The PDC reviews many different kinds of complaints from legislators, citizens and students each year. Some complaints are compaign-related, others are not.
For example, the law offices of Carney, Badley and Spellman in Seattle recently filed a complaint on behalf of five Bellevue Community College (BCC) students who were denied entry to a Maria Cantwell Campaign event held at BCC. And, State Representative Glenn Anderson recently filed a complaint against the University of Washington pursuant to RCW 42.17.190, which prohibits expenditure of public funds for lobbying, unless such lobbying is to provide information pertaining to official agency business or is advocating the official position of the agency.
Bellevue Community College
The complaint was filed pursuant to RCW 42.17.130, which prohibits "any employee" of any public office and "any person appointed to or employed by any public office" from authorizing the use of the facilities of a public office or agency directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office..." The PDC opened a formal investigation of the Complaint in January of 2008.
Background: On October 26, 2007, officials for Bellevue Community College allowed the Maria Cantwell for Senator Campaign to rent and use the College gymnasium for a rally in support of Senator Cantwell's campaign. Senator Obama appeared at the rally and spoke in support of Senator Cantwell's re-election.
Although the Cantwell campaign informed the college that all students would be welcome to attend the rally, five students were refused permission to enter because they were wearing T-shirts bearing the name of the Republican candidate for Senator.
Although college officials urged the Cantwell Campaign to allow the five students to attend, the Campaign staff people refused. College officials told the students they were powerless to do anything because the Cantwell Campaign had rented the facility. Thus, the administration contended that the Cantwell Campaign could exclude anyone they wanted to exclude.
Legal counsel for the five BBC students contends that it is illegal for the college to rent the gym to the Cantwell Campaign for the purpose of political activities, but the College disagrees.
The five students who were excluded from the event are seeking an enforcement action against the college and the officials responsible for renting the gym to the Cantwell Campaign.
This case raises some interesting questions about the use of publicly owned facilities for campaign related events. I'm sure the Port of Bellingham, the City of Bellingham and Whatcom Coummunity College will be watching this complaint with interest. If the PDC finds that Bellevue Community College violated 47.17.130, future rentals of publicly owned facilities could be limited to non-campaign related events.
Alleged Violation/Bellevue Community College: http://www.pdc.wa.gov/archive/compliance/complaints/pdf/2008/08-105.pdf
The University of Washington
Background: Washington State Representative Glenn Anderson recently filed a complaint against the University of Washington for an alleged violation of RCW 42.17.190, which prohbits the expenditure of public funds for lobbying unless such lobbying is to provide information pertaining to official agency business or is advocating the official position of the agency. The PDC opened a formal investigation in January of 2008.
Rep. Anderson alleges that the creation of a brochure called "Taking Measure: Does Modern Math Education Add Up?" by the College of Education of the University of Washingtion constitutes expenditure of public funds for lobbying and is neither official business of the University of Washington nor is it advocating an official position of the agency on a matter that affects it directly.
Rep. Anderson states that examples of bias and advocacy are present throughout the document and that it is a violation for the University to lobby the legislature to endorse one position. Second, he alleges that the document is not objective, unbiased research. In his opinion, the brochure advocates one position and suports a particular perspective in the teaching of mathematics, and, hence is lobbying legislators to support one set of mathmatics standards over another.
"Are these trivial matters?" asks, Rep. Anderson. No, "These are pivotal education and public policy and political issues. They are also political issues being debated right now before the legislature."
Representative Anderson is the Ranking Minority Member of the House Higher Education Committee. He also sits on the K-12 Education Committee and the Appropriations Committee.
Alleged Violation/University of Washington: http://www.pdc.wa.gov/archive/compliance/complaints/pdf/2008/08-108.pdf
I hope you enjoyed taking a closer look at the diverse roles the PDC plays in regulating the activities of public agencies.