Saturday, January 26, 2008

“The public’s right to know of the financing of political campaigns… far outweighs any right that these matters remain secret and private.”

This is the first post, in a series of several posts to review past Public Disclosure Commission Complaints and Enforcement Decisions. The purpose of the series is to emphasize the diverse range of alleged violations received by the Commission and the agencies Enforcement Decisions regarding citizen, political party, political organizations and agency-generated complaints.

I hope that this series will help shine a light on the role the Public Disclosure Commission plays in enforcing campaign laws in the State of Washington.

First Case: Anacortes Port Commissioner Pat Mooney:

Background Information: On March 10, 2004, the Public Disclosure Commission conducted an Enforcement Hearing before the Full Commission to review Case #04-310, regarding campaign violation allegations filed against Pat Mooney, a former Anacortes Port Commissioner.
The PDC Enforcement Decision can be found at:

The matter was originally presented to the Commission at its February 24, 2004 meeting. The Commission found that there were apparent violations by Pat Mooney of multiple PDC statutes and rules including RCW 42.17.040, 42.17.080, 42,17,090, and WAC 390-16-105.

In a review of the evidence, the Commission observed that the expenditures and contributions in Mooney’s campaign exceeded mini reporting limits. (Mr. Mooney, in his initial PDC filings chose mini reporting over full reporting). The PDC found that exceeding the limits of expenditures and contributions upset the balance that existed between the candidates, and issued a statement that the upset could have affected the outcome of the election.

Mooney eventually admitted that he raised approximately $5,379 and spent $4,944 dollars which exceeded mini reporting spending limits by $1,444 dollars. Mooney won the General election in November of 2004 by 21 votes.

The Public Disclosure Commission referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office because the Commissioners felt the remedies the Commission could impose were insufficient considering the "number and quality" of the apparent violations and the possible effect of the violations on the outcome of the election. The PDC had determined that there was a 95% chance that the alleged violations provided Mr. Mooney with an unfair advantage that affected the outcome of the election.

Mr. Mooney was ordered by a Skagit County Judge to pay a $7,500 civil penalty, $5,000 of which was suspended on the condition that he not serve as a treasurer for any political committee, choose the mini reporting system in any future campaigns and that he not commit further violations of the Public Disclosure Act.

In certain circumstances, state law provides that a court may void an election and order a special election if the court finds that a campaign-law violation affected the outcome of the election.

Pat Mooney resigned his position as Anacortes Port Commissioner.

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