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Republican Spokane County commissioner candidate gets partial exemption from campaign finance requirements

Kim Plese, a Republican candidate for Spokane County commissioner, has received a partial exemption from campaign finance reporting requirements.   (COURTESY OF KIM PLESE)
Kim Plese, a Republican candidate for Spokane County commissioner, has received a partial exemption from campaign finance reporting requirements.  (COURTESY OF KIM PLESE)

The state agency that ensures political campaigns are financially transparent has granted a reporting exemption to a local county commissioner candidate.

The Public Disclosure Commission on Thursday voted to allow Kim Plese, a Republican candidate for Spokane County commissioner, to withhold the names of clients who spent more than $12,000 at her printing business from Feb. 26, 2021, through Feb. 25, 2022, so long as those clients aren’t governmental entities or candidates for elected office.

State law requires candidates for elected office to disclose a wide range of financial information. Those disclosures allow the public to better understand an individual’s conflicts of interest.

Politicians have to report, in detail, campaign donations and expenditures. They also have to report personal financial information.

In Plese’s case, that means sharing recent transaction records for the business she owned for more than 30 years, Plese Printing and Marketing.

Plese didn’t want to share records of sales greater than $12,000. She said that information had to remain private for a few reasons.

For one, Plese told the Public Disclosure Commission that she’s often had confidentiality agreements with clients in the financial or medical industries.

But Plese said the biggest reason she doesn’t want to disclose the information is that she sold her business. She said if the sale had closed before she’d filed her Public Disclosure Commission forms, she’d have made that clear from the beginning.

As part of the sale, Plese transferred all of her client data to the new owners. She said she no longer has access to the records.

David Green, a former Democratic candidate for Spokane County commissioner, asked the Public Disclosure Commission to deny Plese’s request.

He highlighted that Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has spent thousands at Plese Printing and Marketing since 2009. According to the Federal Election Commission, McMorris Rodgers has spent more than $340,000 at Plese’s business in the past 13 years.

The public needs thorough information on Plese’s business dealings because McMorris Rodgers’ brother, Jeff McMorris, is the county’s community engagement and public policy advisor, Green said.

It isn’t unusual for the Public Disclosure Commission to grant reporting exemptions. The commission looks at four criteria when making its decisions.

  • Would disclosing the information violate a legitimate business interest?
  • Would disclosing the information be an unreasonable hardship?
  • Does the information show a relationship between the candidate and a business entity that the candidate would have authority over if elected?
  • Would withholding the information keep secret any potential conflicts of interest?

Public Disclosure Commissioner Allen Hayward emphasized during Thursday’s meeting that Plese must provide information on her business transactions with Spokane County and other public entities.

In her initial exemption request, Plese said she didn’t have any business relationship with Spokane County in the prior 12 months. During the meeting, she said she did.

In a text, Plese provided the following explanation for the inconsistency.

“I have an email from the PDC back in March that told me how to answer the question and they sent me a modification form to fill out,” she wrote. “I am clarifying this with the PDC staff.”

Reporting sales records with Spokane County and political candidates shouldn’t be hard even if Plese sold her business and lacks access to her computer records, Hayward said.

“Most of that stuff was reported elsewhere,” he said. “I don’t think it will be a tremendous burden to acquire the information.”

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