.

The bulk of Citizens for Liberty and Labor’s spending has been on the production of and airtime for TV ads alleging that Woodward is being bought by developers. The group also has paid for digital ads and an anti-Woodward website.

According to Citizens for Liberty and Labor’s PDC filings, the firefighters union is its largest single donor with an $80,000 contribution.

The union has not yet filed a formal response to the complaint. Its secretary, Thad Frater, did not immediately return a request for comment from The Spokesman-Review.

The complaint was filed last week by Glen Morgan, a conservative activist who regularly raises flags with the Public Disclosure Commission. Morgan has twice filed complaints against Stuckart this year, but both were dismissed.

This is not the first time the firefighters’ political fundraising tactics have been called into question.

In 2017, the PDC fined a PAC heavily funded by the firefighters union for its role in supporting Spokane City Council candidates Karen Stratton and Lori Kinnear in the 2015 election. Spokane for Honest Government, which was primarily funded through the firefighters and its PAC, was fined $7,000 for failing to properly account for its independent expenditures until June 2016.

The union found itself in trouble again in 2017, when Spokane for Honest Government funded political mailers that inaccurately tied City Council candidate Matthew Howes to health code violations at a North Side restaurant.

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